People across the diocese are giving thanks for the life of Nelson Mandela, whose life has transformed the nation of South Africa, and influenced generations all around the world.
Bishop Jonathan has paid tribute to him: "He's been my personal hero for years and could be the greatest person of the 20th century. From his Christian faith he decided not to go the way of vengeance but forgiveness. He schooled a whole generation of young leaders not to be bitter but to be determined to go for justice, peace and reconciliation."
People from churches across Staffordshire, Shropshire and the Black Country have links with South Africa and the Diocese of Lichfield is formally twinned with the Diocese of Matlosane in the North West Province. Messages of condolence have flowed south through a number of channels and Bishop Steve Diseko has replied:
"Thank you so much for your message of support, prayers and condolences you have offer to us during this time of hardship and mourning. We really and truly appreciate that. We do hope that our country will remain united and never to return back to any form of segregation. We also hope and pray that people will remain calm and peaceful, and that everything may go well in preparation for Madibas burial. May peace be with you all."
Thank you so much for your message of support, prayers and condolences you have offer to us during this time of hardship and mourning. We really and truly appreciate that. We do hope that our country will remain united and never to return back to any form of segregation. We also hope and pray that people will remain calm and peaceful, and that everything may go well in preparation for Madibas burial.
Thank you brother may peace be with you all
Revd David Newsome heard Mandela speak in Birmingham twenty years ago. "It's a great memory" he says. "I was taking part in a peer education programme with Hands at Work in a secondary school in Masoyi, in South Africa in 2006; when we asked the young people who their role models were, they all said 'Mandela'. Such an inspiration for a generation. Of what other political leader could that be said?"
Richard and Rose Westwood set up the Link4Life Project from Great Wyrley and have led numerous groups to work in some of the poorest areas near the Mozambique border.
"We are privileged to be in partnership with friends in South Africa who have benefited from Nelson Mandela's leadership, courage and example" he says. "I never met Nelson Mandela, but his life shows us all that forgiveness and reconciliation are stronger than revenge and hate. The possibilities and future that are available to the country of South Africa are just one part of the legacy which he leaves behind. We have sent messages of condolence to our friends in Matlosane Diocese and Hands at Work in Africa and we will be thinking of them and praying for them in the days ahead."
The Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, Very Revd Adrian Dorber had a large personal investment in the anti-apartheid fight of which Mandela became the leader. In 1974, as President of Durham University Students Union, Adrian led a campaign to persuade what was possibly the most conservative university in the UK to disinvest its shares in companies with major investments in South Africa.
"All kinds of Christian students joined together and said it was wrong. It was quite a fight, I have to say - we first had to persuade the university staff and students to take part in the vote and then persuade them that disinvesting was the right way to vote. We held a national demo in Durham with the national movement.
"We worked with one of the university lecturers, a sociologist called Ruth First. She married Joe Slovo, one of Nelson Mandela's closest colleagues who later became one of his first cabinet ministers."
The price of freedom and equality was not enough to put many off, as people were ready to die rather than compromise the cause. The reality of the struggle came home to Adrian when Ruth was murdered by South African secret police in Botswana in 1981.
"The best day of my life was seeing Nelson Mandela walk out of prison. Apartheid was a hideous sign to others that racism was ok, and I could see it had given some respectability to racism in this country too.
"The extrordinary thing about Mandela was way that he purged himself of his anger and fury. The rhetoric about the Rainbow nation is so biblical and deeply spiritual."