Tag Archive: The Warehouse


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So much good stuff happening all over the internet the last two weeks in terms of helping us understand some of the challenges we are facing.

i stumbled upon this in the Warehouse’s most recent newsletter and wanted to share it with you as some really practical steps for moving forwards together. These steps apparently emerged from a conversation between Linda Martindale, Caroline Powell and my wife, tbV [the beautiful Val]. We have heard a lot about Reconciliation [making relationships right] but not nearly enough about Restitution [making situations/contexts right] so this feels really helpful. Continue reading

‘My dad always used to say, “Fight fire with fire” which is why he got thrown out of the fire brigade.’ [Harry Hill]

Yesterday, i posted this as my status on Facebook:

What is happening with the fires sweeping across Cape Town is a tragedy and worth attention, mobilisation and investment and it’s been incredible watching Cape Town rise to the occasion. i think it is also important to reflect, even for just a minute, on what our response has been on numerous occasions in the past where serious shack settlement fires have happened and many have been killed, because the fact that they seem very different, i feel, has a lot to say to us about us. [Not talking either/or, but both/and]. Discuss.

Naturally the internet exploded [well, not quite, but we did get some lively discussion going and one unfriend and some Taylor Swift therapy followed]:

Shortly after that we attended the Ron Sider meeting at the Warehouse that i shared some thoughts from yesterday and bumped into my friend Craig Stewart [who runs the Warehouse] and he was just about to jump on and share some thoughts on my status. But instead, he offered them to me to stick up here and this is an incredibly helpful perspective.

craig

Brett and a few other friends of mine posted comments over the last few days expressing frustration at the apparent disconnect, on social media at least, between the responses of people in Cape Town to the current fires blazing all around us and the regular fires that destroy homes, livelihoods and people a few times a month each summer in Cape Town.

Whilst I recognise the tension I haven’t found myself particularly affected by it. This is even though I consider myself someone who cares pretty passionately about people who are poor and the historic and current injustices of our country.

This is partially because I think there may well be a false equivalency between the fires but its also because I’ve been involved over the last couple of years in a city wide church based disaster response network under the banner of the Consultation of Christian Churches in Cape Town. In this role I’ve engaged with all of the larger fire disasters in the City over the last few years and a fair number of other ones. In each case there was a good response, even sometimes an overwhelming response.

For the most part the fire department, disaster management and civil society respond well and effectively to these fires and the crises are addressed quickly and effectively.

As is the case with mountain fires often the societal response is more rooted in what we think is needed rather than what is actually needed and that can create problems of its own. Just ask the Cape Town fire department about the huge amounts of donated clothing lying in warehouse because it can’t be used anywhere.

But my experience is that for significant fires and floods affecting people across this city, the people of this city are willing to sacrificially work and donate to resolve the crisis. But then we get on with our lives and forget about the every day disasters of people’s daily lives in this city. Once we’ve got people back to the awful reality of day to day life we move on.

The problem of course is that for a disaster response to be effective it should be rapid, appropriate and short lived but the disaster of everyday life is going to take much more than that. What would it take for us to sustain a sacrificial, coordinated, all hands on deck effort over the next few decades that would see us dramatically change the face of this city and nation?

In moments of disaster we put aside expectations, entitlements and comforts and we stare the situation in the face and deal with it. Our current reality will require such an effort but we will need to sustain it.

When a fynbos mountain burns it is part of the cycle of life of that mountain. And the burning itself initiates growth and sprouting and life that has being lying dormant for many years. Life will explode across the mountains over the next few months. We need a fire like that to burn through this city – a justice revival fire perhaps.

This morning tbV and i went to the Warehouse in Wetton for an informal talk and conversation with Ron Sider [ah, you see what i did there, you should apologise for thinking bad thoughts about my spelling prowess!] who is the author of, among other things, ‘Rich Christians in an age of hunger’ which is completely the sound of a book title that needs to be in my queue.

Anyways we had a most excellent time as he looked some issues regarding to Christians and Social Justice from a theological [but seriously not boring and completely relevant and hands on] point of view. He will be doing another session there tonight [12 Plantation Road at 7pm, rsvp Linda@warehouse.org.za] and if you can make it, you really should try and come.

But i thought i’d share some thoughts in the form of one liners and sound bytes that i was able to furiously scribble down [cos seriously, who writes these days? You take your finger muscles completely by hysterical surprise any time you try to] during the speak and Q & A that followed. This is obviously not as helpful as if you’d been there [come tonight!] but hopefully there are some moments of lightbulb that you can take away from this:

Firstly, Ron Sider is a 75 year old Jewish man who converted to becoming a follower of Jesus and then got completely dissatisfied at their response to issues of poverty and social justice until he researched a little more and saw that Jesus and the whole bible was actually all over that stuff:

One of the things Craig [who MC’d the vibe] mentioned was that when he was a frustrated Christ follower during his varsity days because of the disparity between the politics of the land and the actions of the church, that reading Ron’s book gave him permission to have an authentic faith that caused him to engage with the politics of the land. [Too many of us were shut down by the ‘You can’t mix the church and politics’ narrative when we were growing up and yet if God is a part of every part of your life then surely He needs to be in your politics?]

# Maybe the statement i liked best out of the whole morning was another one Craig said while speaking about Ron’s stance from his book which was ‘I’m not a social activist, i’m a disciple of Jesus.’ That is just s beautifully true. These are not the acts of a social activist specifically or separate to them being the acts of someone who genuinely follows Jesus and tries to live up to His teaching and example.

# From a conversation Ron had with a jewish student one day who was attracted to the passion of the christians in terms of meeting together and so ended up at one of their conferences, but then ended up in long conversation with Ron saying, ‘I don’t want to be like these white christians who sing about heaven and talk about Jesus but don’t care about justice in South Africa.’

# Referred to the book of Amos and how this prophet tackled both the sexual injustice that existed in the present time BUT ALSO the structural and economic injustices that were rife. How often we as the church have picked and emphasised the first almost at the complete expense of the latter.

# The importance for both evangelism [ we need ‘good people’ so people who have been transformed by God] and structural change.

# That the Gospel is NOT purely forgiveness of sin, but the Good News of the Kingdom. Jesus formed a new community when He came, who lived out His message and challenged the status quo in many ways:

– Jesus and the lepers and blind people was Jesus connecting with groups of people who had been completely alienated and shut outside of the city

– Jesus and His attention and focus on women was radical for that time period where they were considered not just not equal to men, but as animals in some cases – the one quote Ron read was that a jewish saying at the time was that it was better to burn the Torah [the first 5 books of our bible] than to teach it to a woman [we’re talking hectically radical in approach of both teaching and living.

So both the forgiveness of sin and the formation of a new Messianic community where justice and peace break in.

# Also Ron mentioned, like in the Acts 2 and 4 pictures of the church, that a huge evangelistic tool that the early church had was the way in which they lived this teaching out, like in areas of social justice – looking after widows and orphans and the poor.

# Ron shared about how in Romans 8 it talks of the groaning creation that will be liberated. In Revelation 21 and 22 it talks of the glory of the nations being taken up into the New Jerusalem and then later about the healing of the nations. And then referred to the N.T.Wright book ‘Surprised by Hope’ where one of the conclusions is that we don’t try to escape the world [christians with a heaven only point of view] but we try to change it.

# An important mindset to cultivate is that God is obviously on the side of the poor [hundreds of verses throughout the bible back this up] but that God loves both the oppressed AND the oppressor and is wanting both sides to be liberated.

# Ron said that he thought many people misunderstood the Acts 2 and 4 passages as indicating that the early church had a common purse [shared money that belonged to everyone]  – the form of the Greek verbs gives the translation to be more like ‘In the habit of’ when it comes to giving so it was not an obligation but something that seemed to come naturally to them because of their changed dispositions.

They were so committed to each other that they went to dramatic extents.

In Deuteronomy 15 vs 3-4 it says ‘If you live this way there will be no poor among you’ [echoes of Acts 2] but then a few verses later it says there will always be poor among you. [As if it’s a wink from God saying because I know you].

One part of what it means to be the church = dramatic and significant economic sharing.

And a quote from i forget where, ‘As long as some christians are trapped in poverty, the eucharistic celebration is imperfect.’ 

One of Ron’s last points was almost like a prophetic declaration, saying that, ‘It would be an incredible thing if the whole church of South Africa would get the economic call of the bible and start living it out. This would be the hugest witness to the world – it would involve costly redistribution..

And then during the questions, a comment that my friend Rene made, was ‘The church doesn’t see itself as the empire’ and there is much to be discussed around that and i think it touches on the whole race/reconciliation/privilege conversation as well. It’s not me – it must be someone else.

But all in all a really great session – hope there was a morsel in there for you to grab hold of and if you are in Cape Town and can possibly make yourself free for tonight – this does feel like it will be a significant meeting time.

ron

hey there church of South Africa,

how you doing? just thought i’d take this opportunity to catch up a little…

my wife, tbV and i have been back in South Africa after three years working with non-profits in Americaland and it’s been fun and interesting taking some time to visit different sunday congregations and see and hear about some of the stuff God is going around Cape Town. i have really enjoyed the diversity in a number of congregations that we visited. that feels like a good direction we have been heading into and hopefully we will see more of that and dive much more deeply into this race-reconciliation-united South Africa thing, which i’m guessing might be a lot more of a spiritual activity than some of you think.

on Saturday we attended a small gathering called un-Fence that happened at the Warehouse in Wetton and as tired and non-amped as we were to go after another crazy event-filled day, we decided that it sounded like it fit in with our vision and our heart and included some of our favourite people and so we decided to suck it in and go. i’m so glad we did.

it was nothing huge or dramatic or flashy, but it really had a deep impact on me, just being there with those people in that place sharing thoughts and impressions and pictures we felt were from God and worshipping and dreaming together.

i wanted to share one particular one that i had with you and i hope that if you feel it is significant, you will pass it on as well.

The picture i had was of the Israelites and two scenarios they were involved in:

[1] The Israelites in Egypt where, as far as i can imagine, the best they could dream about was that tomorrow would be a better day than today – ‘Maybe i’ll find the material to make the bricks a little bit faster today so that i will be done a bit earlier.’ ‘Maybe i won’t be whipped quite as much.’ With no sense of a greater picture or anything to aspire to [it didn’t seem like those Egyptians were going away any time soon] it would have been a focus on today and just doing my best and trying not to cause trouble and making it through the day.

[2] Jump forward to the Israelites in the desert and suddenly there is a picture and a vision and call to this thing known as ‘The Promised Land’. They had been given some descriptions of it – ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ and been told that God had prepared it just for then. And it motivated them to be able to walk around in the desert for 40 years and to keep on going – because of the thing that was ahead.

For me that feels like a picture of South Africa. In some ways it feels like a lot of South Africans are in Egypt – read comments sections on any race-related posts, or my blog. People just trying to get by without too much trouble and hoping to be kept safe from violence and not to be around when the impending violent revolution happens [which many people seem to fear].

But every now and then, you come across a South African who has managed to escape from Egypt, a small group of them who have made it into the desert and when you stop them and ask them why they seem to have hope and life despite wandering around in the middle of what looks like a desert, they will tell you they have been given a dream, a vision, of what might be.

And that, dear church, is what i want to share with you today.

If you have fallen into a place of focusing on teaching people to avoid being bad, then i want to encourage you to direct them towards a way of thriving in the area of living well.

i literally just read this on Facebook and it sums it up:The Gospel isn’t about escaping the world, it’s about transforming it.

church

i wrote this on my song sheet on Saturday night as i was in a place of just listening and trying to connect with God:

i don’t know if i’m interested in a church that doesn’t have any kind of active involvement in/pursuit of racial reconciliation and unity in this country.

in some ways i imagine it must have been easier during apartheid times to see where the line was drawn in terms of being a church that engaged with the societal evil that was taking place all around it, or if as a body of people it was easier to bury your head under the metaphorical sand and just go about the business of sunday meetings.

i could be wrong on this, but i feel it so strongly. Something about ‘Love God, love your neighbour.’ Even love God, love your enemy for some of you who may feel like your neighbour is your enemy. It doesn’t seem like there is an easy way to escape this. And this was the number one Jesus command, right?

So what i want to invite you to do as a local church congregation that is part of a broader church body in South Africa – the hands and feet of Jesus – is to start [if you haven’t already, and many of you have!] praying and preaching for a dream to be in the hearts of your people – for that vision and picture of the promised land – we already know the geographic location of it, now we just need to see it take place.

Speak about it. If they see and hear you doing it from the front, then they will know it’s okay for them to do it as well. Don’t relegate this to the ‘Religion and Politics should be kept separate closet’ – this is kingdom vibe right here.

There are many, many people in this country who are not living a ‘good news’ kind of life [and let’s be honest for a second, most of them are black, and it is not because of Zuma and Nkandla! It is not helped by them perhaps, but the majority of it is remnants of the apartheid legacy] and we are meant to be a ‘good news’ kind of people.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James 2

Come on church, let’s take those words off the screen and start really living them:

‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’

‘May our homes be filled with dancing, may our streets be filled with joy, may injustice bow to Jess, as your people turn and pray’

‘May we be a shining light to the nations’

‘i want to take Your word and shine it all around, but first help me just to live it, Lord’ 

‘May we be a healing balm to the nations’

What words did you sing yesterday?

This is not a criticism, by the way. It is a call to action. Some of you are doing this stuff so very well and we need you to show the rest of us how we can be better at it. Up til now, i have mostly been trying to create space on my blog for other voices to give us some of their ideas on what first steps towards this unified country might look like. Soon we hope to host some dinners and get people face to face around the table for more idea sharing. And hopefully soon there will be action to speak of.

But in the meantime we must dream. Of a land that is possible. Where we embrace the notion that ‘Freedom is not freedom until it’s freedom for all.’ A tough one to embrace when i look to my right as i drive to the airport.

This will not be easy. There will be a cost and that cos may involve comfort and privilege. It may really involve stepping back from the microphone so that other voices can lead and direct and just showing up. Or by handing over mantles of leadership to those who we have built relationship with over the last few years that we can see are ready to lead. It will likely be messy. But it feels important. It feels crucial. And this is not a church-only thing by any means. But with our name and our mission and the calling that has been placed upon us, we really should be found in the front lines of what is to come.

So how about it, church of South Africa? Are you willing to dream of what might be and rally your troops together to being moving towards that picture of promised land?

There is going to be a revolution, some day soon. It is just the nature of it that we may have some influence over.

love brett fish

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