Friday, July 1, 2016

The Corruption Of Complaints

Corruption works in predictable ways. However, not many people understand them, or corruption wouldn't work. Here is a common ruse to do with complaints. You submit complaint A. They state that you submitted complaint B -- which they however cooked up. There is no substance to complaint B. So it is case closed. One thing one can do here is send them a legal request -- please copy me my original complaint. But it gets more sophisticated than this. You submit complaint A. They request an interview with you. They then state that, during this interview, you changed complaint A to complaint B. Again, there is no substance to complaint B. Again, it is case closed. One thing one can do here is record the meeting. It is legal. Here is another variation on the theme. You submit complaint A. They go digging in other departments, until they find a complaint B which is long dead. But it is case closed, they say. A further permutation of the method is to subtly shift the substance of complaint A, to fabricate complaint B. And again, it is case closed. OBSERVATION: These methods may further depend on fudging the particulars of complaints. I hope this is helpful.

Crisis Of Forgiveness

There has been much discussion over the "crisis of leadership" in the Church. All over, it crumbles. Walter Wright considers: "The crisis of leadership, I believe, is a crisis of forgiveness. Leaders are expected to lead without mistakes." Personally, I think that Wright has hit on a core issue. And that core issue is really about law vs. grace. Condemn a Christian leader by law, or treasure them as anointed by Grace. OBSERVATION: Why are Christian leaders so often "condemned by law"? I think it lies to a large extent in followers who have not understood grace. They are still under law.

Right2Know Protest

I ran into this protest by chance, this morning. Right2Know were protesting at our public broadcaster's front door. Broadcasting Corporation journalists have been banned from reporting on Right2Know itself, which campaigns for freedom of information -- whether this is a general ban, however, I don't know. OBSERVATION: Such protests have increased following the public broadcaster's ban on footage of violent protest action, essentially over political appointments prior to elections nationwide.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Misplaced Package

I blogged recently about a parcel that I asked the Post Office to send "fast and sure" to its destination -- from one major centre to another. Now in its fourth week of travels, I have lost all confidence that my (crucial) parcel will arrive. The whole experience has been beyond belief. Now consider the feedback which our Post Office's own partners provide (see the image): according to this, most parcels never reach their destination, and of those which do, most of them arrive late.

POSTSCRIPT: I re-sent the parcel via private courier. It arrived in 24 hours 2 minutes. I don't know where they lost the 2 minutes. Perhaps they should have run up the steps.

Anabaptist Woman Theologian

Last year, I made my late wife Mirjam's full doctoral research available to the public, free of charge (click here): Called to Mission. Interest in these web pages began in South Africa, and migrated to Europe. At last, I see that her work is noticed in the United States and Canada. Mirjam was, I think, one of the foremost Anabaptist / Mennonite woman theologians. She is underrated -- in large part due to her untimely death. Her research (click on the link above) includes a major, original contribution to Anabaptist theology, which launches her work. 

A Final Prayer

A young woman in our congregation (pictured) died of cancer. A few days before she died, she wrote the following prayer. I think it is worth putting up here: “To My Lord and Father. You have shown me how to give less importance to my plans and more importance to Your plan. Your grace has transformed me. I experience a calmness of spirit and Divine Peace, despite my struggle. Thank You for Your Grace and Peace, Faith and Love, which has sustained me 'til now. We all face death all day long. Death is not the end but a life hereafter. Kindly give my friends, colleagues and family the strength to cope and celebrate my reunion with You. AMEN.” OBSERVATION: Having been deeply involved behind the scenes, it is important to note I think (for the sake of others in such a situation) that such serenity was not always present, but that this is where, in Gods goodness, she came to rest. In fact the whole family was blessed through such an end. See also Ending on Thanks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Interdiscipinary Degree

I started a second Master's degree while I was in the middle of a first. I chose, in the second degree, to critique what they were teaching me in the first. The subject was leadership theory -- specifically transformational leadership theory -- as the Americans use the word. I weighed up the relative merits of theological, statistical, and linguistic critiques -- and proposed a linguistic critique. But the faculty of the South African Theological Seminary rejected my proposal -- it was a postmodern approach. My supervisor Dr. Vincent Atterbury said no, keep going, they'll see the merits of this when you have something to show. And so they did. My thesis got "in through the out door" as it were, and the interdisciplinary work -- systematic theology / linguistics -- was, I think, one of the best things I ever did. Google "theology linguistics" today, and my name should be near the top. OBSERVATION: I felt that the leadership theory in question was above all ideological, and that therefore both theological and statistical approaches would fail where it really mattered. It was Prof. John de Gruchy, over coffee, who first planted the idea that I could take an interdisciplinary approach. I would recommend it.

Flashback 2010

I stumbled upon the photo this week. Dr. Dr. Kevin Smith of the South African Theological Seminary is announcing my graduation with a Master's degree -- my first Master's. I was one of two students to obtain the degree cum laude. I was almost uncontrollably upset in this photo (before a large gathering) that my wife Mirjam was unable to attend. She was seriously ill -- terminally ill -- at the time. One sees Prof. Dr. Sam Kunhiyop casting an anxious glance in my direction. OBSERVATION: My supervisor was Dr. Vincent Atterbury. All three of these men, in spite of their high profile, were very helpful to me. You may click on the image to enlarge.

Embezzlement (Not)

Towards the end of my urban ministry, a rumour circulated in the Church that I had falsely accused office-bearers of embezzlement. I hadn't thought that there was any embezzlement. I issued a statement: "No, it has not crossed my mind." But even after this, the rumour was blown up big. One faithful old member said to me: "Thomas how could you?" OBSERVATION: This, I think, had two effects in the Church: I was no longer heard with regard to genuine issues, and Church members were dulled to the same. Recently, it emerged that one should have taken the minister far more seriously.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Restoring Finances

Early in my urban ministry, I was faced, as a minister, with deep financial crisis. Among other things, the bank complained that the Church didn't have an overdraft facility (which means that we were making payments without the money). We decided on a strategy which turned the finances around: • Tight financial discipline. This restored congregants' confidence in giving. • Drastic austerity measures. Among other things, I volunteered a radical cut in my salary. • Determined measures to create a healthy spirit in the Church. Without this, nothing works. • A planned giving scheme. This revealed our need, and enabled people to give thoughtfully. • And we clearly articulated our spiritual vision, which included outreach, even at our time of greatest need. OBSERVATION: However, there was more to it than this. These are just some key points.

Summarising Salvation

In my services, I routinely summarise salvation, in one way or another. One of my favourite descriptions of salvation is this: "Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved." To many, this verse seems inscrutable, or nonsensical. The verse assumes, though, that one has recognised the need to call upon the Name of the Lord. That, in turn, reveals an understanding of sin, and reveals faith in the power of the Lord over sin. It is saving faith. And the "whosoever" reveals that this promise is given to all, regardless of previous works. OBSERVATION: The verse would surely apply, too, to faith for daily living.

Risky Photo

My post on low light photography was unusually popular. Here is a photo which I similarly took in very low light with a Fuji X30 -- but this was a risky one. At ISO 800, the image quality is good, but at 1/10s exposure and F2.8, it worked only because "time stood still" here, and the photographer had a steady hand. One sees by the young woman's left hand what might have happened to this photo. Again, one can enlarge by clicking on the photo.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Low Light Photography

I own a Fuji X30 camera, which was launched about two years ago -- a fair length of time in camera-speak. It has a good reputation, although there is a debate about what it can do in low light. Here is an example shot -- a photo I took on Saturday night in a makeshift photo studio. It is taken at 1/60s, F2.8, ISO 3200. OBSERVATION: This photo was pushing the camera. With moving subjects, the exposure could not have been much slower. The young woman is lit up by a laptop screen -- which gives one a sense of the very low light. Does the Fuji "cut it"? You be the judge. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Congregational Bible Study

I referred recently to an Anglican Bible study group. My own Bible study style, when I have "full creative control", is this:  I invite people to share briefly, deeply, about their week. We sing a chorus. I say a prayer. I assign one-quarter of the Bible study to a group member. I focus on Scripture. I draw everyone in, without putting anyone on the spot. I use a directive style, and tackle any questions head on. We defer difficult questions to next time. I remind group members about things going on, in keeping with the Church's emphases. And I ask a group member to close with a prayer. OBSERVATION: A lot of this is influenced by Congregational Church principles.

Old Meets New

I went visiting this morning at the famous Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town -- to see a Karoo parishioner having tests there for a faulty heart valve. The hospital has an old section and a new. This is where the two sections meet. OBSERVATION: There is a vast difference between the standard of public hospitals in South Africa. Groote Schuur is one of the best, and the place to which many smaller hospitals refer cases for which they are not equipped.