Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Somerset West - living our Missional Calling

Sunday 8th November entry.

20mm of rain yesterday – it must have been far more today – this is summer they tell me!

Well, I attended my longest ever service today at four and a half hours! Normally they say it’s three, which is OK, but when we got to four hours I was ready for a drink, even if I could cope without any lunch - after a good breakfast! The main reason was it was appreciation Sunday – so many speeches about the pastor. What I loved was the singing. We were in a 8m x 6m room with a tin roof. The rain was almost deafening at times, but you could only hear it when we weren’t singing! The translated the sermon and main points from Khosi, which made life easier. They had an outside speaker booked otherwise I’d have been on – quite glad really I was just asked to bring a greeting and short message (which it was honest). OK I said four and half hours, but I didn’t include the pre-service warm-up songs. The next person who moans about a long service back home …..!

In the photo above you'll their church building (rear) and Lucas' home (foreground) - did I hear anyone complain about their manse?

Basically, after church I had to collect my stuff and move down to Somerset West ready for the morning. Sounds nice doesn’t it – but don’t honestly know yet as it’s so dark. On way out of Cape Town not sure what had gone on, but the guy on the floor had a lot of blood on him and looked pretty dead - the puddle of rainwater looked horribly bloody to me. The police were there – who knows? Everyone white tells me of the crime problems – difficult to work out what’s actual and what’s perceived, but some of the stories are not good. WE've heard the headlines in the UK, but it'll be interesting to try and suss what it's really like. Managed to contact Maggie on Skype once arrived though – yippee internet access here.

Monday 9th November entry

Started conference today – Living our missional calling. We speak the same language – well, apart from Afrikaans & Khosa. Mostly bi-lingual though so no real problem and de la Harpe ('from the Harp' – cool name) has translated anything I might have missed.

This is a review more than a conference and consists of those who’ve been engaged with South African PMC. Over 200 congregations have now participated in five years, which is a bolder start than our UK pilot just begun with 8. Frederick Marias, however, tells me we’re wise – could have fooled me!

There’s a lovely tone been set, which has translated from words into reality and is refreshing to be a part of. The invitation was given to be a gift to one another in three ways – to listen deeply to one another, to affirm one another and to be open to surprises. This has resulted in providing a safe place in which people feel free to share and has a wholesome feel to it.

We’re using Luke 24: 13-36 as our text as we dwell in the word. For those not familiar with this I warmly recommend it – those who’ve connected with us via PMC and/or Imagine in WEBA, however, will be surprised to see a new text!

Some of the story here has a familiar ring to it and I’m not sure whether to be encouraged by the familiarity, or not. We’ve struggled to get churches willing to risk the PMC journey with us and some of the same reasoning why folk backed off has been true here also. They seemed to be more successful in recruitment though, so is there something even more suspicious in the british psyche?

One of the big issues most pastors have with PMC seems to be because it doesn’t provide the answers ready packaged – they want to see more for their commitment etc. On the other hand, people complain about pre-packaged answers. On the one hand we say we’ll do it ourselves, but on the other hand we don’t produce much ‘it’, or we continue to work harder at what clearly hasn’t been working for a ling time.

It was quite poignant to recognise the Berlin wall fell 20 years ago today and set off a series of events around the worlds – not least here in South Africa, which led to the release of Nelson Mandela and a new era of Government. This was likened to those times when the kingdom of God breaks in and takes us on a journey – we can either resist/ignore it, or be converted by it. Much of these days will be taken up with seeking to discern where and how the kingdom is breaking through and whether we are being changed by it. There’s a healthy note being struck between our own lives as individuals and the outworking of discovering what God is up to in a congregational context.

An underlying issue seems to be hidden in many comments – the unity, or lack of, between the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) & the Uniting Reformed Church – perhaps inevitably there is a colour distinction between these two groups. Clearly some would dearly love to see a unification whereas others seem to back off. The Baptist scene is little different – we have a Baptist Union of South Africa (predominantly white) and a Convention (predominantly black). It would be easy to criticise, but this is a complex place – not been here long, but I’ve worked that one out.

Had a good chat with two cynical electricity workers who reckon the security business is all about job creation – not sure how that would go down with some people I’ve met!

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