Friday, September 30, 2016

Evangelistic Band

I took the photo this evening at the ... I need hardly suggest where I was. What one sees here (in the background) is a very loud and enthusiastic evangelistic band, and a fairly good crowd (many behind the camera). OBSERVATION: Something funny happened here. The herbalist nearby (there's a photo of her elsewhere on this blog) rose from her chair and began to swing to the music, then joined the evangelistic band. Perhaps I'll put up a photo in a future post.

What Is A Church Auditor?

Churchgoers wonder sometimes what an auditor is about (see The Auditor Resigns). Some in fact have no idea. The auditor is a specially qualified (and registered) person who carefully surveys a Church's finances once a year, then issues a statement that everything checks out. The auditor's statement (in the Congregational Church) is submitted to the assembled Church, then signed and handed back to the auditor. It is called an "audit", and a definition of a Church audit: "An official inspection of a Church's accounts, by an independent body."

Tranquil Scene

Here's another photo of our Atlantic coast. Those are igneous rocks, which characterise much of Cape Town's coast, and here form a natural rock pool. But this water is very cold. It comes from the Antarctic.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Church Under Fire

During my urban ministry, the Church once literally came under fire. Our stained glass took about thirty hits. I brought a Jewish security chief into the Church. He looked up at the windows. He suggested it could have been two shots from a double-barrelled shotgun, as there were two scatter patterns. OBSERVATION: The windows were covered by insurance, and I was amazed how the stained glass experts vanished the damage. No one would see today that the windows were once shot full of holes. Someone sent me an e-mail at the time: "A dead Church will not attract demonic attention, so you must be doing something right!"

Sea Shells

This is just a pretty picture, taken at Camps Bay this morning -- one of Cape Town's richest suburbs. It may be the least known beach in the area, accessed by old broken steps. You may click on the photo to enlarge. OBSERVATION: I took other photos of the scene with a fuzzier background. This near-focus for the background beats the others.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Auditor Resigns

The auditor resigned last week, of my old Church, with immediate effect. He was found to be in "criminal contravention" of the Auditing Profession Act, section 41, over a period of several years, including my own ministry. His defence is ignorance of the law. But city attorneys are emphatic: "No. No. No. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Particularly not if you pretend to be an auditor which you are not." The judicial system has the same approach, in South Africa. OBSERVATION: "The audit" was arguably the biggest crisis of my ministry. It has become increasingly clear that it shouldn't have been. Earlier this year, the Legal Director of the Board of Auditors recommended a major review of the Church's finances, as a priority.

Epic Metaphysic

Writing a metaphysic has been an erratic chore. Recently I spent eight weeks addressing a single critique I received from a philosophy graduate. Then I expected to take three months (the rest of this year) to incorporate one-hundred pages of my own notes into the metaphysic. Instead, earlier this week, I incorporated all these pages in a single evening's blitz. OBSERVATION: So I have another complete draft of the manuscript in hand, ready for another complete reading on my part.

Blog Graph

Here are the strange fortunes of my blog over a period of six years (there are no statistics before that). At the moment my blog has hit its second-highest point ever, although it's quiet in this very moment -- I'm not blogging stridently as it were, as I engage with things behind the scenes. The dip at the start represents my wife Mirjam's decline and death. The first rise happened when it became known that she had assigned a special someone to me, and the blog never looked back. The latest rise has to do, I think, with a few things shifting in my favour after a personal pounding. OBSERVATION: The page-views over six years are nearly a third of a million, but since each page contains fifteen posts, I don't know how many times posts were read. Probably many times more.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Often a Westerner's first question in South Africa is: "But where's the bathroom?" The photo shows a bowl with a quarter inch of steaming water in my bedroom one morning, in the pre-dawn light -- delivered by the mother of the house. That was my "bathroom" -- although I can't fully say that it was "my" bathroom, as people wandered in and out -- there was no door. Temperatures were below freezing outside. You may click on the image to enlarge to VGA.

Pentecostalism Rubs Off

It has often been said that we have a lot to thank Pentecostalism for. In many ways, Pentecostalism has rubbed off on the traditional Churches. But not merely in those areas one might imagine: speaking in tongues, say, or loud worship. Rather, the movement is characterised by a whole raft of features. It is interesting that my own "traditional" Churches (mostly my urban Church) shared many of the broader features of Pentecostalism: beliefs regarding justification, sanctification, and the last days; policy regarding the autonomy of the local Church, the priority of the Body, and the priesthood of believers; and praxis regarding the Divine presence, an emphasis on lived experience, a flexible liturgy, maximum participation, and indigenous principles. Yet we contrasted with Pentecostalism in that we de-emphasised tongues, healing, and the dramatic. OBSERVATION: Most "Pentecostal" features were in fact Congregational Church features before Pentecostalism came along, but some were lost along the way. (Ecclesiology was one of my emphases as a postgraduate student).

I Will Look Above ...

With a demanding morning behind me this morning, I shall simply put up a Bible passage, in the rare version "God is For Real Man" -- a 1967 translation for gangsters. It is Psalm 121, "I lift up my eyes to the hills" -- here translated "I will look above the high risers". This version seems so homely and warm to me -- an encouragement by virtue of its freshness. You may click on it to enlarge.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Church Fête Ideas

Here are the new ideas I mentioned in my previous post, which lifted a Church Fête result by one-third. We came up with a raft of new ideas: koeksusters, popcorn, donuts, ice lollies, pap en vleis, a chicken braai, children's toys, children's books, fairground games, face painting, a hamper draw, a tea garden, different hours for some stalls, and gospel music at the entrance. Not all of these were implemented, but enough of them were to make a big difference. The old ideas are included on the image. You may click on it to enlarge.

Multiplication of Ideas

Our Church fêtes (bazaars), year after year, always did about the same, in spite of all effort and care. And year after year, we kept feeling that they could do better. But how? In 2010, we decided to call it "The Year of New Ideas". There would be a multiplication of ideas, rather than effort. After the fête, many people waited eagerly to hear what difference it had made -- if any. All in all, the result was one-third better than the previous year, which is no small difference. I still have a list of those ideas. Perhaps in a future post ...

Salvation Army

This was Cape Town's Salvation Army band in 2010. They are here tuning up on arrival at our Church. This was a more raucous service than usual. A crowd of urban youngsters turned up, and they were "something else". The Salvation Army asked me if they should invite them to sing a hymn with them at the front. I said that was a great idea -- if the youngsters knew any hymns. One of the youngsters immediately grabbed the microphone at the front, and said: "One, two!" From there it all went downhill -- but they received enthusiastic applause.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dips In Attendance

Our Church, one year, was experiencing curious dips in attendance. "Curious", because many services continued to be up to full strength. Harvest Festival was up to full strength, so was Good Friday, and Mother's Day, too. Yet in between, we had some uncharacteristically low attend­ances. I checked with neighbouring Churches. They said they had experienced the same -- with dips as low as a very low 20% of full strength -- very much lower than our own. OBSERVATION: I have found that it pays to check with other Churches. What you think has "gone wrong" may be a much wider trend.