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

 

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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

 

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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

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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

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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

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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

 

 

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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

 

 

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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?

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