The Shepherd Politics of Abundant Life

May, 03 2020 Alan Storey: The Shepherd Politics of Abundant Life. [Psalm 23; Ezekiel 34Acts 2:42-47; John 10:1-11. Also in PDF format.

 

Grace and peace to you,

Lock-down tiredness and other puzzlements and paradoxes …

Days during lockdown kind of roll into each other without any difference or distinction. It doesn’t seem to make the slightest difference whether the day is a Tuesday or a Saturday. There is movement but no progress. As if Sisyphus got hold of the calendar. I wonder if this is one of the reasons why many people have felt so tired during Lock-down? A tiredness that seems out of place because there is no glaringly obvious reason for the exhaustion. Some of us can’t point to anything we have done to make ourselves tired, yet tired we feel.

I wonder if the exhaustion results from absorbing the suffering and struggle around the world and throughout the country without being able to do too much about it. Feeling like an insignificant drop in the ocean. We have constant input about what is happening all over but like the Dead Sea very little outflow, so for most of the time we are just left to hold it. It feels like a dead weight. We might name this dead weight “Overwhelm”. And if we put “Overwhelm” down because it is too heavy then another weight steps in to replace it called “Guilt”. After all, how can we be chilling while others are crying? The knowledge of the vastly different social conditions of Lock-down weigh heavily and yet does not stop us from moaning about the trivial.

Some of us wish we could just stop eating while others wish for food to eat. Some of us share space with the one we love while others with the one we resent or fear.

Waiting on tender hooks is tiring. Waiting for the Tsunami of death to knock us off our feet as it has done in other countries. Some have already been swallowed up by the economic Tsunami – having lost their business and means of income and sit frozen in trauma. For these it’s the ‘cure’ that has taken their life rather than the disease.

Meetings via ZOOM are also said to be a reason for tiredness, because you literally have people “in your face”. https://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/zoom-fatigue-video-conferencing?utm_source=TreeHugger+Newsletters&utm_campaign=150c8b8395-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_11_16_2018_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_32de41485d-150c8b8395-243784813

For some of us the peace and quiet is driving us bats, while others covet a single second of silence because we have children climbing up the walls. The desire for connection with people does not correlate into having the energy to make a phone call.

You have probably got your own Lock-down puzzlements and paradoxes. My invitation to you is that you honour your puzzlements and paradoxes without censor or judgement. Be attentive to them all. To deny our own experience is no less violent than to dismiss the experience of others. When in doubt, go with ‘both / and’ rather than ‘either /or’.

Grace,
Alan

Notices

  • We would like to have a “test” CMM gathering via ZOOM (Not more than 30 minutes. Hopefully not too exhausting!) at 8pm on Thursday evening 7th May. If you would like to participate please send your email address to Adrienne: welcome@cmm.org.za It will be good to check in with each other.
  • Thank you to those of you seeking to support Stepping Stones Children’s Centre. Here are the bank details:
    Stepping Stones Children’s Centre
    NEDBANK
    St. George’s
    Branch Code 100 909
    Account Number 1028 204 973

 

Promises for the Resurrection Journey

Grace and peace to you all,

African Harrier-Hawk

One of the joys during lockdown is to have seen an African Harrier-Hawk fly up and down Church Street on three separate occasions. When one is only used to seeing pigeons in the city, the wingspan of a hawk is very impressive. While perched on the roof top of Deluxe Coffee it ate its prey, which I guess is some consolation for the Coffee shop being closed.

Some of you have asked about the state of the Sanctuary. The work of restoring the Sanctuary is starting slowly. We will communicate with you in the near future about what needs to be done and what we will need in order to do it. After the clean-up and stripping bare of the Sanctuary, that was enabled by a generous donation, we presently have electricians working on the electrics to make sure that it’s all in safe working order as well as plumbers enabling the bathrooms to once again be functional. This is all we are really able to do at the moment due to the lockdown and our budget.

Restoring the Sanctuary is going to be a big task. It will also take money. We are, however, very mindful of the fact that the Covid-19 Lockdown has not only reduced many people’s financial means to contribute to our situation, but created widespread and urgent human need that demands the generosity and priority of us all. In the very least I want to encourage you to keep paying people in your employ. There are also many online opportunities to support food distribution and not least to contribute to the national Solidarity Fund (which to date has received over 75 000 individual contributions). Think too of those small businesses that lost all income the instant the lockdown occurred. Think of a hairdresser for example. Perhaps you can pay your hairdresser in advance to enable them to pay their bills in the meantime. We all need to generously trust and be creative, doing to others as we would love them to do to us.

At CMM we continue to commit to paying people in our employ (permanent and casual, working and not working) as well as a commitment to the staff of Stepping Stones Children’s Centre as the need arises. We have entered into compassionate rental agreements with our tenants with the hope of enabling them to see this difficult period through. We are not sure where all this will take us, but we are committed to continue to care for those dependent on us as comprehensibly as we can. Thank you to all of you for your continued support and generosity that enable us to take these steps.

According the President’s address to us all on Thursday 23rd April, we will not be gathering as a community any time soon. Lockdown eases only slightly from the 1st May. We are in the process of exploring fresh ways to connect as a community.

Please do communicate with Sharon, Adrienne or me, if you are going into hospital over this time. Even though we are still not allowed to visit, it can be a source of strength to know that others know where you are and are with you in prayer.

Grace, Alan

Today you can either listen to the reflection – click on the heading below:

Promises for the Resurrection Journey on the road back to Jerusalem

OR spend time reading it – click on PDF.

 

[Luke 24:13-35]

 

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

 

 

CMM Update on the Refugee Situation


The latest sermon:

November, 10 2019 Alan Storey: The foreigner is not foreign; and the danger of becoming what we hate. [Leviticus 19:33-34; Luke 9:51-56; Luke 10:25-37]


The last few days have included many discussions regarding the refugees staying in and around CMM. These dialogues have been hosted and facilitated by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). They have included the leaders of the refugees at the church as well as a large number of other stakeholders including: UNHCR, Government: Department of Home Affairs, Premier’s Office, Department for Social Development, Department of Health, Police, and many civil society organisations intimately involved with refugee concerns. I am not personally involved in these discussions.

We must remember that though the problem of the present situation demands an urgent solution – it is itself a symptom of much larger and equally urgent problems. It is these systemic problems that must be urgently addressed for there to be a lasting solution for all refugees in South Africa and not only the people in and around CMM. So, it is a balancing act of dealing with both the immediate and the long-term issues.

I trust the people involved in the facilitation of these discussions and hope that a way forward will soon become clear.

My first hope is that the way forward will secure protection and justice for refugees across this country. In the very least, the treatment refugees receive from Home Affairs must improve drastically to become just and compassionate. Let every official at Home Affairs remember: “When a foreigner resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the foreigner. The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as a citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself…” Leviticus 19: 33-34.

My second hope is that the way forward includes the vacating of CMM. There are a number of reasons for this, but please note it is not “so the church can get back to normal” as some people suggest. As church we exist to care for the vulnerable and persecuted. Caring is our normal. This does not mean we are setting up a shelter – we are not – everyone is aware that this is a temporary situation. A temporary situation that resulted from the violent dispersing of protesting refugees by the police.

The most important reason why the way forward must help people to vacate CMM is safety.

The risk of a fire in the sanctuary remains. Plainly put: if there is a fire, people will die. There are simply not enough exits for the amount of people inside the church to vacate fast enough. This is especially since so many of those inside the sanctuary are young children and babies. Furthermore, the pews act like crowd barricades making quick movement impossible. It is a dangerous situation, and people don’t think it will happen until it does! The City Fire Department did an inspection on the 12th November. No doubt we will hear from them soon – but one doesn’t need to work for the Fire Department to know what their instruction will be.

I also share the concern of the many traders in the area who are experiencing a loss in business, especially the traders on Greenmarket Square itself. This is another reason why a speedy solution be found. These are people who themselves can least afford any loss of trade.

Finally, thank you for your continued care and concern regarding those sheltering in and around CMM. Forgive us for not being able to give a neat list in response to your question: “what can I do to help?” Things are more complicated and nuanced than a list is able to capture. For example: There is a fine line between providing caring hospitality on the one hand and running the risk of setting up a “permanent shelter” on the other hand. Likewise, we need to respond to health care needs, yet at the same time avoid setting up a “clinic”. To this end, regarding health care – St John’s have been providing care at the Church while also enabling people to have easy access to a local government clinic. This access is made possible by the direct intervention of the District Six Community Day Care Centre and the Province’s Head of Community Health for which we are very grateful. In this way we don’t duplicate services already made available by the State. But as I have said, it is a fine line to walk.

Grace,
Alan Storey
13 November 2019

 

 

The latest sermon:

November, 10 2019 Alan Storey: The foreigner is not foreign; and the danger of becoming what we hate. [Leviticus 19:33-34; Luke 9:51-56; Luke 10:25-37]


Grace and peace to you,

Thank you to all of you who have assisted over the last couple of days at CMM – making sure that the people who have sought refuge in the sanctuary since Wednesday 30th October have been cared for. (I am sure by now you have seen many of the reports – there are a few links below.) The wounded, injured, traumatised and sick have been attended to with respect and kindness.

CMM’s gratitude to the many individuals and a number of different organisations, both religious and civil society who have responded generously and thoughtfully. Gift of the Givers have been amazing. Health services have been coordinated and stabilised. CMM is grateful for the donations that people have made, enabling us to provide necessities.

But please note: Though we are grateful for the initial response of generosity we want to be clear that CMM is not asking for any donations and nor are we raising any money on behalf of anyone or any organisation. For the moment we have what we need due to the fact that the load is shared among a number of different organisations. We must also be careful not to be naïve “do-gooders” removing agency from people and creating unhelpful dependency. This can be a fine line to hold. As we offer solidarity and support, we must respect people enough to carry the struggles of their own lives.

As CMM we are also very clear that this is a temporary “safe place” and we hope and encourage all role players to seek a solution that will include vacating CMM. We are very aware that we are not the solution to this crisis. At best we offer a moment of calm in which we hope people can find one another to talk, listen and negotiate. As I said on Sunday, it takes courage to protest, but it also takes courage to negotiate. This is needed at all levels of this dispute. Refusing to talk and negotiate is never helpful.

Together with the leadership of CMM I am very concerned that though CMM may have been a safe place last Wednesday from the police violence – it is increasingly becoming unsafe, mainly due to the health risks naturally associated with an over-crowded and under-ventilated space – not to mention our complete lack of adequate toilet and bathroom facilities. The health risk is especially high among the young children, including many babies, as well as pregnant mothers. And of course fire risk is heightened by the over-crowding. For this reason, it has been clearly stated that no one is allowed to sleep in any of the upstairs areas of the sanctuary and there is strictly no cooking or smoking allowed inside the sanctuary at any time. It has also been repeatedly made clear that the doors of the Sanctuary on the Longmarket Street side must remain open at all times.

We are trying as best we can to listen carefully and respond thoughtfully to the many concerns and challenges. These matters are never simple. There are layers within layers being played out. We must be able to hold more than one truth at a time. In short, we need the gift of discernment to navigate it all.

Sunday services and all other church activities continue as usual. For the sake of people’s dignity, we ask again that you please do not take photographs or videos.

Thank you for your willingness to be on this journey as we seek to do to others as we would have them do to us.

Grace,
Alan
6th November 2019

2019 10 30 TimesLive

Evictions from the Waldorf Arcade

Bureaucratic hell brought on the Waldorf Arcade refugee outrage

Methodists open their hearts as refugees, congregants share Sunday services

How will the boy who escaped to Tion remember South Africa?

The perfection of God’s love is the choice not to love

November, 03 2019 Alan Storey: Let us remember, and not forget. [Deuteronomy 15:7-11; 1 John 4:16-21; Matthew 25:31-45]


I recently participated in CMM’s Manna & Mercy course. It was an eyeopener. We learned new techniques to interpret the Bible, which included spending time understanding the context and asking more questions when we encounter things that we don’t understand. We learned to wear our Jesus lenses when reading the Bible. It gave love a whole new meaning. The perfection of God’s love is the choice not to love was a key sentence that stuck with me. In other words, true love can only happen when we have the choice not to love. Seeing God’s love in this way is very powerful and made me reflect on the parent-child relationship, which often lacks the choice not to love. Let me explain.

It is natural for us to think that children must love their parents. Parents are the ones that bring children into the world. They raise them, feed them, give significant financial resources, sacrifice time and other things. Furthermore, we grew up with the belief that the Bible told us in the ten commandments to ‘Honour your father and your mother’ which was used in particular by our parents and society when we misbehaved or seemed disrespectful.

Applying the newly learned Bible reading skills, we learned, that the commandments were written in the context of a vulnerable and traumatised society that was trying to protect in particular the vulnerable. It is therefore not helpful to think that honouring your parents refers to a little child (who is already more vulnerable than any adult) asking it to honour their parent. However, if this commandment relates instead to the adult-child and old-parent, it matches the context. It relates to the construct when parents get old and vulnerable and need the protection and support from their children. Seeing it in this light enables us to free the parent-child relationship from guilt and compulsive thankfulness.

On 2 November, we celebrated International Children’s Day, and I would like to encourage us to reflect on the burden parents and society put on children. Instead of liberating their love and enabling and empowering children to live in love, by love and for love – we put a compulsion into the parent/caregiver-child relationship. In most instances, children do love their parents. Even neglected or abused children love their parents. The obligation to love or not having the choice not to love often plays a part in why abused children find it difficult to be angry with their abuser parent. We should not be driven by our fear of losing the love of our children or becoming less important in their lives or fearing that after ‘all we did for them’ we get nothing back. We should rather have sleepless nights asking ourselves how do we teach them love that comes without expectation? How do we teach them the unconditional Jesus way of love? Surely not by filling our relationships with expectations and obligations. I know many people who in their adult life have challenging relationships with their parents. They might ‘get along’, but the relationships are marked by a lot of anger, hurt and misunderstandings. Let’s give the children generation of today a chance to learn free love by allowing them not to love us. Our children (biological or related) do not owe us anything. But we owe them the choice to love and not to love – enabling true and free love.

Carolin Gomulia