Friday, September 22, 2017


I took the photo a moment ago – of a girl who is heartsore at being left behind for the funeral of her granny (as per the broader Xhosa definition of granny). This is surely related to my previous post. It is now difficult to transport every grandchild to a funeral, sometimes over hundreds of miles.

Strained Customs

This weekend, I am following what is surely a custom in all cultures. We are laying a mother to rest. Unless something is definitely wrong, or seriously preventing it, a child attends a mother’s funeral. But in the Xhosa culture (as is the case here), there are significant differences. My wife E has, or has had, I would estimate twenty mothers -- called mama or mama mncimnci. Now consider that, a generation ago, mothers and children would likely have lived in close proximity. But through one generation, children have in many cases been scattered over hundreds of miles. As a generation now passes away, one has the loss of a large number of mothers, with great distances to be travelled. Not to speak of fathers -- called tata or tata mncimnci. The customs, I think, are under strain.

My Parents-In-Law

I just found this photo of my parents-in-law, on their wedding day. They have been extraordinary parents-in-law, always welcoming, always thoughtful, always generous, while each of them has a strong character. OBSERVATION: It is the custom that, when a husband purchases his bride, she and all future children are his, and parents-in-law retain only a kind of ceremonial role, call it. That distinction is not so clear in my own culture, as I know through my counselling sessions. It can at times be very problematic.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Congress Of The People

I have shown a few political close-ups on my blog: the ANC, COSATU, the EFF, the DA, and so on. A reader commented behind the scenes that I was lucky not to have got a bloody nose -- but they have all been great sports, without exception. Here is a first. This is the Congress of the People (COPE) looking uncharacteristically militant. OBSERVATION: The "783" refers to a number of charges against the president, which are currently reinstated, or unreinstated, or disunreinstated, or ... one loses track.

Courthouse Blues

I write this post from a courthouse. Nearly two years ago, a young man plundered my property. The evidence was firm: among other things, it included his own confession. But the police refused to take a statement and open a case, in fact on high authority. Once I was over that (major) hurdle, and an investigation was complete, I was subpoenad once, then twice to testify in court. But the trial was aborted both times, because (so said the police) the prosecution had removed the evidence from the docket. Both times, the accused stood in the dock and blinked and was dismissed. Six times, police removed investigators from the case (but they reappointed one officer twice) -- not through my own doing. Last week I was subpoenad a third time. I checked with police. Everything was in order, they said, and a high ranking officer confirmed that I should be there. But this morning, even before the police took the roll call, the prosecutor called me in. He showed me the docket. The police had failed to comply with his written instructions. In big red letters in the docket was the line: “What is going on here?!” I was free to go, he said. OBSERVATION: The accused may have been complicit in a search and seize raid, too, in which my personal notebooks and my late wife’s ashes were removed, among other things. But the evidence in that regard rests on a single towel found next to his fireplace. The towel had been in the same location as the items seized. So, what is going on here?

Ministerial Gifts

If we believe in the call of God, then we believe that every minister brings gifts to the Church which are required for a season (there are various jokes about the minister who is called according to what the congregation desires in him or her -- for instance, one blue eye and one brown). OBSERVATION: Some of my own strengths (I am told) have been preaching, counselling, and administration. This is an encouraging message to my wife (above) in March 2013, about preaching. It reflects, too, that I was preaching to a multilingual congregation.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Township Gifts

I enjoy shopping for gifts for relatives on township and farm -- it is so interesting. These are not the same as city gifts. One best buys adults something that they need, because they are poor. One best buys children something tough, with few if any parts -- parts get distributed. There are differences, too, of colour and style. I learnt to buy tough toys for children when, over the years, only two of my gifts survived: a board book and (pictured) a wooden slide-whistle. OBSERVATION: I worry a little about my cultural influence. For instance, this time I bought a boy his own plate, and a girl her own fork and spoon. It's not a culture of individualism, while my gifts single children out.

North Korea

I'm always thinking on world events in parallel with the metaphysic I am shaping (or have shaped). The apparent approach to North Korea today, in terms of my metaphysic, seems mistaken. North Korea seems to me to be driven by culture, which is a meaning, and a very big one. To counter this with a technical approach, namely sanctions, seems fairly much futile, and a typically shallow modern approach. OBSERVATION: The allies wondered in WWII why on earth the Germans did not surrender or sue for peace. It was the power of the culture.

Farm Labourer Praying

I took this photo of a farm labourer praying, in his sparsely appointed home. OBSERVATION: I have said it is because of the Christian devotion of a great many people that our country has been as stable as it has, in spite of fears of revolution and disintegration.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fierce And Amiable

Recently I put up extracts on my blog of a psychological report about me, prepared many years ago. I said there that there was a more interesting report. That was an OARS report (pictured). The core finding, as best I remember, was that I was "fierce" on the inside, "amiable" on the outside. There was a great disparity. OBSERVATION: I was told that that could be a great advantage in ministry: a tough minister with a gentle exterior -- but it could also be problematic: not so much because the minister is tough inside, but because people think he is soft. That could lead people to make errors of judgement which bring them face to face with the tough side. Something like that. The other report merely said that I was both tough and gentle, without going that level deeper.

Another E-Mail Public

Recently I have made a few e-mails public. Today is occasion for one more. It was the biggest scandal of my ministry. I was accused, at the end of my city ministry, of falsely accusing finance officers of theft. Here is perhaps the crucial e-mail in the matter, which was written by me, confidentially, to Church officers. Does this reveal accusations of theft? Did I exercise sufficient caution? You be the judge. For context, I was passing on observations of a chartered accountant, who had spent several days with the files.

On Sat, 2012-12-29 at 10:45 +0200, Rev. Thomas Scarborough wrote:
Dear Elders and Deacons,

I think I need to be more open still.  I had the audit checked confidentially, especially the income sheet, also our accounts -- which I think was the responsible thing to do under the circumstances.  I am told that -- as best I know how to pass it on:
It seems that about R30,000 is missing,
It seems that about one-fifth of payments are not properly accounted for, and
It seems that there are about R15,000 discrepancies with actual.
We need to note that this is merely an audit, and a double-check could well be mistaken, and the reality may be quite different.  I understand little about such things, so again, the few of us, please don't send me angry mail -- it really is my responsibility to place such things on record, then the deacons have the responsibility to see what is the case.  The finances are a complicated job, with many ins and outs, and we are deeply thankful to those who have taken care of this task, and I trust that all will fall into place.

But no matter what, we do need openness and relaxedness about our finances, not this jumpiness.  And this highlights again that we need to place all invoices before the Diaconate for consideration and decision, and I do think we need to minute our payments every month.  Then we should be sure to avoid this kind of thing.

Every blessing,

OBSERVATION: Behind this e-mail, I made it clear that I harboured no suspicion of theft or similar. I think that exists on tape, too, somewhere. However more recently, a bank and a regulator reported fraud (not theft), and made major recommendations.

Cart Horses

There still is horse drawn traffic in Cape Town (pictured), although not as much as when I was a boy. There is, too, a Cart Horse Protection Association. The Association provides services to over 260 working cart horses and their owners. Occasionally one still comes across signs on hills: "No horse drawn traffic". OBSERVATION: Cart horses were concentrated around Cape Town's District 6. With the demolition of the suburb due to apartheid, cart horses were dispersed across the city.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Defining Ministry

Somebody asked me what has defined my ministry. I have described it like this -- bearing in mind that when I say “I”, I really mean “we”:
• I seek to serve the Bible “neat” (as in “neat” whisky), both as foundation and message.
• I seek to create a genuine priesthood of believers, where congregants are fully entrusted with ministry.
• I seek to uphold government by the members, a direct democracy under Christ.
• I seek a complete family in the Church, holding together all differences, whether age, culture, status, even language or denomination. And
• I am not into branding, targeting, strategising, and so on, but seek an organic development through the Spirit. 
The rest springs from the above. OBSERVATION: Each of these points has, at one time or another, been opposed in my ministr(ies) -- yet together, they have made for thriving Churches.

Who Is Who?

Which is which? One of them is my son M. The other is the translator Richard Neal. OBSERVATION: I wouldn't mind having a Doppelgänger. He could give me a break from time to time. The trouble is, one has to tell them apparently to play it cool, and not to talk too much. See, for example: Spider-Man star Hannibal Buress sends lookalike to film's premier. (You do know which is which?)

Ministry ‘Opportunism’

I have found that, to keep "ministry by members" going (the priesthood of believers), in an urban setting, one needs to develop a kind of opportunism. Urban Churches in general turn over fast (and I think they are doing something right when they do -- but that would be another post). Here's a real example -- a membership interview with a young woman:
Myself: "Do you have any special gift?"
She, decisively: "Singing!"
Myself: "What kind of singing?"
She : "Choir singing -- or if there aren't enough people, a quartet."
Myself: "Solo?"
She: "Yes, that too."
Myself: "Would you sing on Sunday? It would introduce you to the Church."
She: "Yes. I could sing in Chichewa. I could sing in English."
Myself: "Both?"
She: "Yes." 
And so it came to be -- in fact she sang with a relative. OBSERVATION: Such things forge bonds, too. Meet such a member in the street, and there is, was something (or many things) memorable between you.