I have spent more than twenty years, in all, in urban ministry, and ten years in suburban ministry. I am now the minister of a country Church, yet my involvement in urban ministry continues.
There are and have been a few reasons for this blog: 1. To help people form a picture of what ministry is about -- in particular urban ministry -- 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. 2. My experience in ministry may be (and, in fact, often has been) an encouragement to other ministers -- alternatively, a cautionary tale, as the case may be! Many notes of thanks have been recorded on this blog. And 3. Friends have simply told me how interesting reports of 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 a "ministry blog". 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 ministry and the various events that surround it.
Outside of South Africa, this blog is most read in non-Christian nations (according to the Mail & Guardian). At the time of writing, it is the most authoritative Religion blog in Southern Africa (according to Technorati).
A description of my past urban congregation: roughly a third were (by birth) Afrikaans-speaking, a third English-speaking, and many more were speakers of African languages (chiefly Xhosa, Shona, and Lingala). About half of the congregation fell in the lowest income category. The social context was one of comparative turmoil and trauma. Under my ministry, the Church might have been described as a mix between "traditionalist" and friendly chaos. The worship was described on the Internet as "blended".
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.
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.
This is the Dutch Reformed Church Laingsburg. Laingsburg is noted for little except a massive flood in 1989, which destroyed all but 21 buildings in the town. One of the few remaining ones was this -- the Dutch Reformed Church. However, it suffered heavy damage at the time. A photo was awkward: accomplished with wide angle photos and stitching.