Look out for the Divine among us

Look out for the Divine among us

December 11, 2016  |  Sunday Letter, Third Sunday in Advent  |  Comments Off on Look out for the Divine among us

Grace and peace to you and through you

The service today is being recorded by the SABC in order to be broadcast throughout
SA on Christmas Day. So in other words we get to celebrate Christmas early. Happy Christmas today!! At first I thought that this is a little odd, but then I realised that the followers of Jesus are to live life in the constant celebration of his birth among us.
“Joy to the world – the Lord is come…” should be on our lips everyday! Everyday
we should be on the look-out for the Divine among us.

If Jesus is consistent (which he certainly is) his presence among us will be undercover, just as his first coming among us. I mean what could be more “undercover” than a baby
of an unmarried peasant girl cradled in the feed trough of a cattle shed? Even the wisest
of sages went to the wrong address to look for him. We are always told to “follow the money!!!” Well that is exactly what the so-called wise men did and all they found was an ignorant and paranoid head of state. Following the money doesn’t lead to Jesus … it leads to the powers of death.

Jesus was homeless. He was the child of humanity without anywhere to lay his head. He was rejected and ridiculed. He was accused of having an evil spirit. Spat upon and beaten…

Many of the homeless people of our city have similar stories to tell. Very often treated like trash. Sometimes they are mistreated by security guards … who themselves are not treated much better. Homeless people are told to “move on” all the time – convincing them that they do not belong.

Thank you to everyone who each Sunday provide lunch for around 300 people at the Service Dining Rooms. Today we all get to join in this act of service as we occupy Church Street to host a Christmas Banquet for the people who are marginalised within this city. There will be over 500 people for the seated meal and around 200 takeaways – so please we need all the help we can get.

Be on the lookout for Jesus – for the Divine is come to be our guest today.

Grace,
Alan

Peace

Peace

December 4, 2016  |  Second Sunday in Advent, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Peace

This morning marks the second Sunday of Advent. The word before us is Peace. Peace has become a political word, where when spoken of, one is hoping for the end to wars and the great conflicts of our day. Yet, peace is also a gift we can receive within. Jesus names for the waters in a stormy sea to, “Peace be still” naming the link to stillness and peace. To be centered enough in our life of faith to experience stillness within, no matter what is going on around is a true gift. It is not a quality that we can will within it is one that arises as one lives in their center trusting in God’s great truth.

There have been Peace and Justice witnesses serving on the University campuses during the exam writing. Reports came in that a petrol bomb was set off in one of the buildings at CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) where students were writing. The debris was cleared, security heightened, and the exams continued. One has to wonder how the students were able to manage to stay focused while the outbreaks were occurring. Many of them shared their thanks for the presence of the witnesses who were there to observe and work to bring a de-escalating peaceful presence on campus.

There are over 200 witnesses who have been trained to serve on campuses. A couple of weeks ago, I served myself at the CPUT Belleville campus. It was the night of the super moon. The mediators who have been negotiating during the education crisis were able to reach an agreement at Belleville that day for the private security to be removed and the old CPUT security to come back. The students were so excited they worked to man the security gate until the CPUT security made their way back.

The witnesses who were serving at Belleville that evening were all ones who had been serving quite consistently. I worried about our ability to sustain the effort. You can imagine the gift when a taxi full of clergy from Khayelitsha showed up to serve as the night shift. It was amazing to see them prepare for their time of service. One of the witnesses took out her guitar and began singing songs. It was one of my favorite memories. The beginning of our time on that campus was to be present in the midst of communication between parties that was disintegrating. On this night, it was as if peace was witnessing to us.

As I have served with the Peace and Justice Witnesses, I have grown more fully in my realization that we must be a people who work to stand in the midst of great divides witnessing to another way. The inner peace that is gift in this work is the fruit born to those who learn how to wait in the center of their being, trusting in the ways of God.

In Advent, we strengthen ourselves in the wait for the promise of something more that is held in the life and teachings of Jesus. Advent is meant to be a journey in the darkness of our unknowing. As we acknowledge that we don’t know the way forward becomes known to us, and we commit simply to walk in it.

With you on the journey,
Michelle

To imitate Christ is to worship Christ

To imitate Christ is to worship Christ

November 20, 2016  |  Christ the King Sunday, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on To imitate Christ is to worship Christ

Grace and Peace to you and through you

Today is Christ the King Sunday. It is also the last Sunday of the Christian Calendar. Yes, the Christian year ends with Christ on the Throne. It serves to remind us that all of creation is hemmed in behind and before by Christ who is the Alpha and the Omega. Christ is the enfleshment of love, truth, justice, gentleness, forgiveness, generosity, compassion and joy. Therefore to say Christ is on the throne is another way of saying love, truth, justice, gentleness, forgiveness, generosity, compassion and joy reign above all else (despite headlines to the contrary) and warrant our worship through our own enfleshment. To do so is to imitate Christ. And to imitate Christ is to worship Christ. This alone is our task. Not only is Christ the start and the finish, but Christ is also the bond that holds everything together. As we read in Colossians: “Jesus is the firstborn of all creation… Jesus is before all things and in him all things hold together…”

Col. 1:15. Enfleshed love, truth, justice, gentleness, forgiveness, generosity, compassion and joy are the authentic center that holds…

This reminds me of William Butler Yeats’ (1865-1939) poem: The Second Coming that he penned in 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Next Sunday is the first week of Advent and it is always dedicated to the second coming of Christ… surely some revelation is at hand!? A revelation that exposes our false centers that cannot hold and calls us to recommit to the true center that always holds – Christ.

Open and vigilant to grace,
Alan

 

 

My Nakedness

My Nakedness

November 13, 2016  |  Ordinary Days of the Spirit, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on My Nakedness
This Sunday the service will be a play – Ubuze Bam –
a worship experience with a difference. 
As a result there will be no recorded sermon.

 

UBUZE BAM

One Reviewer of Ubuze Bam had this to say …

“Literally translated as ‘my nakedness’, Ubuze Bam is a theatrical interpretation of the life events of four ex-inmates, all of whom have spent 10 years or more behind bars. 

Theatre Arts Admin Collective has joined arms with the programme Young in Prison to create this searingly honest piece in which the performers – Lazola, Eric, Ntsika and Bongani – have spent just over a month rehearsing under the direction of Thando Doni. Prior to this performance, the young men had never acted, let alone witnessed a theatre production. 

Young in Prison is a rehabilitation initiative which assists former inmates to transition back into society. The theory is that many ex-cons can learn a number of life-skills which will positively impact their behaviour, and thus reduce the reoffending rate. Originally, the project was meant to engage with youth and young adults who were still in prison, but due to the rat infestation and quarantine at Pollsmoor, the current post-release programme was conceptualised.

The initiative focuses on revisiting the past in a healthy and productive environment. Through a focused, five week-long process, these four participants have been encouraged to engage with and creatively express their stories, and have learnt more about what it means to a powerful piece of art also helps to break down their own negative perception of themselves. And this was made so evident when, as the show ended and the lights went out, above the cheering of the crowd we could hear the actors shouting celebrations of victory from behind the scenes.

As a prologue, the young men explain that the play is “about me and my friends; it’s our secrets”. And the resonating truth of that statement was only fully felt after the show was over. When meeting people, we often only reveal the best parts of ourselves for fear of being judged or ridiculed. So to find myself easily conversing with these men – just minutes after they been describing the violent crimes they had committed – was revelatory. I didn’t see former prisoners; I saw four lionhearted men who are breaking society’s mould which states that you have to wear a mask in order to be accepted.

Despite their lack of experience on a stage, the performance from the young men was deeply emotional and often chilling in its rawness. The level of bravery needed to admit their crimes and their failures and to show their vulnerability was awe-inspiring. While the show itself is artistic, impactful and astonishingly truthful, the greatest significance lies in the road these men have taken.

The heart behind the performance is something to be reckoned with as these young men undergo a journey of breaking chains in every sense.”
Reviewer: Public Spirit

To find out more and to support/donate:
Young in Prison | www.younginprison.org.za

Theatre Arts Admin Collective www.theatreartsadmincollective.weebly.com
Next Performances at Theatre Arts Admin Collective:
18 November at 19:00: Made in India | A Performance Lecture by Amrita Pande
29 November – 3 December at 20:00: Reparation directed by Ameera Conrad

Tickets: R50.00


Methodists Call for Prayer and Fasting
in the Wake of State Capture Report

For Immediate Release | 8 November 2016

The Methodist Church of Southern Africa joins the South African Council of Churches in expressing our shock at what appears to be calculated “intrigue” in the goings on catalogued in the “State of Capture” report.

We acknowledge that the report is preliminary and inconclusive and that the Public Protector has recommended further investigation by a Judicial Commission of Enquiry. We support this call and hope that due processes will be expedited post haste. We find it very unfortunate that as mentioned in the report, the position of the Head of State is becoming increasingly untenable.

We call on all Methodists to commit to prayer and fasting for the nation of South Africa and all creation. We ask that church bells throughout South Africa be rung at 12 noon for 7 days from Sunday 13 November, culminating in concerted prayer on Sunday 20 November 2016. We will, at this time, also pray for President Zuma and all those implicated in the report to interrogate their consciences and do the honourable thing by voluntarily stepping down for the good of the country should they be founding wanting. We acknowledge that in the event of their resignations, this will not dig us out of the political and economic quagmire we find ourselves in today but it will send out a clear signal to a commitment to a new dawn of statesmanship and political accountability.

We further ask all our members to engage in courageous conversations as we pray and seek to discern God’s will for the country, irrespective of our narrow and partisan political persuasions.

Statement released by the office of Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa
Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa

More Information : Bongie | 011 615 1616 |078 131 5137

 

Hope in the Dark

Hope in the Dark

November 6, 2016  |  All Saints Day, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Hope in the Dark

Grace and peace to you and through you

Hope in the Dark – Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, by Rebecca Solnit is an amazing book. A Gospel book. A book about Resurrection that refuses to deny or skirt around Crucifixion. It is a book that reminds us how social change and how history is made: It happens mostly from the margins, incrementally and incompletely while enabling small shifts that are mostly unnoticed multiplied by further small shifts that eventually are noticed with the accompanied declaration: “Things have changed”. Paradoxically change does not feel like change while it is taking place. Change is known in hindsight, and even then very briefly, because when the change is for good it soon feels like things have always been like this.

Just this week an organisation called Right 2 Know secured an unnoticed victory for us all. For two years it has worked to overturn the Parliament’s Intelligence Committee decision that CVs of candidates for Inspector General should remain secret. I love their letter to the Committee: “We invite you to reverse your view taken … kindly advise us by not later than close of business on Thursday 3 November 2016 as to whether these documents will indeed be made available. If not, we will pursue all legal options to ensure their disclosure so as to ensure a properly informed and fair selection process.”

They received a reply before close of business 3 November 2016: “The Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence has since reversed its decision with respect to the CVs of the candidates for the position of the Inspector General of  Intelligence. Consequently the CVs will be available on Parliament’s website.”

Now you may not have noticed – but since last Thursday – the sun is shining more brightly over SA.

Thank God for those who steadfastly work for social change. Securing small victories for our freedom that take many years and with little or no public acknowledgement.

Grace, Alan


A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
~Jack Gilbert

A thread of Love is enough

A thread of Love is enough

October 30, 2016  |  Ordinary Days of the Spirit, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on A thread of Love is enough

Grace and peace to you and through you

You have heard me say over and over again that “God is very, very Big”. God is so big that no doctrine, or church or denomination or religion or all the religions combined can have a monopoly over God. All efforts to try and capture God within our language, rituals, traditions or institutions are foolish and futile. At best – seriously – at best we get to see a tiny piece of the hem of God’s garment and by grace we may have within our reach a thread…a single thread…and you know what? That is enough…a thread of Love is enough.

Today however, I want to let you know that God is also very, very small. God is even as small as a four year-old’s little hand. I know this for a fact. Let me explain…

This past Wednesday I spent much of the day in the hot sun. I was surrounded. To my right there was a diesel-spewing Nyala police vehicle irritatingly idling. To my left and behind there was a dehydrated crowd of singing students – angry and passionate and determined. In front of me were Kevlar-clad Police holding see-through-scratched-shields and who were heavily sweating from under their blue helmets. It was a long day for everyone. 

At times I felt tense and anxious, disconnected and desperately helpless especially when things began to break up under the sound of stun grenades. And at other times I had a deep sense of gratitude to be part of an active citizenship courageously calling the powers to account, as I too believe that education should never be a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. There were speeches spoken with prophetic power and compassionate clarity
and others that were inflamed with unhelpful rhetoric. Even as I was trying to process it all I rejoiced to be living in a country where people could speak freely regardless of whether everyone agreed with their every word or not. Sadly the peaceful day ended less peacefully and we were just very fortunate not to have any serious or even fatal injuries.

All in all it was an energy sapping day, both physically and emotionally.

As evening approached I made my way to Stepping Stones Preschool to chair the AGM. We gathered to honour the achievement of getting through another year – which is no small accomplishment in the light of what it costs to provide quality early childhood education. It was my delight to thank the hard working parents of the 104 children for their faithful contributions of fees that keep the school going as well as thanking all the dedicated staff.

The afternoon and the evening couldn’t have seemed more different from each other and yet they were inextricably linked – for pre-school education is a complete game changer when it comes to providing a solid foundation for the rest of a child’s educational endeavours.

After the meeting I walked home with a parent and her 4 year son who has only recently joined the pre-school and who still live semi-homeless lives. As we began walking the little boy looked up at me with his arm outstretched: “Hold my hand…” he said to me. His tone was a mixture of telling me and asking me. So I did. I held his little hand.

At first I thought he needed me to hold his hand. Perhaps he did. After a little while I realised that it was I who needed to hold his hand. And then I wondered whether he knew that I needed to hold his hand and that is why he said: “Hold my hand”.

Holding his little hand filled me with hope. Holding his little hand reignited my commitment to working for a more just future in the present so that the four year olds of today have greater access to life’s crucial resources when they turn twenty.

I now know for a fact that God contracts to the span of a 4 year old’s hand, especially on days when we are tempted to give in to despair for a world ever echoing with stun grenades.

Grace,
Alan

 

The hierarchy of disagreement

The hierarchy of disagreement

October 23, 2016  |  Ordinary Days of the Spirit, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on The hierarchy of disagreement

Grace and peace to you and through you

Sadly, we know how it goes: We have a grievance. Let’s say with a person. A person close to us. So we raise the issue we have with the person. And it is not well received.

There are any number of reasons for the issue not being well received. Sometimes it’s because of the way in which we raised the issue: which can simply be the accusatory tone of our voice, or that the time and place in which we raised the issue is deemed insensitive and inappropriate. Sometimes the issue is not well received because of the recipient’s position that could be anything from ignorance, defensiveness, distraction, hurt or stress.

As a result the recipient responds in one of two ways:  fight or flight. Fight could simply be to accuse and counter attack and flight could come in the form of silence, avoidance and passive aggression. Both responses are unhelpful to finding a resolution to the issue and restoration of the relationship.

Then often the conversation shifts away from the issue to the way the recipient has responded which in turn provokes another response and it is not long before voices are raised, ugly words spoken, doors slammed or a cold walkout or lights out and going to bed. This deepens the hurt and enlivens the anger. Now we not only have the original issue to address, but we also need to address the hurt caused by the way the original issue was (mis)dealt with. So the agenda gets longer. Each time this happens the list of grievances grows and the sense of hope in ever resolving the issues and restoring the relationship diminishes. Hurt and anger lead to mistrust and where there is no trust it is very, very difficult to hear what the other person is actually saying. Mistrust leads to miscommunication which leads to further conflict.

When the conflict has reached this far it is almost impossible to break the deadlock without the assistance of a mediator who is able to help each party to hear each other. Mediators help people to “speak in such a way that they are heard and to listen in such a way as to enable others to speak”.

Most of us need to learn this skill – in our homes, marriages, relationships with our children or parents or colleagues. It seems to me that this is equally true regarding what is playing out on campuses around our country.

Grace, Alan

*Illustration: The Hierarchy of Disagreement by Paul Graham.

 

Pain and Hope

Pain and Hope

October 16, 2016  |  Ordinary Days of the Spirit, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Pain and Hope

Grace and peace to you and through you

A number of years ago I used to regularly participate in what we called: Pilgrimages of Pain and Hope. These pilgrimages included entering into different social spaces over a few consecutive days. For example we would meet with the homeless on the streets for conversation. We would visit the paediatrics ward in a public hospital and a Catholic-run home for people with severe physical and mental handicaps. We would spend time with Aids Hospice Volunteers and spend a weekend living in an informal settlement. Sometimes we would also include having a meal at a fancy restaurant – creating a sharp sense of social whip-lash. Our task was to feel – not to fix. With the ultimate aim of becoming a more compassionate people awake to the truth of our context of which we are often ignorant and numb.

The name was crucial. They were called Pilgrimages of Pain and Hope. To fulfill our feeling task we were invited to be attentive to both the pain and the hope. This was challenging. It was easier to focus on one or the other than to hold and honour both. Being in a diverse group helped. When some of us were drowning in despair others helped us to find hope and when we were tempted to get high on hope some others quickly sobered us up by conveying a splash of ice-cold pain. To focus only on the pain is pointless – leading to defeatism and despair with cynicism sprinkled on top. To focus only on the hope is truthless – leading to dangerous ignorance and naiveté soaked in apathy.

All followers of Jesus are by definition pilgrims of pain and hope. Pilgrims of the Cross and Resurrection is another way of saying it. To focus only on the Cross is to deny the power of Jesus. To focus only on the Resurrection is to deny the suffering of Jesus as well as to deny the need for resurrection in the first place – namely death.

With everything that is happening in the world and in our country at this time, we may be tempted to divorce pain from hope or hope from pain. I encourage you to hold them tightly together because the truth comes from their union.

I find the following words helpful in this endeavour: “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” (Václav Havel, in Disturbing the Peace).

Grace, Alan


“I remember Mr. Bartlett…

In biology class he discusses the transformation of caterpillar into butterfly.

‘What’s the process that goes on inside a cocoon?’ he asks. ‘Has anyone ever seen a picture of the insect at the halfway point between caterpillar and butterfly? Does anyone know what it looks like?’ No one has or does.

The next week, Mr. Bartlett finds a cocoon in the woods and brings it to the classroom. We crowd around as he takes a razor blade and neatly slices it in two. The cocoon looks empty.

‘There’s nothing in there,’ says one of the kids.

‘Oh, it’s in there,’ says Mr. Bartlett. ‘It just doesn’t have a shape right now. The living, organic material is spun right into the cocoon. Caterpillar is gone; butterfly is yet to come.’ We stare in wonder.

‘Real transformation,’ says Mr. Bartlett, ‘means giving up one form before you have another.

It requires the willingness to be nothing for a little while…”

~ From Too Much Is Not Enough, by Orson Bean, page 33

What lies hidden in the cave of our hearts

What lies hidden in the cave of our hearts

October 9, 2016  |  Ordinary Days of the Spirit, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on What lies hidden in the cave of our hearts

Truth is not something that will stay hidden for long. Truth needs air and light. Truth needs to be free. We can try and cover truth, but it will always battle to get what it needs. Truth will battle within us fighting to be heard and seen, to live and breathe. We will feel this battle in the cave of our hearts and if we choose to release truth, there becomes for us the possibility to experience living in the real and breathing air that is deep enough for peace.

In 1976, Simon Wiesenthal released a book called, The Sunflower. In it he tells of the story of his experience in the Lemberg Concentration camp. He was called to the bedside of a dying Nazi soldier who was dealing with a battle within. The soldier told him stories of the horrors he had participated in. He told him about the death of a family and how their faces haunted him. Then he asked Simon if he would forgive him on behalf of the Jewish people. Simon did not know this man. Though he was a Jewish man, he did not know what to say to him, so he said nothing, turned and left him alone in his hospital room.

Simon later questioned his decision. Within his book, The Sunflower: On the Limits and Possibilities of  Forgiveness, he asks the question, “What would you have done?” to 52 incredible minds from around the world. The answers shared by these great thinkers provide for us insight on forgiveness. Yet, Simon’s project in and of itself is a recognition that within the cave of his heart there was truth that he needed to get out just as much as the soldier needed his story to be let out and his question of forgiveness to breathe.

There is a reality we live with as human beings. It is true that we will harm one another, disappoint one another, and often times pretend we have not. So often, we lock up our truth and live as if all of our wrongs will simply evaporate and never see the light of day. This sense of denial will leave us to deal with a quiet growing battle within—one we have no hope of winning unless we see our truth for what it is, face it, and give it air to breathe.

Confession has become a lost art today. Many people struggle to say, “I am sorry” for in doing so they admit what they know to be true and what the person they wronged often knows to be true, and that is that they were wrong. “I am sorry” are words so many people need to hear. This is what the dying Nazi soldier was expressing from the cave of his heart, “I am sorry, for all the wrongs I have done. I am sorry.” Whether it was for Simon to forgive him in that moment or not, the soldier’s words were breaking free. In letting them loose, he was moving closer to understanding his own humanity and opening up the potential for him to experience real peace. Confessing reminds us God is God and we are not.

It is good for us to reflect over the living of our days searching out the ways we have brought about harm in the life of another. As we tell our stories that lie hidden in the cave of our hearts we witness waves of peace and a greater understanding of who we are as human beings. As we confess to one another and to God, we can know that though others might struggle on the journey of forgiveness, God’s arms are always open to receive.

With you on the journey,
Michelle

Windows to the world

Windows to the world

October 2, 2016  |  Ordinary Days of the Spirit, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Windows to the world

People say so often that, “the world is a small place.” It is not really small, but our ability to connect in this present age across geographical lines of division has become much easier than in the days before social media and mass communication. When I was in the US visiting, I hoped to purchase some Florida oranges. You can imagine my amazement when I picked up an orange in the store with a sticker that read, “South Africa.” The impact of the ever increasing globalization of our world will be measured in positives and negatives for years to come, but one of the gifts it brings with it, is the ability for us to grow for being exposed to the stories of other places and people.

In 1986, Peter Storey preached at the World Methodist Conference. In the crowd, was a man named Jim Harnish. Jim later invited Peter to Florida to help him with a church he was starting, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, Florida. The building was ready, but Jim wanted to make sure that the people were as ready as they could be for the journey they would be embarking upon. Peter went to St. Luke’s and invested time, energy, and relationship with a group of people he did not know on the other end of the world.

The Bishop of the Cape of Good Hope District, Bishop Michele Hansrod, was able to spend a day with some of the people at St. Luke’s in Orlando, Florida while he was in the United States for the World Methodist Conference just a couple of weeks ago. Many of the people remember the days of Peter Storey’s teaching and they remember how it opened up for them a witness they needed during their beginning years as a congregation. Today, St. Luke’s is a strong congregation leading the Church at large in new directions at every turn.

Jim Harnish was later sent to a community called, Hyde Park UMC in Tampa, Florida. Hyde Park UMC is the church I still call home. Peter visited Hyde Park UMC as well and so did Alan. Alan was the retreat leader at my Disciple I Bible Study retreat in 2000. I remember him showing pictures of his country and engaging the young adult class I was a part of about learning as much as we could about the world. His message in the end was for us to understand the importance of living as disciples in the place where we were.

I did not know until recently how long the relationship between Peter Storey and my Pastor, Jim Harnish, goes back. I am thankful for their friendship because the people of South Africa have been a part of my story, from the very beginning of my journey of faith. When Alan shared stories about his country, I had to “come and see.” I am not the only one though, just last week, there was a group from Hyde Park UMC that had to “come and see.” Doug and Cheri Roland are two members of Hyde Park who volunteered with Seth Mokitimi Seminary to help develop a field education program for the students. My hope is that the connection back and forth will continue to give birth to growth on both sides.

Over the next couple of weeks in our sanctuary, there will be stories arriving. We will have the opportunity to hear about life and ministry in other places on the continent of Africa that are within the boundaries of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and we will receive stories from those beyond the boundaries of the connection. My hope is that the stories and prayer requests coming in will create for us a thread of connection to a work we are engaged in with our lives that is bigger than the place we live and bigger than ourselves. May we stand stronger where we are for knowing the ways we are bound in ministry around the world.

With you on the journey,
Michelle