Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Curious Convergence

A strange thing happened in connection with the paedophile I referred to in a post earlier today. Before it was known that he was a paedophile, he approached me for a letter in mitigation of sentence for another paedophile, to whom I had ministered in his darkest days. I wrote that the man had "caused grievous harm through his sin", yet that I felt he had been "spiritually restored". And so I have one curious document in which all three names meet: me as minister, and the (now) two convicted paedophiles.

Balmy Day

It's a balmy day in Cape Town, a week away from Spring. A few people were posing at this sculpture on Cape Town's Atlantic Seaboard, which is a memorial to Nelson Mandela, titled "Perceiving Freedom". The artist is Michael Elion. The polycarbonate lenses it had are long since gone.


The press yesterday reported that a Cape Town paedophile faces extradition to Australia -- his planned release from prison having been cancelled. According to Independent On-line: "In a plea and sentencing agreement, it emerged he attended the same church as the victims and he sexually abused them ..." Several years ago, I banned him from our Church Youth, though not for paedophilia. I "went through hell" for that decision, receiving serious threats and opposition. A while ago I wrote to one of the people who opposed me: "I suffered a great deal under your temper at that time, for an action which was absolutely necessary and surely saved children from serious harm." He was silent. I wrote, too: "I wish it had never happened to any of us, including [the paedophile]." OBSERVATION: That was not the only time I "went through hell" for the right decision.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Strange SMS

Now, I first want to emphasise that I do not know who sent me this SMS last week (pictured). I responded to the SMS, and we had a brief exchange. My purpose was to find out if this was intended for me, and what it was about, no more and no less. It was intended for me, and it was advice about preaching. OBSERVATIONS: Ministers may sometimes receive such messages to trap them. But then again, people send many messages of a less radical sort with unhealthy intent. And sometimes, as in this case, goodness knows.

Internet Surprise

I live in what is basically a student complex in the city centre -- and our landlord lives off the proceeds, it seems, to keep a stable of motorbikes running. We had a problem with the Internet. It was being chewed up -- hugely so -- somewhere in our complex. For this reason, the landlord kept switching the Internet router off and on again -- a big challenge for me where I rely heavily on the Internet. So I said to the landlord that I would switch on system monitors on wife E.'s and my computers, to see what was actually happening. The result was a big surprise. Most of our own Internet was being chewed up through switching the router off and on again. Possibly hundreds of megabytes a day.

KwaSizabantu Teachers

Here's a photo of teachers at the KwaSizabantu Mission in Zululand (I previously posted a short video). They surprised us with a performance in the common room while I was visiting the mission in April. The teacher second from the left has since got married. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Baptism and Cohabitation?

A young couple requested the baptism of their child. I therefore saw them with a deaconess. There was just one awkward aspect of it: they were unmarried. We said that we were pleased that they wanted to take baptismal vows -- and laid before them two possibilities. The first was to “set their lives right”, and from this foundation then to take their baptismal vows. We outlined possibilities for them to get married, and said that we would cover the costs. Alternatively, we suggested an old Reformation idea: godparents were God-fearing people who were appointed as “spiritual guardians” where the parents were not competent to take the vows. Eventually we decided on the second option -- and the baptism itself was a glad occasion. OBSERVATION: The mother was very young. Our deaconess kept calling her “my kind” (my child).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rapid Response

It is seldom that people specifically ask a minister to visit someone. I think that, generally speaking, they respect the minister's busy schedule. But when they do ask -- even when they do not explain themselves -- I assume that there is good reason to respond, and I respond as soon as I can. Often I have found that there was more to such requests than people were letting on. OBSERVATION: And related to this, without even being asked, I make a special effort to get to someone where I sense that there is any chance of death or disaster or trauma, even where my clues are slim. Many times, I have been thankful that I did.

Veldfire Protea

I took this photo this morning of yellow pincushion proteas -- not the "garden variety" but Leucospermum glabrum. The popular name is Veldfire. If you're in Cape Town and should wish to see the real thing, they're in the Green Point Urban Park. You may click on the photo to enlarge to 500k.

Anselm's Ontological Argument

I had a piece of Philosophy of Religion published this morning (click here): Revisiting Anselm's Ontological Argument. Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury nearly 1 000 years ago, wrote an argument for the existence of God which on the surface of it is baffling, even nonsensical. Yet many of the greatest minds have debated it, and our fascination with it endures to this day. Why? What is it about this argument?

POSTSCRIPT: I'm rather surprised by the popularity of this post. I have now responded to an editorial comment under my essay on Anselm, suggesting as a possibility that Anselm's argument may be an "ordinary" evangelical one.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Thriving Staff

During my ministr(ies) I have worked with some twenty staff -- apart from office-bearers. At least two staff burnt out: a youth worker and a secretary. In the case of the secretary, it was serious. While such burnout cannot be attributed to the Church alone, burnout among Church staff is common. From around the middle of my ministr(ies), it was my / our policy, if any staff member suggested that they couldn't cope, or were burnt out, and so on -- or if they revealed signs of the same -- to book them off immediately on paid leave. OBSERVATION: One needs to do what one needs to do for Church staff to thrive.

Island Chapel

I stumbled upon this postage stamp on the Internet this week. There is an anomaly here. It shows the GIPC (Gilbert Islands Protestant Church) Chapel Tangintebu on a Kiribati stamp. My father regularly preached here. I have also preached here. In 2002, I received a call to serve as chaplain here, but with great regret I declined. OBSERVATION: This is the old chapel. A new one has been built in the same style. The chapel had a special cooling system: under the eaves, all the way round, there was a gap for air to circulate.

Jacob's Limp

I wrote to someone last night: "I think I told you that I suffered post-traumatic stress early in ministry, which is serious, but it was a blessing in the long run for the help I could give to others, and the health it gave me back. My father's health was permanently broken by ministry." OBSERVATION: People have sought to use that post-traumatic stress as an accusation over the years, but it is what one calls "Jacob's limp" in ministry (Genesis 32:31). The proper way to see this and other limps is as blessings from God, and (where needed) as opportunities to strengthen and encourage, not accuse. Some famous ministers (not that I am famous) had such limps, among them John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, and a good many more.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ordination Catering

And here's a photo from the ordination (see an earlier post). Our Black and Coloured Churches in Southern Africa -- not necessarily the big Churches -- are experienced in catering to large crowds, and they can do it at very short notice. This is a blessing to multi-cultural Churches, too. While White members tend to face the prospect of crowds with anxiety and trepidation, Black and Coloured members do not. This photo shows an ordinary Church member at work. 

Minister's Lament

This was my lament on 2 April 2013. In fact this is how it goes all the time in urban ministry -- and if it doesn't, one "isn't doing urban ministry": 
It's the same chorus-line on this blog. The volume of things that need attention from the minister is huge. I sat down this morning to revise my whole to-do list -- the first time in ten days -- reviewing about twenty sheets of hand-written notes from my pockets, and several telephone messages. In these ten days, my to-do list grew by about eighty items. But I had bumped about forty items off the old list -- and so the new list reached around one-hundred-and-twenty items in all -- bearing in mind that ministry has additional exigencies and problems which don't make it onto the list. OBSERVATION: I can't possibly keep up. An item might be as simple as: Contact X or as time-consuming as Sunday Sermon. Most items, in fact, would sooner qualify as time-consuming. Most people are understanding if the minister can't get to something -- a few get impatient.