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

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.

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 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

 

Honouring women

Picture: www.al-talib.org

South Africa commemorates Women’s Month in August as a tribute
to the thousands of women who marched on the Union Buildings on
9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.

This historic march was a turning point in the role of women in the struggle for freedom, and society at large. Since that eventful day, women from all walks of life became equal partners in the struggle
for a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.

As we celebrate Women’s Month this August, CMM’s Women’s Fellowship would like to share what this group means to them, and especially the amazing ways in which God touches their lives:

We meet on the second Saturday of each month between 14:30 and 16:30 in the Sanctuary under the caring leadership of Zelda Cullum.

Our main focus is to offer prayer to all those in need; and our outreach programmes include visiting old age homes, assisting those in need of bursaries, empowering women to attend workshops to further their love for God, and assisting with fundraising for CMM as well as for the children of Heatherdale Children’s Home at their annual fête in October.

Apart from our core focus, we also find time for fun, pampering sessions – a time to relax and spoil ourselves! We interact with one another in various ways when, amongst others, we organise Mother’s Day when Sally shares her expertise with flowers, and then again when we prepare gift packages for Father’s Day. To see the smiles and gratitude of our CMM moms and dads are always a blessing for all of us.

As the seasons change, we find time to venture out into nature to walk along the Sea Point Promenade or to picnic in the Urban Park where we are reminded of the beauty of God’s creation. It also provides us with another opportunity to express our gratitude to God.

At the end of each year at Christmastime we give thanks and praise to God for the gifts provided in and through us by helping at the annual Christmas banquet for the homeless people of our city.

Our AGM will take place on Saturday 14 September 2013 at 14:30 in the Sanctuary. On that day a “TRE” (Tension, Release, Exercise) workshop will be facilitated by Monika Hayes. Please speak to Joy Thomas or Zelda Cullum if you would like to attend. Everyone is welcome.

Peace from all of us at the Women Fellowship.

Mandela Legacy

One of Mr Nelson Mandela’s immeasurable legacies is Mandela Day. In the spirit of this day the staff of one of our neighbours, the Inn on the Square, shared their 67 minutes of service with CMM by providing soup and bread for those who were hungry and cold.

 

Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Nelson Mandela

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. Nelson Mandela

 

We must use time wisely and forever realise that the time is always ripe to do right. Nelson Mandela

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

 

A harbour in a storm

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) doesn’t work for everybody,
but when it does, it can be transformative.
Members receive tokens to mark periods of sobriety,
from 24 hours to one month to 55 years.

Photo: Todd Tankersley

 

To us in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Central Methodist Mission (CMM) has for long not just been a church, but it is also our trusted landlord and a harbour in a storm. The Sixth Tradition of AA and NA states that we are not allowed to “endorse, finance, or lend the AA or NA name to any related facility or outside enterprise”. This is to ensure that we are not diverted from our primary purpose, which is to carry our message to the alcoholic or addict who still suffers.

Despite this formal Lessor-Lessee arrangement we have with CMM, there is also a much deeper emotional connection. For many years now, the Ubuntu Room upstairs has been a safe harbour in the wild storms of life for many AA and NA members. Every weekday during lunch time, individuals from every walk of life meet upstairs to help each other stay clean and sober. What a wonderful feeling to know that there is one place, in the heart of Cape Town, where we are safe from the turmoil of living life on life’s terms. For people who have struggled to fit in with normal society for most of our lives, it is a refreshing change to always be welcome in the sanctuary of CMM.

I have never entered this building, without being greeted with a warm smile and even a loving hug when I looked as if I needed it. The smell of freshly brewing coffee and the bright tables and chairs of Heaven, make us feel even more at home and contribute significantly to the serenity we so seek and need.

We are truly grateful, to all of you for welcoming us in your midst and in your hearts and making it so much easier to carry our message to the still suffering.

Peace from all of us at AA & NA

Jesus of the outcast

As a young artist, Timothy Schmalz faced some tough times. For the first few years he says he lived on a wooden bench in an old warehouse without heating or running water. He knows what it feels like to be on the outskirts of society. So he wanted to create a Jesus that the poor and outcast could relate to. Schmalz’ Jesus lies on a park bench. His face and hands are hidden under the folds of a heavy blanket. The only evidence of the Bible story is the statue’s pierced feet.

In these cold winter wet days we are reminded that Jesus had nowhere to lay his head. He was a refugee at birth and died on a state-owned cross at death. Jesus was homeless from Alpha to Omega. A park bench may have been his only option on occasion.

I invite you to use this picture of Timothy Schmalz’ ‘Homeless Jesus’ as an icon. Take time to reflect on what you see. Maybe imagine yourself sitting on the bench next to Jesus. Are you moved to speak to him or do you sit in silence? How do you feel?

Peace, Alan

Who takes care of us when God goes on holiday?

During a recent lesson series in Sunday School,
the children explored the healing hands of Jesus and
also how they could use their hands in the service of Jesus.
Drawing their own hands helped the children explore the possibilities.

 

Some of you may recall a programme “Children say the Darndest Things”, aired on Springbok Radio on a Saturday morning. We would interpret that as “out of the mouths of babes”.

Through Bible stories I have read to our children over the past three years, these are some of their questions and comments:

The Bible says Sunday is a day of rest, so why do we come to Sunday School on a Sunday?

Instead of letting people die and making new ones, why doesn’t God just keep the ones he’s got?

Is God really invisible? I think he just likes playing ‘hide and go seek’ with us.

How does God know he is God and who made him?

Who takes care of us when God goes on holiday?

These are profound questions that only God can answer and interacting with these little ones can be both joyful and challenging. Their view of life is uncomplicated and simplistic and is it fascinating to observe and listen to their thought processes and what delights their curious minds. They live ‘in the moment’, where the small stuff of only the “Now” matters.

Children are a reminder that to view life through their eyes is to see a beautiful, colourful world, devoid of angst and lived with joy and a sense of wonder. Sadly, this is not the reality for many children in our society today.

For those in my care on a Sunday morning, it remains humbling to help them grow in the grace of Jesus, and they keep me focused on the God of the Small Stuff.

Grace and peace,
Malia Parker (Sunday School Co-ordinator)