Thank you…


Friends,

I have always found it a strange and wonderful gift arriving at a new congregation, not completely dissimilar to the transformation of “water into wine”. I would arrive as a stranger but instantly be welcomed as family. So, what was I, stranger or family? Water or wine? It might be the difference between fact and truth. The fact was, we were strangers (we simply didn’t know each other when we met) but the deeper truth was that we were family. Family, not only because of the tradition we share but as in the deepest sense of our shared humanity. Church at its best recognises the stranger as family. Living out the truth of our human family-ness is what I would call true enlightenment. Welcoming the stranger and discovering a sister, brother, mother or father. Drawing water … and … tasting wine. For this reason, I always pray before each sermon: “Water within each of us the desire to be your faithful family forever”. Thank you for allowing me into your homes and hearts as family.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks of the agony of being called to speak a word – an uncomfortable word to the world – only to have a greater agony trying to hold it in: “If I say, I will not speak any more in his name, then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jer. 20:9). I know this damned if you do, damned if you don’t agony. To speak with one’s feeble voice or not. I have experienced it almost every Saturday night for 33 years. Maya Angelo wrote: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Up until now I have chosen the lesser agony. I will now no doubt experience the greater agony as I seek out silence and solitude.

I am grateful to the Methodist Church who trusted me to tell “the old, old story … of Jesus and his love.” I am also grateful for the responsibility and accountability that came with it. Truth be told I would not have chosen many of the places that the church sent me to, but each turned out to be unforgettably enriching as I met family across the rich diversity of this country: From the streets of Johannesburg city to Rustenburg and Mooinooi (1991), then Welkom (1995), then Midrand (1998) and finally CMM (2008).

I was 21 when I started. Looking back, I think it was quite crazy to let me loose on a congregation at that age. Yet, the other day I asked a barber how they learnt how to cut hair. I wondered if they started out practicing on wigs. The barber laughed and said – “I was thrown in the deep-end and simply told to cut a client’s hair … a real live human being. No wigs!” So, I guess this is how we learn. We learn with real live human beings. We learn by being trusted. Trusted to start. Trusted with an opportunity. Trusted to learn through doing. It’s crazy! And of course, we learn by sitting multiple classes with the great teacher called Failure, who hopefully gives us a degree in humility.

Thank you CMM for the last 15 years. It has been a tremendous joy and privilege to share life with you. Thank you for your love and care for me and for allowing me to love and care for you. A relationship of 15 years can only last with large amounts of grace and truth. Grace frees us to explore ever greater depths of truth, and truth inevitably exposes us to our need for grace. One without the other is either meaningless or mean. You have gifted me with both.

Thank you for allowing me to grow and change with you. I say this specifically in relation to preaching Sunday after Sunday. I will forever be grateful for the freedom to wrestle with the ancient texts in explorative and questioning ways in the hope to work out what it means to take Jesus’ teaching and example seriously in the world today.

Finally, a special thank you to Adrienne, Oscar and Sharon as well as all those in the Donkey Teams over the years – I am grateful to each of you.

In grace,
Alan and Jubilee

The bell, banners and blasphemy

 

Friends,

The first Yellow Banner that CMM raised was in 2011. In solidarity with The Right To Know Campaign (r2k) and many other civil society organisations CMM decided to spread the disturbing news about The Protection of Information Act, more honestly known as The Secrecy Bill. A Bill that would seriously curtail the press and punish whistle-blowers. In short, it was a law that would make it easier to lie and more difficult to speak the truth. We figured Jesus would object to it, so we objected to it.

This kick-started CMM’s Yellow Banner Campaign that would result in 18 more Yellow Banners being raised up CMM’s steeple tower, covering topics as varied as: The Arms Deal; ARVs; Xenophobia; Gender based violence; Sex Work; Homophobia; COVID; Marikana; Housing and State Capture among others.

What they all had in common was 1] an abuse of power resulting in vulnerable people becoming more vulnerable and 2] a remnant of courageous resistance. 

I am excited to let you know that a book about CMM’s Yellow Banner Campaign is about to come out. It is called The bell, banners and blasphemy. This book hopes to tell a little of CMM’s story for the past 13 years or so. The book includes large colour photos of the banners and a social and theological commentary of each Yellow Banner. There is also a photo essay of CMM’s hospitality to the refugees.

As a result of a gift, a 100% of the sales for the first 250 copies will go directly to Stepping Stones Preschool.

You will be notified of a book launch as soon as a date is confirmed. If you have any enquiries or if you would like to purchase the book or host a discussion / launch, please email: aslowwalkbooks@gmail.com

In grace,
Alan