The professional agitator

The professional agitator

July 28, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on The professional agitator

How would you describe Jesus to someone who has never ever heard of him?

A professional agitator? An anarchist? A seditionist?

Reflect on the picture and see what you think. Maybe write down or share your thoughts.

Peace, Alan

 

Mandela Legacy

Mandela Legacy

July 21, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on 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

A harbour in a storm

July 14, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on 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

Jesus of the outcast

July 7, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on 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?

Who takes care of us when God goes on holiday?

June 30, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on 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)

Joyful and carefree creativity

Joyful and carefree creativity

June 23, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Joyful and carefree creativity

By using a handmade cardboard tool and a few strips of leather, Ashton learnt to knot a leather bracelet in a short space of time.

The places and ways in which we experience God are diverse from the mundane to the miraculous; for me it’s in the wonder of human resilience, hope and sheer enjoyment in life. Late on Sunday night I was woken from a deep sleep by a sound I couldn’t quite place. Eventually I realised that it sounded like a band. I stumbled out of bed and onto the balcony; there in the dark I saw movement. It was indeed a band, a dancing, moving band of people from little toddlers to older folks, playing a range of musical instruments, joyfully moving through the neighbourhood. It was a lovely sight. In that moment I thought of God, I saw God in the joyful, carefree movements of these people giving their neighbours a beautiful gift, albeit at an unorthodox time.

Tsidi who is responsible for much of the [needle] craft work available at African Image, corner Church and Burg Streets, has gifted our community with her ability to craft. She and I meet with the youth on Friday afternoons to create; and as we work together we find the ability to see beyond our self-limitation and into the potential of creating something from nothing. The “I cant’s” are gradually replaced by a product made by our hands, imagination and shared knowledge.

Together we gain the skills to create something to gift, sell or keep. We learn to see beyond the old bicycle tyre, string, plastic bottle or newspaper and see something which can be used to sustain us or benefit another. The mundane becomes functional, useful, maybe even beautiful — new life is breathed into the item and indeed into the maker. Tsidi says that she finds God in the spaces she creates in her life through craft. Whether we experience God in others, in creation, in creating, in the mundane or the miraculous, our experience is unique, ready to be shared and gifted into our communities.

Peace, Sarah (Youth Co-ordinator)

Be kinder than necessary

Be kinder than necessary

June 16, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Be kinder than necessary

Happy Father’s Day

The first Father’s Day celebration took place on 19 June 1910 at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington, USA, when Sonora Smart Dodd wished to acknowledge her father, William Jackson Smart, an American civil war veteran and single parent, who raised six children.

 

What a wonderful privilege it is for me to share with you this morning.

I give thanks to God for your grace and your hospitality. I have had the privilege of visiting with you several times and experienced the warmth of your welcome. I have seen too your works of love and justice and I pray that your ministries will grow.

We live in a world and times where our own pain and the enormity and regularity of the pain of others can overwhelm us. It is very easy to be numbed, to stop noticing, to stop being bothered. In a world where most of us encounter homeless and the helpless people every day, it is easy to be insensitive, if not oblivious to the obvious pain in our midst. In a world where so many of us are wounded, it is oh so difficult to be wounded healers. But we have to be “kinder than necessary because everyone we meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

It is my prayer that this community will continue to be emissaries of love in the lives of the people who are battered and bruised by systems of this world. We are all called to confer dignity on every life — all life, no matter what form it may take. All lives are sacred, and we are to hold them as such. May this community be agents of healing in this city and beyond. As William Blake puts it:

“… we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love.”

May it be so.
Peace, Siphiwe Ndlovu
(Our Guest Preacher for this Sunday)

Rules we can live by

Rules we can live by

June 9, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Rules we can live by

“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease
to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they
first set out.” ~ John Wesley

Two weeks ago we met as a Synod and, as always, we closed proceedings with the reading of John Wesley’s 12 rules of a Helper. I am always struck by how they move and challenge me. I share them with you here …

Wesley laid out twelve rules for preachers who wished to serve as Methodist itinerants. Wesley’s name for his itinerants was “preachers” or “helpers.” Wesley’s twelve rules of a helper are still cherished as the guiding principles of a Methodist preacher:

  1. Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time, nor spend more time at any place than is strictly necessary.
  2. Be serious. Let your motto be, ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ Avoid all lightness, jesting, and foolish talking.
  3. Be guarded in your conversation and friendships lest you be led into temptation.
  4. Take no step towards marriage without solemn prayer to God and consulting with your colleagues.
  5. Believe evil of no one unless fully proved; take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction you can on everything. You know the judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner’s side.
  6. Speak evil of no one, else your word, especially, would eat as doth a canker; keep your thoughts within your own breast till you come to the person concerned.
  7. Tell everyone what you think wrong in him, lovingly and plainly, and as soon as may be, else it will fester in your own heart. Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.
  8. Do not pretend to be of high station. A preacher of the Gospel is the servant of all.
  9. Be ashamed of nothing but sin; no, not of cleaning your own shoes when necessary.
  10. Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them, and that for conscience’ sake.
  11. You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those who want you, but to those who want you most.
  12. Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a child in the Gospel, and in union with your colleagues. As such, it is your part to employ your time as our rules direct: partly in preaching and visiting from house to house, partly in reading, meditation, and prayer. Above all, if you labour with us in our Lord’s vineyard, it is needful you should do that part of the work which the Conference shall advise, at those times and places which they shall judge most for His glory.“Observe, it is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care merely of this or that Society, but to save as many souls as you can, to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and, with all your power, to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord. And, remember, a Methodist preacher is to mind every point, great and small, in the Methodist discipline. Therefore you will need all the grace and sense you have, and to have all your wits about you.”

_____________________________

Well, did any of the rules especially challenge you? If so I invite you live with it in the coming days — allowing it to shape your living.

Grace and gratitude for a rich heritage, Alan

Begin again slowly

Begin again slowly

June 2, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Begin again slowly

Last week during Synod we joined people across the globe wearing black as a personal and public protest against gender-based violence and discrimination. Together we stand in solidarity with victims of violence and discrimination, demanding a fairer world for all.
Join in every Thursday.

 

Well I am about to get on my bicycle — literally speaking — as I begin my 3-month sabbatical. I will be back on 1 September which is “Spring Day” as well as the 17th anniversary of my ordination. It will be a great day to begin again…

You will know that my e-mail address is: ASlowWalk@… this encapsulates my desire more than my reality. During sabbatical I hope to live into it more fully and faithfully with slow walks and slow rides. The gift of slowness is to be present in the moment. It is to welcome ‘what-is’ without needing a ‘what-will-be’. In slowness interruptions cease to be interruptions — instead they are the holy moments of rich encounter that they really are.

This past week a person arrived unexpectedly in my office. I was so busy with my agenda that I nearly missed out on what he came to share with me. All he wanted to do was to sing me a song … The beautiful melody of life is playing all the time but only those who do not rush around hear it.

Simon and Garfunkel sung about it years ago… “Slow down you move too fast, you got to make the moment last…” I know you don’t have three months sabbatical but I do invite you to slow down and to do something deliberately slowly.

I would also like to encourage you to join a Warm Winter Worship group. Find the home group nearest to you and connect with others on Wednesday evenings over supper during June, July and August. When we gather we trust that we will meet God in the connections we have with each other, remembering that: everyone is wonder-full. Everyone has something wonder-full to share.

I feel that I am entitled to my share of lightheartedness and there is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s self simply, like a boy. ~ Leo Tolstoy in response to criticism for learning to ride a bicycle at age 67.

The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine. ~ John Howard

Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race. ~ H.G. Wells

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me. ~ Emo Philips 🙂

_______________________________________________

Below follows four resolutions passed at the 2013 Synod which will be go before Conference later this year:

Four of the 2013 Synod Resolutions

The Synod of the Cape of Good Hope District calls on Conference to [1] support the Palestinian Kairos Document’s call for divestment of Israel to end the occupation by Israel in Palestine [2] to instruct all Circuits and Societies within the MCSA to ensure that if taking part in “Holy Land tours” that the arrangements include realistic engagement with the Palestinian community.

The Cape of Good Hope District reaffirms the decision of the MCSA that “ministers do not assist people to gain firearm licenses” and that “all Methodist Property are to be Gun Free Zones”.

The Synod of the Cape of Good Hope District notes with horror the continued violence against gay and lesbian people because of their sexual orientation. The Synod calls on all members and leaders within the District to speak out against this specific form of violence whenever it occurs, so as not to give the false impression that the Christian faith in any way condones such acts.

The Synod of the Cape of Good Hope District requests Conference to determine whether the position of Chaplain of any political party is a “party political post and compromises the necessary independence of the church in its witness to the Gospel in society.”

Grace, Alan

Called to something smaller

Called to something smaller

May 26, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Called to something smaller

This past week I have been in Belhar attending the 184th Synod of the Cape of Good Hope District.

Amongst other things, Synod is the body that reminds me of my calling as well as holding me accountable. While reflecting on our ordination vows we reflected on the following words from Methodist Church of Singapore’s Ordination Liturgy:

Called to Something Smaller

We are not ordaining you to ministry; that happened at your baptism.

We are not ordaining you to be a caring person; you are already called to that.

We are not ordaining you to serve the Church in committees, activities, organisation; that is already implied in your membership.

We are not ordaining you to become involved in social issues, ecology, race, politics, revolution, for that is laid upon every Christian.

We are ordaining you to something smaller and less spectacular: to read and interpret those sacred stories of our community, so that they speak a word to people today; to remember and practice those rituals and rites of meaning that in their poetry address human beings at the level where change operates; to foster in community through word and sacrament that encounter with truth which will set men and women free to minister as the body of Christ.

We are ordaining you to the ministry of the word and sacraments and pastoral care. God grant you grace not to betray but uphold it, not to deny but affirm it, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Below is a letter addressed to the Editor of the Cape Times in response to the article that appeared in the Cape Times on 22 May 2013:

Dear Editor: (Cape Times)
Your Wednesday, 22nd headline, Lesbian pastor vs church refers:
As a former leader of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) I grieve to see a great Christian denomination, with a strong record of witness for compassion and justice, brought to this. Had the matter been handled with more care and wisdom in the councils of the church, it would not today be in a secular court.
It is important, however, to emphasise that the MCSA is not united on this issue. A growing body of Methodist clergy and laity fully support Rev Ecclesia de Lange’s right – and the right of other gay and lesbian persons  to marry the person of their choice, and are working for change. Far from being in conflict with our Christian convictions, we regard this as a further necessary step in the Spirit’s work of breaking down barriers of prejudice that have stood too long. We are not without sympathy for conservative members in the church who struggle to come to terms with new insights into human sexuality, because old teachings and attitudes die hard. But those teachings and attitudes have inflicted such cruelty, pain and exclusion on gay and lesbian persons that they cannot be justified on the basis of a few Biblical proof-texts. The Charter of Compassion is right: for all religions, ‘any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate.’
I am confident that the MCSA will become an open and including church, honouring the love of gay and lesbian persons and blessing their unions. The journey to openness, however, just as with the struggle against racism, will not be easy. With that struggle the MCSA and other faith communities gave moral leadership in resisting injustice. On this issue we lag sadly behind secular institutions and the Constitution of this country. I can only hope that this court case will help, rather than hinder the road to true inclusiveness.
Rev Prof Peter Storey

Peace and grace to you, Alan