Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Church Plant

Four years ago, I shelved this post -- I am not sure why. Looking back today, my post was "prophetic". I said that two things were not working in this Church plant's favour. After much prayer and discussion, it was closed.

"On Sunday, I attended here (pictured). This Church plant was well run, the ministry was sound, and it felt good to be there. I felt that two things were not working in its favour at the moment: it did not have a minister, and I would step up ministry by members, the [Sunday] priesthood of believers, which in my view is important for urban Churches especially."

Free From Struggle

In March, I was very hard hit by rheumatic fever. I described it as being hit by a freight train. A few more days of that, I felt, and I would be dead. Doctors got me back on my feet, but I still struggled with everything -- with the usual symptoms of rheumatic fever. Several days ago, I woke up feeling strange all over. I started my day without any struggle at all -- then noticed I had just had no struggle. In one night, my troubles had left me. While I can still feel that something was there, it isn't live any more -- at least, not for now. OBSERVATION: It would have gone away faster, in my view, if doctors had not departed from the standard treatment as they did. While it is little heard of, rheumatic fever is more dangerous than COVID-19.


I photographed this critter one sunny morning at my parents-in-law's home in New Rest in the Eastern Cape. These spiders are fairly harmless, but they are aggressive. They will not hesitate to attack a camera. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Earthquake Warning

With all the talk of earthquakes, in the 2000s I designed an earthquake detector. It relies on the detection of P-waves and S-waves. For example in the Tulbagh quake, it would have given 20+ seconds' warning in the city of Cape Town. If there were a Koeberg quake, it would give about 7 seconds' warning in the city. UC Berkeley claim that they have new technology to warn of earthquakes. This one will do more or less the same. Divide kilometres from the epicentre by five, to obtain the warning time in seconds.

Killing of a Cousin

Sadly a cousin of ours was killed last night -- and by a member of the first family of the town. The killer landed a single punch, which felled him in the street. An ambulance came by, and found our cousin still alive -- drove away, and returned -- and found him dead. They tend to do a tour when they visit a township. His body lay for hours in the street then, while one waited on Forensics. The deceased is a big man, a powerful man. The scene was surrounded by the homes of family members, who hurried to see him. OBSERVATION: I have photos of the township on this blog, called Mountain View. In Xhosa kinship terms, he may sometimes be called a brother of my wife.

Hell: A Thought Experiment

 I had a philosophical article published this morning on Hell: A Thought Experiment. One uses a thought experiment to achieve greater clarity concerning a subject -- or as some would say, to consider consequents for an antecedent. So this is (probably) a radically new perspective on hell, but it is a thought experiment. It is not in fact a view that I endorse. OBSERVATION: I could only think it so far, and others might well think it further.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Ministry Under Lockdown

South Africa has had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. At one time, there were even troops in the streets. I am really impressed by how the Churches adapted to it. There were generally two big challenges: a steep drop in income, and a loss of contact with congregants. I was unable to visit my own Church -- and when the Chairman of the Board died, could not be there. After initial contact with his family, I could not even get through by telephone. However, there is one thing I would have done which I did not see much under lockdown. I would have used the time to minister individually to members -- all members. One could (somehow) minister to all of the core individually in one or two weeks, and to the "outskirts" in another one or two weeks, and the lockdown was a lot longer than that.

Up and Up

The philosophy weekly Pi, which I co-edit with Dr. Martin Cohen, is just going up and up. It would be interesting to know why. We do have a fairly unique policy. We accept philosophy by non-philosophers, and we often lend authors a hand rather than simply accepting or rejecting.

Finances That Work

All of my Churches have seen strong financial growth. In general, I’d put sound finances down to this: 
• solid spiritual foundations (finances are firstly an indicator of spiritual health)
• constitutional process (which equals member confidence)
• well ordered finances (for example, a budget, monthly statements)
• transparency and accountability (for example, audits, reporting to members)
• a planned giving scheme, efficiently run, and 
• congregational participation and control. 
OBSERVATION: I have no doubt that such measures work. On the last point, I have both participation and control. A congregation may ultimately have control, without real participation, and vice versa. Notice also transparency and accountability. Transparency includes access to information sources, and that is surely necessary for accountability.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Mountain Footpath

It’s one of our mountain footpaths at sunset. The trees, once again, are those introduced by Huguenot refugees, hundreds of years ago. The distinctive heather is called fynbos.

Doctrinal Latitude

I wrote this post following a visit to the USA, where I visited some Churches which were insistent on members holding correct doctrine. I once outlined my own Church's attitude towards doctrine (not the doctrine itself), specifically in an urban environment:

One might say that we are not a “doctrinal” Church – insofar as Biblical doctrines are not an explicit focus in our Church, and we do not mind if people make strange (though not very strange) theological statements. Here are some of the reasons why:
The people who make up our Church have very diverse religious, cultural, and Church backgrounds, which run deep, so we set our focus on the signs of God's grace among us, and our common desire to magnify Christ.
We are situated in the midst of a traumatised suburb and society, which naturally propels certain Biblical teachings to the fore which may not be part of the usual “stock”. For instance, God's providence is surely more prominent in practice than, say, the doctrine of baptism. And
We have among us a mix of mature Christians and very new Christians with little Christian background. In such a situation, the reality of Christian living together may far outweigh correctness while we give people room for “catch-up”.
OBSERVATION: This does not mean that we neglect doctrine. During any given year, my preaching and teaching covers a considerable range of doctrine. However, we prefer to let this soak in like rain on the ground. We let God do His work in His good time through the Holy Spirit. We thrive, I think, partly because of a more tolerant doctrinal environment. It matters.

Sturdy Work

I was impressed by the security fence that an Anglican Church put up. This is a close-up of the very sturdy construction. Churches may too easily be tempted to do flimsy work, or cheap work, to save money. In my view, it isn't worth it. OBSERVATION: One of the biggest cost-cutting problems in Cape Town is that many Churches decided to build with economical Table Mountain sandstone, used since about the mid-1800s. It is beautiful to begin with, but disintegrates with time. My current Church used faux roof tiles. We lost the whole lot through a freak storm.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Father in His Prime

My father was very well known, yet I am not sure that I have a photo of him on this blog in his prime. This is the first 120 negative with which I made a serious recovery attempt. The photo may have been taken around 1980. You may click on it to enlarge.

Sound Debate (Not)

The principles of debate are almost more important than the debate itself. In my own university education, these principles were "drilled into one". But today, debate has become ideologically charged, so that these principles, when one raises them, are very often problematic. There is no shortage of examples:

• A debate concludes, and the camera is about to be turned off. A participant drops a bombshell and everyone is cut off.
• A debate includes only acolytes. There isn't the diversity of thought for a meaningful exchange.
• A participant debates in public with classified information. One doesn't have access to the information, and cannot verify it or even assess it.
• There is a debate about values. One asks what the axioms are on which these are based, and everyone freezes.
• Any debate at all may be interpreted as an attack, rather than a healthy exchange of ideas or an ongoing dialogue.
• Or one enters a public debate. Before any meaningful exchange takes place, there are accusations of "Spy!"
OBSERVATION: There are many more examples, which together reveal a flood of debate which does not rest on sound principles of debate, and make it difficult to make a meaningful contribution. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Children Before the Exodus

I estimate that there are 200 people present at this combined Church service -- most of them children (you may click on the image to enlarge). I would guess that this was around 1980. It is in the Methodist Church Sea Point, in Cape Town's Atlantic Area, where I twice ministered. What is extraordinary about this photo is that, within a few years, there was an exodus of children and young families from the area. Very few children were left. OBSERVATION: Then, thirty years later, there was an influx, so that my Church had 30-40 children attending either Youth or Sunday School in a good week around 2010. Churches may need to think fast, with such changes.