Grieving communities

Grieving communities

Sep 22, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Grieving communities

“The theologian Karl Barth once remarked,
“God is so unassuming in the world,” which may be the only way
those who grieve experience the presence of God. Nobody’s grief is characterised by sudden movements or dramatic reversals.
Grief does not “break” like a fever.” ~ Richard Lischer


On Thursday I attended a meeting at the Church of Reconciliation in Manenberg. Faith leaders and civil society groups were addressed by Fr. Donovan and other community leaders about the gang violence in the area. The complex web of interlinked causes was despairingly heavy to hold.

A trauma counsellor spoke of how in the upcoming school holidays they will take 120 learners out of Manenberg for trauma counselling.  She said, “But when we ask principals to send us learners who are traumatised the principal says, ‘take everyone in my school’, so we have to limit it to the extremely traumatised.”  In the recent exams used to evaluate schools (for future state support and funding) teachers have noted that learners cannot concentrate for longer than four minutes, “so how is this going to affect the schools in the future?”.  While listening to the trauma counsellor all I could think of was that she herself was traumatised and should be booked off, but instead she will be with the “extremely traumatised.” In this context there is no such thing as “post traumatic”, only “continuous traumatic”.

Another leader responded to the suggestion about “getting together to talk” with, “but what if they don’t know how to express their emotions?  On a scale of 0-10 the anger levels are at 9.9.  All you have to do is look at someone in the wrong way and it can trigger off a fight. We need to be taught how to express ourselves without violence. We have to be taught how to channel our anger.” He spoke about how some school playing areas have been re-fenced and in the process made smaller, “so now if there  is no room for them to kick a ball — who’re they going to kick?” And what is one meant to do with the staggering figure of over 60% learner dropout in some schools — especially grades 5 through 9?

We heard how the gangs have divided the community but were also told in no uncertain terms how the faith communities don’t help matters because of how divided they are themselves. We learnt how some faith communities bury their heads in the sand while others take sides in the conflict.

What should haunt us is the fact that if even a tiny proportion of the violence in Manenberg (and other areas) had taken place in one of the table-mountain-hugging-suburbs it would have resulted in a national emergency. How violence is seen to be “normal” in some areas is for us to shamefully confess.

As the depths of deathliness was being shared with us — I noticed the banner on the wall above where we were sitting. It read: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”. So aware of our own powerlessness this was a welcome word. And when I think about it I already saw hints of the Spirit’s empowering in the fiery passion of a community leader deeply ‘in love with’ and ‘in grief for’ his community and his powerful refusal to settle for what is instead of for what should be.

Grace, Alan


 Palestinian Poet, Remi Kanazi, on tour in South Africa

Remi Kanazi is a New York-based Palestinian poet, spoken-word artist, activist and author who is a guest of the Tri Continental Film Festival (TCFF) and whose work includes being the Author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (2011), and Editor of The Anthology of Hip-Hop, Poets for Palestine (2008). He will be in Cape Town on Heritage Day.

Date & Time: 24 September at 18:00

What: Poetry Session

Where: Lookout Hill, Khayelitsha, Cape Town

Directions: Head towards airport along N2, take Mew Way off-ramp from N2, turn right at the top of the off-ramp (to go over the bridge) you will come to a set of robots at the entrance to Khayelitsha, continue until you reach four way stop, turn left into Spine Road, on the right hand-side is the destination (Lookout Hill yellow-brownish face brick complex with a City of Cape Town logo.)

Hosts: Open Shuhada Street South Africa

Contact: 082 042 6120

Cost: Free

Twitter hashtags: @OpenShuhada #RemiKanazi #Palestine


For more information: Luzuko Pupuma on 021 423 3089 / 081 504 4970 /

Is sin a sinful word?

Is sin a sinful word?

Sep 15, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Is sin a sinful word?

Inside HOME is an awesome article on urban gardening,
including CMM’s garden.

I had a conversation with a friend this week about the ‘S’ word. The dreaded ‘S’ word. Yes we were talking about SIN. Our discussion revolved around whether the word was still “useful” or whether there are such negative connotations attached to the word that it is a stumbling block to itself. Has sin become a sinful word? Well I guess it all depends on one’s definition. And what I was reminded about in our discussion was that we definitely meant different things when we used the ‘S’ word.

A few years ago I attended a set of five economic lectures. I remember how surprised I was when the professor used the entire first lecture to simply clarify a number of economic terms. He justified taking up so much time on a glossary, saying: “Without the use of these specific terms I am unable to explain the discipline of economics to you.” There is a new language that must be learnt first in order to fully understand the particular discipline.

As it is with economics, so it is with theology. There are certain words that are unique to the discipline. They have a history of meaning that will be lost if the word is replaced by a modern “equivalent”. Words like: sin, salvation, grace, faith, death, life, justice, healing, eternal life, heaven and hell all carry important and peculiar meanings that are lost in the common day-to-day usage of them. In fact they can even end up meaning the very opposite to their original meaning.

Some of you attended Connections a few years back — well I have decided to run it again on Wednesday evenings starting on the 9 October. Even if you have done it — come again because it’s always new. It will be an opportunity to clarify our understandings of the words we use to hold the meaning of our lives, as well as grow community.

Grace, Alan

Yom Kippur the Jewish Day of Atonement was observed on Sept. 13-14, 2013. The Day of Atonement is considered the most important day of the Jewish year. Yom Kippur marks the end of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of teshuvah (Jewish reflection, repentance and return) that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

During the Days of Awe, Jews seeks forgiveness from friends, family and co-workers, a process that begins with Tashlich, the symbolic casting off of sins that is traditionally observed on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah by throwing bread into a body of water. On Yom Kippur, Jews attempt to mend their relationships with God. This is done, in part, by reciting the Vidui, a public confession of sins. The holiday has the most extensive prayer schedule of the Hebrew calendar and arduous abstinence from food, drink, sexual intimacy and animal-based clothing, such as leather.

All major Jewish holidays, including Yom Kippur, consist of four main prayer services: Ma’ariv, Shacharit, Musaf and Mincha. Yom Kippur, though, is unique. It begins with Kol Nidre, a legal document that is hauntingly chanted and emotionally charged. The Book of Jonah is read during the afternoon prayer service on Yom Kippur day.

The Day of Atonement is the only Jewish holiday that includes a fifth prayer service, called Ne’ilah, which is a final plea of repentance before the gates of heaven are said to close. The Ne’ilah service precedes the shofar blowing and the end of the fast

While Yom Kippur is characterized by solemn fasting and marathon prayers of repentance, it is actually considered the most joyous day of the Jewish year because it commemorates God’s forgiveness of the sin of the Golden Calf, the Israelites’ slip into idolatry after the giving of the Ten Commandments, and is considered a time to spiritually start anew. (Via Huffington Post)

Evil & Success

Evil & Success

Sep 8, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Evil & Success
On the First Thursday of the Month the city comes alive at night in a very special way. There is a free concert on Greenmarket Square (in our backyard) as well as around 30 art galleries that open their doors until about 9 p.m. I encourage you next month on 3 October to join this Art Pilgrimage.

You have heard the words from Edmund Burke many times before, “That all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing”. It is true. But it is not so simple.

The problem with evil (here broadly defined as that which destroys life) is that it does not always look like evil. Often the evilest evil is presented as good and virtuous, something to be aspired to and sought after. It is very difficult to detect especially when the dominant culture labels it “success” and invites us to pay homage to its achievement.

Take for example the transfer fee of +R1.4bn for soccer player Gareth Bale by Real Madrid which is more than half a million Rand a day.

In a world where all life is interdependent on the generous sharing of all other life — this is evil. It is evil because it results in one having too much and many others having too little. Yet this evil is hailed as the pinnacle of success. I am not saying Gareth Bale is evil (well no more than anyone else) rather it is the system that enables such an insanely huge sum of money to be paid to an individual that is evil.

And here is the thing that is really sick about this evil, that the very people who live with too little are the ones who support this kind of system, not intentionally, but by crowding around TV’s with sponsor’s drinks in hand to catch a glimpse of the “beautiful game”. And any suggestion to boycott watching soccer would probably unite opposing fans in seeking one’s blood.

May our eyes be opened to evil in our midst and may God give us the courage to admit where we are complicit in the systems of evil in the world — it is this we are called to confess and turn from. May we inspire each other to do so.

Grace, Alan


Next week Tuesday, 10 September 2013, the Campaign for Safe Communities and other partner organisations will be making a solidarity visit to Manenberg to speak to community members about their experience with gang violence and to show our support.

Over 26 people have been killed over the last few weeks owing to gang violence. 14 Schools had to be closed in August after teachers, fearing for their safety as well as the safety of their learners, requested support from the government and threatened to walk out en masse.

Recognising that this is a crisis, the province has since shifted R6 million from the education budget towards the deployment of Metro police in Manenberg. This has reduced the levels of gun violence on the streets, but the climate of tension and fear remains.

Community members, particularly the youth, have been deeply affected by the loss of family members, witnessing extreme acts of violence, and being directly victims of violence themselves. The youth need to be given special consideration. Trauma caused by exposure to violence makes it impossible for many of the youth to function effectively at school, and school closure means that they are significantly behind in the curriculum. Many youth also risk being caught in the crossfire while walking to and from school. Unfortunately, many of the youth also end up being perpetrators of violence, targeted for recruitment by the gangs and many youths feel that joining a gang is the only way to ensure their safety.

Gangsterism is now spilling over from Manenberg to other areas such as Hanover Park, Mitchells Plain and even Khayelitsha. We must not turn our back on the Manenberg community when their constitutional rights to life, safety and education are being threatened daily. Everyone, whether they live in Manenberg or not, has a responsibility to oppose this violence and support the people of Manenberg in the building of a safe community.

If you are interested in joining in this solidarity visit please contact Roegchanda Pascoe at

All are welcome

All are welcome

Sep 1, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on All are welcome

“So what is this church stuff all about…?” I have carried this question on my sabbatical journey.

Just because we call ourselves ‘church’ does not mean we are church, it just means that is what we call ourselves. After all, by calling myself an astronaut doesn’t make me an astronaut. And by being an astronaut in name only is a real turn off to others considering being an astronaut themselves – after all, who wants to join a bunch of astronauts who never go up into space?

Surely we are only ‘church’ to the extent that as a community we incarnate the life and teachings of Jesus in the world in which we live? So what does it mean to incarnate Jesus in our living?

We incarnate Jesus by hungering for what he hungers for – and he hungers for no one to be hungry.

We incarnate Jesus by bravely loving those who he loves – and he especially loves those who others especially think should not be loved.

We incarnate Jesus by forgiving those who he forgives – ourselves and others, when we least deserve it.

We incarnate Jesus by trusting in what he trusts in: that truthfulness is liberating; that gentleness is real power; that generous giving is actually abundant receiving; that we have come from love and to love we will return, and therefore we need not fear to love here and now.

We incarnate Jesus by believing in what he believes in, and he believes that we should not discriminate against people according to what they believe.

We incarnate Jesus by living out this hymn by Marty Haugen called: All are Welcome…

Grace, Alan

All Are Welcome

Let us build a house
where love can dwell
And all can safely live,
A place where
saints and children tell
how hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
Rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions;

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

 Let us build a house where prophets speak,
And words are strong and true,
Where all God’s children dare to seek
To dream God’s reign anew.

Here the cross shall stand as witness
And a symbol of God’s grace;
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat:
A banquet hall on holy ground,
Where peace and justice meet.

Here the love of God, through Jesus,
Is revealed in time and space;
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

Marty Haugen©

Food security

Food security

Aug 25, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Food security

Since 1975, members of CMM have been offering meals as a way to help meet some of the needs of the city’s many homeless people.

Various role players run meal schemes for the needy in the City, and CMM fills some of the gap by offering Sunday lunch at the Service Dining Rooms in Canterbury Street. A core team of cooks and servers are (by and large!) ably assisted by ad-hoc volunteers to serve about 250 balanced and nutritious meals every week. The meal offering is a small but clear response to Jesus’ call to meet the needs of the poor. We do this as an extension of our worship and discipleship, trusting that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for Jesus. We also do this for ourselves: in transforming the lives of others, we too are transformed. The CMM volunteers invariably arrive home late for Sunday lunch reeking of onion, but tremendous satisfaction is found amongst the difficulties of co-ordinating amongst ourselves and serving a broad range of guests.

Food security is a cornerstone of how we organise our lives, and knowing where our next meal is coming from frees us to pursue almost all other actions. The food we offer makes a slight difference to the hungry and homeless. Of much greater value is the consistency of what we do: offering the certainty of a hot meal to those who might otherwise go hungry is almost as good as the meal itself. By turning up every week, we offer care, friendship and welcome in a city that ignores and rejects the homeless at every turn. By consistently offering up our time, we acknowledge their humanity and ours, and build small bridges across our city’s great divide between rich and poor.

Thanks to all those involved in this work.

Peace to you from Bruce & the SDR team.



Aug 18, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Licorice-All-Sorts

Each day in the life of the CMM church office and sanctuary can be described as a packet of Licorice-All-Sorts when all kinds of people from all over the world pop in.

Sometimes we have neighbours dropping off gifts such as the olive tree we received from the Groote Kerk congregation. Other times we have visitors (local and overseas) who come in to admire the architecture, to inquire about the history of the congregation and building, or simply to entertain us with their piano-playing gifts or choir singing. Then there are also those times when people seek refuge and respite.

Jesus is also disguised in a variety of ways in this packet of Licorice-All-Sorts: a person with a distinct aroma expressing a deep hunger, the one who is in search of a candle to light whether out of need or gratitude, the one who needs a prayer or a cup of coffee, another who simply needs to chat and be listened to. We also have our hero’s — the NA and AA people who wrestle daily with their addictions and who often highlight for us our own addictions.

Each day we are surprised and challenged by Jesus  in and through the people who ring the bell at the church office or enter the doors of the coffee shop and the sanctuary as we go about our daily tasks of cleaning, paying bills, serving coffee, welcoming people.

We of course cannot do any of this without the prayers and help of the Saturday morning volunteers, Ma Lingeveldt, Aunty Stephanie, Silas as well as the congregation — thank you.

In gratitude for Licorice-All-Sorts,
Alan, Sharon, Arlene, Ken, Joyce, Sarah and Adrienne

Jesus' invitation

Jesus’ invitation

Aug 11, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Jesus’ invitation
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs. Matthew 19:14

Last Sunday after the worship service we started the conversation on how best to care for our young people. Thank you to those who joined the discussion, especially the youth, and for sharing your ideas as well as demonstrating your interest in our children.

Below are some of the suggestions and comments made during this meeting:

  • Make our children’s programme more visible.
  • Create a Youth Committee.
  • Malia and Sarah cannot do this on their own — volunteers are needed — even if it is an hour once in a while.
  • Have a sign up sheet for volunteers.
  • Include our children in worship.

What are your thoughts on what you can do with/for our Youth? Can you be involved with the conversation? Can you commit to praying for them — maybe even approach a young person today and ask how you can pray for them this week?

Join us again on Sunday 8 September as we continue our conversation and figure out how we can implement relevant suggestions. Input is needed and would be most welcome from all of our community, especially parents/care-givers and our young people.

Peace, Malia & Sarah

Picture: Erica Marshall flickr creative commons ~ family


Honouring women

Honouring women

Aug 4, 2013  |  Sunday Letter  |  Comments Off on Honouring women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace from all of us at the Women Fellowship.

The professional agitator

The professional agitator

Jul 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

Jul 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