Refugee update

January, 19 2020 Alan Storey: The story in the sentence. [Psalm 40:1-11; John 1:29-42]


January, 12 2020 Alan Storey: The Beloved Voice [Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34; Matthew 3:13-17]


On Sunday the 29th December there was conflict among the refugees – effectively a fallout between the refugee leadership resulting in a split among the refugees into two hostile groups (leaving one group inside the church and the other outside). For about five hours we tried to get the two sides to end the standoff without success. Violence erupted between these two groups in the late afternoon. The police intervened to restore order and to keep the two groups apart. The police remained at the entrance of the Church for nearly a week. It was due to this violence and the continued threat of violence that we decided to cancel the worship service at Central Methodist Mission (CMM) on the 5th January 2020.

And it is due to this violence and continued hostility between groups of refugees that there cannot be a worship service at CMM this Sunday. Therefore, until further notice CMM’s Sunday services will be held at the Observatory Methodist Church at 10am. [Corner: Wesley and Milton Street, Observatory].

The ongoing health and safety risks that exist within the over-crowed sanctuary are exacerbated by the day. As I have repeatedly warned, the sanctuary is no longer a safe space and therefore, asked the people present to vacate. Now on top of these health and safety risks is the unpredictable volatility of the present hostile situation.

This has been a very difficult time and as a church we have struggled to find the balance between providing sanctuary to the refugees while they engage with international bodies and local authorities and take steps to prevent fire hazard and the spread of disease and basically keep people safe. You will know that we have asked the refugees to vacate the sanctuary numerous times. They have not done so. Sometimes simply reneging on their word and at other times due to circumstances beyond their control, like the tragic drowning of the four teenagers in Sea Point.

As the Church we have taken the long road of listening deeply and graciously. However, on the 29th December things changed. The sanctuary was turned into a battle ground by some and our welcoming space into a blockaded fortress. Hospitality was replaced with hostility. As a church we cannot provide sanctuary to violent groups, nor are we equipped to deal with them. It is within this context that as a church we will now pursue other avenues to address this situation.

This matter is not simple. There are layers within layers being played out. We must be able to hold more than one truth at a time and resist the temptation to simplify the situation to a soundbite. We have every right to feel angry and saddened and yet we must guard against our feelings having the final say of how we respond. When our desire for things to “return to normal” becomes greater than our desire for the wellbeing of people – especially the very vulnerable (there are between 50-100 children in the sanctuary) then we need to stop and check ourselves and hold each other accountable to another way, truth and life. A way that attempts to be faithful to Jesus’ call on our living.

As difficult and stressful as all this is I continue to invite you to seek out the gospel-ness of this moment. We must be especially mindful of what moves us: fear or love? May we be alert to complacency and cynicism. At all times let us resist the limiting binary of condoning and condemning and instead seek to honour compassion. Compassion that is ever-open to critique and growth.

This Sunday we break bread together reminding us that we are one body … one body yet broken. We will share the cup of forgiveness … a joyful celebration, yet also a gruesome reminder of blood shed world over. We will remember our Baptism and be thankful as we are invited to accept the good news that we are God’s beloved and to live out the good news for the world that everyone … everyone, is God’s beloved.

Grace, Alan

 

Welcome the stranger

December, 25 2019 Alan Storey: Christmas Unwrapped [Matthew 2]

 

Grace and peace to you

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ today, we are reminded of the journey the pregnant Mary and Joseph had to make on a mission to meet with the requirements of their Home Affairs Department at that time, to be part of the census process.

They too must have suffered from much discomfort and displacement; with no close biological family structure to support them. We are told that Mary had her Baby Jesus and I want to believe that during this birthing and tiring time, someone reached out to assist her. Someone who was loving and kind to offer her the gift of hospitality and to tenderly wipe her brow.

Yes, God was with Joseph and Mary on the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then of course while they were on the move, with the baby again, to Egypt because of a political decree.

Our Christmas journey with God is one that says: don’t be tied down by traditions and customs that limit and suffocate you. Ask questions that inform your decision-making process. Do these decisions bring life or death? Following the example of Jesus’ way of life demands that we pay attention to the present, to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God. We are also reassured of God’s ever-engaging presence in every kind of experience. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

We have been part of the suffering of our fellow sojourners together in sharing in the discomfort in our Gothic sanctuary. We give thanks to God for the experience of sharing and in the creation of new memories which will become a part of our church history. While at the same time, the pain and slowness of immigration reform in our country will leave a blight on the history of all the relevant authorities, who were loath to make decisions, regarding the welfare and treatment of all who needed help. Yes, we were required to make space, to sing new choruses in other languages which we enjoyed.

Our Scriptures remind us that we are not placed on this earth to be comfortable. God’s voice is heard when we are most uncomfortable through the desperate prayers that we pray, and this is hard because most of us long to be comfortable, to be accepted to belong, and most of all to be in control. We can all be included and this requires an openness and willingness to adapt, to adjust for the greater good of humanity and our community. I fully understand that it is very easy to judge, to be intimidated, and fearful and not to understand; but we are required in our spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ to embrace the values of inclusion, diversity, compassion and a sense of justice for our country and especially our continent Africa. We have to learn to come to terms with the requirements too of our Constitution and especially the fullest implementation of it. “Welcome the stranger in your midst! I am with you always”, says God.

In God’s scheme of things, nothing is a nuisance factor! We have been on an emotional roller coaster together with our African brothers and sisters, like their lives have been uprooted so have our roots been shaken. This has been a real wake-up call where we have had to interact and interface with the world right on our doorstep and inside our sanctuary. Yes, it has been uncomfortable. But also a reminder that the human condition is present with and among us all the time. While we had to worship God together as a community; through the courage, compassion and consistent theological integrity of our minister Alan Storey; our lives are the richer this Christmas. We have been exposed to a real object lesson; (and the word became flesh and dwelt among us) in our journey with the humanity of Jesus Christ, that the poor and displaced are always with us, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, creed or problems. We are All God’s children.

This displacement has been a challenge and a gift for all of us as we make sense of our world and as we try to make a difference in God’s world. May God’s gift of the birth of his Son Jesus Christ, make us eager to be instruments of Hope, Peace, Love, Compassion and Justice in our community and our country. May the Spirit of Jesus Christ be born in each one of us today.

Jane Lawrence

 

Refugee Update

December, 22 2019 Alan Storey: Birth by the Holy Spirit [Isaiah 7:10-16; Matthew 1:18-25]


Since my last update, the situation in the church remains unchanged. It is nearly two months since refugees sought sanctuary inside CMM. It remains over-crowed and therefore continues to present a health and safety risk for everyone. This is especially true for the +100 children, half of whom are between the ages of a few months and a few years. Simply put, the conditions are not good for human habitation, not to mention the increased wear and tear of the church building and running expenses. The negative effect on the surrounding businesses and traders on the square also continues to be troublesome.

It is unlikely that a solution, acceptable to the refugees, is going to be found soon. In the meantime, alternative accommodation to the church is desperately needed. I said from the beginning that the Church is only a temporary place of sanctuary – a place of calm for all those involved to find a solution together. This has stretched well beyond that now.

I’ve asked for people to vacate the Church: For those people who have homes or access to homes to return to them. For others to make a plan with friends, etc. Only a handful of people have since left, and it seems either people are unable to make any such plan, or they are deciding to remain together as a group for a host of different reasons. What is therefore needed is the provision of alternative accommodation for about 500 people.

Some people have said to me that they are praying that God will make a way. Thank you because on one hand there is not much else we can do. But, the God that I believe in works through people – people inspired by the spirit of grace, truth, compassion and courage to act. This is actually what Christmas tries to teach us about God: that God takes on flesh in this world. Jesus came in the flesh – full of grace, truth, compassion and courage. Therefore, to pray for God to make a way is to pray that people – all of us – but especially leaders, act with truth, grace, compassion and courage. The bible would say: righteous leaders. In today’s language we would simply say, leaders with integrity (an inner alignment to truth and justice). We should all be wary of leaders who spend more time blaming others for the problem than taking responsibility to seek a solution themselves.

In the midst of this situation I continue to invite you to be taken to new places within yourself. What can we all learn from this moment? What can we learn that we would not otherwise learn if things were different? Let us resist the temptation to settle for easy answers and half-truths. My experience is that there are many truths present. Let us keep tabs on whether fear or love is the greater motivator within us. May we be alert to creeping complacency or worse, crippling cynicism. At all times let us resist the binary between condoning and condemning and instead seek to honour compassion that is ever open to critique and change.

The Christmas Day service is at 10am. There will be no service on the 29th or New Year’s Eve.

Grace,
Alan

 

Refugee Update

December, 15 2019 Alan Storey: Advent Joy [Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 1:46-55; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11]


December, 10 2019 Al Jazeera reports on Refugees at CMM


December, 08 2019 Alan Storey: Principled Leadership vs Populism [Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19]


Please continue to pray for the families who are preparing to bury their three children tomorrow. The trauma of this whole situation is unimaginable. Due to the large numbers of people expected to attend, the funeral will take place from St George’s Cathedral at 9a.m. We are grateful to St. George’s for this show of hospitality.

The leaders announced this morning (5 December) to me and to those present in the Church, that they will vacate CMM by the 12th December. For all the reasons stated in my previous updates, I do hope this commitment is honoured. You are aware that the City issued an eviction order on Monday for those refugees staying outside the church on Longmarket and Burg Streets. My deepest hope is that people vacate and leave the area before that is enforced so that we do not have a repeat of the violence of the past. I invite you to continue to pray for guidance and integrity for all the people involved.

For those of you who are asking: The Christmas Day service will be at 10a.m. Please note: There will not be services on Christmas Eve; Sunday 29th December; or New Year’s Eve.

This coming Sunday we read from Isaiah 11:1-10. Isaiah invites us to trust that a new shoot will sprout from the stump. That which has been cut off, cut down, cut low is still able to birth new life when touched by the Spirit of God. May we continue to be open to this wonder.

Grace,
Alan

 

 

 

CMM Refugee Update

December, 01 2019 Alan Storey: Disarm! [Isaiah 2:1-5Romans 13:8-14Matthew 24:36-44]


I was informed on Friday night that the three remaining funerals of the four young people who drowned would not take place yesterday as was hoped. Instead they will take place towards the end of this coming week. All this delay adds to the trauma for all the families, so please continue to hold them in your hearts.

As a result of the delay in the funerals, the agreed upon vacation of the refugees from the sanctuary, between Tuesday and Thursday this week, is no longer going to take place. I have asked that they provide me with a new date to vacate.

Every week that goes past makes me worry more about the children and the mothers. There are around 100 children, many of them are babies, who are in the church. They have spent a month outside and now another month cooped up in an overcrowded church. All this continues to point to the urgent need for a way forward to be found for everyone’s safety.

In the meantime, we must remember and not ever forget that all people everywhere are family. To forget this is to begin down the slippery path of dehumanising people. By family, I do not mean that all is “lovey-dovey”. For we know that it is in family that we can have the most truthful conversations and robust confrontations with each other, but we do so always in the knowledge that there is more that we have in common with each other than difference and that regardless of our differences with each other, our common fate is bound together forever. Truth and love must go together if either is to be authentic to itself.

A testing question we might want to ask ourselves: “Am I more angry at refugees than I am at the fact that there are refugees?” Similarly: “Am I more angry at the poor than I am at the fact that people live in poverty?” Am I more angry that people go to the toilet on the pavement than I am at the fact that there are so few public toilets available and almost zero open at night?” Where our anger is primarily directed tells us a great deal about ourselves and the positioning of our hearts. Let us not miss this time to check and realign our own hearts.

Grace,
Alan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on Refugees

Thank you for your continued love and care.

We are grateful that all the bodies of those who drowned have been recovered, but the anxious waiting has added to the trauma of the deaths themselves. The refugees staying in and around the church are in great grief. Please continue to hold those closest to the pain in your hearts.

The three remaining funerals may take place on Saturday morning – although this has not yet been confirmed. I have suggested to members of the public who have called to offer assistance to contact the leaders of the refugee group directly. For the sake of clarity please note that the Church is not involved in any financial collections for the refugees.

This morning I was told again by the leaders that they are planning to vacate next week Tuesday to Thursday. I do not know any further details. I can only hope that this will indeed take place for the sake of all involved. Things cannot continue as they have been. People are stressed and exhausted especially the families with young children and especially now after the death of four young people among the community.

The 1st December is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent reminds us of the promise of Jesus’ light-filled presence in the world. The Light that says to the darkness “I beg to differ with you”. The Light that guides us to new Life. We will light the first of four Advent candles in confidence and hope that the Light of Jesus will deepen our living in Truth and Love. May we be given eyes to recognise the Light of Jesus within all.

Grace,
Alan

Alan’s interview with John Maytham (CapeTalk 567) yesterday afternoon 27 November 2019.

 

 

Refugee Update

2019 11 27 Podcast of today’s interview with John Maytham of CapeTalk 567.


By now you would have heard the tragic news that on Sunday four young people from the refugee community staying in and around the church drowned in the sea (Sea Point area). As of now only three bodies have been recovered from the ocean. The one funeral is taking place today from the Mosque and the others we are trying to arrange for Thursday from the church.

The level of trauma this has caused is beyond description – especially for the families and group of young people (15-20 year olds) who witnessed the drowning. I ask you to hold them in your hearts.

In these times that make each of us feel so helpless – we pray and sing our faith – as we have done since the news. We hug and we hold and we give each other space.

The temptation is always to find someone to blame and when it is not obvious who to blame we may be tempted to lump it onto God – saying things like: “It must be God’s will”. The sentiment behind these words is well meaning, but it paints a false picture of God. If they were true, then God is more cruel than kind! And we should have nothing to do with such a god.  From a Christian perspective we believe that God is Christ-like. This means that if we cannot imagine Jesus doing something – then it does not apply to God. Jesus is our God-template. Jesus – the lover of all – would never drown anyone – therefore we can say with confidence that neither would God. Jesus does not cause suffering and neither does God. Rather, Jesus suffers with us and so does God.

In meeting with the leaders of the refugees today they have undertaken to vacate the church next week – between Tuesday and Thursday.  This has come directly from the leaders and not via the media. (We engage each other directly and not through the media.) Let us hope that they are able to find a way forward within the time frame they have stated for the reasons that I have shared with you over the past 4 weeks.

Grace,
Alan

Update on Refugees at CMM

November, 24 2019 Alan Storey: The everlasting power of truth and love. [Jeremiah 23:1-6; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-38]


Discussions between the leadership of the refugees and the South African Human Rights Commission are ongoing. We must all continue to hope that they provide a way forward as soon as possible. I remind you that I am not part of these discussions.

I have received a number of complaints from business people and traders in the area. Business and trade are suffering. This is concerning especially in the present economic climate and tourist season.

I am therefore putting in writing what I have repeatedly discussed with the leaders of the refugees:

From the beginning the Church’s priority was the safety of people. That is why I tried to get children into the church during the police action on the 30th October 2019.

I have stated from the 30th October 2019 that staying in the church is temporary. Since then I have repeatedly said that the safe space the church is providing is no longer safe. Therefore, I have asked everyone to vacate the church. The reasons for this include:

Continued Fire Risk: The City of Cape Town issued the Church with a NOTICE TO COMPLY on the 19th November. The basis of this notice is that the usage of the building has converted from church to residential usage. This is against the law. In other words, the Church is now in contravention of the law and therefore we would be completely liable should any disaster take place. This is unacceptable. Yet until people leave, I continue to repeat:

i. All people and belongings to be moved from the designated exits and escape doors at all times. This must happen with immediate effect.
ii. Passageways to be kept open at all times.
iii. No smoking, cooking or lighting of matches in the church.
iv. Make sure the plug points are not being overloaded by the boiling of kettles and the charging cell phones.
v. Make sure all the fire extinguishers are visible and easily accessible.
vi. Make sure no-one is sleeping on the landing area up the stairs.
vii. Inform people that cooking with open fires outside the church is not allowed.

Continued Health Risk: The City of Cape Town has reported the health risks in and around the Church.

i. The overcrowding contributes to the spread of diseases.
ii. If there is a sudden rush of people – children and babies may be crushed in a stampede.
iii. The limited toilets and bathroom facilities are totally inadequate for the large group of people.
iv. There is not enough fresh air circulating throughout the building.
v. They have also mentioned that cooking outside in close proximity to mattresses and blankets (fire risk) and rubbish bins as well as people urinating in and around the area in against the law.

Women and Children: The most vulnerable are our highest concern.

i. No men are allowed to sleep inside the church at night.

We hope for a speedy, just, respectful and peaceful resolution. We pray too that all hearts, including our own, do not harden, but ever remain open to the priceless worth of all involved.

Grace,
Alan Storey

Friday Update on Refugees at CMM

November, 17 2019 Alan Storey: Violence and the danger of hardened hearts. [Exodus 2:11-15; Matthew 5:21-26; Matthew 5:43-48]


This morning a group of us met with the refugees in the Church. The group included the South African Human Rights Commission, Africa Diaspora Forum, More than Peace, The Archbishop of Cape Town and a few Pastors to the refugee community.

The hope was to inform everyone of the discussions that had taken place over the last week that had been facilitated by the South African Human Rights Commission as well for me to request that people begin to vacate the Sanctuary.

The chair of the Human Rights Commission and myself were able to speak to everyone. But when one of the Pastors (known to the refugees) tried to speak – some people refused to allow him to do so and thereafter the Pastor and other members of the above-mentioned group were assaulted.

A semblance of calm was restored with the help of some refugee leaders and many of the refugees intervening to protect people. Thereafter we were able to get members of the group out of the sanctuary into safety. It is very concerning that three people of this group were injured while everyone else is obviously in shock.

The whole situation is very sad and troubling, not only because of where it took place or who was hurt, but because any violence anywhere against anyone is self-defeating. Violence does not solve anything. It just causes more hurt and more problems.

From my previous communications I reiterate our safety and health concerns and I’m continuing to request the refugees to vacate the church with dignity and peace. I call on the relevant agencies to give support.

I call all to be calm. To respect people – even the people who have done this. We will continue to talk. We will continue to expect the best from people. All of us have the ability to be patient and peaceful and I call on all of us to activate that ability now.

Peace,
Alan

15 November 2019