Research Paper: Conclusion (Part 5 of 6)

Posted on Wednesday, June, 12th, 2013 at 2:13 pm   (2 comments)
I will be posting a short excerpt from each chapter (5 in total and a final Reflection) of my final research paper for my Masters. The title of my paper was “Missional Communities: The Vocational Discernment Question in dialogue with Quaker Communal Discernment“. If you would like a copy of the full paper then drop me an email and I will send you one! You can read Part 1 (The Theological Roots of a Missonal Ecclesiology) here & Part 2 (Defining a Missional Community) here. Part 3 (Frameworks for Vocational Discernment) here. Part 4 (The Use of Time in Quaker Communal Discernment) here.

Is the Quaker practice of communal discernment a suitable model for communal vocation discernment in missional communities?

Yes and no.

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Research Paper: The Use of Time in Quaker Communal Discernment (Part 4 of 6)

Posted on Wednesday, May, 15th, 2013 at 7:34 am   (1 comment)
I will be posting a short excerpt from each chapter (5 in total and a final Reflection) of my final research paper for my Masters. The title of my paper was “Missional Communities: The Vocational Discernment Question in dialogue with Quaker Communal Discernment“. If you would like a copy of the full paper then drop me an email and I will send you one! You can read Part 1 (The Theological Roots of a Missonal Ecclesiology) here & Part 2 (Defining a Missional Community) here. Part 3 (Frameworks for Vocational Discernment) here.

The emphasis on reaching unity (or concord) as a sign of the Divine will necessarily means that Quaker decision making takes time.  Grace comments, “We cannot allow ourselves to be hurried.  A sense of urgency or pressure can quickly erode a process of deep seeking.  We don’t impose a deadline for making any decision.  If Unity is not reached in one meeting, the matter is laid over” (2010: 51).  Many would see the time it takes to reach Quaker unity as a pragmatic reason to disqualify this way of making decisions.  Birkel responds, “…viewed from a merely secular point of view, this may seem impractical, not to mention exasperating in how long it seems to take to come to a decision.  (Birkel 2003:68).  He goes on to say that even within a secular framework; however this is not necessarily the case.  He asks us to imagine a line with ‘idea’ at one end and ‘implementation’ on the other (see figure 3).  The distance between these two points remains the same whenever the decision is made.  If a group makes a decision based on majority rule then the decision might be made just after the half-way point between idea and implementation.  He contends,

The distance from decision to implementation is still considerable.  The majority may have to tow a significant minority, many of them dragging their feet, to the point of implementation.  The losers feel defeated and may resist or even sabotage the practical policy resulting from the decision (Birkel 2003:68).




Figure 3 Birkel’s (2004:68) ‘Majority Rule Decision Making Continuum’

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Research Paper:Frameworks for Vocation Discernment (Part 3 of 6)

Posted on Thursday, April, 25th, 2013 at 1:58 pm   (2 comments)

I will be posting a short excerpt from each chapter (5 in total and a final Reflection) of my final research paper for my Masters. The title of my paper was “Missional Communities: The Vocational Discernment Question in dialogue with Quaker Communal Discernment“. If you would like a copy of the full paper then drop me an email and I will send you one! You can read Part 1 (The Theological Roots of a Missonal Ecclesiology) here & Part 2 (Defining a Missional Community) here.

Before we begin our discussion on vocation discernment we would be wise to take note of Hunsberger’s reminder of the on-going and ever evolving nature of vocation discernment.

…discernment and vocation are not one-time matters.  Discerning is a constant challenge, as is following.  Yesterday’s discernments are met by today’s new questions and visions.  So it is important to notice in the churches we visited how they cultivate and nourish their sense of missional vocation in continuing ways (2004:54).

We do this to clarify upfront that any models or frameworks for vocation discernment that are outlined are not linear but rather dynamic, inter-related and emergent.  This is an assumption we will uphold throughout the following discussion.

Hansberger’s Four Questions:

According to Hunsberger missional communities are communities “…for whom it has been important to discern their vocation.  And once known, to whatever degree of clarity, it has been their intent to pursue it and fulfil it” (2004:38).  This, according to Hunsberger, has “set them on a path that continually asks questions of location and identity” (emphasis added 2004:38).   He goes on to outline four questions (2004:38) which a community is to give attention to if they are going to discern their vocation:

  • Where they are, in a geographic, social, cultural context.
  • When they are, in the flow of history and change.
  • Who they are, in continuity with a tradition, re-forming it in the present.
  • Why they are, welcoming God’s call, entering God’s coming reign.

These four questions provide a helpful framework for a missional community to begin and continuously  discern their vocation.  And while this path is not an easy one and requires conversions over and over again (2004:38), Hunsberger believes that it will “become the route of joy and hope for [a missional community] because in their missional vocation is to be found their participation in the very life of God” (2004:38).

Van Gelder’s Four Interpretive Dimensions:

Van Gelder sees four interpretative dimensions (2007:103), which in many ways dovetail with Hunsberger’s four questions that need to be integrated in communal vocation discernment for it to be authentic and indeed Christian.  While Van Gelders model was primarily developed with communal decision making in mind it will also serve as an excellent framework for communal discernment of vocation.  The four interpretative dimensions are as follows (2007:103):

  • Texts: The community uses both Scripture and the churches historical theological reflections on faith to provide a biblical and theological framing of the community’s vocation.
  • Context: The community uses theoretical perspectives from the social sciences as well as insights from common wisdom for a theoretically informed understanding of their vocation.
  • Community: The community relies on the Spirit’s leading through a process of communal discernment and so maintains God’s presence in the process as an acting subject. 
  • Strategy/Action: Arising from the communal understanding of its vocation, the community will engage in strategic action that is communally discerned, biblically and theologically framed, and theoretically informed.

For Van Gelder, effective leadership in a missional community requires the ability to integrate all four of these elements “into a shared process” (2007:3) combined with “understanding the hermeneutical nature of this process” (2007:103).  Van Gelder refers to the integration of these four interpretive dimensions as a theological theory of action (see fig 1) but it could equally serve as a framework for discerning a missional community’s vocation.  These four elements are “dynamic and interactive” (2007:104) and while it is true that one can start the discernment process at any point in the diagram, the goal of all this is to move towards strategic action (2007:104).

Research Paper:(Sort of) Defining a Missional Community (Part 2 of 6)

Posted on Monday, April, 15th, 2013 at 8:45 am   (No comments)

I will be posting a short excerpt from each chapter (5 in total and a final Reflection) of my final research paper for my Masters. The title of my paper was “Missional Communities: The Vocational Discernment Question in dialogue with Quaker Communal Discernment“. If you would like a copy of the full paper then drop me an email and I will send you one! You can read Part 1 (The Theological Roots of a Missonal Ecclesiology) here.

Before we consider two popular definitions of missional communities from Barrett and Hirsch let us consider a warning on the dangers of seeking a comprehensive definition of what a missional community is.  Van Gelder and Zscheile counsel us to,

…resist the common tendency to reduce missional church to a set of rules to follow, discrete characteristics, or summary principles.  There is no model for what a missional church looks like.  Rather, missional church needs to be defined by the church’s dynamic participation in the Triune God’s movement in the world.  There is thus no how-to list or set of defining characteristics for the missional church…It takes on different expressions at different times and places.  Missional church is a habit of mind and heart, a posture of openness and discernment, and a faithful attentiveness both to the Spirit’s presence and to the world that God so loves (emphasis added 2011:149).

These authors are keen to preserve the ever-evolving, Spirit-led[1] (Van Gelder 2007:19) identity of the missional church.  They are interested in following the boundary-breaking (Roxburgh 2006:129; Niemandt 2012:3) God rather than constricting the Spirit through narrow definitions and how-to lists.  The authors are more interested in an “…alternative imagination for being the church” (Roxburgh and Boren 2009:45) and seeing and experiencing the world (Zscheille and Van Gelder 2011:147) than a plan for ‘church growth’.  Missional is not about strategies or models but is rather about “… working with the [biblical] currents[2] that shape our imagination of what God is doing in the world” (parenthesis added 2009:37-39).   Van Gelder and Zscheille articulate what animates a missional community when they describe missional community as “…a habit of heart and mind, a posture of openness and discernment, and a faithful attentiveness to the Spirit’s presence and to the world that God so loves” (Van Gelder & Zscheille 2011:149).   If this is what animates a missional community it is not difficult to see why a comprehensive definition would be both difficult and indeed undesirable.  These authors advocate for understanding missional with descriptors like missional imagination, (Van Gelder & Zscheille 2011:147) journey (2011:92) or God’s dynamic relationship with the world (2011:92).

…It is also clear that Roxburgh and Boren agree with Van Gelder and Zscheille that there is no model of what a missional community looks like, as it manifests itself differently depending on time and place.   Rather missional is “the essence that pervades all the church is” (Roxburgh & Boren 2009:45).  It’s appropriate and localised expression emerges from the local missional community’s participation in the Triune God’s movement in that particular part of the world.  Understanding the relative nature of the church is a critical element in the renewal of the church in dynamic and ever changing environments.  It also opens up space for ecumenical co-operation and appreciation as our individual ‘churches’ are more appropriately framed as historically conditioned, contextual expressions of the cosmic Mission of God.

[1] Niemandt sees a “reaffirmation of the importance of the Holy Spirit for mission theology in [recent] ecumenical events” (2012:3).  His concise and helpful paper focuses on Edinburgh 2010 World Mission Conference, Lausanne III and World Communion of Reformed Churches 2010.

[2] They see 3 currents that shape our imagination: mystery, memory, and mission which are summarised on pg 40 The Missional Church: What it is, Why it matters, How to become one. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.


Research Paper: The Theological Roots of a Missional Ecclesiology (Part 1 of 6)

Posted on Wednesday, April, 10th, 2013 at 10:57 am   (1 comment)

I will be posting a short excerpt from each chapter (5 in total and a final Reflection) of my final research paper for my Masters. The title of my paper was “Missional Communities: The Vocational Discernment Question in dialogue with Quaker Communal Discernment“. If you would like a copy of the full paper then drop me an email and I will send you one!



As with most discussions about missional ecclesiology these days, we too must begin by acknowledging the significant global shift which has occurred within a part of Western Christianity’s self-understanding of Mission.  This shift, which occurred in the last century (Guder 1998:4), signals a move from an ecclesiocentric to a theocentric understanding of mission (Bosch 1991:389, Shenk 1995:38, Guder 1998:4, Guder 2000:20, Hendricks 2007:105, Barret 2004: ix-x).   In this shift, a part of the Western Church has come to see that

…mission is not merely an activity of the church.  Rather mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation.  ‘Mission’ means ‘sending’ and it is the central biblical theme describing the purposes of God’s action in human history (emphasis added Guder 1998:4).

In short, mission is “…derived from the very nature of God” (Bosch 1991:389, Guder 2000:20).  In this last century certain parts of the Western Church[1] have begun to discover that the missio is in fact the Missio Dei.

The three most succinct and oft quoted ‘foundational’ articulations of this shift from an ecclesiocentric to a theocentric understanding of mission can be found in Newbigin’s Mission Christ’s Way , Bosch’s Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in a Theology of Mission and Guder’s Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America.  These authors are worth quoting in full:

Newbigin argues,

It is not that the church has a mission and the Spirit helps us in fulfilling it.  It is rather that the Spirit is the active missionary, and the church (where it is faithful) is the place where the Spirit is enabled to complete the Spirit’s work (Newbigin 1987:20).

Bosch proclaims,

The classical doctrine of the missio Dei as God the father sending the Son, and God the Father and Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another ‘movement’: Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the Church into the world…our mission has no life of its own, only in the hands of the sending God can it truly be called mission, not least the since the missionary initiative comes from God alone (emphasis added Bosch 1991:390).

Guder reflects,

The ecclesiocentric understanding of mission has been replaced during this century by a profoundly theocentric reconceptualization of Christian mission.  We have come to see that mission is not merely an activity of the church.  Rather, mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation.  ‘Mission’ means sending, and it is the central biblical theme that describes the purpose of God’s action in human history” (Guder emphasis added 1998:4).

Central to these core articulations is the conviction that mission is to be located in the very nature of the sending God (Niemandt 2012:2), a radical break from the ecclesiocentric understanding of mission which has come to dominate the Western Church.

[1] See Niemandt, C 2012.  “Trends in Missional Ecclesiology” in HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 68(1), Art.  #1198, 9 pages available at hts.v68i1.1198.  Niemandt sees the “… theological focus on the mission of God, God as the agent of mission and the church’s participation in the missio Dei, is a common theme in recent ecumenical events (emphasis added 2012: 2).  Niemandt’s paper focuses on Edinburgh 2010 World Mission Conference, Lausanne III and World Communion of Reformed Churches.


Wordle’s Take on my Research

Posted on Monday, April, 8th, 2013 at 8:00 am   (1 comment)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Wordle, it is a word cloud generator. You put in any amount of text and it generates a ‘cloud’ of your most used words. For my final research paper this is what was generated.

I like it cause it always gives an interesting perspective on any body of text. For example that Van Gelder was my most quoted author which was quite surprising to me. It also helps you to see if your most frequently used terms refer to your core research question. It can shed light on the ‘integrity’ and focus of the paper.

Would love to see one of your wordles. Do let me know!

The Love’s +1

Posted on Wednesday, April, 3rd, 2013 at 8:00 am   (No comments)

It is with much Happiness that we welcome the newest member of the Love family…Noah Love-Ballantine. A wonderfully content, relaxed and beautiful boy!

Becky posted some more pics of him here.



A Tribute to my Gran

Posted on Thursday, January, 24th, 2013 at 2:32 pm   (2 comments)

Though this is a sad day for us as a family something quite beautiful happened these past few days. Two weeks ago my oldest cousin organised for all 16 of the Grandchildren to write a short letter to our wonderful Gran who lives in Durban. My cousin asked us to write about a meaningful memory or quality which we had come to love about our Gran. In her 80′s and not doing well health-wise, we thought it would be great to tell our Gran (possibly for the last time) all that she meant to us! Yesterday, I received an email from another cousin who said that my Aunt was able to read all the letters to my Gran…the day before she passed away. I am confident that Gran knew how much we loved her but I am so happy she was able to hear it one last time before her wonderful and full life with us came to an end. Here is a tribute to a remarkable lady that includes some of what I wrote to her in the ‘grand-kids letter’:

Dearest Granny

It is with much sadness and deep gratitude that we entrust you into the love, warmth and kindness of  God today. You have been and will continue to be precious to so many people. We love you!

Granny, I clearly remember one night in Durban when I was 7 or 8 years old and had a terrible fever. I was staying with the Glovers [my aunt and uncle] and was feeling quite homesick. You let me sleep in your bed, which was  a very kind thing to do. I am certain you got a lot more than you bargained for! I tossed and turned that night, restless and sweaty. I elbowed you so many times I was convinced I had done some permanent damage to your hips. In the morning you were so gracious to me, not a hint of resentment for the fact that I had kept you awake for most of the night. Granny, I was sick as a dog but I felt loved.

It is special to grow up knowing that you have a Granny who loves you, takes a genuine interest in your life and speaks with pride about you to her friends and other family members. Thank-you for always doing that, it meant so much!

Granny, in your life you have loved so many, so well and to say that you lived a full life is an understatement. If your 5 children, 16 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren is not a sign of the fullness of your life then I am not sure what is! Your thoughtfulness about life, sharp wit and genuine concern for us are things I have always loved so dearly about you and am grateful to God to have experienced!

I loved being with you as a kid and I have enjoyed being with you as an adult. Hearing about your life and our family through your eyes has been so much fun!

Your wonderful presence will never be far from me and all the family. May you Rest in Peace dearest Granny!

All my love


The Love Family Christmas: 2010-2012

Posted on Sunday, November, 18th, 2012 at 8:58 pm   (No comments)


Here is the love family Christmas pictures from the last three years (2012, 2011, 2010 ). You can see the little ones have grown so much! Am so grateful to have a family like this!

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A Parable-amongfriends (with a little commentary)

Posted on Friday, October, 19th, 2012 at 7:24 am   (No comments)
A hermit had reached the outskirts of the village and settled down under a tree for the night when a villager came running up to him and said, “The stone! The stone! Give me the precious stone!”

“What stone?” asked the hermit.

“Last night an Angel appeared to me in a dream,” said the villager, “And told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I should find a hermit who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich forever.”

The hermit rummaged in his bag and pulled out a stone. “He probably meant this one,” he said, as he handed the stone over to the villager. “I found it on a forest path some days ago. You can certainly have it.”

The man gazed at the stone in wonder. It was a diamond; probably the largest diamond in the whole world, for it was as large as a person’s fist.

He took the diamond and walked away. All night he tossed about in bed, unable to sleep. Next day at the crack of dawn he woke the hermit and said, “Give me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give this diamond away so easily.”

Over the last couple of years I have often found myself wondering, what does it mean to be wealthy? I have found much guidance in this beautiful parable which seems to say that wealth is that which makes it possible for us to give away. Clearly this is not a very common understanding of wealth in our world. These days our worth is almost solely defined in terms of our ‘stuff’, what have I managed to accumulate in my life. The great irony of our times is that while we might be rich in things, in terms of that which has spiritual significance we are in abject poverty. Not only are we in poverty but our society seems to incentivise and celebrate this poverty! A poverty of generosity, a poverty of concern for the common good, a poverty of compassion for those in the shadows of our society.

Jesus is clear that we should not “…store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” but rather “…store up for yourselves treasures in heaven”  (Matthew 6:19). This teaching is both dignity for the poor, who don’t need money to be rich in God’s eyes, and it is hope for the rich, who don’t need to bow to society’s obsession with accumulation. The good news is that you and I don’t need to bow to this pressure to accumulate; we are free to store up treasure in heaven! We are free to be generous, to be committed to the common good and have compassion for the ‘least of these’. Above all we are free to pray the dangerous but liberating prayer for God to give us the wealth that makes it possible to “…give the diamond away so easily”.

A Parable-amongfriends: Lentils for Dinner

Posted on Tuesday, September, 25th, 2012 at 2:18 pm   (1 comment)

The Philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for dinner. He was seen by the philosopher Aristuppus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Continue reading

Unity and Dissent in Communal Decision-Making

Posted on Thursday, September, 6th, 2012 at 7:00 am   (4 comments)

Here is the text from a short ‘ted-style’ talk that I gave at our Missional Communities Collective Conference in Rosarito (Tijuana Mexico). The talk was based on Michael Sheeran’s brilliant book, ‘Beyond Majority Rule’. You can read more about my experience at the conference here.

In Missional communities we need both unity and dissent.

Unity in community is an acknowledgement of our fundamental interconnectedness, our Ubuntu as they say in Zulu. It is an expression of our oneness that Jesus so fervently prayed for in John 17. Truly it is an expression of our deepest identity as the body of Christ. Unity is precious…but equally as precious is dissent.

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A Pilgrimage of Hope (Voortrekker, Apartheid Museum and KlipTown) in Pictures

Posted on Tuesday, September, 4th, 2012 at 3:56 pm   (No comments)
A pilgrimage is a transformational journey during which significant change takes place. New insights are given. Deeper understanding is attained. New and old places in the heart are visited. Blessings are received and healing takes place. On return from the pilgrimage, life is seen with different eyes. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.
- (Macrina Wiederkehr: Behold Your Life)

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Meaningful Work in a Culture of Busyness

Posted on Monday, July, 30th, 2012 at 11:24 am   (No comments)

I have been reflecting on the fact that out of the 1o core, adult members of NieuCommunites 8 of us are just starting out on our career paths.

Work and all its accompanying questions is a strong theme in my day to day conversations. Rarely a day passes where someone is not wrestling with some of these kinds of questions:

  • Why does my work not feel meaningful?
  • How do I find work?
  • What am I worth if I am unemployed?
  • How do I not allow work to consume my whole life?
  • How do I balance working for others and paying the bills?
  • How do I choose a specific job or career path?
  • Why is my sense of value so intimately tied to my work?
  • What does it mean to be successful? Etc, etc.

I am always on the lookout for wisdom (which is different to answers!) relating to work and I recently came across this gem from Joan Chittister’s excellent book Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today.

She writes

No life is to be so busy that there is no time to take stock of it. No day is to be so full of busyness that the gospel does not intrude. No schedule is to be so tight that there is no room for reflection on whether what is being done is worth doing at all. No work should be all consuming that else can get in; not my husband, not my wife (or girlfriend), not my hobbies, not my friends, not nature, not reading, not prayer. How shall we ever put on the mind of Christ if we never take the time to determine what the mind of Christ was then and is now, for me.

We don’t need more busy people in our world. We need more people whose life and actions have been prayerfully reflected on, people who live from a centre, people who might be involved and committed to many things but know that outside of taking moments to stop and contemplate the meaning of what is happening in their lives they are simply busy for busyness sake.

A Parable-amongfriends: The Narrow Path

Posted on Saturday, July, 14th, 2012 at 11:26 am   (No comments)



God warned the people of an earthquake that would swallow all the waters of the land. The waters that would take their place would make everyone insane.
Only the prophet took God seriously. He carried huge jugs of water to his mountain cave so that he had enough to last him till the day he died.

Sure enough, the earthquake came and the waters vanished and new water filled the streams and lakes and rivers and ponds. A few months later the prophet came down to see what had happened. Everyone had indeed gone mad, and attacked him, for they thought it was he who was insane.

So the prophet went back to his mountain cave, glad for the water he had saved. But as time went by he found his loneliness unbearable. He yearned for human company, so he went down to the plains again. Again he was rejected by the people, for he was so unlike them.

The prophet then succumbed. He threw away the water he had saved, drank the new water, and joined the people in their insanity.


- A parable from Anthony De Mello’s The Song of the Bird

Two (surprising) things about my Dad that have shaped my life.

Posted on Monday, June, 18th, 2012 at 9:35 am   (9 comments)

The man who I affectionately call ‘old man’, ‘oldy’, ‘Baz’ or ‘Bazzy’ is due for some recognition this Fathers Day! This past week I was thinking about all the (suprising) ways in which he has shaped my life and felt that a blog post was in order. Two things surfaced above the rest (and there were many) as significant ways my father has influenced me. I am sure you will agree that I am lucky to have a father like this!

1. For most of his working life my father wore shorts.

One of my fondest memories was hearing my father respond to my polite inquiry as to why he wore shorts to work. With that impassioned expression and tone of voice that only my father can get he said, “This is Africa man! It’s hot here, it’s craaazy that people wear  long pants in this kind of weather. No man, shorts are much better!” A classic bit of don’t-uncritically-follow-the-crowd wisdom which my father never seemed to be short on and which I really have come to value.

Whether business or pleasure my Dad likes to wear shorts

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Thin Spaces:6 Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community

Posted on Monday, June, 11th, 2012 at 8:00 am   (No comments)

Some of you might remember that I made a trip to San Diego last year to be a part of the pre-discussions of book been written by our friends that side. The good news is that is now available here (in fact it is ‘temporarily out of stock’ which means they are selling like Ouma Bessie’s fresh pancakes at the boeremark). I have not read the book yet but am looking forward to it’s kindle release to see exactly how it all turned out! It seems to be getting some really good reviews and has even stirred up a little discussion about the title with two fairly prominent U.S. bloggers, Tony Jones and Steve Knight.  The other rad thing about the book is that it is going to be released with a DVD for group discussions which I think it really helpful.


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Parable-Amongfriends: The Contented Fisherman

Posted on Monday, June, 4th, 2012 at 8:00 am   (2 comments)

The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the Southern Fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.


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Inhabit: The Importance of Place in Communities of Faith

Posted on Tuesday, April, 24th, 2012 at 8:33 am   (No comments)

Our Friends from San Diego have been speaking at the inhabit conference ( in Seattle.

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Easter Sunday:The Meaning of the Resurrection

Posted on Tuesday, April, 10th, 2012 at 11:54 am   (No comments)

Richard Rohr in his  beautiful daily meditation reflects on the meaning of Resurrection here:

In the Risen Christ, God reveals the final state of all reality. God forbids us to accept “as-it-is” in favor of “what-God’s-love-can-make-it.” To believe in Resurrection means to cross limits and transcend boundaries. Because of the promise of the Resurrection of Jesus we realistically can believe that tomorrow can be better than today. We are not bound by any past. There is a future that is created by God, and much bigger than our own efforts.

We should not just believe in some kind of survival or immortality or just “life after death”—but Resurrection, an utterly new creation, a transformation into Love that is promised as the final chapter of all history. That is why a true Christian has to be an optimist. In fact, if you are not an optimist, you haven’t got it yet.


Good Friday: The God-forsaken experience

Posted on Thursday, April, 5th, 2012 at 3:17 pm   (No comments)

This is an old post I wrote about Good Friday but I still like it.


Tomorrow evening I will be walking the  ’Stations of the Cross’. Stations of the Cross is a visual and meditative journey (traditionally in 14 stations) from Pilate’s House where Christ was condemned, to Golgotha where he was crucified. Stations of the Cross is traditionally called Via dolorosa which  means ‘the Way of Sorrow’. Honestly I find the Way of Sorrow to be one of the most compelling and disorientating stories around. It seems to run against the very grain of our ‘survival of the fittest’ tendancies. Central to this story is the belief that the redemption of the world comes not through violence, domination and strength but rather through suffering, vulnerability and ‘weakness’.


While there are so many parts on the Via Dolorosa that capture my imaginiation, none catch me more so than Jesus’ cry at the time of his gruesome crucifixion, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani, my God, my God why have you forsaken me?” I wish I could say that I cannot relate to Jesus’ cry. I can. And I am sure most of us either can relate to this on some level in our own lives or tacitly believe in some way that our world (or at least parts of it) has been forsaken by God. Try to look into the eyes of someone forced into and trapped in prostitution for survival or a child who is a victim of ongoing abuse, and a feeling of Godforsakeness is sure to follow.

Meditating on Christ’s cry,I was trying to imagine what His experience was in that moment. In the midst of my pondering an insight began to bring itself into sharp focus in my mind. I began to realise that in our experience of Godforsakeness we are bound up with the experience and sufferings of Jesus. Or to say it in a more theologically provocative way, God through Jesus has experienced the same Godforsakeness many of us have experienced in our own life, especially at times of great suffering or confusion.

We often fear this sense of Godforsakeness because it is such a lonely and isolated experience but we might miss a great spiritual gift that lies hidden within it. We miss that the cry of forsakeness leads us into the very wounds of Christ. We identify with Christ and Christ identifies with us. We are not alone in our Godforsakeness for Christ is there with us crying out in prayer to God with us. Our voices in harmony, in the midst of agony.



May we come to know this Good Friday that we are not alone in our Godforsaken experiences but that indeed Christ is here with us.


From Ethiopia with Love: Part 4 Lalibela

Posted on Friday, March, 30th, 2012 at 7:55 am   (4 comments)

This is part 4 of a 5 part photo series of a recent trip to Ethiopia. You can check out part 1part 2 and part 3 if you would like. Also check out Becky’s take on the trip here and here.


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NieuCommunities: A Missional Monastic Community (Part 2 of 2)

Posted on Tuesday, March, 6th, 2012 at 10:59 am   (No comments)
This is a two part blog series on the identity of NieuCommunities. Part 1 explored NieuCommunities as Monastic. Part 2 will explore NieuCommunities as Missional.

NieuCommunities is a Missional-Monastic community. What the…? What does that mean?

In the last post we explored NieuCommunities as Monastic and some of the reasons we felt compelled to rediscover our missional roots. We now turn to NieuCommunities as Missional.

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NieuCommunities: A Missional Monastic Community (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on Monday, March, 5th, 2012 at 7:50 am   (No comments)

NieuCommunities is a Missional-Monastic community. What the…? What does that mean?

Let me explain.

NieuCommunities as Monastic:

For 7 years NieuCommunities operated from Pangani. A truly remarkable property 20min north of Pretoria, nestled at the base of the Magaliesburg mountains. The first thing you notice when you step onto Pangani is the fresh, clean air often accompanied by a peculiar sense of calm. This is largely due to the almost overwhelming greenery that gently slaps you at every turn. This beautiful garden coupled with the solid stone building of the old main house, in the shadow of the mountain gives it the look and feel of a monastery. This monastic first impression proves to be an authentic one, pointing to the true identity of this property. In many ways, for NieuCommunities, it was a monastery with a strong emphasis on community and spirituality.


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From Ethiopia with Love: Part 3 Axum

Posted on Friday, February, 10th, 2012 at 3:05 pm   (No comments)
This is part 3 of a 5 part photo series of a recent trip to Ethiopia. You can check out part 1 and part 2 if you would like. Also check out Becky’s take on the trip here and here.


Axum is a truly spectacular city where the ancient and contemporary meet. This was one of the ‘Great Civilisations’ produced by humanity. The fourth century Persian writer Manni described Axum as one of the ‘four great empires’, alongside Rome, China and Persia! This comparison gives you some idea to the significance and magnitude of it. At its height the Axumite empire even stretched across the red sea into Yemen.

Here are the pics, enjoy!


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Continuous and Generous Revolution

Posted on Thursday, February, 2nd, 2012 at 12:00 pm   (2 comments)

Today I received, like every other morning,  the short and sharp wisdom of Fr. Richard Rohr, which you can subscribe to here if you are interested.


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From Ethiopia with Love Part 2: Gondar

Posted on Friday, January, 27th, 2012 at 10:58 am   (1 comment)
This is part 2 of a 5 part photo series of a recent trip to Ethiopia. You can check out part 1 here. Also check out Becky’s take on the trip here and here

Not to be confused with Gondor, Gondar is (according to our guide Haile Selassie) the ‘Camelot of Africa’ . Out of everything I saw in Ethiopia this was perhaps the thing I least expected to see, ‘Castles, in Africa.what the…?’ It is so different to anything we have in Southern Africa and goes a long way to re-configuring stereo-types about Africa. Beyond that it just added another layer to the mystique and intrigue that seems to characterises so much of Ethiopia.


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From Ethiopia with Love Part 1: Bahir Dar and the Lake Tana Monasteries

Posted on Thursday, January, 19th, 2012 at 3:35 pm   (4 comments)

This post is way overdue.

We arrived back from Ethiopia just before Christmas and many of you have asked to see pictures from the trip. After just a few more sentences your curiosity will finally be satisfied so hang in there! An experience like this is quite difficult to put into words so I have decided to just let the pictures do the talking (he says while he continues to type more words).

After two years of saving, many hours of planning and a couple of setbacks that nearly derailed our trip, including the possibility of supplementary exams, Becky and I were finally able to travel to the enigmatic and magical land of Ethiopia.

We travelled nearly 3000 kilometres, to7 destinations using a multitude of transportation including taxi’s, buses, minibuses, horses, planes, tuk-tuks and boats. We experienced both the vibrancy and poverty of Addis Ababa as well as the overwhelming beauty of the Bale mountains. We befriended locals and we befriended foreigners, we were treated with warmth and hospitality and we were ripped off.  We wanted to stay there longer and we were ready to come back home. We experienced a full range of emotions with the vast majority of them being positive.

Without a doubt this was the most memorable trip that I have been on and if you are considering a travel destination, Ethiopia should be top of your list.


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Going on leave

Posted on Monday, November, 28th, 2011 at 8:00 am   (No comments)

So am going to be on leave for the next couple of weeks! I have been saving all my leave up for this trip…am so excited to be going but that does mean I won’t be posting until after Christmas…aahh!



Well, you might not miss me but I will miss you and I hope this last part of the year is good for you and all those you care about!


Speak soon



Everything is Grace

Posted on Wednesday, November, 23rd, 2011 at 11:26 am   (No comments)

Here is a beautiful reflection on the Gift of life from Fr. Ricahard Rohr’s ‘Daily Meditations’. Consider signing up for his daily reflections here. They are short, punchy and really profound in a simple and grounded way.


When Job’s life is about to be taken away from him, he can say one of two things. He can curse God, as he is tempted to do, and say, “God, why not fifty-one years of life?” Or he can surrender to love and say, “God, why even fifty years?” Why did I deserve life at all? When we take on that attitude, we’ve made a decision for grace.

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