Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Parliament Today

I took this photo outside parliament today. I knelt down inside a circle of students for this shot. Many thousands of students were protesting ... in the main, against the burden of university fees. And where students do obtain student loans -- and many do -- by African standards the loans may sometimes seem to be all but impossible to repay. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Not About Me

I wrote elsewhere on this blog about my being deeply affected by intimidation. This is not imagined -- it is probably better recorded than any of my intimidators would hope. But I got to the stage where I was feeling stronger -- and at that juncture, I spoke to my bishop about it. He asked me what I would gain if I were to take the tough line recommended to me by authorities, among others. That clarified my thinking -- though perhaps not as my bishop intended. It was not about what I would gain. It was about freedom of religion, the rule of law, the good of the Church -- and about seeing one's life from beginning to end, and how it is lived -- not about the gains and losses of this particular time.

Troop Carrier

I thought it was a good shot, but I could have lost my camera. It's a riot policeman inside a police troop carrier today, outside parliament. I took the photo through an air vent -- or is it a gun hole? The trouble is, another riot policeman slammed the steel cover shut on my camera, leaving marks on the lens barrel. The camera survived. OBSERVATION: There was a massive student protest outside parliament. As I write, I still hear a whirlybird, sirens, and police fire.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Wedding Video

I finally was able to transcode our wedding video with a handy utility. So, after a mere four years' wait, here are the opening moments in "video conferencing" mode. Wife E's wedding dress was made of silk adorned with Honiton lace and a veil, in a style worn by Queen Victoria. Her employer generously provided the dress. E. carried a bouquet of Haenertsburg lilies. The Church is St. Peter's Anglican Church, Plettenberg Bay.

Big Confessions

Have you seen the movie Soylent Green? It was a classic, starring Charlton Heston as a detective, and Lincoln Kilpatrick as a priest. The priest receives a shocking confession: the state is turning people into food. One may indeed hear shocking confessions in ministry: someone intends to commit a serious crime, someone confesses to a serious crime, or someone says they have uncovered a serious crime. By and large, in such situations, I have done three things: • I have kept it confidential, and continued confidential counselling. • I have done all that I can to help the person deal with the situation themselves. And • with them, I have sought to lead them to trust God to work a solution (which need not mean inaction). OBSERVATION: Depending what the situation is, the hazards of personal involvement, for a minister, can be high.

Picture Perfect

Here's another photo I took of The Lizard Kings in the little village of Bot River, about 90km / 55mi east of Cape Town -- in Kodachrome, as it was once called. They are a highly accomplished band with a laid back style. The ivy covered tree as a backdrop makes it picture perfect. They were performing at Manny's Kitchen on the village square. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Photo Of My Father

I rediscovered this early photograph of my father recently. He is standing third from the left in the front row here, with the entrance of St. Helen's Church Welton in the background. Welton is close to the north bank of the great River Humber. I would guess that this photo was taken about 1935.

Ethics Chief

Son M. and I this morning had the rare privilege of meeting our province's Ethics Chief, a man with special powers, accountable only to Parliament and the President. His name isn't out there -- one won't find it out there. I shared with him my experience of the system, in particular the obstruction of justice. He said: "I feel for people. I [myself] don't want to be caught up in this country's play. It's a ?#@*&%! difficulty." OBSERVATION: After a twenty-minute encounter, the state of the nation is as bad as I thought, and my own understanding of the situation seems about right. My compliments to a shrewd, compassionate, and straight talking Ethics Chief. (But they didn't appoint him for his mild speech) ...

Central African Man

I took this photo of a handsome Central African man at the Church door yesterday -- an (almost) unposed shot on the spur of the moment. His name is Jules. You can click on the photo to enlarge. He is studying in South Africa, at the end of his first year at university, and like many students, is much affected by the present turmoil in universities.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Even Sermon

I took the photo this morning of John Child, the longest running lecturer at the Calvinist George Whitfield College in Cape Town. He lectures in systematic theology and ethics. He preached on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit -- giving the subject a comprehensive treatment in the time of a mere sermon. While many appreciated the completeness of his teaching, the sermon seemed to me to be a very even landscape -- too even, I thought, for things of importance really to stand out. OBSERVATION: It's the kind of chance photo that invites a good caption.

Struggle Over A House

When lovers live together without marrying, they set themselves up for problems they never imagined. Yesterday I was called on to advise in this situation: a woman had died, and her partner (not her husband) was left in the house, together with the woman's son. The house now fell to the next of kin, which was the woman's son. Therefore the partner began to intimidate the son in a battle of wits to try to gain control of the house. OBSERVATION: I said it was a cockfight, and the best way forward I could see for now was to get a trusted advisor in, to bring some perspective. No, it was not a cockfight, said the son. There was only one cock in this fight.

Original Prayers

One of the trademarks of my ministry has been original spiritual input. Among other things, this has meant original prayers -- which is, more than anything, inviting a congregant to say the main prayer in Church. Not seldom, congregants welcome a little guidance. One of the ways I have approached this is to give a congregant a classic prayer, and to invite them to make it their own -- to use it as the basis for something in their own words. With this in mind, here is an example prayer by Matthew Henry, which serves as a good all-rounder. You may click on the image to enlarge.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pandanus Fruit

I just added Tetairua Kaarira of Beru to my friends on Facebook. She posted this stunning photo of pandanus fruit (you may click on it to enlarge). They were a favourite of mine as a boy. One chews on those "nodules" of which they are made up -- but one needs strong teeth. Pandanus trees are very tough, and can withstand drought, strong winds, and salt spray. The leaves have many practical uses: weaving mats and hats, for instance, even rolling cigarettes. OBSERVATION: The photo gives some impression of the environment in which I lived and played as a boy.

Student Impressions

I find it very interesting and rewarding interacting with university students in South Africa. It's a long time since I was a (young) student, so it's hard to know "where I was" at that time. I pick up some general trends. • Students struggle deeply with the split personality, the major contradictions, of South African society. How does one reconcile it all? • There is a tendency to limit their thinking. They could be thinking more broadly, holistically, taking more into account. They would find more answers. Options which are there seem closed to them. • They often carry the weight of not being able to appreciate just how well they are doing, how much they are learning, where they are going. Encouragement matters a lot to them. [I deleted further thoughts, in the interests of simplicity].

Soaring Blog

My blog tends to be cyclical. I can't say that it is doing too badly at the moment, with a huge surge of interest during the past month (see the image). The most popular post of the last week and the last month comes as little surprise: Erasing Windows. On my Acer Aspire, the erasure worked, and my new Linux Xubuntu is a dream -- but one needs to read up before one tries it. OBSERVATION: My most popular ministry post of all time (in more than six years of statistics) is still far and away Rushed Resignation.