Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mystery E-Mails

I wonder how anyone could possibly have laid hands on e-mails which went to the heart of state capture in South Africa -- exchanges on "private computers" between the people principally involved. It is all in the news this weekend. I had my own such experience, at the close of my city ministry. Somebody slipped me e-mails which had passed between the Church accounts clerk and Church auditor (who was later revealed as being bogus). I never knew who slipped me those e-mails or how or when. I just noticed them in front of me one day. I am still baffled as to how they could have materialised.

Silverleaf Trees

I took the photo last week of an endangered (in this case dead) silverleaf tree. It is quite special walking through a silverleaf thicket, as one can in Cape Town. The leaves of these trees have a "distinct silvery sheen produced by dense velvety hairs". But the green-silver trees often turn brown-silver (see the photo), so that one sees dead brown-silver trees against a background of living green-silver trees, or vice versa. It seems that nobody understands quite why the trees die -- and sometimes a whole tree may die within a single day. At the moment, there seems to be more die-off than usual. About 20% of the original trees still stand. One finds them only in and around Cape Town, in thickets.

Congregational Resurgence

Congregationalism, at the time that I entered Congregational ministry, seemed to be pretty much dead in the water: another great Protestant tradition which had become moribund. But no one would have guessed what happened next. There was a massive resurgence of Congregationalism worldwide. Under my own ministr(ies), then, we hosted Congregationalists from all over the world, and received blessing from them. This included some leading figures. OBSERVATION: Congregationalism is government by the people, for the people (and nobody else, whether inside or outside the Church), under Christ. But seen as a form of Church polity, Congregationalism encompasses far more than those Churches which have the label "Congregational". It includes Baptists, for instance. (There are two other types of Church polity, by and large: Presbyterianism and Episcopalianism).

High Class Servants

Every now and then I attend dinners of high class servants, who serve some of our city's richest and most influential citizens. Such was the case last night, where I took this photo. OBSERVATION: Apart from being a time of relaxation and small talk (and good food), one does learn a lot about this particular city culture.

Exceptional Companies

South African businesses are legendary for their tardiness. In some cases, one would think they are determined to sink their own businesses -- which perhaps they are. I have however found three businesses which, in this order, are both exceptional and impressive:
• Rudd (water pumps)
• Makita (power tools)
• Fujifilm (cameras)
OBSERVATION: They have excellent products, excellent service, and excellent backup where something goes wrong. I would confidently go to them again.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sunday School Art

I spotted the image in a Sunday School hall in the city. The walls were full of children's drawings. This one appealed to me especially. Created by Hannah. Perhaps one day her art with be displayed in the Tate Gallery for modern art.

Regulatory Capture

There has been much discussion in South Africa of state capture, which happens when private interests (more or less) commandeer a state. What I have never seen discussed, however, is regulatory capture. This happens when regulatory agencies are (more or less) commandeered, in favour of those they regulate. I speak on the basis of what I know is the case, not what I think is the case. It is a disaster, because the cream of the professions are no longer strictly accountable. OBSERVATION: I blogged about this more than a year ago: Buddy Protection Rackets (which is what a journalist friend calls them). The methods are quite simple, once one knows what they are.

Hairpin Bend

This must be Cape Town's best known hairpin bend, on Kloof Road -- not to be confused with Kloof Street or Kloof Nek. This takes one through the Glen, where governors once hunted and relaxed. One sees Table Mountain in the background, from the side. The road lies between our home and wife E's place of work.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cape Town Heath

I took the photo this morning in the shadow of Lion's Head, of our local heath, or veld. In the midst of a severe drought, it rained last night, which surely deepened its colours. In spite of its raggedness, it seems to have a special beauty.

Church Life Cycles

I was reading an article last night about Church Life Cycles, by the Congregational minister Robert Neilson. According to some theorists, Churches are like human bodies (one calls Churches a Body, after all). There is birth, childhood, adolescence, youthful vigour, maturity, old age, terminal decline, and death ... then resurrection. Will the Church become "a carpet warehouse"? At that point, God's resurrection power intervenes, perhaps through a small remnant (a living spiritual rest in the Church's midst). OBSERVATION: What is the main reason for a Church beginning to slide? Robert Neilson says that "paradoxically and rather perversely, sections of the congregation who have been around a long time ... look back". And there you go. It kills it. If I understand it correctly, this theory differs from others in that it holds that this process is inevitable.

Tarantula's Lair

I took the photo this morning, on a walk through the veld near my home. It is clearly a lair. My guess would be the common rain spider (the local tarantula). They are fairly harmless. Their bite is said to be about as bad as a bee sting. OBSERVATION: But watch out for the wasps that prey on them. If a wasp thinks you are after its prey, you could have something nastier than a tarantula bite. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Rooibos Latte

For want of anything to post tonight, I am posting a photo of wife E at Cape Town airport last year, with her favourite South African drink: a rooibos latte. I doubt that one would find this in any other country. She likes it best with cinnamon and honey. OBSERVATION: Not to be confused with local honeybush tea, which is rare. Some honeybush species "have resisted all attempts at cultivation". A possible explanation is that they have a symbiosis with insects. Rural cottages sometimes smell of honeybush.

No Lonely Decisions

I was talking to a deaconess a few years ago, about how she was getting on with busing some choirs to our Church. She said, “Decisions, decisions!” -- and she was taking these decisions on her own. I said, “You’re not alone. You don’t have to take all these decisions yourself. You’re surrounded by Christian brothers and sisters who can help and advise you.” OBSERVATION: Ministers have this syndrome, too. Church leadership experts Roxburgh and Romanuk wrote: “Pastors have been schooled to think and act in a SOLA PASTORA way.” They assume the wise and lonely role of King Solomon, forgetting that they can just ask the Body, even on the spur of the moment. In the Congregational Church, that is ultimately the sine qua non of Church governance -- the “without which not”.

Half A Metaphysic

Yesterday I completed the first half of my metaphysic, or total philosophy (the first page is pictured on the right). The second half has been written, yet needs revision. With half the work complete, it is now ready for another round of presentations to agents and publishers. OBSERVATION: Publishers want to know how a work is unique. This work is unique for three simple reasons:
• It may well be the first new metaphysic in generations,
• It seeks to reincorporate ethics into metaphysics in a postmodern age, and
• It is written deliberately with possible application to theology in mind. Theology tends to trail philosophy.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Laughing Detectives

Our ex finance minister (pictured) said in parliament this week: "I'm seeing people keeping a straight face, like we did when the security police interrogated us during the struggle. I'm seeing the extreme arrogance with which people are keeping a straight face ... it's remarkable." Earlier this month, I found myself in a room with five detectives. I said: "You know what it's like when someone is guilty." I moved a flat hand in front of my face. I'm not good at telling jokes, and it wasn't intended as one, so I was surprised by raucous laughter. OBSERVATION: Unfortunately it is in the Church as well. Very much so.