Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tragic Death

Wife E. and I yesterday attended the funeral of an in-law. The clinic in the village of De Rust had been negligent in ordering her medication. She was furious, and said that she would travel to Oudtshoorn -- the nearest big centre -- to fetch it herself. But too late. Without the medication, she died in the night, at 50. I took this photo of her grief-stricken husband. OBSERVATION: Assuming her death to be what it seems, is the clinic responsible for failing to control its stock, or is it responsible for a woman's death? You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Clarifying Congregationalism

There are many ways which are suggested for establishing whether a Congregational Church is Congregational (Congregationalism is one of three major forms of Church government). Here's a question which does a good job of clarifying it I think: "Is the diaconate driving the Church, or is the Church driving the diaconate?" What do you feel spontaneously? If it isn't obviously: "The Church is driving the diaconate," then the Church may not (in practice) be Congregational. OBSERVATION: A "diaconate" is a Congregational leadership, which includes deacons and (sometimes) elders. Traditionally, both.


It is hard to imagine the reality of the grandeur of Meiringspoort (pictured). It seems that it cannot be captured on camera. Wife E. and I needed to pass through there on Friday. This is two wide-angle shots combined. OBSERVATION: Meiringspoort was flooded two months ago. In a little known drama, nearly thirty people were rescued from the gorge. This included twenty people on a Greyhound bus. Curiously, nine children on board would be rescued, but the adults (at first) didn't want to get off. That's E. in the photo. You may click on the image to enlarge to 120k.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Country Burial

Not knowing whether I shall be within range of mobile Internet at this time, I am scheduling this post. All being well, this is where wife E. and I will be at this moment, a stone's throw away from where this picture was taken. We are attending a country burial. I took the photo four years ago, with a wide angle lens and forced flash. Donkey-wagons are typical in South Africa -- sometimes one sees them even in city streets. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Wifely Ruse

Now here's a ruse that I can tip other husbands off to. I was being absent minded, and wife E. wanted to establish whether I was really listening to her -- so she told me gently that she was going to call me, then she called me. I jumped with surprise, and she had her answer. That's her on the phone. I imagine a suitable caption might be: "They dropped the Bomb on Chicago?"

Iffy Mail

My computer informed me last week that (maybe) "someone is tampering with your connection" -- which is, my mail. I contacted my Internet service provider MWEB, whose Technical Support Team returned the answer: "Our engineers are aware of the problem ... and are investigating." OBSERVATION: At the same time, they provided me with access to a mirror -- which is the same service on another server. My computer reports that the other server is secure. But that doesn't seem to be much use if the real thing (maybe) isn't.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Slice Of Ministry

This one's just a slice of ministry, a description of two days of ministry in 2012, which I found on file: "I set out my priorities before my winter leave, got in touch with about fifteen members over a variety of things (several calls were pastoral), wrote a 3 000-word sermon, organised several items for our forthcoming Sunday service, typeset an evangelistic booklet, wrote our next Church newsletter in outline, outlined our next leadership agenda, had photos developed for our Church notice-board, checked in at the Church office, met with two members of staff, discussed issues with a number of ministers, put together property valuations, checked minutes, did some visitation, did much forward planning, and (if this is ministry) spent time in personal devotions. Among other things." OBSERVATION: Often people find it hard to envisage what ministry is really about.

Strangers In The Mist

This is a giant new sculpture on our western sea front in Cape Town. I took the photo through the mist, yesterday morning. There has been a lot of interest -- and controversy -- surrounding new sculptures on this part of our coast. One of the artists (of a nearby artwork) was said to be fearing for his life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Popularising Death

A number of my articles have entered the Top of the Pops (the top three) of the new incarnation of Philosophical Investigations. Today, an article on Death entered the top three for the first time -- but only due to a strange quirk of the new publication. Articles which are still under development can be seen only by editors and authors or through private links, but they are invisible to the public. Even so, they can enter the Top of the Pops, if they are read. So here is the "private" link again: Death, Philosophically.

Not Competent

One of my favourite Christian authors of the past -- and I still reach for his books from time to time -- is Dr. Leslie B. Flynn. One of the quotes I jotted down as memorable is still a core belief I hold: "Often what we think a failure in our Christian service turns out to be used of God ... Let us realize the reality of our weakness, and rest in Him who delights to show His power through our infirmity." OBSERVATION: It is a crucial principle, both for ministers and for congregations. "It is not that we are competent," wrote Paul (2 Cor 3:5). Yet both ministers and congregations so often assume that we are indeed competent, or need to be. That is completely upside-down.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

No Number

It's been the strangest day and a half. I have received, since yesterday, an endless stream of calls from [no number] and from various numbers besides. It was mad. In every case where I picked up the phone (many times, though not all), it was the same: the caller killed the call (see top right). I checked several numbers with our friendly telecommunications giant Telkom, but only one of them was listed. One wonders who would be doing the same strange thing across several telephones while hiding their identity, not to speak of the reason why.
NOTE: The madness continues the next day. Sorry folks, please e-mail me at My phone needs a nap. Here are two possible answers I have to the mystery: calls may be dropped because an agent wasn't ready to speak, like a secretary whose boss wasn't ready, or it may be calls purely to determine if the answerer is there.

No Worries

People have often asked me in ministry: "Does it worry you who wasn't in Church today?” or “Does it worry you whether you were on form?” or “Does it worry you that we had a bad month (financially)?” Well, no. It didn't and it doesn't -- not more than fleetingly. The reason for this is a doctrine which Churches almost completely lost around a hundred years ago, namely that ministry is a means of grace -- a means through which God’s sovereign grace operates. Basically, it is the Calvinistic teaching on the means of grace, only broader. OBSERVATION: I once interviewed a new deacon in Church. I asked him what his first impressions of his fellow deacons were. He said: “I was worried that they weren’t worried!”

Moral Torpor

There has been a great shift, I think, in our present generation, towards a moral torpor. One finds it in society, one finds it in the Churches, and one finds it in ministry. Society speaks for itself -- but as for the Churches, the last generation which passed through and is now gone, was I think the last of an old principled and upright generation. The same goes for ministers. In my early ministry, one did find scoundrels in ministry, but that was different to the moral torpor one finds in ministry today. Perhaps, though, ministry is half a generation behind the rest. This is all speaking very generally of course.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cranky Camel

This is a famous citizen of our Cape Peninsula -- and surely the crankiest camel in a thousand miles. Elsewhere on this blog, there is a video clip of wife E. mounting this camel, for which she received a Special Commendation for Bravery (Nulli Secundus).

Public Perplexer

It's a long story briefly told -- interesting I think, yet an unfortunate reflection on our society. I resigned from urban ministry through severe threats, conveyed to me in a board room (elsewhere on this blog), purportedly on behalf of my Church. Not that I hadn't received threats before in ministry, and serious threats at that -- but I had had enough. I reported the messenger (who delivered the threats) to the Cape Law Society. However, as the case progressed, my ministerial intuition told me that something was wrong -- wrong enough, in fact, for me to ask the Cape Law Society to replace the officer tasked with the case. But immediately (the next day), the very same officer shut down the case. I furnished the Human Rights Commission with information, to look the matter over, and the Cape Law Society were apprised of the same. But immediately (again, the next day), the Cape Law Society issued a decree (functus officio), which shut down the case for all officers, for all time. The Human Rights Commission, however, continued in the matter, yet not with my original complaint. The Human Rights Commission took now to addressing the behaviour of the Cape Law Society itself, specifically focusing on just one point (quote): "A citizen may ask for the statutory basis of officers' decisions, and expect a meaningful reply." It was about a democratic principle, nothing else -- a right which the Cape Law Society was effectively denying. Central to this was something even narrower, stated explicitly in a covering letter: On what basis do you admit a case? Any case. The Human Rights Commission, then, judged that there was "corruption" and "maladministration and/or corruption" in the Cape Law Society, and posted me Section 6(4)(a) of the Public Protector Act (above). On this basis, they referred the matter to the Office of the Public Protector. The Office of the Public Protector then arranged a meeting with me. They told me that this was a simple matter, and would  be sorted out soonest. They said, "Time is of the essence." I said, "It's not that simple, or this matter wouldn't have reached the Office of the Public Protector." And so time dragged on. I waited 95 days. Today, the Office of the Public Protector contacted me, but not about the case which the Human Rights Commission referred to them -- rather about the "merits" of the other matter which had been closed twice. In fact the Office of the Public Protector, in its reply, completely ignored the case which had been referred to its offices. As far as I can tell, therefore, this all ended in perfect confusion, with the tentative verdict: "corruption / maladministration / corruption" over it. OBSERVATION: It has been said that I myself judged that there was "corruption" in the Cape Law Society, not the Human Rights Commission. However, I made no reference at all to corruption in this matter. Besides, the Human Rights Commission surely does not make referrals on the basis of opinions "off the street".
NOTE: The full text of the original complaint is off-blog here: HRC Submission. Without too much tact, I admit, I wrote to the Office of the Public Protector today: "This is absolutely unacceptable, that I complain to you about one thing and you write to me about another." "Capricious," says the Public Protector Act.