I was walking up Kloof Street some time ago after presiding at a communion service for Good hope MCC’s evening service. I had my clergy collar on and was stopped several times by people on the street. Some of them were people who I saw every day as I walked to and from work, but they didn’t know I was a Pastor until they saw me in the collar. They asked questions that made me laugh. The common one was had I stocked up on Doom. Yet, many shared the same thing, that they had lost interest in Church. I was fascinated by how many were drawn to ask me questions though they were naming a disinterest in Church. It is the mystery of the collar.
I sat for some time with a woman who when she saw me asked if she could ask me some questions. As she shared her questions, her story of deep pain and struggle unfolded. I shared a coffee with her, listened and sadly had no real answers for her other than the truth that God was with her, she was not alone, that there was no darkness in the world that God’s love was not able to break through. I still see this woman on the streets almost every day. Her life is still challenging, but I see it in her eyes that the connection we made no matter how brief and the daily seeing of one another on the streets has helped her to feel less alone.
There is a real hunger and thirst for God that I recognize in the world around us, though the lack of trust in the Church is real. That might be why different models of what it looks like to be church are arising in the world around us. Trust is something that is earned and it builds over time by the investments we make. There are people in the world that feel that the Church is not investing in them and they are the ordinary people out in the world around us. I am not a fan of clergy attire in general, but that evening reminded me of the power of the Church being present in unexpected places in the world.
I have a t-shirt that says, “Church can happen anywhere.” Sometimes I wear it to marches in the city and I get the same response as I did when I wore my clergy collar. People want to know where I got the shirt. They want to know what Church I belong to. They want to know my thoughts about God and the things that are real. It is amazing to me how God can use us in the most amazing of ways and in the most interesting of places. My walk to and from home every day is one of the times when I am constantly surprised. Car guards will stop me to ask questions, taxi drivers will shout out “hey lady Pastor”, and people bless me constantly.
Trust in God is not something people out in the world are readily willing to do. Yet, they are intrigued by the people who do. So, my question for us all is how can we be a people who those around us witness as people of faith. It is a great question to live with as we continue in the living of this New Year. As you live in the question, remember the words of Proverbs 3:5&6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God and your paths will become straight.”
With you on the journey,
Grace and Peace to you
The last few weeks have allowed for some extra reading. I have been reading around the topic of racism and I will be sharing more about this in the next few weeks. One of the books I read was: What if there were no whites in South Africa? by Ferial Haffajee. I found it an informative read and I would certainly recommend it to better understand where we are as a nation.
What I would like to mention about Haffajee’s book is not so much the valuable information that she shares (I will save that for another time) but rather the way she went about writing her book. I found her approach to be full of humility, grace and courage.
She starts off by stating, “I feel freedom. Breathe it. Speak it. Enjoy it. I know it only because I know its opposite. Apartheid, in all its social, political and economic dimensions, imprisoned me.” As a result she begins by not agreeing with or understanding the “simmering resentment about a perceived white cultural and financial domination that has replaced formal apartheid”. She writes, “When I preach my gospel of change, of black accomplishment and of the good and healthy fruits of freedom, it is as if I am the anti-Christ. It is as if I have journeyed to a place where nothing has changed, where an oppressive minority controls thought and destiny. A place where black people labour under a system of white supremacy. Do I live in a different world? Am I crazy?”
What I value so much about Haffajee’s approach is that she doesn’t set about defending her position as much as she seeks to understand the position of those who she either does not agree with or fully understand. She holds round table discussion groups with people who have totally different opinions to her. She listens and asks tons of questions. Her questions are asked with the hope of increased understanding and not to make a point. Her exploration is genuine. Her curiosity is real. In her approach we witness mature humanity as she reveals to us how we should all deal with difficult differences that exist between us.
Our task is to ask. Rather than argue in order to win. In this way we are guaranteed to grow as human beings … as we seek to become an anti-racist people.
Our Covenant Service will be held on Sunday 31 January.
Please reflect on the words of this great prayer.
Covenant Prayer Preparation
I am no longer my own but yours, O God.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blesse?d God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
And the covenant now made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.