Parenthood

Parenthood

June 21, 2015  |  Ordinary Days of the Spirit, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Parenthood

Grace and peace to you …

I went to the Book launch of 21 at 21 The Coming of Age of a Nation on Thursday evening. Written by Melanie Verwoerd and Sonwabiso Ngcowa who travelled across the country collecting the life stories of people born in 1994 — the year of our Democracy. At the launch it was mentioned that so many of the young people interviewed had mentioned their ambition to be a “good parent one day”.

One chapter in the book is entitled: I want to be a good dad one day — the life of Marcellino Fillies. Here is some of his story:

“Ja, it was a bit tough when I was young,” he says. “We moved around a lot. I was born in Mitchells Plain, then we moved to Lentegeur, then to Delft, then back to Lentegeur, then to Strandfontein, and then … back to Lentegeur and then to Heideveld.” “Why did you move so often?” He shakes his head and his broad smile disappears. “My dad died when I was three.” “What happened?” I ask gently. “Well, my father also did not grow up with his dad. He had a stepdad. I recently went to see my dad’s stepdad and he told me that my dad was on the boats — fishing, you know — and there was a fight between him and another man. They fought, and then someone threw my dad overboard … they found his clothes a long time afterwards, but not his body. The fish had eaten his body.” I look slightly horrified; he responds quickly, “So I never knew him. You know, I have no memory. I don’t even have any photos.”

[He then shares briefly about his stepfather and the subsequent breakup between his mom and stepfather.]

“That time was very, very tough. My brother was about three or four years old and I was about seven. My mum had to work to provide for us. She would go into Cape Town every day and only come home very late at night. So I had to look after Ethan. After school at around five o’clock, I would go and fetch him at his crèche. We would walk home. I would make him supper, wash him, play with him, and then put him to bed. In between, I would try and do my homework. Then after eight o’clock, my mum would come home.”

As Melanie so insightfully pointed out at the launch — Marcellino who wants to be a good dad one day — has already been a good dad. He was a good dad at age 7.

On this Father’s Day we pray for the children who themselves are fathers to their siblings in countless child-headed homes.

Grace and peace, Alan


MenCare: Involved fatherhood leads to gender equality and child development, 16 June 2015, Nairobi.

Encouraging and supporting fathers to play bigger roles in the lives of their children through innovative global health and social initiatives is vital if real gender equality is to be achieved, finds a new MenCare report, State of the World’s Fathers (SOWF).

“Despite the fact that around 80% of the world’s men and boys will become fathers in their lifetime, engaging men in caregiving is only just beginning to find its way onto the global gender equality agenda,” says Wessel van den Berg, Child Rights and Positive Parenting, Sonke Gender Justice.

The SOWF report reveals long-lasting disparities in Africa where women do more unpaid care work than men, which negatively affects women and girls. However, 55 percent of African countries do provide paternity leave, which is higher than the global percentage (47 percent), but the uptake falls short.

The landmark SOWF report reveals that women continue to spend between twice and 10 times longer than men caring for a child or elderly person. These inequalities persist despite the fact that women today make up 40% of the formal global workforce and half of the world’s food producers. While improving year on year, men’s caregiving has not kept pace with women’s overall participation in the job market, and caregiving dynamics across Africa reflect this imbalance. Men’s presence at prenatal care also ranges vastly – from 14 to 86 percent.

One woman dies every 2 minutes from complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Across the globe, 34 of 1,000 babies alive at birth, die before the age of 1, and 46 of 1,000 die before the age of 5.

The involvement of fathers before, during, and after the birth of a child has been shown to have positive effects on maternal health behaviors, women’s use of maternal and newborn health services, and fathers’ longer-term support and involvement in the lives of their children.”

A recent analysis of research from low- and middle-income countries found that male involvement was significantly associated with improved skilled birth attendance, utilization of post-natal care, and fewer women dying in childbirth.”

For more information see Sonke Gender Justice: www.genderjustice.org.za

Jesus stood with the outcast

Jesus stood with the outcast

June 14, 2015  |  Ordinary Days of the Spirit, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Jesus stood with the outcast

Grace and Peace to you …

Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit Priest and the founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries – a gang intervention programme in L.A. In his book, “Tattoos on the Heart” he shares his twenty years of experience with us. I highly recommend you get hold of it. Here is an extract from the book, enjoy …

“Success and failure, ultimately, have little to do with living the gospel. Jesus just stood with the outcasts until they were welcomed or until he was crucified — whichever came first.

The American poet Jack Gilbert writes, “The pregnant heart is driven to hopes that are the wrong size for this world.” The strategy and stance of Jesus was consistent in that it was always out of step with the world. Jesus defied all the categories upon which the world insisted: good-evil, success-failure, pure-impure. Surely, He was an equal-opportunity “pisser off-er” in this regard.

The Right wing would stare at Him and question where He chose to stand. They hated that He aligned Himself with the unclean, those outside — those folks you ought neither to touch nor be near. He hobnobbed with the leper, shared table fellowship with the sinner, and rendered Himself ritually impure in the process. They found it offensive that, to boot, Jesus had no regard for their wedge issues, their constitutional amendments or their culture wars.

The Left was equally annoyed. They wanted to see the ten-point plan, the revolution in high gear, the toppling of sinful social structures. They were impatient with His brand of solidarity. They wanted to see Him taking the right stand on issues, not just standing in the right place.

But Jesus just stood with the outcast. The Left screamed: “Don’t just stand there, do something.” And the Right maintained: “Don’t stand with those folks at all.” Both sides, seeing Jesus as the wrong size for this world, came to their own reasons for wanting Him dead.”

Grace and peace, Alan


Self Portrait

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong

or feel abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need to change you.

If you can look back with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand.

I want to know if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward the center of your longing.

I want to know if you are willing to live,
day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace,
Even the gods speak of God.

~ David Whyte from Fire in the Earth
©1992 Many Rivers Press

 

 


The Hierarchy of Disagreement

The Hierarchy of Disagreement

June 7, 2015  |  Ordinary Days of the Spirit, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on The Hierarchy of Disagreement

The Hierarchy of Disagreement by Paul Graham


“Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.”

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly,”

“People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are.”

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

“The word “good” has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

“Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist.”

Grace and peace, Alan

What concerns Christ?

What concerns Christ?

May 31, 2015  |  Sunday Letter, Trinity Sunday  |  Comments Off on What concerns Christ?

Grace and Peace to you …

This past week I have been attending Synod in Stellenbosch. Let’s just say the idea of attending Synod does not set me on fire with enthusiasm, yet every year it never ceases to be a gift. Synod is a gift in that it reminds me that I belong to the Church universal – a very LARGE body, and not merely the local church. Synod is a gift in how it connects me to the experiences of joy and suffering of others who live the Gospel in contexts that I am ignorant of. Synod is a gift in that it reminds me of my calling and holds me accountable to the promises I have made.

Synod begins with a “witness” service. Here we listen to the faith stories of the ordinands as they prepare to take their final steps towards ordination. Thanks to load-shedding the service began in darkness. Then a child came forward and lit a candle with the words: “Jesus said to his disciples ‘I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’”. Nothing else needed to be said!

During the first ordinand’s testimony (while he was making a powerful point!) the lights came back on. Besides being humourous it was a beautiful reminder of what happens when we honour the way of Jesus. I was reminded that when we honour the way of Jesus the lights come on that enable us to see one another. As the lights came on, I found myself looking around seeing the people around me who up until that point I had not been able to see. Jesus’ presence helps us to see each other – to really recognise each other. Our eyes were opened.

The next morning we began by “answering the questions”. This is a solemn moment when we stand before each other to reaffirm our faith, calling and discipleship of Jesus. Some of the questions jump out at me: “Will you continue to be faithful in prayer, in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures and with the hold of the Holy Spirit continually rekindle the gift of God that is in you?” We reply: “I will God being my helper”. “Will you commit yourself to God’s mission in the world, seeking in this context to bring healing and reconciliation, justice with peace and empowerment to the poor and marginalised. “I will God being my helper”. And then in closing, “Remember that you are called to serve rather than be served … and to look after the concerns of Christ above all.“ This last line really klapped me: My primary concern is to be concerned about Christ’s concerns!

Then we close with the following commitment: “We accept the responsibility of our call out of love for the Lord Jesus … we are resolved to unite ourselves more closely to Christ and to try to become more like him…”

These questions and these answers are not only for clergy, but they are for all followers of Jesus. Therefore your primary concern is to be concerned about Christ’s concerns too! So best we start asking: “What concerns Christ?”

Grace, Alan

Authentic Community

Authentic Community

May 24, 2015  |  Pentecost  |  Comments Off on Authentic Community

Grace and Peace to you …

Today is Pentecost. The forming of authentic community was one of the miracles that took place that first Pentecost. The author of the Pentecostal story writes that every nation under heaven was present. The author’s exaggerated point is clear. No one was excluded. In fact the author does something even more imaginative. Out of the 16 nations that the author lists, some of them no longer existed at the time. They were literally extinct. Pentecost is therefore the forming of what is deemed ‘impossible community’. Yet this type of community where no one is excluded is the only community worth striving for because it is the only community that will save us in the end.

As deep and as difficult as the race issue is in South Africa I think class is our biggest challenge when it comes to forming truly diverse community. Having worked in many non-racial church communities, I am yet to find much evidence that the rich and poor can come together to form any sort of authentic community. It seems impossible.

In short, the rich fear the poor and therefore avoid the poor. Who am I talking about when I refer to the rich? I am speaking about myself and others like me. According to www.globalrichlist.com when I plug in my +R15 000 p.m. (R180 000 p.a.) net salary into their smart little app, I end up in the top 0.95% of the world, making me the 56,932,476th richest person on earth by income. It further tells me that I earn R93.75 per hour while the average labourer in Zimbabwe makes just R2.89 in the same time and that it will take the average labourer in Indonesia 44 years to earn what I do in a year. This means the next time I protest about the world’s wealthy 1% I should bring a mirror. [www.globalrichlist.com uses 2008 figures for their calculation so they may be a little out of date yet the point still stands.]

These sobering stats should give us a clue why the rich fear and avoid the poor. I fear and avoid the poor because I know that for authentic community to exist the inequality must end. And for the inequality to end means that I must change my lifestyle, which feels too much like loss, until of course my eyes are opened to the richness of a truly diverse community where no one is excluded.

Rich and poor forming authentic community may seem impossible but what really is impossible is the continued sustainability of the divide. If this divide is not addressed voluntarily then in the end it will be addressed violently. A nation that has bricks to build high walls to insulate the wealthy but not houses to shelter the poor will collapse because God will not be mocked.

Grace, Alan

Beam me up Scotty

Beam me up Scotty

May 17, 2015  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Beam me up Scotty

Grace and peace to you

Thursday past was Ascension Day. The “beam me up Scotty” moment in the Christian Calendar. Well actually not really. Ascension Day has more to do with theology than geography. In other words Ascension addresses the question of ‘who is Jesus?’ rather than ‘where is Jesus?’. An Anglican priest, Keith Ward has said: “We now know that if Jesus began ascending 2 000 years ago he would not yet have left the Milky Way — unless he attained warp speed.” I find that hilarious to imagine!

You will know that it was only in 1543 that Copernicus corrected the false cosmology of his day by revealing that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way round. And today we have the Hubble Telescope which some hail as the most productive scientific instrument ever invented revealing to us the wondrous ever-expanding cosmos as it is able to see 4 billion times further than the naked eye and enlightening for the first time to our 13.7 billion year old cosmic self.

So we should unlock Ascension from the false cosmology of ancient time. Ascension is not about Jesus defying gravity but rather defying and defeating the principalities and powers that weigh down on the shoulders of the marginalised poor and vulnerable of society with a force heavier than gravity.

Ascension Day is a radically (deep rooted) political day as the early disciples of Jesus reached the conviction to start singing that Jesus, and not Caesar, was Lord. It was a very disturbing day for the powers that be! And of course it was a very dangerous day for the followers of Jesus who were now deemed a great threat by the powers. But more than dangerous it was hope-full. Full of a hope that was able to disperse their fear and despair and en-courage them to face the danger. Their hope rested in trusting that Jesus reigns — that Jesus is the power above all other powers. That’s why we continue to have hope for our land and world because the powers that oppress have been checked by a greater power. The early disciples knowing they were on the winning side were released to imagine a new world and creatively live it out.

Grace, Alan

Repentance = Healing

Repentance = Healing

May 10, 2015  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Repentance = Healing

At an anti-FIFA protest on Mother’s Day, May 11 2014, a mother fights police trying to arrest her son. She cries: “We cannot accept that the working poor youth continue to be terrorized and murdered throughout the whole country by the military police. Nor can we accept that every time we decide to lift our voices against injustice, we decided to protest and speak out, the state calls ‘security forces’ to repress us. They treat us like criminals, accuse us of ‘conspiracy,’ ‘vandalism’ etc. No! We are not criminals! We do not accept the criminalization of social struggles! We demand the right to free expression! ”


Grace and peace to you …

Except for a week of sleepless jetlagged nights, it is good to be back home! On my trip to the U.S. I returned to Holden Village (www.holdenvillage.org) in Washington State. It remains such a beautiful place of inspiration and hope for me. Some of you will know that Holden Village is a Lutheran ministry situated high up in the North Cascade Mountain range close to the Canadian border where there is no cell phone coverage which is glorious. The Village welcomes people of all ages, ethnicities, faiths and backgrounds, offering modest yet comfortable amenities in a wilderness setting. Life in the village is punctuated with Bible Study and worship which is what I was involved with while there.

Holden Village used to be a copper mine until it closed down in the 1950s and over the past three years they have undergone a huge project of mine remediation. This is basically big business practicing repentance.

The Holden mine remediation project is a multi-million dollar effort to clean up contaminants (potential threats to human and environmental health) that were left from the Howe Sound Holden Mine era (1937-57). Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining groups, is managing and paying for the cleanup under the supervision of the U.S. Forest Service.

Witnessing the remediation process is both hopeful and disturbing. It is disturbing to realise the extent of humanity’s wounding of the planet. Wounds that bleed many years after the last cut was made. Wounds that ultimately lead to the wounding (poisoning) of our own selves. Yet hopeful to see that we can begin to act justly towards the earth and do the costly work of restoring what we have destroyed.

Repentance is always going to be costly. The only thing more costly than repentance is not repenting.

Grace, Alan

Let's change

Let’s change

May 3, 2015  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Let’s change

Grace and Peace to you

Tershia’s letter

The letter (picture above and text below) was sent to the media by Pam Jackson – Director of Ons Plek Projects for Female Street Children – a project of CMM. Her accompanying letter gave context to the impact of Xenophobia on the vulnerable girls “local and foreign” at Ons Plek. The young girls react and respond differently. For some there is real fear, flashbacks to their previous life, living in hope, but often disappointed, at risk of abuse of all kinds and struggling to see Christ in their lived experience. Threats even, from other girls of xenophobic bullying. And then the big fear. That violence will come into their very home.

The staff actively dealt with the issue. Tough discussion, with hard questions helped to ease the tension. Part of the process was letter-writing by all the girls. Tershia, a South African, expresses her feelings of the pain of rejection. Her letter is addressed to our President and her appeal is clear. Read it carefully. Think of all the vulnerable children of foreigners in our homes, shelters, schools, Sunday schools, sports clubs, on our streets … wherever.

Have we as adults engaged on the issue of xenophobia in a meaningful way? Have I?

We all need to look deeper at our own bias, prejudice and yes, our xenophobic attitudes and tendencies.

We read in 1 John 4 :” There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear Those who say, I love God and hate their brother or sister are liars, for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

With Tershia will we “keep on praying and doing my bit to help those who feel hopeless”?

Peace, Gilbert


Tershia’s letter

Dear President

It is so sad to see innocent people die.  People in south Africa are very selfish. They don’t care about how others feel of killing their families and as well they loved one’s. To watch news everyday and watching people die or physical abuse its so hurting. We as South Africans should understand that we are Africans and should treat each other with equal rights and they should feel welcome here in our countrie. One biggest commandment that God said was we should love one another and also accept each others difference’s. I will keep on praying and doing my bit to help those who feel hopeless. You the president you in charge of this country stand up for the righteousness and speak up for the hopless. LETS CHANGE SOUTH AFRICA TO A BETTER COUNTRY. We really love our brothers and sisters and don’t want them to get hurt just because of jealousy.

From Ons Plek Girls – Tershia

NO XeNOphobia

NO XeNOphobia

April 26, 2015  |  Easter, Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on NO XeNOphobia

Grace and peace to you …

On 18 May 2008 Alan wrote the following letter to the Calvary Methodist Church congregation during his time of ministry in Midrand:

“Dear Friends

The violence this past week towards foreigners in Alexandra has been terribly frightening and casts a worrying cloud over the peaceable future of so many of our communities.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Xenophobia to be the ‘morbid dislike for foreigners’. The extent of xenophobia that seems to plague so many of us – yes us – is alarming. At present there seems to be a morbid dislike for Zimbabweans – ‘coming to take our jobs, our women, our opportunities, cause trouble and commit crime – they should go back to where they came from’. Well that is the sort of stuff I have heard – yes personally heard – and it frightens me.

It frightens me because it seems that we have forgotten that we are all family – the human family. That the Apartheid between nations is an Apartheid system that will also one day crumble – because Jesus has prayed that we all be One like he and his Father are One – and nothing is going to stand against that prayer forever. It frightens me because it seems we have forgotten that our deepest identity does not come from which country (piece of God’s earth) we have been born in, but rather from the image of God that is carved at the core of each of us. It frightens me because making foreigners into scapegoats for our problems never helps us solve our problems. It frightens me because it seems we have forgotten so soon how our neighbours assisted many of our people who were once in exile – assisting with jobs and education and opportunities to develop in order to have skills that will one day be fruitfully employed when they return.

May God cleanse our thoughts and mouths of the morbid dislike of foreigners. Alan.”

_________________

Although it appears as if little has changed since 2008, there are those who are brave and saying NO to XeNOphobia and continue to welcome the foreigner among them! Please continue to pray for courage and God’s grace to help us embrace the Holy Trinity – the widow, the orphan and the foreigner – among us and stop our ‘morbid dislike of foreigners’.

Peace, Alan!


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they know
the unutterable beauty of simple things.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they have dared
to risk their hearts by giving of their love.

Blessed are the meek, for the gentle earth shall
embrace them and hallow them as its own.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they shall know the taste
of noble thoughts and deeds.

Blessed are the merciful, for in return theirs is
the gift of giving.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall be
at one with themselves and the universe.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs is a kinship
with everything that is holy.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for
righteousness’ sake, for the truth will set them free.

~ F. Forrester Church

 

Cry the crucified country

April 21, 2015  |  Articles & Reflections  |  Comments Off on Cry the crucified country

Please click on this link Cry the Crucified Country to read an article written by Alan Storey which was published on 5 April 2015 in the City Press – National Sunday newspaper in South Africa.