Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Night Sky

This one's "just a pretty picture" -- my parents-in-law's house under the night sky. They live up on a desolate plateau. OBSERVATION: It was I who lit up the house with a 10W solar panel. They are not connected to the grid.

‘The Lord Has Spoken’

Our Church diaconate once put a proposal to the members -- which was rejected. At the diaconate meeting which followed, there was what one often finds with democratic decisions -- a debate about who intended what when they voted, and so on. I said: “The Lord has spoken.” This is classic Congregationalism, typically in the opening sections of a Congregational constitution: “The Church’s findings are those which Christ imparts.” OBSERVATION: I think this is a vital tenet, from various points of view:
• It respects decisions of the Church -- not the diaconate -- as sacred.
• It removes any tensions over those decisions -- because this was of God.
• It prevents elitism -- the decisions aren’t anybody’s triumph or defeat, but are imparted by Christ.
• It discourages picking decisions apart -- questions as to who voted which way and why -- because God is One.
• And it prevents the urge to humanly change what God has revealed -- which is, to press one’s own influence.

Imposing Dog

The first person -- or being -- to welcome a minister on visits is often the dog. I took this photo of a Great Dane welcoming me at a home. It looked quite intimidating, but turned out to be very friendly. Wikipedia writes: "The Great Dane's large and imposing appearance belies its friendly nature." OBSERVATION: Alas, this dog had a sad end. It needed a simple operation, but the trauma of it was too much for its sensitive soul, and it died.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Land Ownership

I edited a piece on (click here) Land Ownership recently -- published this morning in Philosophical Investigations. This is a hot topic in South Africa at the moment. The purpose of my editing was to bring out the intentions of the author as clearly and simply as possible -- not to agree with him. This article raises a host of questions. Feel free to go to the link above and comment at the bottom.

Spiritual Power

A university once asked me for a mid-year report on a Church intern's progress. I assessed him on various criteria -- most of them standard, such as counselling, preaching, administration. But I also assessed him on “spiritual power”. This, I think, is crucial to ministry. OBSERVATION: Ministry can only go so far on human power. There needs to be spiritual power, too, which is rooted in faith, so as to have an impact on people’s lives, to enable one to face situations of spiritual warfare, and to sustain ministry where human power is powerless (which is most of the time).

Infant's Grave

One frequently comes across forgotten graves in South Africa. Here is one I found in the bush, on a farm. It stands near the ruins of an old farmhouse. It is an infant's grave, of 1899. OBSERVATION: I perceive a different attitude then. In 1899, they buried their dead outside the door, and life went on. Today, when there is a death, people may change their Church, change their address, even change their country. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Public Prayer

Not all people will easily pray in a group. This has a lot to do with different Churches, and with different cultures. Therefore when I have led group prayers, while I have encouraged people to say their own original prayers, I have also handed out printed prayers which people may read, so that none should feel uncomfortable. OBSERVATION: Minister's Manuals typically contain a collection of classic prayers through the ages.

Evangelistic Signs

This is wife E leading a women's association in the city. However, this post is about the yellow sign on the wall. Our Church studied where it was that we had the greatest contact with non-Church-goers. It was through people who moved through the Church buildings for non-Church meetings. The yellow sign is Romans 8:1: "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." We put various key Bible verses on the walls.

Address Lists

How open Church address lists should be is a question many Churches ask. Generally under my ministr(ies), members may have other members' names and addresses on request. Here is an example of what can go wrong. Two handsome, courteous Zimbabwean refugees asked me for orientation in their strange new surroundings. I asked two Zimbabwean members whether I could pass on their details on our address list, to help the refugees with any questions. They said yes. But I was in a rush -- and with our Zimbabwean members both being on the same page of our address list, I copied the page and handed it to the refugees. The refugees then pressured, if not intimidated others on that page, claiming to do so on Church authority.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Employee Of An Employee

A shrewd Church employee would employ people to lighten his work. But it could have been dangerous. A rough looking man was waiting for me outside the Church gate one day, and stopped me: "Reverend, you owe me for the work I did." I said, "I don't know you. I didn't employ you." He said, "OK, but you employ Church employees. A Church employee owes me." I said: "I don't employ Church employees. The Church does." He said, "I want my money." This was tense, so I deflected the conversation. I said I'd follow it up -- and I did. I told our employee he had better pay his employee.

Getting To Know You

This is a grand-nephew of mine, eyeing the crowd from a safe place. I took the photo at a family gathering last night. And he viewed the entrance of a great-great-aunt from underneath a table.

Numbering The Congregation

There are those few in Church who are delighted to point out who is missing on a Sunday (not in a helpful way). In this regard, my late wife Mirjam had a curious custom. If someone said to her: "There were some people missing from Church today," she would ask: "Who?" Then she would say: "I'll tell you who else has been missing!" and she would name them -- with the Missing Persons List growing longer and longer. I remember one such person being stunned into silence. OBSERVATION: She never did explain that to me. (Churches have generally been quite full under my ministries).

Friday, October 12, 2018

Family Gathering

It is rare that we have family reunions on my side of the family, since we live on two continents. Tonight was such an occasion. In particular, my aunt Helma (bottom right) and cousin Jasmin (second from the left, front) I have not seen them in more than twenty years. You may click on the photo to enlarge. OBSERVATION: I eluded this one. There are four generations in the photo.

Key Issue: Faith

It is my experience that one of the key issues of ministry is a lack or loss of faith in the Church -- by which I mean an enduring or ever-recurring lack or loss -- the human tendency to drift from faith perspectives. Moses ministered to "children in whom is no faith", and Jesus said to His disciples: "O ye of little faith!" And it would seem that Paul, through his immense emphasis on faith ("We walk by faith, not by sight") was dealing with much the same. OBSERVATION: So it is something that one continually addresses. At the same time, it needs to be said that one finds much faith in the Church, and this is a joy.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


There is a word in Afrikaans: skaamkwaad. It means anger born of shame. I notice that I have referred to it fleetingly in previous posts. I perceive that there is a phenomenon in ministry where people who have shared their deepest shame with a minister, through counselling, may become angry with the minister, as a reaction to their shame. This typically happens within one to three years -- sometimes faster -- and may be particularly problematic if it is a Church officer. OBSERVATION: A reaction of skaamkwaad is the exception, though. By far the most who share their shame in counselling would seem to have the attitude: "It's our secret -- and thank you."