Thursday, August 27, 2015
A few years ago an old man was admitted to our local hospital -- a bit shaken after being attacked and robbed of everything -- including his clothes! The hospital opened their “Samaritan Cupboard”, and presented him with new clothes. He said: “Clothes? I don’t want clothes! They stole my Bible!” Fortunately the hospital had a small stock of Bibles -- supplied by our Church.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
OBSERVATION: Many people in South Africa put their beds up on bricks in order to sleep safely from the tokolosh. I know one person who claims, in a desperate fight, to have beaten a tokolosh back with a broom. But my wife -- everybody knows it -- is a woman of deep faith, a very lovely person, and for me, one of the most impressive people I know.
In March, the Philosophical Society of England, in association with the journal The Philosopher, published my Metaphysical Notes in twenty parts. Today I completed Part 21 of twenty-eight parts of the Second Edition (which now stands at 45 000 words over the First Edition's 27 000). Of the remaining seven parts, only one now requires serious work. OBSERVATION: I am seeking to have every part published in some form before it enters the Second Edition (not that these parts will look the same in the Second Edition). Five parts still need to meet this goal. In the meantime, the First Edition begins to look (to me) increasingly unfinished.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
I married this couple in 2011. There is a point in every wedding where I am required to ask, by law: "If anyone can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married ..." On this occasion, a man in the congregation put up his hand, and brought the wedding to a halt. But he was a prankster. The reaction of the bride and groom was caught on camera (here pictured -- when we discovered it was a joke).
OBSERVATION: I am mystified as to their real purpose. Cost and security are factors I know.
Monday, August 24, 2015
There is, in ministry, every now and then, the moment when a minister comes to know people's sin -- apart from confession, that is. This reveals the heart. And it is a moment where, not seldom, a gracious Jekyll turns into a vicious Hyde. When it is clear to someone that there is nothing left to gain through a facade, they may become permanently nasty, although not (typically) in public. However, there are other reactions -- good reactions -- to exposure. This post is simply about this phenomenon of complete turning for the worse -- in some cases. OBSERVATION: Not that ministry is about revealing people's sin. I would think that any minister is "unwilling" for that to happen.
OBSERVATION: These springs originally fed the grachts (the waterways) of Cape Town, which today no longer exist, except as street names. There has been talk of restoring the grachts. I don't know how close that might be to realisation.
Some Churches are as staid as they come. All of my ministries were staid when I started, yet not when I finished. I think that applause or laughter or expressions of worship or (appropriate) interjections in the Church do various good things: they reveal to the whole Body what a congregation values, they lighten the atmosphere, they reveal that the whole Body is glad about something, they show that the Church especially appreciates someone, they add to the “participative” nature of things -- and so on. OBSERVATION: This does not imply, however, that a Church has become charismatic.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
OBSERVATION: This is an uncommon picture from the point of view of depicting some of the detail of residents of Cape Town, perhaps in the late 1800's. I think this is the only historical picture of this Church on the Internet (you may click on it to enlarge).
When I first began in urban ministry, the Church was in perpetual crisis. Surveying the minutes, here are some of the critical steps we took, and some of the turning points. I started in April 1994. That same month, we introduced leadership portfolios. June 1994: Our bank balance stood at R2 000 (about $150). We introduced planned giving, and abolished "mix-it" finances. July 1994: We introduced Congregational participation on Sundays. August 1994: We took a mass inventory. September 1994: Our bank balance stood at R18 000 (about $1,400). We introduced deacons’ visitation. November 1994: Our planned giving exceeded target for the first time. We introduced a Church newsletter. June 1995: Our Church income was up 50%. We introduced audits, and appointed assistant leaders of all groups. July 1995: The minutes note an “improved atmosphere” in the Church. August 1995: We introduced elders. September 1995: The Church committed to missions. December 1995: The minutes noted a 40% increase in Church attendance, and an 18% increase in membership. Four new groups had been established. OBSERVATION: However, while things had been moving and were looking up, influential members were disaffected. It took two more years before we got past that.
Saturday, August 22, 2015
OBSERVATION: Wife E. and I selected the clerical shirt, at African Praise in Cape Town. The segregation of men and women (who are not seen here) is typical.
This is a re-post, five years old: "Visitors to our Church continually express surprise that an urban Church like ours should be viable -- or thriving, depending on the week. On this blog, I have sought to give some of the reasons why. A crucial ingredient is, I think, a strong emphasis on transcendence. This seems hard to describe, but it means 'outside the range of'. When you meet God, and walk with God, you continually experience, and reckon with, things that are outside the range of ordinary experience. OBSERVATION: Some theologians reject this. One (Lesslie Newbigin) said that nothing comes 'through the skylight, as we might say'. We say that it does."
Friday, August 21, 2015
From time to time, in any Church, fictitious stories will arise -- sometimes deliberately circulated. One minister said that the worst he had experienced was a rumour that his leg had been amputated. If only we all had it so easy. A less serious example in my own ministr(ies) was a dismal rumour that only one person had responded to a request for special donations. I knew, however, that many people had donated -- in fact more than I had anticipated. OBSERVATION: What to do with fictitious stories? Where negative fictions would seem to have a wider circulation, I often tackle them directly, in an appropriate meeting, or in our Church newsletter -- where possible in a good-spirited and conversational way. I find that this is highly effective in restoring a sense of peace in the Church, and in preventing the same from happening again very soon.