Pitt Lecture by Rt. Rev’d Dr. Vicentia Kgabe, Bishop of Lesotho

November 7, 2023

Alumni, trustees, friends, and students gathered in October for Convocation 2023. The schedule included lunches, receptions, classes to sit in on, named lectures, the groundbreaking of the Living Village, and a Wednesday Community Eucharist.

One of the highlights was an inspirational Pitt Lecture from the Rt. Rev’d Dr. Vicentia Kgabe, Bishop of Lesotho. Bishop Vinny talked about the importance of compassion in leadership in her lecture, entitled “The Harvest Awaits, Abundant and Inviting. Yet, Daring Souls are Few and Far Between.” In the lecture, Kgabe outlined a model of leadership based on Jesus’s leadership style. Taking her cues from Matthew 9, Kgabe emphasized Jesus’s compassion on the crowds to whom he spoke that “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” She painted a picture of the pain, loneliness, and grief of the crowds becoming Jesus’s.  Jesus responded to these “sheep without a shepherd” with a divine, loving compassion.

Kgabe explained that the compassion is the foundation of Jesus’s mission. She defined compassion as a response to suffering that involves three things: “cognitive awareness, empathy, and action to alleviate suffering.” The conclusion to the biblical account is the story of Christ, who is “the embodiment of a compassionate God.” Compassion compelled Jesus to take on human flesh; motivated him to heal, proclaim, and invite people to the table; and is the reason he died on the cross.

The metaphor of the harvest that Matthew uses reminds us of the hope of the eschaton. The metaphor is one that calls to mind the life of ancient Israel. Every year revolved around the harvest. The year began with fasting, waiting for the rains. It ended with feasting, celebrating the harvest. Harvest “is a season of joy, expectation, hope, and trust in God’s sovereign care.” 

Jesus’s compassion moves him to solve the problems of the suffering. Kgabe shared an African proverb that says, “A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” The Church is to embody compassion, no matter the context it finds itself in. This compassion involves drawing people into Christ and building a strong, vibrant community.

Kgabe spoke about how compassionate leaders practice self-compassion. “Leadership that values compassion and empathy,” she said, “is crucial to the success and growth of any Church community,” which she also called “God’s vineyard.” In compassion, the Church must address harassment, abuse, neglect, exclusion, isolation, and abuse of power to “create a safe environment where everyone can thrive and grow in their faith.” Kgabe reminded us that the earliest communities that followed Christ “did what they had seen Christ do and teach: they healed the sick and the physically challenged, they made sure no one among them was in need, they ensured that the most vulnerable in their communities were properly taken care of.” Kgabe concluded, urging us to pray that our faith leaders be formed and educated to “be not only theologically sound, but also compassionate and empathetic.”

The Rt. Rev’d Dr. Vicentia Kgabe ’23 DDHon, Bishop of Lesotho was granted an honorary doctorate. Honorary doctorates were also granted to the Rt. Rev’d Matthew Heyd ’95 MAR, ’23 DDHon, Bishop Coadjutor of New York and the Rt. Rev’d Jeffrey Mello ’23 DDHon, Bishop of Connecticut.