Sunday, April 23, 2017

Historic Prayer Meeting

Something extraordinary happened in South Africa this weekend, which seems worth mentioning for foreign readers. News stands this morning announced (presumably correctly) that one-million people met for a prayer meeting yesterday in our central city of Bloemfontein. South Africa has less than a fifth of the population of the USA. The farmer who led the event said: “Today we are witnessing history. ... This gathering is a prayer meeting, it is not a gospel concert. It is not even an evangelistic outreach, it is a prayer meeting.” OBSERVATION: The background is political crisis. Thanks to GoodThingsGuy for the photo.

Issues Of Confidentiality

This post is about my biggest quandary, my biggest awkwardness, and my biggest disaster in connection with pastoral confidentiality. My biggest quandary was when someone informed me he was hiring a hit-man. I did not reveal it. Afterwards, he told me that our session had changed his mind. My biggest awkwardness was when someone revealed to me who had ransacked my vestry, and requested that I inform no one. I broke confidentiality -- a rare breach. My biggest disaster was when someone revealed massive embezzlement in a para-statal organisation, and I passed on the information. It opened a Pandora's Box of terrors.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Backwater South Africa

South Africa is a backwater, and the way that foreign companies deal with South Africans may be dismissive or "unlettered". I wanted to find out more about Kickstarter today, the international crowd-funding platform. The interaction was a classic (my input underlined):
How do I get in touch with questions?
You can reach out with your questions through this contact form. Log in.
I don’t have an account.
Okay, let's get started.  Please select the issue you’d like us to help you with.
Starting a project.
What is your question about?
Requirements. Creator eligibility.
Project creation is currently available to individuals in [a list of countries] ... Did this answer your question?
Thanks, got it!
And I am booted out.

Vanishing Compassion

Many years ago, I visited the island of Vanua Levu in the Pacific. At that time, someone stepped up to the chief to inform him that a few of his subjects had been found to be HIV-positive. On receiving the news, the chief broke down in tears. This week, I read reports of farmer suicides in South Africa. They could not take the strain of the severe drought. But I didn't find any compassion. Times Live, for instance, reported on the economics of it, infrastructure, production, policy, psychology, and so on, but I could not find definite signs that anybody cared, for them as people. OBSERVATION: Coming as I do from the pastoral angle, this is striking. And it is not only such farmers who could do with compassion, but people who go by many different descriptions. Farm labourers, to begin with.

ANC Rally

I recently took this super wide angle shot of an eTV reporter at an African National Congress (ANC) rally in Cape Town. It was an ill fated rally, because the president, who was to address it, was greatly delayed by heckling -- which was transmitted to giant TV screens at the rally. By the time he got there, most people had left. OBSERVATION: But that may not matter to the president. He seems to live in a parallel world.

Friday, April 21, 2017

City Council Plaza

Inspired by a photo I saw on a forum yesterday, I took this one this morning, on exiting our City Council building. The building, together with this (raised) plaza, seems typical of the clumsy architecture inspired by apartheid. Thankfully someone broke up this space with the "work of art" on the man's right. One sees Cape Town's major theatre, too, on the right, and cranes in the harbour in the background on the left. OBSERVATION: It was a manual shot, unaltered here except for a crop. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Congregationalism And Worldly Governance

A Congregational Church is, by worldly standards, a very strange set-up, and people often misunderstand it, even within the Congregational Church. Here is the incident which most stands out in my mind: we had just dismissed an employee, for severely abusing his wife on the Church property. Among other things, he slashed her with a whip (a sjambok). Next thing, an official from the Dept. of Labour demanded to speak to me. He shouted at me that the Department would have me up before a tribunal because I was the minister and chief executive (we had dismissed the man for behaviour off-duty). I tried to explain to him that, in a Congregational Church, the minister is not a "chief executive", but rather it is the very opposite. There is an executive body which is, well ... everybody. OBSERVATION: Something similar happens with regard to anyone who holds office in the Church or expedites something or stamps it or signs it and so on. People easily assume that, for example, the stamp-bearer is more than someone who uses a stamp. But in the Congregational Church, everybody is just humbly obeying orders, which come from the Lord Himself. A typical Congregational constitution may say something like this: "Where the full Church meets in the Lord’s name, their findings are those which He Himself imparts." That is a radical statement. And outside of that meeting of the Church, there is no authority and there is no one who bears it (as it affects the Church).

City Schooling

Her face says it all. On this day, I took a niece on my wife's side (pictured), to begin her schooling in the city. About 200km / 120mi from home, she looked forlorn. She was previously schooled at a farm school, Zuuranys Primêr. OBSERVATION: I hear that she has settled in well in the city. 200km may not seem far, but the logistics of getting home are not simple. I call them YANs (yet-another-nieces). They are all special. A few of them are pictured on this blog. For example: Another Niece.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

‘Let Your Living Water ...’

The recordings I have put up here and on Facebook, of a Youth Choir under my ministry, have been very popular. I am putting this one up for the first time. One needs to bear in mind that these are not professional recordings, nor was it easy to co-ordinate the project in a chaotic city environment. Even so, I think we turned out some enjoyable and spiritually upbuilding music, and it was a pleasure to listen to when performed in Church. This is the well known song "Let your living water(s) flow over my soul." OBSERVATION: It was originally written by John Watson of Vinesong. The song is sung by (in this order in the video) Phakamile Nkosi, Itai Chikadaya, Peter Nighswander, Ester Sizani (my now wife), and Francis Mvenge.

Signatories And Assault

Recently a bank showed me what was going on with my old Church’s finances. I was amazed as I awakened to what I saw, as the names of Church signatories scrolled up the screen in front of us. At the end of my ministry, I was assaulted by several people in my robes, in the Church vestibule. I made a statement then, but I did not bring charges against them. There were five names in my statement, which is the people who assaulted me. Now, out of five signatures or names which scrolled up the screen in the bank, four were involved in the assault(s), and the fifth had been present. Only one person who assaulted me then was not in the list of signatories. In other words, there was a near complete overlap. OBSERVATION: I could not have made it up if I tried.

A Special Thank You

I have received many thank yous in ministry. This one stood out. A little damaged now, and faded, it was the wedding of a well known city hairdresser. Apart from the (fairly modest) fees which were required by the Church, they gave me this photo in a frame, which now stands in my lounge. I am in the background on the right. OBSERVATION: His kindness did not end with this photo. He continues to greet me with enthusiasm when he sees me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pentecostalism Rubs Off

Ecclesiology was one of my postgraduate subjects: the doctrine of the Church. It was very interesting to me to discover how much my minstr(ies) have shared with Pentecostalism, or how much Pentecostalism has rubbed off. One may easily overlook it. The Pentecostal stereotype is those who speak in tongues, make a loud noise, and so on. Actually the movement is characterised by a whole raft of features:
• Beliefs re justification, sanctification, and the last days
• Policy re autonomy of the local Church, the priority of the Body, the priesthood of believers
• Praxis re the divine Presence, an emphasis on lived experience, a flexible liturgy, maximum participation, and indigenous principles.
Yet my own ministr(ies) have contrasted with Pentecostalism through de-emphasising tongues, healing, and the dramatic. OBSERVATION: Most "Pentecostal" features, as here described, were in fact Congregational Church features before Pentecostalism came along, but some of these features were lost along the way. I think we have a lot to thank the Pentecostal Church for, even if we can't follow them all the way.

Heads Together

This one's "just a pretty picture". It is a well known minister and friend, servicing my car / automobile. Since he started on my car, a few years ago, it seems to be running better than it was in the beginning. OBSERVATION: Local service garages may be notorious. I once took my car in to have two lights repaired, and it came back with five broken and a sixth dangling by its wires. It seems unbelievable. They get first prize, no contest. I shall mercifully pass over their name (a big name).

Components Of A Metaphysic

I have been both puzzled and heartened by strong interest in any posts on this blog which record the progress of my metaphysic (a total philosophy). I don't know where this interest originates or why -- I only see very general statistics. My metaphysic does a few big things: it reincorporates ethics into metaphysics, on a new basis. The loss of ethics is a major problem of our time. Also, it reincorporates religion into metaphysics -- yet without (I hope) crossing the line between philosophy and religion. One can't do that. I have called my metaphysic "friendly to evangelicalism". This does not mean that it in any way promotes evangelicalism. It would seem much like building a road. The road doesn't take you to your destination, but it opens the way there. OBSERVATION: Philosophies, broadly speaking, may be friendly or unfriendly to certain theologies -- sometimes unfriendly to all theologies -- and, as was proposed by the philosopher-theologian Francis Schaeffer (among others), may have a profound effect on the course of theology.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Personal Signs

There is a general suspicion of "signs" in the Church. At the same time, I think that God graciously gives people signs which only they can understand. This much seems certain -- He gives people signs to which only they respond, even if they did not recognise them -- which lift their spirits or change their path. However, beyond that, I think that God does give people signs which only they can see. One finds it in the Bible. I have a friend who lost his wife, through long and slow decline. He told me that God had sent him extraordinary signs of encouragement. He described them to me in detail. I can say this: I have never had those same signs, which he had again and again. I reminded him of it long after, but then he seemed embarrassed. OBSERVATION: The core question is, are specific signs of God, or are they human imagination at work? Or worse. And how would one tell the difference?