Church Blog Upgrade

Our church now has its own site and domain name. See http://www.allsouls.org.za/.  It will have a similar feel to this one because WordPress will still be used to drive it.

News and views will no longer be posted to this site.  Previous blogs have been transferred to the new site so that its history remains intact!

Please subscribe to the new site.  See subscription box in right hand column on home page: http://www.allsouls.org.za/

Thank you!

Faith Without Deeds is Dead

On Sunday Revd Peter Russell and I swapped pulpits, which was fun! Our two parishes used to be one until our own parish, the Parish of Umhlali was formed in 1998 and Revd Colin Peattie became our first rector. Many of you have friends and links with members of the other churches. So now you have met one of the other Peters first hand.

We begin a new series for the remainder of September. For once we’re not going to focus on the gospel readings in the lectionary but on the New Testament instead, the Epistle of James. James contains some very quotable quotes: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (Ch 1 v 27). “As the body is without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (Ch 2 v 26). They’re not comfortable quotes, in fact, the Epistle of James can be distinctly uncomfortable.

Martin Luther is famously or infamously remembered for saying James was an “Epistle of Straw” and that he would not include it among his chief books. James did not sit easily with him. Luther was determined to bring to the Church the truth that we are saved by grace and grace alone (sola gratia): “Yes, dear friend, you must first possess heaven and salvation before you can do good works. Works never merit heaven; heaven is conferred purely of grace.” The Apostle Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” But James then writes awkward things like, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).

Oh dear, now what?! Come hear the sermon series:

  • 9 September: The Fruit of Listening – Doing
  • 16 September: The Fruit of Faith – Deeds
  • 23 September: The Fruit of Wisdom – Peace
  • 30 September: The Fruit of Suffering – Patience

Forgiveness of Sins People

Here is a beautiful prayer prayed by Colin Taylor at our 9am service on Sunday:

Gracious God, we thank you for seeking us and for always being near and close to us. We thank you for sending your Son Jesus to be our Good Shepherd so that we can follow him and benefit from his teachings.

Jesus Christ who changes people in the dark into people in the light. Being in the light of your Kingdom, Lord, we are alert to opportunities to bring others into your sheepfold – not just by our intentions, but by our actions – by welcoming, encouraging and supporting others.

The great thing is that we have shared the Eucharist, the bread and the wine, together, in thanksgiving and remembrance of you, Lord Jesus. We are the honoured guests, and are so grateful for the life you spent on earth, and the life you have bequeathed to us. We have heard the new song, “Let the church arise, we sing a new halleluya, let love reach the other side.”

We have received your commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves.  With love from our hearts we want to be: forgiveness of sins people, justice and peace people, truth and mercy people.We pray that this will not be just in words and thoughts, but also in our actions.

We know Abba Father, that if we listen to and learn from your Holy Spirit , we will become what we are praying for, and you our Father will be waiting to embrace us in your loving arms. Thank you gracious God. Amen.

Do This In Remembrance Of Me

Our series on Holy Communion drew to an end on Sunday. (Hope it went down well!) It was a good theme to end on: “Do This In Remembrance Of Me.”

We all take the trouble to remember certain things. A birthday. A wedding anniversary. A death anniversary. By remembering we’re saying that a person or life event had significance. By remembering we’re saying the event still has significance in the now and continues with us into our future. Nations also remember events. 21 March 1960? Sharpville Massacre that continues to be remembered as Human Rights Day. September 11? Four suicide attacks in the USA that reverberated around the world and has had ramifications on international relations ever since. 16 August 2012? It’s too early to fully understand the significance of the Marikana Masacre for our nation, but politicians (both government and Malema) are fighting to define what will be remembered and how this shapes the ANC (and our nation’s future).

Biblical remembrance has two added dimensions.

Remembrance is God directed. We remember what God has done. Remembering God at work in our past affirms God’s action in the present and makes our future alive with possibility in God’s hands. In Holy Communion we remember what God has done through an historical action in the past, the death and resurrection of Jesus. But it isn’t simply a memorial, in memory of that historic event. God’s saving action is affirmed and made real in the present. And what we live out of today, shapes our future tomorrow.

Remembrance is Child orientated. The first imperative in Deuteronomy 6 after verses 4 & 5, to love God with everything you have and are, is to impress God’s commands upon your children (verse 7). Remembrance in the Biblical festivals provide tangible, visual reminders of God’s goodness. I can imagine a little Jewish boy saying at the Feast of Tabernacles, “Dad, why are you building a booth, why are we eating under the stars?” Or at Passover, “Why is this night different to all others, why do we recline and not sit…?” Occasion is given to explain the goodness of God, to retell and relive the stories. Re-living the God stories for the sake of our children should be top of our priorities!

I find this last dimension a particular challenge. Holy Communion often seems like an adult ceremony that kids are an aside to. Much of what goes on is abstract. Normally there isn’t room for questions! In facts, kids often don’t even participate. They come at the end for a pat on the head and a blessing. One thing we did on Sunday was use the Eucharist for Children authorized by Bishop Rubin. We had a young person ask the questions,” Why do we eat bread together at this table? Why do we drink from the cup together at this table? What do we remember at this table?” Wait to see how that went down!

KwaKristu iNkosi Visioning Indaba

We recently had a KwaKristu iNkosi Visioning Workshop-Indaba.  (For those of you who are new to our church, KwaKristu iNkosi is our sister church in Nkobongo.)  KwaKristu, as it is affectionately abbreviated to, was built and dedicated in 2004, when Ven Colin Peattie was both rector of the Parish of Umhlali and Archdeacon of the North Coast region.

Parish wardens, Susan and Ann, with councillors, Bill and Peter, flew the flag for All Souls.  Rev Brian was fantastic as an interpreter and fellow facilitator.  We began with a Eucharist service. I preached and Rev Brian presided.  After the service I told a story about dreaming dreams and dreaming big!

Martin Luther King had a dream that changed a nation.  Madiba had a dream that changed a nation.  What is our dream that has the force to change our community?  The church began in Umhlali when the English settler families in the area wanted an English church = Anglican church.  St James came and went.  St Albans came and went.  All Souls next to the police station came and went.  And now we have the new All Souls….  That’s the very abridged, non dramatic version of what I told.  The punch line was that All Souls had to move beyond existing for the sake of it’s old English settler-stock families to being open to the new families moving into the area.  It has and is learning to exist for the sake of its non-members – something that can take us into uncomfortable and uncharted areas.

I asked what the story of KwaKristu is so far? Does it exist for the sake of it’s non-members?  What dreams do people have for their church?  What would it look like in 2014 (ten years on) or 2024 (twenty years on)?  People divided into
break-away groups (MU, Youth, Young Adults, Men, Sunday School, All Souls reps).  Each group discussed what they’d like to see happen at KwaKristu iNkosi.  A spokesperson then shared this with the whole congregation, facilitated by Rev Brian.

Some very interesting things emerged!

TRADITIONAL ANGLICANISM – There is a strong desire to be a “proper”, traditional, Anglican church such as you find in probably every township and rural area.  The suggestion that KwaKristu gets incense received spontaneous, loud applause!  Suggestions to get a bell, an altar rail, kneelers, larger chalice and patten all feeds into the same dream. The current ethos at KwaKristu is very similar to ours at All Souls and it doesn’t seem to find cultural resonance.  What matters is not the outward form of religion but an inward form of a vital and vibrant faith in Jesus that spills over to impact the wider community…

OWNERSHIP – A comment from nearly every group was that they wanted a space to call their own – a space dedicated to church services and not shared with the KwaKristu pre-school, which All Souls started when it built the church facility.  I think having an altar-rail will go some way to creating a sense of sacred space in the congregation’s mind. But I was wondering if one of the root causes of the lack of ownership is the perceived dominance of the pre-school in their space…

LOCAL MINISTER – “We want a priest in the area,” was one comment that I flagged in my mind.  Along with making KwaKristu more traditional, I think having a priest living in the heart of the community is key to the growth of KwaKristu.  If we could find a plot to build on or a house to buy in Nkobongo then this could become a reality.

People came away excited and positive about the emerging story at KwaKristu iNkosi church.  There are low hanging fruits that can be picked. Watch this space.

Children and Youth Indaba 2012

We had a really good Children and Youth Indaba on Saturday.

I explained a four stage Church Growth Theory Model that I had recently tabled at our previous Council meeting. I matched the transitions from a “Family-Size Church” (< 50 people) to “Pastoral Size Church” (50 to 150 people) to being on the threshold of a “Programme Size Church” (150 to 350 people) with the history of All Souls. (If you’re keeping count, the forth is a “Corporate Size Church”, but it isn’t a given we progress there. There are benefits and costs to each size.) I touched on ministers who were key to helping All Souls across the threshold into each new model. Most recently, Revd Rob Jobling was able to steer All Souls to build our new multi-purpose facilities. This has taken away many of the physical constraints that existed to becoming a Programme Sized Church. There was interaction from the floor and general confirmation of the key milestones, with some participants even remembering the life and times of All Souls under Father Joseph Stevens! (If you’re interested in this Church Growth Model, I could do a once-off special Tuesday evening talk.)

Against the backdrop of where All Souls has come from, challenges faced along the way and current (and growing) expectations that All Souls should be able to offer extensive children and youth programmes, each person was invited to jot down as many ideas as possible on “Post It” notes. Their dreams of things to see happen, with one idea per note. These were stuck up on a notice-board and clustered around common ideas such as holiday clubs, parent evangelism, full-time Children’s Pastor, age-appropriate classes at Children’s Church, youth services, camps, etc. Every idea was captured. Next, each person was given FOUR stars to vote on what they perceived to be the TOP priorities at All Souls. People could place ALL their stars on just one idea if they felt this was THE issue for them or else share them out among a range of ideas/issues. This enabled us to clearly discern the consensus of the group.

And the two priorities, standing tall above all else…drum roll please… were separate age appropriate classes (programmes) and employing a full-time Children’s pastor! Another priority that was flagged was to have holiday programmes. Not surprisingly all of these are linked to a full-time Children’s pastor. Time and again in our discussion we came back to the problem that parents (working mums, travelling dads) are very, very busy and cannot volunteer time to run effective and expansive children and youth programmes. This was confirmed by Emma Cook, our ever faithful voluntary Sunday School Co-ordinator. There is so much that can be done through a full-time Children’s Pastor, not least pastoring young families and reaching out to many of the dads who won’t darken the door of a church. A related and knock-on effect of pursuing multiple age appropriate classes, holiday programmes and Friday children’s club is the practical need to earmark Church House as a “Centre for Children and Youth Ministry”. We would be making a huge statement about our priorities as a church if we did so.

There was also a sense of urgency about these top priorities, recognising that they hold the KEY to the sustained growth of All Souls. This is not simply a nice-to-have side issue for All Souls. This is the make-or-break issue for the future of All Souls, our continued growth and the eventual re-emergence of a teenage cohort on the back of a vibrant and expansive children’s ministry.

I feel a bit like the boy coming with my lunch-box of five loaves and two fishes (you’ll understand if you were at church on Sunday). May our Lord Jesus take what we have to offer and multiply it for the sake of our youth and children, to the glory of God.

A Valuable Service To The Community

[From our pew leaflet on Sunday, 22 July 2012]

There has been no significant change in the financial sustainability of the ecumenical NGO, Umuzi Wethemba KwaJesu, fondly known to us simply as “Umuzi.”  Umuzi has offered a valuable service to the community in the arena of HIV/AIDS for almost a decade but after a valiant struggle, Umuzi will close its doors on the 1st August 2012.

THE PROCESS TO DATE

  • A financial crisis was declared after an emergency Board Meeting in October 2011.
  • Various appeals for funds were made in the local churches and in the broader community.
  • In November 2011 the Umuzi staff went onto short-time, working with reduced pay.
  • In February Umuzi returned to full-time but with reduced staff as 2 staff members who had left and retired were not replaced.
  • Some funding was received from Community Chest but was significantly less than hoped for, although gratefully received.
  • Umuzi had funding verbally confirmed by Department of Social Development but nothing  materialized despite being well into the new financial cycle.
  • Despite the Board’s best efforts to reassess, re-position, restructure, and re-capitalize, Umuzi was not securing the necessary financial resources to remain open.
  • Board Members were brought up to speed on the financial situation on Sunday, 24 June 2012.
  • The consensus of the Board was that Umuzi could not continue and, despite several interventions and fundraising appeals (the most recent being at the Pumpkin Theatre), Umuzi now had to close down.
  • It was with great sadness that the Board of Directors took the decision to close down Umuzi Wethemba kwaJesu and discussed how to responsibly undertake this task.
  • On Monday, 25 June, the Umuzi staff received a written Notice of Retrenchment.
  • On Thursday, 28 June, Cathy Bean (Deputy Chair) and Jon De Wet (Board Member) on behalf of the Board met with the Umuzi staff, while Andrew Muir (Chair) was away for three weeks leave in the UK.
  • The Board was completely transparent with the staff regarding the financial situation and the meeting went off peacefully and calmly.
  • It was negotiated with the staff that Umuzi will continue for the month of July in order to give space to close down properly, give notice to Umuzi clients and communicate news of the closure to donors.
  • Umuzi is now seeking to redistribute things with a shelf life, archive admin and financial files and this week will move out of Church House, storing everything else in the Park Home.
  • The Umuzi staff will be given notice at the end of July for August, which they will not work; instead they will receive their retrenchment packages, generously made possible by some ongoing donations and monies raised recently at the Pumpkin Theatre.
  • The doors of Umuzi at Church House will therefore be closed from the 1 August 2012.

(Our All Souls clothes distribution ministry and soup distribution ministry will continue through volunteers in our church.)  Please keep Umuzi in your prayers as this is seen through to the end of this chapter.