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

In good faith …

Friends,

I have wanted to introduce you to The Red Hand Files for a while now. The Red Hand Files are written by Nick Cave – a boldly creative musician and all-round wonderfully wise human. The Red Hand Files are his replies to questions that have been sent to him concerning anything and everything.

This last week in issue #212 he was asked by Laura in the USA: “Is it better to keep quiet or to speak one’s mind?” And Ray from the UK asked: “I have heard you mention “good faith conversations” several times now. What is a good faith conversation and how do you have one?” Here is Nick’s reply:

Dear Laura and Ray,

A good faith conversation begins with curiosity. It looks for common ground while making room for disagreement. It should be primarily about exchange of thoughts and information rather than instruction, and it affords us, among other things, the great privilege of being wrong; we feel supported in our unknowing and, in the sincere spirit of inquiry, free to move around the sometimes treacherous waters of ideas. A good faith conversation strengthens our better ideas and challenges, and hopefully corrects, our low-quality or unsound ideas.

I have learned that it’s best to retract, disengage and to change the subject once a conversation ceases to be in good faith. In general, I have found it to be a waste of time to expend too much energy on someone whose mind is fully made up, who does not understand the nature of conversation and the true value of disagreement. To me, it seems a kind of inverse metric often applies to these kinds of conversations – the shriller, more strident and more certain your interlocutor, the less they tend to know on the subject. I say this with a fair amount of discomfort because there are times when I have been that self-righteous person. Who hasn’t? Who hasn’t felt that near erotic charge when the wind is in the sails of a subject we know little about? As we grow into ourselves, hopefully we learn the folly of that.

A good faith conversation understands fundamentally that we are all flawed and prone to the occasional lamentable idea. It understands and sympathises with the common struggle to articulate our place in the world, to make sense of it, and to breathe meaning into it. It can be illuminating, rewarding and of great value – a good faith conversation begins with curiosity, gropes toward awakening and retires in mercy.

Love, Nick

In a world filled with twitter jabs and clickbait headlines, and where the point of so much public conversation is to score points, may we all be given the grace to have “good faith conversations”. The goodness of one’s Faith depends on it and so does Life on earth.

With 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