At the moment there is not much by way of an update regarding the refugee situation in and around the Church. Please refer to my previous update on the 10th January below if you have not seen it, because everything I wrote then still applies.
In this age of social media there is heightened pressure to put out constant updates. I feel this pressure. Yet I have decided only to speak to the media or write an update when I am at least sure that what I say will be helpful to the situation (and particularly the most vulnerable within the situation) and if I am not sure it will be helpful then in the very least I need to be sure that what I say will not cause any harm. This is my overriding responsibility and that of the Church. It was however good to meet last Saturday and Sunday at Observatory Methodist Church where I could give a less time constrained update with those of you who were present.
The issues of health and safety within the sanctuary remain and therefore so does the Church’s request for people to vacate. The fact that people continue to stay is due to a mixture of different reasons. I am aware of some of the reasons but almost certainly not all of them. It will not be helpful for me to discuss the reasons that I am aware of on this forum, but just to say that one size does not fit all.
Please be aware that this situation is fertile ground for rumours. Hold what you believe the truth to be lightly until you are 100% sure. Please be cautious not to jump to any fixed conclusions. Some people spread rumours unknowingly and out of ignorance while others use them deliberately to take advantage of the situation for their own ends.
It has been disturbing to witness the revolving door of ‘promise and blame’ throughout this situation. False promises are made and when they are not realised then someone or something is made to be the scapegoat to carry the blame. The scapegoat is cast away and then the cycle begins again. Promise waters hope and blame deals with disappointment. The revolving door keeps turning.
One rumour I have had to address this week is that the Church information cards that include the Church contact details on one side and the words: “You are Born in Love, by Love, for Love” on the other side, is an NGO membership card. The rumour is that this supposed NGO is able to help the refugees. Yet no such NGO exists at all. It is understandable as much as it is sad, that desperate people will grasp onto the smallest sign of hope and hold onto it for dear life.
It goes without saying that with each day the desperation of the refugees increases. The conditions they are enduring are terrible. Their struggles as well as that of the traders and businesses around the Church increases daily. And I am sure we ourselves have felt many mixed feelings over this time as well as a growing concern over the conundrum of care.
There are many layers of concern in this situation to consider, and there are also many moving parts that all need to be in sync with each other if a peaceful way forward is to be secured. By moving parts I mean the different Government departments as well as International and Local Organisations. Everyone is also waiting for the High Court to hear the City of Cape Town and the Refugee matter on the 28th January.
So, with everyone we wait, and while we wait, we hold onto the dignity of everyone in our hearts. This demands we keep our eyes and hearts open. This is our work. Our inner work. Our true work. This is eye work and heart work. It is the work of keeping the dignity of all in focus and held in love. To keep our eyes and hearts open is not easy. Fear and prejudice blind our eyes and fear, anger, resentment and indifference close our hearts. This is the blindness of the sighted and there are none so blind as those of us who think we see. This is the blindness Jesus came to heal and the hearts of stone Jesus came to roll away.
With different words but with the same intention, this is the exact work we committed ourselves to as a community during last week’s Covenant Service. I remind you of our covenant:
Beloved in Christ, let us once again claim for ourselves this Covenant which God has made with God’s people, and take upon us the yoke of Christ.
To take Jesus’ yoke upon us means that we are content for him to appoint us our place and work, and himself to be our reward.
Christ has many services to be done: some are easy, others are difficult; some bring honour, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests, others are contrary to both; in some we may please Christ and please ourselves, in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves. Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.
Therefore, let us make this Covenant of God our own. Let us give ourselves to God, trusting in God’s promises and relying on God’s grace.
Lord God, Holy Lord, since you have called us through Christ to share in this gracious Covenant, we take upon ourselves with joy the yoke of obedience and, for the love of you, engage ourselves to seek and do your perfect will.
We are no longer our own but yours. I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing,
put me to suffering*; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty;
let me have all things, let me have nothing; I fully and freely yield all
things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the Covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
*Please note: The traditional words, “Put me to doing, put me to suffering,” do not mean that we ask God to make us suffer. Rather, they express our desire to live faithfully regardless of whether there is suffering involved or not.