Finding our way

Finding our way

August 5, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Finding our way

The Aral Sea

The faint outline is the shoreline of the Aral Sea in 1960 while the dark areas (top left) indicate the reduced size of the Aral Sea by 2009. It has shrunk some 250 km.

Some of you will know that when it comes to directions — I need a little help. In fact, I need a lot of help. I am sure that I could make a significant reduction to the world’s carbon emissions if I didn’t get so lost.

Before I came to Cape Town my brothers gave me a GPS to help me find my way around. This has definitely helped me, although I fear I have become over-reliant on it.

This past week I was in Wellington where I was facilitating a workshop on conflict resolution with colleagues. On my way home I had a real sense that I knew the way but I plugged in the GPS nevertheless. At one point the GPS was telling me to turn right but I was pretty certain that home was to my left. And despite me knowing my history of having no sense of direction it took everything in me to humbly go in the direction that the GPS was telling me to go. So I betrayed all my natural inclinations and turned right — and what felt like a mistake was actually correct.

This experience made me think of the Covenant Prayer that we pray at the beginning of each year:

“Christ has many services to be done; some are easy, others are difficult; some bring honour, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests, others are contrary to both. In some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves…”

It was good to be reminded that it is in my best interest to sometimes go against my natural inclinations.

I am aware that this illustration is simplistic and that it is not always so easy to discern God’s voice as it is to hear the voice of the GPS. It may take time to discern, and quite often we will need the help of others to do so. For this reason we would do well to seek out a spiritual director/mentor/coach/counsellor to share the journey of our life with. Over time as they get to know us they may be able to help us to hear the directions to help us find our way home.

In Peace, Alan

To travel is to learn!

To travel is to learn!

July 29, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on To travel is to learn!

One of things I learnt on my trip was that C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast. (I always thought he was born in England.) I was taken to the St. Mark’s Church where he was baptised by his Grandfather Rev. Thomas Hamilton who lived in the rectory alongside.


The doorknob of the rectory was a bold brass Lion in the centre

of a bright red door and the inspiration for Aslan, the Lion, in

The Chronicles of Narnia.  


On a nearby statue of him it reads: “Born 1898 and reborn 1931.”

Lewis once wrote: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

In The Four Loves he wrote: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

In Peace, Alan

Our Deepest Fear

Our Deepest Fear

July 22, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Our Deepest Fear

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
Nelson Mandela

Each year at this time we are reminded of the fact that one person can indeed make a difference. To me, this poem by Marianne Williamson (and often quoted by Dr Nelson Mandela), clearly encourages us to have faith in the faithfulness of God and become the person Jesus longs for each one of us to be.

I am grateful that Madiba had the courage to stand up and shine and manifest the glory of God that is within him, regardless of the consequences.

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the
glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

May each one of us be liberated from our deepest fear!

Grace & Peace, Adrienne

Create a new future

July 15, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Create a new future

My travels are enriching as always. The paradox of seeing home more clearly the further away I am from home never ceases to surprise me. To enter into the lives of others in different places doing different things fascinates me.

In Belfast you can’t help notice the huge wall murals/paintings that litter the community. Most of them that I saw were by paramilitary organisations vowing never to forget those who have been killed during the “troubles”. They can be quite threatening like this one …

Another — painted adjacent to the East Belfast Mission where I was visiting was different. This one invited our memory to create a new future instead of holding us captive to it.

Really when it comes down to it, all of us have to make a choice which wall mural we will honour.

Grace, Alan

A man's place is in the army

A man’s place is in the army

July 8, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on A man’s place is in the army

Why men should not be ordained …

10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. The pastoral duties of men who have children might distract them from the responsibility of being a parent.

8. The physique of men indicates that they are more suited to such tasks as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do ministerial tasks.

7. Man was created before woman, obviously as a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. Their conduct at football and basketball games demonstrates this.

5. Some men are handsome, and this will distract women worshipers.

4. Pastors need to nurture their congregations. But this is not a traditional male role. Throughout history, women have been recognized as not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more fervently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are prone to violence. No really masculine man wants to settle disputes except by fighting about them. Thus they would be poor role models as well as dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. The New Testament tells us that Jesus was betrayed by a man. His lack of faith and ensuing punishment remind us of the subordinated position that all men should take.

1. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep sidewalks, repair the church roof, and perhaps even lead the song service on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the church.

This list is compiled by Dr. David M. Scholer, a former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. I came across it from Eugene Cho, is the founder and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle where I hope to visit in two weeks’ time.

Everybody matters

Everybody matters

July 1, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Everybody matters

 This past week I have been in Wales sharing Manna and Mercy at the Pastor’s School of the United Reformed Church of Wales. It is the first time Manna and Mercy is being presented in Europe. On this trip I will not only be doing Manna and Mercy but training others, especially pastors, to use the material in their own ministries. See:

For those of you who do not know, Manna and Mercy is an artistic paraphrase of the whole Bible focusing on the main themes of Jesus’ ministry — namely “daily bread” and “mercy”. It is written by Daniel Erlander. See:

Today I am preaching at East Belfast Mission. A Methodist Church based on the Newtownards Road in Ballymacarret, an area of social and economic deprivation with high levels of unemployment, ill-health and paramilitary influences. Rated as the fifth most deprived ward of the 566 wards in Northern Ireland, the area has a particularly high incidence of unemployment with many individuals excluded from the labour market through unemployment, disability or ill health. They employ 70 people with over 100 active volunteers. See: and

Their mission is nothing less than the transformation and renewal of East Belfast, by offering hope and a future to all those in need in the inner city, regardless of background or belief. They believe that everybody matters. It has been said of the East Belfast Mission congregation that ‘they’d let anyone in there’. I love it!!

Peace, Alan

Unpardonable stupidity

Unpardonable stupidity

June 24, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Unpardonable stupidity

Do you remember Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes? Prof. Njabulo S. Ndebele reminded me of it again in his Sunday newspaper article entitled, “The Emperor is Naked”. It tells the story of a fashion-obsessed Emperor who has no time to govern his country, care for his people and show leadership. With a coat to show off “for every hour of the day”, he spends all his time and money on clothes.

One day two swindlers come into town posing as master weavers. They claim to make clothes out of the most fabulous fabric. The clothes made from this fabric become invisible to anyone “unfit to hold office” or who is “unpardonably stupid”. Such clothes, the Emperor reasoned, should enable him to discover not only those in his service unfit for office, but how to distinguish the clever from the stupid. Without hesitation, the Emperor advances huge sums of money for this wonderful “fabric” to be manufactured.

Soon, through astute marketing, the weavers ensure everyone in the city knows of their wondrous creation. The entire population is curious to see who among them will be found unfit for office and stupid, nogal!

So afraid of being thought of as unfit for office or stupid, everyone including the Emperor is convinced that the non-existent new clothes of the Emperor are magnificent. It was a child who recognised reality for what it was and called it out: “The Emperor is Naked”.
This story has stood the test of time because it contains great truth about our human condition. I was reminded again of how pride and fear so easily prevent us from seeing things as they are and how they also silence us from speaking the truth.

Jesus said, “You must become like a little child if you want to enter the Kingdom of God”. Indeed …

Peace, Alan

Gardening is Godly

Gardening is Godly

June 17, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Gardening is Godly

One of the things we agreed to at our Congregational Meeting the other night was that we would go ahead with the GREENING around the sanctuary. So, between the sanctuary and the metal railing we are going to plant a garden — imagine granadilla creepers interspersed with tomatoes and goose/blue/raspberries.

 And here are the reasons why:

  • Gardening is Godly! Remember right back in the beginning — God planted a Garden. Genesis 2:8.
  • To celebrate the beauty of God’s creation.
  • To be a sign of Jesus’ promise of abundant life.
  • To honour the Biblical teaching that we must “not reap to the very edge of our fields — leave them for the poor” and vulnerable of society: the widow, orphan and foreigner. Leviticus 19:9 reminds us that the poor are legitimate shareholders of every business.
  • To extend what we do outside into a educative display inside — to encourage all of us to become Godly gardeners — planters of food for the nation. Imagine if the boarders of our property overflowed with food for the hungry.
  • To offset some of the carbon emissions that we as a community generate. (Today we will be launching our “carbon tax — green box” — more details later).
  • All the planting will take place within used Dairymaid milk crates — to prove that we don’t need a big garden to grow our own food. This is the creative work of Touching The Earth Lightly (

This week the seeds will be planted (off-site) with the hope that in Spring they will be well established to “come to Church”.

Peace, Alan



June 10, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Perceptions

It has been a full week at CMM. It began Monday evening welcoming the @MoonLightMass Cycle Ride. About 900 of us set off from Green Point Circle and enjoyed a leisurely ride taking over the streets from 9 p.m. to about 10.30 p.m., ending on Greenmarket Square. To match the free beer that was being offered on the Square — we invited people to taste our Heavenly Coffee and Wicked Cupcakes. It was an instant hit for those who dared to come inside the sanctuary (which remains an intimidating place for many to even enter). And they brought their bikes with them. What struck me was how many people asked: “Is this a fully functioning church?” or “Does this church still operate?” It was great to be able to say YES! But it just goes to show the distance that exists between the church and the rest of society (especially among young adults) if when the church reaches out in a creative way it makes people think “others” must have taken over the church and turned it into something else.

On Wednesday we had our Second Congregational Meeting for the year and I will highlight a couple of things that came out of this gathering today and in the near future.

On Thursday evening some of us demonstrated outside the Labia Movie Theatre because of their continued refusal to screen the movie Roadmap to Apartheid after first agreeing to do so. We then came to CMM to watch the documentary. It not only enlightened us to the vast array of Apartheid-like injustice suffered by the Palestinian people, but also reminded us of our own not too distant past. The “Land” is a huge issue in the Middle East — and so it remains a crucial issue in South Africa that needs to be speedily addressed or else peace will continue to escape us.

 Peace, Alan

 PS. A special welcome to Stepping Stones Children’s Centre.

Authentic conversation

Authentic conversation

June 3, 2012  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Authentic conversation

Pentecostal Prayer

Lord, give us the strength to listen to the whispers of the abandoned, the pleas of the afraid and the anguish of those without hope.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Truth and Reconciliation Commission


This coming Wednesday we will be having our quarterly Congregational Meeting at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend — whether you have been at CMM for years, or have just arrived. This is an opportunity for us to discuss anything and everything that is on our hearts and minds with one another. It is also an opportunity to be “filled in” about things taking place in and through CMM, and the broader Circuit (group of churches) that we form part of: like the Youth and Sunday School Developments, Finance, Maintenance, Sunday Lunches with the Homeless, Sunday Worship, the Jesus School and “As it is in Heaven Coffee” e.g. “Are we now like the money changers in the temple?”


Last week we heard that Pentecost is not only the birth of Church but the birth of authentic conversation. Or maybe we could say that Pentecost is the birth of the Church because it was the birth of authentic conversation. I say this because for there to be authentic community (the Church) there must be authentic conversation. Authentic conversation neither denies nor is determined by power relationships. The result of Pentecost is the powerless speaking and the powerful listening.

A helpful acronym that should make us pause is: W-A-I-T — Why-Am-ITalking?

Do my conversations bring life? Do they bring freedom and joy for all? Are they true? Are they gentle and merciful? Who am I afraid to speak to? Who may be afraid to speak to me?

A few questions to live with … Alan