Immanuel (He Is Called)

An original Christmas song inspired by Isaiah 61 and Isiaah 9.
May you know God with us this season, even in the midst of all the chaos happening across the world.

Advent Kids Video – Week 4

Advent Kids Video – Week 4

In case you don’t get a chance to go to church this season, here’s a short children’s introduction to the season of Advent. In week 4 we talk about what brings us Peace.

https://youtu.be/Z1IwcfDae7M

Advent Kids Video – week 3

Advent Week 3

In case you don’t get a chance to go to church this season, here’s a short children’s introduction to the season of Advent. In week 3 we talk about what brings us Joy.

https://youtu.be/nKvwGqK6H0Q

The Young Leaders Colab

The Young Leaders Colab

Exploring faith and life

The team of Youth Pastors in the Parish of St. John’s have been on a deeply transformative journey over the last 3 years, much because of our time at the SJLA. Questions about discipleship, faithfulness and context have emerged, and together we have wrestled with what it means to follow Jesus faithfully in a fragmented city like Cape Town. The important role of leadership has come into sharper focus for us and in our wrestle we have discovered that leadership requires an address, it has to find location somewhere and has to be an active practice of action and reflection. As a team we recognised the need to be having these conversations with our young people as an imperative of our discipleship task. We recognised the need to foster spaces where young leaders could consider how their faith in Jesus helped them and us navigate really significant social challenges within our society. Our picture of God has certainly expanded over the last few years, our relationships have deepened and we are discovering healthy ways to collaborate as we pursue being one Parish with multiple stories.

This journey is what we wanted to invite others on, a journey that would deepen our theological reflection and grow our discipleship. This was essentially the start of the Young Leaders Colab, a 14 week leadership journey for those 16 – 22. YLC was birthed out of the desire to grow young leaders in community. We designed and covered 5 modules that included exploring our stories, unpacking the idea of collaborative leadership and considering the significance and process of critical thinking. We also looked at the spiritual practise of friendship and explored ways to foster a new imagination. The rhythm of meetings meant that we met for two consecutive weeks and then had an off week – so as not to rush the process but to create time for reflection. Every week we gathered (online) we started our time together looking at the life of Jesus and in particular , we camped in the Gospel of Luke reflecting on 10 movements of Jesus growing a deeper and more faithful picture of discipleship and the call to follow him here in our world.

25 young leaders joined the YLC journey from across the Parish and St. Peters. It was a mixed group of people from across socio-economic, cultural, racial and gender divides. It meant that young leaders could reflect on their own experiences in this city but also that of others – could share about their communities and the schools they attend and places they frequent and explore their own theology and how that influences how they live in this world. For us this was only the beginning of a long walking together in discipling and growing leaders for a City in great contestation. In the midst of a very trying and challenging year, these 14 weeks brought me great delight and hope. I am so thankful for the Youth Pastors team in this Parish – we do have some really phenomenal (younger) leaders: who think deeply, who love God above all else, who are actively discipling others in their following of Jesus and who want to be faithful in their leading in this city. It is beautiful to bear witness to their formation.

Blessings

Keegan Davids

Parish Youth Pastor

You can watch the 5-part YLC series on YouTube here.

Advent Kids Video Series – Week 2

Parish Worship Nights

The Parish Worship Night collaborations have emerged from a number of stories that have somehow come together at a time when we have been forced to be away from each other and stay in our corners rather than do something new and fresh. Some of those stories are being able to lead worship at different churches in the parish, young people gatherings and camps, staff prayer mornings, staff retreats and lots of other opportunities to have different people from all over the parish leading and worshiping together.

When Covid hit and things started to move online, there was a Good Friday Service that had been put together by the Parish Leadership Team, where all the Ministers shared on ‘Jesus’ Seven Words from the Cross’ and different worship leaders took part in the service. This was one of the most beautiful things to witness, as it gave a picture of “One Church with Six Expressions”. That was followed by a Worship Night that we premiered on Easter Sunday. And we followed that up with our first online Parish Worship Night on Pentecost.

At the time we recorded remotely and sent each other the music recordings and videos which were synced and edited together to try and make them sound decent. This evolved to what we now are now doing monthly, with in-person filming and recording, observing all Covid protocols. We hope to move to some sort of live streaming events soon.

But the Parish Worship Night is not just about a bunch of people who love Jesus and music, coming together to worship, and inviting those watching to join in – although it is all of those things too! It’s also about a variety of styles of music, leadership, experience and theology coming together, being embraced and challenged. We have had some meaningful engagements through devotion, conversation, prayer and we’ve also had new songs being written and shared over the past few months. In addition, we’ve started reading and engaging with a helpful book that focuses on diverse worship –The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, by Sandra Maria Van Opstal.

And so the Parish Worship Night has been a catalyst for more collaboration and exploration of skill sharing, exchange in musicians and singers across the Parish, song writing and developing a theology for our worship as Capetonians and South Africans that is different to other parts of the world. That has included challenging the style and language we have adopted formerly without questioning what it means for the communities we lead.

What we have witnessed and been part of, within and outside of our monthly gatherings, are a bunch of people who love God and so, too, love people, and have met through this common love for leading ourselves and others in worship. For the November collaboration, we managed to have a socially-distanced meal together as tangible way to be with each other around the same table because we actually also want to, as our friendships deepen.

written by Charlie Alexander
Youth Worker, St Peter’s Mowbray

My Parish Rector swan song – 2020-11-23

(An edited version of Duncan’s final report as Parish Rector and Team leader to Parish Council)

I look back on the past 31 years in the Parish with profound gratitude to God for the privilege I have had of leading Christ Church for 23 years and the Parish for the past 8 years. When I say it has been a privilege, I mean it. This is an amazing parish, unique in its make-up of six churches, the Warehouse and the SJLA and our shared heritage and ethos as Evangelical, Anglican, Charismatic and Missional.

Allow me to share three highlights and three challenges that need to be grasped.


Planting CHS


Three things of note emerged, following what was termed the Toronto Blessing which broke upon the Parish in 1995. The first Alpha course was run; a number of people went into full time mission work of various kinds; the giving went up; and CHS was planted in 2000. I have written about this in the CCK Centenary book. CHS, now well established and embarking on a frightening and exciting building project is now a vibrant 20 year old full of passion and energy.


The Warehouse


Another aspect of the renewal that God brought was the start of what we called Ministry Among the Poor (MAP), spear-headed by Elizabeth Clack.

This, along with the weeks of generosity, gave birth to the Warehouse, with Craig Stewart being appointed as Warehouse manager in July 2002;  he and Elizabeth nurtured the infant ministry, housed in the double garage at Christ Church Centre.

The Warehouse has grown and expanded, reviewed its strategy, adapted and become a beacon of hope and innovative engagement that has international recognition. The vision of seeing the church of Jesus actively living out the peace and justice of God for the world is expressed in the support they give to local congregations, enabling dialogue, facilitating collaboration and inspiring  hope-filled imagination that leads to action.


The St John’s Leadership Academy


We launched the SJLA in January 2016. It has been an exciting journey over these past five years and I grateful for all that God has done and the opportunity afforded me to lead the SJLA.

In 2016 and 2017 we were very much still finding our way. We met initially only one Saturday morning a month in 2016. We moved to meeting weekly in 2017 while still trying, rather unsuccessfully, to run a Saturday programme at the same time. 2018 marked the start of a more structured three year programme with a well set out curriculum based on the praxis cycle and clearer strategy. We now have our first group completing the three year journey and moving on.

I worked initially very closely with Peter Holgate. Peter always had a dream and longing to see St John’s as being a training parish that produced missional leaders. He gave his support and encouragement right up to the end of his life. He came to our Board meeting on the 8th of May 2017 and went into hospital the next day for major surgery from which he did not recover. I thank God for Peter who was, true to his name, a real rock of support.

There are many others who have given time and input and helped not only in building the plane as we fly it, but to shape and improve the design as we have gone along. Jerry Van Niekerk, Morea Josias and now Trevor Joshua have served as Chairs of the Board. Wayne Toms has helped us do strategic reviews.

I want also to record the support and backing we have had from Archbishop Thabo. He has championed us and encouraged me and always given his support.

I am pleased to say that one of first students Brendan Fox was ordained Deacon last year and will be ordained to priesthood next week. Another of our students Philip Donald (not from this Parish but from St Peter’s Mowbray) will be ordained Deacon February and is being sent to us for his curacy and will serve and be exposed to ministry across the Parish under the oversight of Natalie Simons-Arendse. There are two others in the Fellowship of Vocation and more seeking to be admitted.

In the past few years I have had the immense privilege of being part of a team and working closely with Keegan Davids, Natalie Simons-Arendse and René August. Each have played a significant part in getting us to where we are today. I have learned so much from them and being part of this team has been a high light of my ministry as PRTL. Brendan Fox will be joining the team next year and it is with confidence that I entrust the care of this fledgling to them to take it into the next chapter.


Challenges:


As I hand over the reins of the Parish I want to highlight three challenges that need to be grasped.

Vision and Heritage: We have used the words Anglican, Evangelical, Missional and Charismatic to describe our heritage and ethos. They give some clarity but also open to various and sometime misguided interpretations of what these words mean. They need to be grasped and explored afresh. Our heritage must inform and inspire us, but not control us.

The leadership of the Parish is currently engaged in look at what it means to be evangelical and Rob Taylor and others are leading discussion around the Lausanne Covenant could help us in that. For too long we have hitched our wagon to a brand of evangelicalism that has emerged from the UK and the US. We are discovering and I urge more attention be placed on listening to and engaging with Evangelicals who come from other parts of the world. We will be enriched and inspired as we do.

We are also, and will always be, engaged in discerning what it means to be missional and engaged in God’s mission as our context and the needs of our neighbours (whom Jesus commands us to love as we love ourselves) change.

The Anglican Church, along with all others and indeed the world has experienced a major shake-up in this year COVID. Everything we have done and relied on in the past has been shoved into new spaces. This is a creative space and I trust we will not let the opportunity and pain be wasted for us to explore what it means to be church in this new world.

In all this I want to stress the importance of being women and men of the Holy Spirit. We need the inspiration, gifting, empowering, prophetic wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let’s us not get trapped in trying to “do it again like we did last summer” but being open to the new things the Spirit wants to do in and through us.


Finances


Money has a way of getting us on our knees. One of the areas in which we have felt particular pressure is in our finances. Our income across the Parish this year is projected to be R1 million less than last year. Rather than throw up our hands in horror and defeat this means we have to think innovatively and creatively taking what we do have – holding it with a greater sense of thanks – and using the resources of staff and our buildings (the two greatest draws on our budgets) in different and more strategic ways.

A key consideration here is how do we deploy and possibly share clergy. It will mean breaking out of old and established ways of doing things – but only established relatively recently. All manner of creative and empowering things could happen.

We also need to look at use of our buildings. CHS does not have to be the only church building a Life Centre. I sense that God will use CHS to prompt all the churches across the Parish to look at how our physical spaces are used and could be used creatively and differently.


Back Young Leaders


In the SJLA we are focussed on the formation of pioneering mission-shaped church leaders for our context. Pioneers are those who lead the way to places we have not been before. They break new ground and discover the new things that God is doing and join in.

We have seen some very exciting things happen this year in the midst of COVID. We had our first ever combined Good Friday Three Hour Service. Following that there have been monthly Sunday evening worship services. The children’s pastors have collaborated around producing material – St John’s Parish Kids. (Please pray for Rene Barry the Children’s Coordinator at St Luke’s who has tested positive for COVID). The youth pastors have developed the Colabs exploring faith and life and looking most recently looking at a theology of friendships that transform our world. There have been webinars on how do we do anti-racism discipleship; discussed how we can respond to the issue of GBV and patriarchy. Inspiring stuff. Checkout the St John’s Parish YouTube channel for loads of locally produced material.

The micro site at CHS – which Phineas will tell us about – and may other things happening across the Parish have taken place largely (not entirely I hasten to add) because young leaders have stepped up and grasped the opportunity. The challenge is for us to allow the energy and passion of our young emerging leaders to shape the Parish. They are invested in the future and want to shape it and make more like the Kingdom of God. They are pioneering and will take us where we have not been before.

The challenge is, will we make way and let them? Yes there are lessons to be learned from the past. Lessons we learned – certainly in my case – mostly by making mistakes.

I joined this Parish and took on leadership of Christ Church aged 34. David Prior was 31 when he took on leadership of Christ Church. So this is something we have done before. And we are doing it again. Natalie came, with experience and having met the challenges of being a school chaplain to lead St Philp’s not having not led a church before. The same is true for Thabang as he came with experience in the Salvation Army and indeed in the South African Military but having led an Anglican church to take up the leadership of St John’s just a year ago. The same is true for Brendan who has taken up the reins at CHS. And the same will be true for Guy Axelson when he comes to take the rein here at Christ Church.

Letting young men and women lead is in our DNA as a Parish. Let’s hold onto that and do it again. Allow them space to lead and make mistakes. I would want those who follow me to stand on my shoulders and go higher.


Conclusion


As I conclude I want to thank God and you all for the immense privilege of having led the Parish these past eight years and to have had the opportunity to see the idea of the SJLA morph into reality; to watch the nest being built and fledgling take off and fly. I am full of excited anticipation.  I am retiring from being Parish Rector and Team Leader, but not from ministry. As Gordon Macdonald said many years ago – “there is no retirement in the Kingdom of God”. I will continue to watch and pray, and cheer on the great team that is in place.

So, whether we are retired or not, young or old, volunteer or staff … we press on to take hold of that for which God in Christ took hold us.

Duncan McLea

2020-10-17

Be still & know that I am God!

Worship Song: “Be Still” by Cat Lennox and Grace Bridgeman

We finished writing Be Still on the 1st October 2020 in time for the Sunday service on 4th October that was centered round a similar theme. A song for this season. But the truth is, the journey of writing this song actually started last year in 2019.
There was a lot going on last year – all the Gender Based Violence issues that were plastered all over the news, my own personal struggle within that space and a very difficult pregnancy – and I just sat down at the piano feeling the turmoil storming around in my head and wanting to bring it to God in worship. What did he want us to do in response?


There was a lot going on last year…

…feeling the turmoil storming around in my head and wanting to bring it to God in worship. What did he want us to do in response?


When I started to play the music felt tumultuous, like stormy waves crashing and raging and I couldn’t put words to all the emotions. I believe one way we worship God is bringing everything inside us to God, the good, the bad, the weak and the painful; not holding back but allowing ourselves to be honest and vulnerable. The music started to build up and then, suddenly, as if the clouds separated and a clear beam of sunlight broke through, I suddenly had the chorus spring to mind. The music changes to major. It quietens. It becomes more still and the words of Psalm 40 verse 10 were as clear as day: “Be still and know I am God.”

That and a small portion of the bridge was all that was written at that time. I tussled and sat with it, but I just couldn’t find the right words. Everything I wrote felt contrived and not a true reflection of what was meant or needed to be said. It was too convoluted. Too focused on the intense emotions and somehow missing sight of God.
While sitting with the song, the process of trying to write, became like a meditation for me personally on what it really meant to Be Still. I was still grappling with all that was swirling around in my head and God was encouraging me to enter into his promise of peace and rest within the chaos, within the center of the storm. I eventually resigned myself to not finishing the song and just enjoying what God was doing through it in me and would often just play the music of the verses and pre-chorus and allow myself to feel all the pulling and swirling and then sit with the chorus knowing
that God was there and asking me to choose him in spite of all the turmoil within me.


God wanted me to first go through the process of learning and growing in this area of being still in myself before I would be able to write it in a way that would honour him


Somehow I knew that the song wasn’t ready to be written yet. That it needed to sit and I needed to wait. Trust in God’s perfect timing. What I didn’t know was that God wanted me to first go through the process of learning and growing in this area of being still in myself before I would be able to write it in a way that would honour him. And so the song went on hold while I went on a journey of navigating this crazy world and learning to Be Still.

One of the big things I learnt to put in practice was that being still was a choice that we make inside ourselves, not carving out some quiet time in a peaceful spot. To Be Still meant choosing to look to Jesus and stilling the frustrations and worries and anxiety in my heart even when there is a very upset toddler shouting at you or you are so exhausted and overwhelmed and that important work deadline is looming. Being still is something we actively need to pursue, to look to Jesus and trust in him when it feels the walls around you are crumbling. I think too often we stop at the Be Still part of the verse but it says: “Be still and know that I am God.” I think that is key. In order to still our inner selves and know that peace that passes all understanding we have to get a bigger and better view of who God is. A deep, inner knowledge of God. Looking up rather than around. Not always easy and something that I continually have to work at, but after making that choice I have seen how God has slowly been changing my perspective about the many things that had been weighing me down.

 

So the journey continued until more than a year later, after I had just returned to work after being on maternity leave, and suddenly things seemed to click into place.
Brendan, our team leader, was talking about how he really felt that after the next sermon series we as a church needed to explore what it meant to Be Still and find rest in Jesus. All the staff were sharing how exhausted and overwhelmed they were feeling. How people within our church were feeling the same. Covid-19 and lockdown had thrown people’s lives into chaos: economic uncertainty, health fears and woes, stressful and completely different working environments… And in particular, as the initial quiet and shut down of the hard lock down started to fade, people were again filling their lives with “stuff.” We as a team really felt it was important to relook at everything that had come before lockdown and be careful not just go back to normal but really be intentional at choosing what we filled our schedules with. What was God asking us to do? What was God wanting us to let go of, reinvent, pioneer or restart? How could we use this opportunity to prune the unnecessary and unhelpful and make space for new growth or even new rhythms of rest?


it is in fact counter-cultural to Be Still


Brendan and I had a conversation about how it is in fact counter-cultural to Be Still. To place our identity not in how busy we are, what we do, our job or financial status etc. but placing our identity in Jesus. Trusting in Jesus, no matter how bad things get. I knew that this was the time for the song. It felt right and as I sat at home thinking about all the
things I had heard people share about how they were feeling and struggling and wanting to seek after God the words for most of the song just came. As has been my experience over the last few years, I cannot write a worship song that is intended for the use of my community in a vacuum on my own. It doesn’t always mean that I need to have other people write the words or music but it does mean that the words and music are written out of listening to other people’s stories and what God is doing and how he is convicting us within our lives. They aren’t my songs. They are his songs, meant for us. To strengthen and encourage. So before I could really finish the song I felt I needed to
sit with someone and really just let the song settle. Through circumstance, prayer and what I believe was the beginning of God-ordained friendship I went to sit with Grace Bridgeman. We jammed a bit and just worshiped together and then gave finishing off the song a go.

 

I still felt a little convoluted. I still had too much rattling round in my head and I needed to see more clearly what the core message of the song was. What was the main message I felt God was trying to say through it. Luckily, Grace is definitely one of those people that Proverbs speaks of “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:7) and so by the end of that session the song had taken more shape and I had a clearer view of how the song should be. She really helped me to sift through the many parts of the song and find what the core of what God was wanting to say through it really was. And it helps that she plays the piano and sings like an angel too.

I finished it off that evening and after waiting more than a year thinking the song would never be finished, suddenly within two days it was complete and ready for Sunday. And I felt, as always, that God really does know best and his timing is perfect. Not just for me. Not just for the theme of the service but God was going to use the song: Grace sent me this reflection: “Writing the song was the biggest blessing to me, in remembering in why I can be still and know that he is God because he is faithful and he enters into our lives. He isn’t distant. He is present. He is involved. He is interested. He is alive and he is faithful to us so we can be still. We don’t have to be anxious. He is good to us. He doesn’t shy away from the mess.” She went on to share that for about two weeks after helping to write the song she woke up every single morning at 2am with the lyrics just going through her mind. She was dealing with anxiety about
some situations in her own life and the reminder that she could be still even in that head space was
such a blessing.
I believe this is a song for this season of trial. I believe it is an invitation to be real with God. To really bring all the burdens and worries we carry and to take hold of his invitation in Matthew 11 to come to him and find rest. To learn from him and be unburdened. It is a reminder that God is FAITHFUL and that we are never alone. That we can be strong and courageous because he is with us and he is stronger than what we face. He is our refuge and our safe place and we CAN trust in him. And that we can be still and know him even when the storm is raging all around.


God is FAITHFUL… we can be still and know him even when the storm is raging all around


 

uTurn Microsite

The painting of the prodigal son and daughter hang in our church. A reminder of the good news about the great love of a reconciling God who forgives and restores. Jesus has the power to heal our relationship with Him and with each other. It is beautiful when our lived reality mirrors the kingdom represented in that story.

A building serving its community speaks volumes about real mission in action. Church of the Holy Spirit (CHS) in Kirstenhof, Cape Town, opened their doors to 10 vulnerable homeless women from the Muizenberg street community during COVID-19 lock-down. By partnering with homeless charity U-Turn, other churches and NGO’s, and with input from many in the community, these ladies were provided a safe and nurturing home for four months.

 

Having worked with the homeless for many years, Phinius and Katlyn Sebatsane lived at CHS with the ladies. Four months of intentionality, building community and creating a Godly space, lead to healing and rehabilitation. All 10 ladies have since, either been reconciled with family or found safe and secure places to stay. Many now want to help other women to find healing and a home off the streets.


“It shows, what treating people as the valued humans they are, can do for those who have felt like trash for most of their life. It was a community effort and what God has started here, I know will not end here.” Phinius Sebatsane (U-Turn)


This Life Online Magazine recently wrote on these New Friends and the Joyful Lockdown

 

ThisLife’s full story of the microsite can be viewed here: https://www.thislifeonline.co.za/new-friends-joyful-lockdown/

 

The hazards of longing for an ideal community?

Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The book of Acts chapter 2 carries such a powerful picture a Christian community where the Spirit God is powerfully at work, the gospel preached and lives are transformed. I long and pray that the Christian community I am part would look more like this.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

Yet so often there seems a huge gap between this ideal and the reality of the hurts and frustrations of a diverse group of “sinners” each hindered by our own baggage, blindspots and hurts.

I know many believing friends who are now “post church”. They believe… but have stepped back from participation in a church community. The ideal of Christian community has been drowned out by the disappointments and hurts experienced within the church.

So often I find myself frustrated by the ways the community I am part of does not reflect Jesus or his kingdom. Often I find myself loving the ideal of Christian community more than the community I am part of.

So I have been greatly challenged by these wise and challenging words from the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.

God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idolized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly. It is not we who build. Christ builds the church.

Whoever is mindful to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it, for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess he builds. We must proclaim, he builds. We must pray to him, and he will build. We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are the times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point are great times for the church are times when it’s pulled down. It is a great comfort which Jesus gives to his church.

You confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is not your providence. Do what is given to you, and do it well, and you will have done enough…. Live together in the forgiveness of your sins. Forgive each other every day from the bottom of your hearts.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Brendan Fox