2021 05 09 Alan Storey
Peeling Back Prejudice. Peter’s Process.
Vandana Shiva: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Forest
By now you would have heard that President Ramaphosa announced that places of worship may reopen with a limit of 50 people or less when the country moves into Level 3 on 1st June 2020.
I know that we have all missed gathering together during the Covid-19 Lockdown. It will certainly be a wonderful celebration when we do gather together under one roof. I look forward to that day as much as you do, but at CMM we will not be doing so just yet.
At this time, the most Christ-like (life-giving) thing we can do as CMM, is to continue not to gather in person.
There is still much we do not know about Covid-19, but what we do know is that increased gatherings of people, increase the potential for the virus to spread. Therefore, if meeting as a congregation endangers people’s lives, we will not meet. “There is life and death before you, choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
We are very fortunate not to be faced with the ethical conundrum that many sectors are faced with at the moment. For many the continued Lockdown means economic collapse and family hunger and therefore for them choosing life involves a painfully difficult decision. They are stalked by both disease and hunger. Whatever they decide carries high risk. Therefore, all the more reason why those sectors with less painful choices, make the least risky decisions. Our continued aim is surely to spare the health services as much as we can.
It is worth repeating that we are not deciding whether to open the Church or not. The Church, as a community, was never closed under Lockdown and therefore does not require opening. We are deciding about opening a building and as many have said, we do not need a building to pray or praise.
The question, “is now the time we are reopening CMM?” sounds very much like the question that the disciples asked Jesus in last week’s scripture reading (Acts 1:9). Jesus told them that there were more important things to focus on than dates and times. Instead he invited them to be witnesses to his life-giving ways wherever they were. Similarly, we are invited to witness to justice, mercy and humility wherever we are. When we do this, we are an open church. When we don’t do this, even if the doors of our building are open, we are a closed church.
An open church opens others to life. A small example of this may include CMM’s decision this past week to assist all the traders outside our office block in Church Street to re-open. We will be assisting them with “seed finance” as well as helping them meet the Level 3 regulations. In this regard, let me tell you about Max. Over the years I have watched Max grow his fruit selling business. He began with a few bananas and apples a couple of years ago. As his business has grown, he arrives to set up his stall every morning at around 05h30 and packs up after dark each evening. He is the inspirational epitome of hard work. Just before Lockdown his fruit stall was a beautiful rainbow of nourishing colours shading under two umbrellas. Sadly, fruit doesn’t last too long. Max lost around R6000 of stock due to the Lockdown. Next week we help Max open again. Wherever we are, may we look for opportunities to help people like Max to open again. An open Church opens others to life.
An open Church opens us to the dignity of all. I hope that our very brief experience of not being able to gather together will sensitise us to the pain of those who have seldom experienced the Church as open. To this day LGBQTI people are not fully accepted in many churches. The building is open, but the community is closed, resulting in fearful and closeted Lockdown for years if not forever. An open Church is a radically welcoming community that celebrates the sacred worth of everyone. An open Church opens us to the dignity of all.
Let us reflect more on what it means to be a church that is open. I hope that by using the lens of Pentecost, we can continue this conversation on Sunday at 11h11 during our CMM Chat via zoom. If you would like to be part of this, please email: email@example.com for the link.
On Thursday I attended a meeting at the Church of Reconciliation in Manenberg. Faith leaders and civil society groups were addressed by Fr. Donovan and other community leaders about the gang violence in the area. The complex web of interlinked causes was despairingly heavy to hold.
A trauma counsellor spoke of how in the upcoming school holidays they will take 120 learners out of Manenberg for trauma counselling. She said, “But when we ask principals to send us learners who are traumatised the principal says, ‘take everyone in my school’, so we have to limit it to the extremely traumatised.” In the recent exams used to evaluate schools (for future state support and funding) teachers have noted that learners cannot concentrate for longer than four minutes, “so how is this going to affect the schools in the future?”. While listening to the trauma counsellor all I could think of was that she herself was traumatised and should be booked off, but instead she will be with the “extremely traumatised.” In this context there is no such thing as “post traumatic”, only “continuous traumatic”.
Another leader responded to the suggestion about “getting together to talk” with, “but what if they don’t know how to express their emotions? On a scale of 0-10 the anger levels are at 9.9. All you have to do is look at someone in the wrong way and it can trigger off a fight. We need to be taught how to express ourselves without violence. We have to be taught how to channel our anger.” He spoke about how some school playing areas have been re-fenced and in the process made smaller, “so now if there is no room for them to kick a ball — who’re they going to kick?” And what is one meant to do with the staggering figure of over 60% learner dropout in some schools — especially grades 5 through 9?
We heard how the gangs have divided the community but were also told in no uncertain terms how the faith communities don’t help matters because of how divided they are themselves. We learnt how some faith communities bury their heads in the sand while others take sides in the conflict.
What should haunt us is the fact that if even a tiny proportion of the violence in Manenberg (and other areas) had taken place in one of the table-mountain-hugging-suburbs it would have resulted in a national emergency. How violence is seen to be “normal” in some areas is for us to shamefully confess.
As the depths of deathliness was being shared with us — I noticed the banner on the wall above where we were sitting. It read: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”. So aware of our own powerlessness this was a welcome word. And when I think about it I already saw hints of the Spirit’s empowering in the fiery passion of a community leader deeply ‘in love with’ and ‘in grief for’ his community and his powerful refusal to settle for what is instead of for what should be.
Remi Kanazi is a New York-based Palestinian poet, spoken-word artist, activist and author who is a guest of the Tri Continental Film Festival (TCFF) and whose work includes being the Author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (2011), and Editor of The Anthology of Hip-Hop, Poets for Palestine (2008). He will be in Cape Town on Heritage Day.
Date & Time: 24 September at 18:00
What: Poetry Session
Where: Lookout Hill, Khayelitsha, Cape Town
Directions: Head towards airport along N2, take Mew Way off-ramp from N2, turn right at the top of the off-ramp (to go over the bridge) you will come to a set of robots at the entrance to Khayelitsha, continue until you reach four way stop, turn left into Spine Road, on the right hand-side is the destination (Lookout Hill yellow-brownish face brick complex with a City of Cape Town logo.)
Hosts: Open Shuhada Street South Africa
Contact: 082 042 6120
Twitter hashtags: @OpenShuhada #RemiKanazi #Palestine
For more information: Luzuko Pupuma on 021 423 3089 / 081 504 4970 / e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org