I am the minister of an urban, cosmopolitan Church in Cape Town, where I have been for nearly twenty years. There are a few reasons for this blog. Firstly, to help people form a picture of what typical urban ministry is about -- not least seminary students who may be destined for urban ministry. I have found that the image and the reality may be far apart in academia. Secondly, my experience in urban ministry may be (and, in fact, often has been) an encouragement to other ministers -- alternatively, a cautionary tale, as the case may be! Thirdly, friends have simply told me how interesting reports of urban ministry are.
With all of the above in mind, the purpose of this blog is simply to record urban ministry "live and unplugged", in the form of a minister's diary. This blog is not a "Church blog" -- it is not intended in the first instance for my own congregation, or to promote my own Church -- although I know that many congregants and visitors do look in. For the most part, it is not my intention to share my views, except where these are related to praxis. The emphasis is the experience of urban ministry and the various events that surround it.
This is a description of our congregation: roughly a third are (by birth) Afrikaans-speaking, a third English-speaking, and many more speak African languages (chiefly Xhosa, Shona, and Lingala). A closer impression will be received through the various entries and photographs on this site. About half of the congregation falls in the lowest income category. The social context is one of comparative turmoil and trauma. The Church may be described as a mix between "traditionalist" and friendly chaos. The worship has been described on the Internet as "blended". We are a Congregational Church.
A definition of “live” is “actually being performed at the time of viewing”. A definition of “unplugged” is “without amplification or modification”. However, see my "Posting Policy" below. As a matter of interest, outside of South Africa, this blog is most read in non-Christian nations (according to the Mail & Guardian).
This blog may be unique with regard to its degree of transparency about urban ministry. Many people have written to me to say how they cherish the help they have received through this. However, this means that special attention needs to be given to confidentiality in particular. I use the following guidelines for posting on this blog:
Is it posted in good faith? Is it balanced? Is it compassionate? Is it informative about urban ministry? Does it help one better understand a problem or issue?
If I am dealing with an isolated incident that is not thought to reveal any connections, then I post. If it is public knowledge, then I post -- if not, then I change identifying details (name, place, date, gender, etc.), and wait a minimum ten days before I post. If anyone who was not directly involved in an incident would recognise those who were, then I do not post -- otherwise, those who are "in on" a story will know it anyway. If it could compromise the safety of those I blog about, then I make a post safe, or I do not post. If an incident jeopardised the unity of the Church, then I change identifying details, and wait a minimum six months before I post.
I believe that these measures should enable me to continue to be "open" about urban ministry while not compromising privacy.
It's been a while since I've featured a Church on my blog. This is the Dutch Reformed Church in Prince Albert. The foundation stone carries the date: A.D. 1 OKT 1860. The village Prince Albert is situated near the picturesque Swartberg Pass. The design of this Church is typically Dutch Reformed: a steeple in the middle of a mirror-image design.