Sunday, November 29, 2015

Marines And Recces

Somebody sent me this news clip last night -- a man who thought he could take on Marines. We had the equivalent of the US Marines in South Africa, called the Recces. Three of them were in my congregation, one of them a trainer (he happened to have broken off a rib of one of the other two when disciplining him). One of these Recces was walking alone on Somerset Road, Cape Town, in the daytime, at the Presbyterian Church, when three muscular men held him up with knives. Two of them got away, but one of them was hurt to the extent that he couldn't get up again. He was still on the ground when the police came. You may click on the image to enlarge.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Congratulations to son M., who had his first major paper published this week, in (click here) Quaternary International. He was supported by his two doctoral supervisors, Professor Anusuya Chinsamy in Cape Town, and Professor Maria Rita Palombo in Rome. It is about extinct elephants. The image shows an elephant jersey which he wore as a toddler. You may click on it to enlarge. OBSERVATION: One may obtain a copy of the paper from Elsevier for a cool R500.00 ($35.95). This is equivalent, here, to 370 large eggs or 290 medium potatoes. If you are poor, sorry, knowledge is not for you.

HIV Fatigue

There is what is called "HIV fatigue". People are not interested any more. One sees it if one searches for information, too. There hasn't been much, lately. But the problem is still very big in South Africa. More than one-in-six people between the ages of 15 and 49 were HIV-positive in 2011, and well over one-in-three women between the ages of 30 and 34 were HIV-positive in 2012. There were 270 000 AIDS deaths in 2011. There were 470 000 new diagnoses in 2012. I estimated, in urban ministry, that one-in-ten of churchgoers were HIV-positive, from what I knew through my counselling. And there were children, too. So AIDS was and is commonplace in my ministry and experience. I am disturbed by this, because I have seen so many people go, whom I knew well.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas Carollers

Here is a five-second impression of carollers in Cape Town. Just before sunset, they begin to do the rounds in wealthier suburbs. These carollers didn't seem to know what they were singing, in English. They were mimicking carols they had heard somewhere.

One-Way Traffic

I saw a colonel this morning, in his office. I was surprised that I could walk past several security guards to reach him -- into the inner sanctum as it were -- without being stopped or searched. At the end of our meeting, he said: "Let me personally see you out." He added (smiling): "The secret is: you can get in, but you can't get out."

Returning Decisions

Looking at what is happening in FIFA at the moment, there is a simple rule in Church administration, namely -- if a certain Church body takes a decision, that decision may only be reversed (or altered) by the  same body. There may be one exception. Decisions taken elsewhere, by a (constitutional) committee, may have temporary effect, until they are referred back to that same body. I myself have had one further, unwritten rule: refer decisions back as fast as possible. Here's an example. The Church Meeting elects a group leader. But something happens which makes it a matter of urgency to remove the group leader. However, the next Church Meeting lies three months away. If the constitution (or precedent) honestly allows it, suspend the group leader pending a decision by the next Church Meeting. My own practice, again: bring it to the next Church Meeting as fast as you can -- which is, move the Church Meeting forward as far as possible. OBSERVATION: In the Congregational Church, this dynamic basically rests on the view that common decisions are sacred. Historically, this view had an influence on the sacredness of national constitutions today. It is surprising how often, in the Church, people will seek reasons to change decisions without first going back to the same body.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Rushed Resignation

When I parted from ministry on the Atlantic, the Church and I entered into a bilateral agreement (see the previous post). The Church would fulfil its obligations towards me, and I would hand in my resignation. A memorandum records: "Resign on condition all finalised." In trust, I handed in my resignation -- however I did not date it. The date would be added the day the agreement was fufilled. But some individuals fell over themselves to get the undated resignation to a meeting, as fast as they could. They declared to the congregation that I had resigned. I asked a respected attorney to assess the matter. He gave his opinion in writing: "The Memorandum has been breached in various respects," and as for "Resign on condition all finalised," he wrote: "This condition was not met." He mailed his opinion to the Church. OBSERVATION: I am now registered as a minister of the Church, and I attend occasionally, but I do not serve there.

Unpaid Pension

I have been exercised a great deal, since the close of my Atlantic ministry, for a number of reasons. This and my next post (above) survey two of the reasons why. We have, therefore, two more serious posts today ...
I began my ministry at Sea Point Evangelical Congregational Church with (among other things) a pension in my contract. But the Church defaulted on the pension. When I arrived, they could not afford it. However, there came the day when we had grown in strength, and they could afford it. The pension kicked in, and the Church pledged to pay me back 8+ years of pension which were lost. Then, when we parted ways in 2013, we made a note in two memorandums, that the pension was still owed. And in 2014, our old Church treasurer confirmed: "You will be reimbursed." But today, 2½ years after parting, the Church has not paid me the 8+ years of pension (among other things). I sought the advice of a respected city attorney. He recommended in writing: Due to the large sums involved, this needed to go to the High Court. His quote: R300 000. But this did not seem to me to be practical. He further sent a letter to the Church: I had "valid concerns, after a long and faithful ministry", and the Church should "conclude matters". The Church (or its officers) did not reply. OBSERVATION: The amounts are such that they could be the difference between a modest retirement and hardship.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Information Confirmation

Early this morning, still in my morning gown with a cup of coffee, for the sixth time since the close of my Atlantic ministry, the police asked me to meet with them, this time at a street café. OBSERVATION: The police would like me to put my signature to the information which caused the meltdown in the central police station last week. Same information. Same purpose? That I will need to assess.
POSTSCRIPT: Two things happened later in the week. 1. The police launched a criminal investigation, and 2. A public body decided to explore. Again I emphasised: I am for peace, for anyone who wants it.

Red-Knobbed Coot

What is it? It is a common red-knobbed coot, which I photographed in our local biodiversity park.One does not need to watch coots for long to see that they live up to their reputation as "crazy coots". Red-knobbed coots are not shy, as one sees here. They are natives to Southern Africa, but may be seen as far north as Europe. You may click on the photo to enlarge to 100k.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Public Sundial

If I had three wishes, one of them might be to create the public sundial I once designed for the North American Sundial Society (published in The Compendium in March 2001). Here is a crude diagram. Most public sundials drift more than fifteen minutes during the course of a year, which is just no good. My design has no drift, and an accuracy to within one minute. A tilting, reflective surface at hip height (A) reflects sunlight up a hollow, swinging gnomon (B). The sunlight is reflected back down the gnomon, to fall on the correct time (C). OBSERVATION: In principle, it is called a collimating altitude dial, although it looks nothing like it. I designed other versions of the same, among them a souvenir wrist watch which would have an accuracy to within five minutes.

No Planning

There are those who say that a failure to plan is a plan to fail. However, I cannot think of one new group under my ministr(ies) which was planned -- and there were many. Here is just one example. It happened in February 2009. Before a certain Sunday service, I learned that our choir was dead. After a few more performances, they would close. Yet after that very same service, I walked in on an impromptu music practice in the Church. Oh, what was this? It was a group of young adults, who told me that they saw themselves performing in Church every second Sunday. The choir was dead: long live the choir. OBSERVATION: I can bear witness that it is possible for a Church to do without planning, at least insofar as this has to do with spiritual ministry.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sung Amen

A nice tradition, during many years of my ministry, has been a sung Amen at the end of Sunday services. It started almost by chance. I was flipping through our Church hymn book when I came across a variety of sung Amen’s at the back -- a section we never used. I suggested that our Church choir could sing one or two at the end of Sunday services. But rather than using the book, they chose their own. One of them runs like this: “Thank you Jesus, Amen. Dankie Here, Amen. Siyabonga Amen. Hallelujah Amen.” (Which is English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa).

What Is Untruth?

This morning, I had an essay published by the sister publication of the Philosophical Society of England, titled (click here) A Philosophy of Untruth. It is written with the objective of the Society in mind, that “in principle anything can be made clear to the interested reader”. The essay seeks to do two things: a) to understand what untruth is, among a variety of possibilities, and b) to seek to understand the relationship between the various forms of untruth: namely, foolishness, deceit, and violence. OBSERVATION: It is another "dummy run" for the second edition of my metaphysic. In the metaphysic, I further apply my observations to abnormal psychology.
NOTE: This essay was immediately popular.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Bishop

I sneaked up on a well known bishop this morning, to take this perspective shot. While I was still wondering whether I might venture to put it "out there", his own Church did. He was deep in conversation, talking about the sublime mysteries of Anglicanism, or whatever it is that bishops talk about -- then the photographer (me) suddenly distracted him. OBSERVATION: The photo was taken on the spur of the moment -- I saw his arm outstretched towards the camera -- and it worked. You may click on the photo to enlarge to 140k.