Two emotions, two options

Two emotions, two options

Oct 13, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Two emotions, two options

So on Thursday afternoon I was standing on my outside deck
and I heard a noise that sounded like a swarm of bees.
I looked up and saw a “drone” peering down at me.

Big Brother is watching … my garden grow.


It has been said that there are really only two emotions — fear and love. In other words whatever we do is rooted in one or the other. By asking ‘why am I doing what I am doing?’ we may discover this to be true. We may also discover that many of us are motivated more by fear than love. The fear of rejection. The fear of the future. The fear of death. The fear of being alone. The fear of not having enough. The fear of change. Even the fear of fear. Or the fear of …

When fear is our predominant motivation it becomes our “true north” that sets our direction. At this point fear has become our god (the most determining factor in our life). Even our prayers to God end up in the service of this god of fear. No wonder the most repeated command in Scripture is “Do not be afraid”.

The scriptures remind us that “perfect love casts out fear”. The opposite is also true: fear casts out love. And because God is love, fear then casts out God because it becomes our god.

Instead of being determined by our fear we may be tempted to deny our fear. The problem with denial is that instead of removing our fear all it does is mask it. Fear then becomes the hidden cause of much of our living, only now it is one step removed from being discerned and dealt with.

The two options of denial and determination are equally debilitating.

Scriptures injunction that “perfect love casts out fear” gives us insight into a third way to relate to our fear. Here we are invited to bring our fear into relationship with love. Remembering God is love, we are invited to bring our fear into relationship with God. In the very least, to love means to acknowledge and accept. This is our first task — to acknowledge and accept our fear. To do this it is sometimes helpful to personify our fear. In other words to give our fear a name, e.g. Wolf. And then to relate to the Wolf without judgement. To explore rather than to evaluate the Wolf. This loving (acknowledging, accepting, exploring without judgement) of Wolf — will over time transform Wolf. Slowly Wolf will determine our living (either consciously or unconsciously) less and less.

Grace, Alan

Windows and Mirrors

Windows and Mirrors

Oct 6, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Windows and Mirrors

Mirrors only lie if they have been lied to!
Look in the mirror — are you sure you are you?

Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in. ~ Alan Alda

It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning their windows were shut, they couldn’t hear the barbarians coming. ~ Garrison Keillor


A window invites us to look through it. A mirror invites us to look into it. We need both windows and mirrors in our life. We need to look outwards and beyond and we need to look deeply within. We need to see the world at large in all its splendour and balance as well as its suffering and chaos. We need to see ourselves in all our beauty and purity as well as our compromising contradictions. What we see within and without calls for thankful praise and heartfelt lament. What we see will cause intrigue, doubt, confidence, questioning, liberation and resurrection.

Both windows and mirrors invite us to see new things and in new ways. This is one of the main reasons we gather here for worship each week: To see. To see all of creation, each other and ourselves through the window of Jesus’ healing vision of justice and equality for all and in the mirror of his accepting and engaging love of all. Authentic worship includes both windows and mirrors.

Windows get dirty and mirrors mist up. Both need cleaning from time to time to keep clarity. But here in lies a danger. We may be tempted to spend more time looking at the window than through it and at the mirror rather than into it — driven by an obsession to keep it clean. When this happens, our vision that the window had hoped to extend and which the mirror had hoped to deepen becomes myopic. We become professional window cleaners — wiping and polishing but no longer seeing or at least not seeing what the window and mirror had hoped we see. With worship we become a window cleaner when we worship the way we worship. With Church we become a window cleaner when we love our community more than the truth. With Jesus this occurs when we confuse idolising him with following him.

Where else this analogy is true in your living.

Grace, Alan

A path out of poverty

A path out of poverty

Sep 29, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on A path out of poverty

An OLIVE branch that really does make peace.
Goedgedacht Olives and Olive Oil that create “A Path Out of Poverty” for the rural poor. Look for them at Pick ‘n Pay.

I was away last weekend facilitating Manna and Mercy. Manna and Mercy is a short picture book version of the bible — simple yet profound — just as Jesus taught. In fact I reckon it is Jesus’ favourite version of the Bible.

I asked the author Dan Erlander why he called it Manna and Mercy and not simply ‘The Bible’ and this is what he said: “In biblical times rabbis would summarise their teaching for their disciples in a prayer. John had apparently done this for his disciples and now Jesus’ did the same, beginning with ‘Our Father…’ Now listen to what is at the very centre of what we call the Lord’s Prayer but what is in fact Jesus’ very own summary of his teaching: ‘Give us our daily bread (Manna) and forgive us our debts’ (Mercy). So Manna and Mercy is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching.”

Reading the Gospels confirms that manna (which is really a symbol for justice) and mercy for all is what Jesus lived for and it is also what got him killed.

It was therefore special to be hosted at Goedgedacht Farm near Malmesbury not only because the beauty runneth over like each of the dams on the property, but because it embodies in deed what Manna and Mercy espouses in word.

The whole farm exists to give life in all its fullness to rural families — especially children. This is not an add-on like some Corporate Social Investment programme. Their business is to use their business to liberate rural people from the continuous cycles of poverty and joblessness that have entrapped farm worker families for many generations. Education and health weave through everything they do. Their Path out of Poverty (POP) programme touches the lives of 1268 individuals from 30 farms and in two rural villages of Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel. POP is a programme for children and youth run by the young people themselves.

They understand that no single project will get a child out of poverty. As they tenaciously declare: “The only thing that has a chance of working is a long-term intervention, a programme that should involve a child for up to 20 years … and then start again with the next generation.” Check out:

Inspired, Alan


Corporal Punishment

This week I was called by a reporter from Die Burger to give my views on corporal punishment. I did not have too much time to get them to her — but here are my reasons why I do not support any form of corporal punishment:

To use a mere two verses of Scripture (Proverbs 13:24 and 23:13) as a validation for corporal punishment is a terribly narrow basis for parenting and educating children. And besides the ‘rod’ that scripture refers to in Proverbs 13:24 may well be referring to the rod-like-pointer that the rabbi used while reading the Torah. In other words to spare the rod would mean to neglect teaching children the Torah and not to give a child a hiding.

The Bible is clear that discipline is necessary, but discipline is not the same thing as punishment. Therefore to say that ‘smacking is good’ because children need discipline is to confuse the issue. Discipline when applied well relies on a host of other emotions that reveal not only why the behaviour was undesirable but also how and why the behaviour can be changed.

Corporal punishment is based on fear and relies on superior power. Discipline relies on respect and relies on the strength of a loving relationship that exists between a parent and a child. Punishment may be effective in the short term but only lasts as long as the fear. Fear casts out love.

Corporal punishment ultimately teaches the child that if you have a problem with another human being you can solve it by giving them a hiding. Discipline invites imaginative ways at conflict resolution which are vital social skills for all human beings to learn.

Corporal punishment is often more about the state of the impatient, over-tired parent than about the deed and need of the child. Healthy discipline takes far more time and effort and imagination for sure – but in the end the long way round is the quickest.

Grieving communities

Grieving communities

Sep 22, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Grieving communities

“The theologian Karl Barth once remarked,
“God is so unassuming in the world,” which may be the only way
those who grieve experience the presence of God. Nobody’s grief is characterised by sudden movements or dramatic reversals.
Grief does not “break” like a fever.” ~ Richard Lischer


On Thursday I attended a meeting at the Church of Reconciliation in Manenberg. Faith leaders and civil society groups were addressed by Fr. Donovan and other community leaders about the gang violence in the area. The complex web of interlinked causes was despairingly heavy to hold.

A trauma counsellor spoke of how in the upcoming school holidays they will take 120 learners out of Manenberg for trauma counselling.  She said, “But when we ask principals to send us learners who are traumatised the principal says, ‘take everyone in my school’, so we have to limit it to the extremely traumatised.”  In the recent exams used to evaluate schools (for future state support and funding) teachers have noted that learners cannot concentrate for longer than four minutes, “so how is this going to affect the schools in the future?”.  While listening to the trauma counsellor all I could think of was that she herself was traumatised and should be booked off, but instead she will be with the “extremely traumatised.” In this context there is no such thing as “post traumatic”, only “continuous traumatic”.

Another leader responded to the suggestion about “getting together to talk” with, “but what if they don’t know how to express their emotions?  On a scale of 0-10 the anger levels are at 9.9.  All you have to do is look at someone in the wrong way and it can trigger off a fight. We need to be taught how to express ourselves without violence. We have to be taught how to channel our anger.” He spoke about how some school playing areas have been re-fenced and in the process made smaller, “so now if there  is no room for them to kick a ball — who’re they going to kick?” And what is one meant to do with the staggering figure of over 60% learner dropout in some schools — especially grades 5 through 9?

We heard how the gangs have divided the community but were also told in no uncertain terms how the faith communities don’t help matters because of how divided they are themselves. We learnt how some faith communities bury their heads in the sand while others take sides in the conflict.

What should haunt us is the fact that if even a tiny proportion of the violence in Manenberg (and other areas) had taken place in one of the table-mountain-hugging-suburbs it would have resulted in a national emergency. How violence is seen to be “normal” in some areas is for us to shamefully confess.

As the depths of deathliness was being shared with us — I noticed the banner on the wall above where we were sitting. It read: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”. So aware of our own powerlessness this was a welcome word. And when I think about it I already saw hints of the Spirit’s empowering in the fiery passion of a community leader deeply ‘in love with’ and ‘in grief for’ his community and his powerful refusal to settle for what is instead of for what should be.

Grace, Alan


 Palestinian Poet, Remi Kanazi, on tour in South Africa

Remi Kanazi is a New York-based Palestinian poet, spoken-word artist, activist and author who is a guest of the Tri Continental Film Festival (TCFF) and whose work includes being the Author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (2011), and Editor of The Anthology of Hip-Hop, Poets for Palestine (2008). He will be in Cape Town on Heritage Day.

Date & Time: 24 September at 18:00

What: Poetry Session

Where: Lookout Hill, Khayelitsha, Cape Town

Directions: Head towards airport along N2, take Mew Way off-ramp from N2, turn right at the top of the off-ramp (to go over the bridge) you will come to a set of robots at the entrance to Khayelitsha, continue until you reach four way stop, turn left into Spine Road, on the right hand-side is the destination (Lookout Hill yellow-brownish face brick complex with a City of Cape Town logo.)

Hosts: Open Shuhada Street South Africa

Contact: 082 042 6120

Cost: Free

Twitter hashtags: @OpenShuhada #RemiKanazi #Palestine


For more information: Luzuko Pupuma on 021 423 3089 / 081 504 4970 /

Is sin a sinful word?

Is sin a sinful word?

Sep 15, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Is sin a sinful word?

Inside HOME is an awesome article on urban gardening,
including CMM’s garden.

I had a conversation with a friend this week about the ‘S’ word. The dreaded ‘S’ word. Yes we were talking about SIN. Our discussion revolved around whether the word was still “useful” or whether there are such negative connotations attached to the word that it is a stumbling block to itself. Has sin become a sinful word? Well I guess it all depends on one’s definition. And what I was reminded about in our discussion was that we definitely meant different things when we used the ‘S’ word.

A few years ago I attended a set of five economic lectures. I remember how surprised I was when the professor used the entire first lecture to simply clarify a number of economic terms. He justified taking up so much time on a glossary, saying: “Without the use of these specific terms I am unable to explain the discipline of economics to you.” There is a new language that must be learnt first in order to fully understand the particular discipline.

As it is with economics, so it is with theology. There are certain words that are unique to the discipline. They have a history of meaning that will be lost if the word is replaced by a modern “equivalent”. Words like: sin, salvation, grace, faith, death, life, justice, healing, eternal life, heaven and hell all carry important and peculiar meanings that are lost in the common day-to-day usage of them. In fact they can even end up meaning the very opposite to their original meaning.

Some of you attended Connections a few years back — well I have decided to run it again on Wednesday evenings starting on the 9 October. Even if you have done it — come again because it’s always new. It will be an opportunity to clarify our understandings of the words we use to hold the meaning of our lives, as well as grow community.

Grace, Alan

Yom Kippur the Jewish Day of Atonement was observed on Sept. 13-14, 2013. The Day of Atonement is considered the most important day of the Jewish year. Yom Kippur marks the end of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of teshuvah (Jewish reflection, repentance and return) that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

During the Days of Awe, Jews seeks forgiveness from friends, family and co-workers, a process that begins with Tashlich, the symbolic casting off of sins that is traditionally observed on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah by throwing bread into a body of water. On Yom Kippur, Jews attempt to mend their relationships with God. This is done, in part, by reciting the Vidui, a public confession of sins. The holiday has the most extensive prayer schedule of the Hebrew calendar and arduous abstinence from food, drink, sexual intimacy and animal-based clothing, such as leather.

All major Jewish holidays, including Yom Kippur, consist of four main prayer services: Ma’ariv, Shacharit, Musaf and Mincha. Yom Kippur, though, is unique. It begins with Kol Nidre, a legal document that is hauntingly chanted and emotionally charged. The Book of Jonah is read during the afternoon prayer service on Yom Kippur day.

The Day of Atonement is the only Jewish holiday that includes a fifth prayer service, called Ne’ilah, which is a final plea of repentance before the gates of heaven are said to close. The Ne’ilah service precedes the shofar blowing and the end of the fast

While Yom Kippur is characterized by solemn fasting and marathon prayers of repentance, it is actually considered the most joyous day of the Jewish year because it commemorates God’s forgiveness of the sin of the Golden Calf, the Israelites’ slip into idolatry after the giving of the Ten Commandments, and is considered a time to spiritually start anew. (Via Huffington Post)

Evil & Success

Evil & Success

Sep 8, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Evil & Success
On the First Thursday of the Month the city comes alive at night in a very special way. There is a free concert on Greenmarket Square (in our backyard) as well as around 30 art galleries that open their doors until about 9 p.m. I encourage you next month on 3 October to join this Art Pilgrimage.

You have heard the words from Edmund Burke many times before, “That all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing”. It is true. But it is not so simple.

The problem with evil (here broadly defined as that which destroys life) is that it does not always look like evil. Often the evilest evil is presented as good and virtuous, something to be aspired to and sought after. It is very difficult to detect especially when the dominant culture labels it “success” and invites us to pay homage to its achievement.

Take for example the transfer fee of +R1.4bn for soccer player Gareth Bale by Real Madrid which is more than half a million Rand a day.

In a world where all life is interdependent on the generous sharing of all other life — this is evil. It is evil because it results in one having too much and many others having too little. Yet this evil is hailed as the pinnacle of success. I am not saying Gareth Bale is evil (well no more than anyone else) rather it is the system that enables such an insanely huge sum of money to be paid to an individual that is evil.

And here is the thing that is really sick about this evil, that the very people who live with too little are the ones who support this kind of system, not intentionally, but by crowding around TV’s with sponsor’s drinks in hand to catch a glimpse of the “beautiful game”. And any suggestion to boycott watching soccer would probably unite opposing fans in seeking one’s blood.

May our eyes be opened to evil in our midst and may God give us the courage to admit where we are complicit in the systems of evil in the world — it is this we are called to confess and turn from. May we inspire each other to do so.

Grace, Alan


Next week Tuesday, 10 September 2013, the Campaign for Safe Communities and other partner organisations will be making a solidarity visit to Manenberg to speak to community members about their experience with gang violence and to show our support.

Over 26 people have been killed over the last few weeks owing to gang violence. 14 Schools had to be closed in August after teachers, fearing for their safety as well as the safety of their learners, requested support from the government and threatened to walk out en masse.

Recognising that this is a crisis, the province has since shifted R6 million from the education budget towards the deployment of Metro police in Manenberg. This has reduced the levels of gun violence on the streets, but the climate of tension and fear remains.

Community members, particularly the youth, have been deeply affected by the loss of family members, witnessing extreme acts of violence, and being directly victims of violence themselves. The youth need to be given special consideration. Trauma caused by exposure to violence makes it impossible for many of the youth to function effectively at school, and school closure means that they are significantly behind in the curriculum. Many youth also risk being caught in the crossfire while walking to and from school. Unfortunately, many of the youth also end up being perpetrators of violence, targeted for recruitment by the gangs and many youths feel that joining a gang is the only way to ensure their safety.

Gangsterism is now spilling over from Manenberg to other areas such as Hanover Park, Mitchells Plain and even Khayelitsha. We must not turn our back on the Manenberg community when their constitutional rights to life, safety and education are being threatened daily. Everyone, whether they live in Manenberg or not, has a responsibility to oppose this violence and support the people of Manenberg in the building of a safe community.

If you are interested in joining in this solidarity visit please contact Roegchanda Pascoe at

All are welcome

All are welcome

Sep 1, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on All are welcome

“So what is this church stuff all about…?” I have carried this question on my sabbatical journey.

Just because we call ourselves ‘church’ does not mean we are church, it just means that is what we call ourselves. After all, by calling myself an astronaut doesn’t make me an astronaut. And by being an astronaut in name only is a real turn off to others considering being an astronaut themselves – after all, who wants to join a bunch of astronauts who never go up into space?

Surely we are only ‘church’ to the extent that as a community we incarnate the life and teachings of Jesus in the world in which we live? So what does it mean to incarnate Jesus in our living?

We incarnate Jesus by hungering for what he hungers for – and he hungers for no one to be hungry.

We incarnate Jesus by bravely loving those who he loves – and he especially loves those who others especially think should not be loved.

We incarnate Jesus by forgiving those who he forgives – ourselves and others, when we least deserve it.

We incarnate Jesus by trusting in what he trusts in: that truthfulness is liberating; that gentleness is real power; that generous giving is actually abundant receiving; that we have come from love and to love we will return, and therefore we need not fear to love here and now.

We incarnate Jesus by believing in what he believes in, and he believes that we should not discriminate against people according to what they believe.

We incarnate Jesus by living out this hymn by Marty Haugen called: All are Welcome…

Grace, Alan

All Are Welcome

Let us build a house
where love can dwell
And all can safely live,
A place where
saints and children tell
how hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
Rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions;

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

 Let us build a house where prophets speak,
And words are strong and true,
Where all God’s children dare to seek
To dream God’s reign anew.

Here the cross shall stand as witness
And a symbol of God’s grace;
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat:
A banquet hall on holy ground,
Where peace and justice meet.

Here the love of God, through Jesus,
Is revealed in time and space;
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

Marty Haugen©

Food security

Food security

Aug 25, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Food security

Since 1975, members of CMM have been offering meals as a way to help meet some of the needs of the city’s many homeless people.

Various role players run meal schemes for the needy in the City, and CMM fills some of the gap by offering Sunday lunch at the Service Dining Rooms in Canterbury Street. A core team of cooks and servers are (by and large!) ably assisted by ad-hoc volunteers to serve about 250 balanced and nutritious meals every week. The meal offering is a small but clear response to Jesus’ call to meet the needs of the poor. We do this as an extension of our worship and discipleship, trusting that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for Jesus. We also do this for ourselves: in transforming the lives of others, we too are transformed. The CMM volunteers invariably arrive home late for Sunday lunch reeking of onion, but tremendous satisfaction is found amongst the difficulties of co-ordinating amongst ourselves and serving a broad range of guests.

Food security is a cornerstone of how we organise our lives, and knowing where our next meal is coming from frees us to pursue almost all other actions. The food we offer makes a slight difference to the hungry and homeless. Of much greater value is the consistency of what we do: offering the certainty of a hot meal to those who might otherwise go hungry is almost as good as the meal itself. By turning up every week, we offer care, friendship and welcome in a city that ignores and rejects the homeless at every turn. By consistently offering up our time, we acknowledge their humanity and ours, and build small bridges across our city’s great divide between rich and poor.

Thanks to all those involved in this work.

Peace to you from Bruce & the SDR team.



Aug 18, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Licorice-All-Sorts

Each day in the life of the CMM church office and sanctuary can be described as a packet of Licorice-All-Sorts when all kinds of people from all over the world pop in.

Sometimes we have neighbours dropping off gifts such as the olive tree we received from the Groote Kerk congregation. Other times we have visitors (local and overseas) who come in to admire the architecture, to inquire about the history of the congregation and building, or simply to entertain us with their piano-playing gifts or choir singing. Then there are also those times when people seek refuge and respite.

Jesus is also disguised in a variety of ways in this packet of Licorice-All-Sorts: a person with a distinct aroma expressing a deep hunger, the one who is in search of a candle to light whether out of need or gratitude, the one who needs a prayer or a cup of coffee, another who simply needs to chat and be listened to. We also have our hero’s — the NA and AA people who wrestle daily with their addictions and who often highlight for us our own addictions.

Each day we are surprised and challenged by Jesus  in and through the people who ring the bell at the church office or enter the doors of the coffee shop and the sanctuary as we go about our daily tasks of cleaning, paying bills, serving coffee, welcoming people.

We of course cannot do any of this without the prayers and help of the Saturday morning volunteers, Ma Lingeveldt, Aunty Stephanie, Silas as well as the congregation — thank you.

In gratitude for Licorice-All-Sorts,
Alan, Sharon, Arlene, Ken, Joyce, Sarah and Adrienne

Jesus' invitation

Jesus’ invitation

Aug 11, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Jesus’ invitation
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs. Matthew 19:14

Last Sunday after the worship service we started the conversation on how best to care for our young people. Thank you to those who joined the discussion, especially the youth, and for sharing your ideas as well as demonstrating your interest in our children.

Below are some of the suggestions and comments made during this meeting:

  • Make our children’s programme more visible.
  • Create a Youth Committee.
  • Malia and Sarah cannot do this on their own — volunteers are needed — even if it is an hour once in a while.
  • Have a sign up sheet for volunteers.
  • Include our children in worship.

What are your thoughts on what you can do with/for our Youth? Can you be involved with the conversation? Can you commit to praying for them — maybe even approach a young person today and ask how you can pray for them this week?

Join us again on Sunday 8 September as we continue our conversation and figure out how we can implement relevant suggestions. Input is needed and would be most welcome from all of our community, especially parents/care-givers and our young people.

Peace, Malia & Sarah

Picture: Erica Marshall flickr creative commons ~ family