Thesis 96 : Reformation Day 2011

October 30, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Posted in reformation, spirituality | 4 Comments

What would we add to Martin Luthers 95 theses, posted today 494 years ago? This is what some of us have to say in response to​1more/​


Letter to Brother Emile of Taize

September 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Posted in spirituality, Taize, worship | Leave a comment

Dear Emile and Kombo

Thank you so much for your giving of yourselves while in Cape Town. Everyone in our community was blessed by what you had to share.

Sunday morning in Gugulethu was a challenge, but you handled the “paradigm clash” with grace and skill. It was I think a lesson in how the Church needs the liberation from programs and structures which make it difficult to cultivate the priesthood of all believers. However I did see a willingness in the congregants to embrace the different and the new, especially in their wholehearted participation in their physical closeness to the cross.

Of course, Friday evening at Erin Hall really gave us a taste of the Taize Spirit, and it is for me a sustainable response to many of the questions left behind by the evangelical church and its consumerist, celebritist, elitist, technocentric, individualist modes of worship. What came to me was models of community: Bounded set, and Centred Set, to which we can now add “Donut shaped” (apophatically “empty” in the centre), in response to that space.

We in the vocal collective voxi all learned a lot about space, song, liturgy and service, which we will carry forward with us.

Here’s hoping we can meet again before too long.


For a fuller report of the vist, see the Taize website.

Philip Clayton in Cape Town, April 2011

March 25, 2011 at 10:28 am | Posted in belonging, cape town, community, emergent spirituality, george ellis, kenosis, lila, Philip Clayton, story | 4 Comments

Clay is moulded to form a cup
Yet only the space within
Allows the cup to hold water
Tao Te Ching 11

(Thanks to John van de Laar, Andy Hendrikse and Marius Brand for the reflection)

We were encouraged by Philip Clayton, accomplished Californian academic, as he visited Cape Town for 2 events this last week. Philip has an unusually deep grasp of biology, philosophy, and theology and is at the forefront of the “science and religion” debate. He is currently Dean of the exciting new interfaith endeavour out of Claremont School of Theology, The University Project.

On Friday 18th Philip co-led a colloquium at the University of the Western Cape on “emergent and complex systems” in conversation with Professor George Ellis, the renowned South African cosmologist based at the University of Cape Town.

Philip’s themes of open emergence and human freedom were paired with George Ellis’s recent work on top-down causation. The morning session concerned emergent or complex systems from the angle of natural science, philosophy of science, neuroscience, and theoretical biology, and the afternoon on emergent and complex systems from the standpoint of the emergence of culture, human freedom, transcendence, metaphysics and theology … potently theoretical, and as I caution, “not to be taken neat”. I was very glad to be part of the think-tank, however, and to know that someone is doing the foundational work in the field.

But as a practical emergent, it was Monday evening’s gathering which profoundly resonated. Unlike the colloquium, it was not constrained by the mores, protocols or rigours of academia. It was a consummate heartspace and despite the given theme “Beyond Facebook Emergence”, none of the 25 participants knew what to expect.

Phil posited a few ideas at various times – “heresy as Orthodoxy”, “God as pervasive process”, “co-authoring the bible”, and “models of God”, but the evening seemed to want something different. Up front, he took off his shoes, and sat on the floor, telling his story, and putting his cards more or less in front if him, asking, “what in this story resonates with you, and what do you find difficult?” It was indeed an open storyspace.

This openness was largely due to Philips phenomenal improvisatory abilities. With reference to the Hindu concept of Lila – लीला in Sanskrit, or play – we gaily abandoned the topic. After a short meditation in the Table Mountain dusk, we played the song “A New Born Child” by Sinead O’Conner from movie “Le Premier Cri” (The First Cry).

Just as two breaths become one breath,
As two whispers become a cry,
Miracle before us lies,
The glory of a new-born child.

Philip took this and ran with it … what are the implications of ongoing birthing? Key to the success of the evening was Phil’s constant quest to hearing from “us” before offering “his” opinion. He probed and probed, eventually coming close to the “thing” that this gathering was all about.

And that thing was kind of heavy, mournful, it was about neither Good Friday nor resurrection Sunday, but the rather shadowy “Holy Saturday”. Afterwards, we struggled to articulate it, but here it is:

We explored a playful space in which we could mourn.

Many of us are becoming aware that we are in fact in mourning for spiritualities we have known, that we are perhaps with REM, “losing my religion.” Our gathering touched this truth profoundly.

We felt called to Kenosis – self emptying – one of George Ellis’s primary truths in his theorising about emergence. This kenotic calling is described in Philippians 2, where Christ Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant”. Phil later spoke of his discussions with his celebrated friends such as Brian McLaren, Peter Rollins and Tony Jones, in which the challenge to the emergent movement revolved around how we were able to empty ourselves of the building of “our minstries” for the sake of the greater emergence.

Andy suggested we do a chant, at close quarters, of a new word he just made up – “stome”, 21 times. Uncomfortable, wierd, but strangely alluring.

Philip summarised thus:

  • The children among us know the answers to the questions we’re asking.
  • Let it be ad lib, acknowledge the community that is already there, celebrate the ‘now’ moment – the spontaneity of what is emerging.
  • Lila is the play of God.

We ended without benediction, doxology, or


The two halves of life

September 14, 2010 at 8:41 am | Posted in meditation | 1 Comment

On Sunday 12 September 2010, we gathered to consider “The two halves of life”. Ann led us in a teaching and discussion which for many present held an important key to understanding their journeys more fully.

There was a great sense of openness, especially regarding one another’s brokenness. We scattered for contemplative writing and reconvened to light candles and pray.

Here are 3 of the offerings:


Water, hold my fragile boat
Take up the oars in blistered hands
Carry the scull on aching feet
Carry the craft on bruised shoulder
Lower the burden onto the water

Little boat, hold my fragile heart
Lean over and open the gates
Adjust the seat
Feet in the shoes
Lock the gate
Centre the blades

Water, hold my fragile boat
Push off from the jetty
Lean into the wind
Steady and hold,
Lurch and correct
Balance and pull

Little boat, hold my fragile heart
Button pressure and body swing
Light hands, straight arms
Slow up the slide
Wobble, tip, recover

Water, hold my fragile boat
Drop the cleaver
Arc through the deep
Release and feather
Balance and pull

Little boat, hold my fragile heart
Run the craft
Wind in my face
Catfish below
Flamingo above

Water, hold my fragile boat
In the still calm space
Where I find my body, alive and restored
In the still calm space
Where my loss I redeemed, made whole
In the still calm space
Where I find my being, transformed in you



I have laid the warrior to rest, and the sage has moved off from the stage.
The King has taken off his crown, all these I have set down.

So the lover is what I now am, the amateur who loves for the sake of it.

The heart of this music, beyond valiant virtuosity, sagacious songs of power, or rousing anthems. The lover drawn to the allure of what lies beyond words, beyond mastery, and beyond glory.
The sound, vibrations of the heart, tracking the shape of being, in compassion and communion with all that is.


Full Bloom

1 Just the other day still
I was crushed
By claustrophobic smiles
And disapproving hugs

2 A seed, waiting for the fire
A flower waiting for the warmth of summer

3 God
Mutate my DNA into something
Help me out of my wheelchair
Teach me how to run …
With, not from, the sun.



August 31, 2010 at 7:39 am | Posted in baking, belonging, meditation | 4 Comments

“Taste and see that the Lord is good”. [Psalm 37]

We gathered at Kim and Jeremy’s for “BREAD”. We were pleasantly surprised to host several people for the first time.

Once a baker, Jeremy imparted his craft to us, setting the tone with this poem:

Back of the loaf is the snowy flour;
Back of the flour, the mill,
Back of the mill is the wheat and the sower,
And the sun,
And the Father’s will.

There is nothing like work, and even messy work, to bring people together. Under a warm spring sky we mixed flour, water, oil, salt, yeast, sugar, and once pliable, added olives or chocolate. No prizes for guessing the preferences for the multitude of kids.

When we had braided the loaves we baked them in the oven or on the braai. In an unexpected and very sensory way we were introduced to the concept of “transubstantiation” – the rather unpleasant word itself remained unmentioned – as Jeremy read from John “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you”, and we all ate, and were satisfied with a profound experience of belonging and presence.

Belong, behave, believe: A 3 “Be” Storyspace

May 31, 2010 at 9:36 am | Posted in belonging, cape town, community, conversation, meditation, story | 5 Comments

We gathered on Sunday 30 May to explore a “3 Be Storyspace”.

A Storyspace as opposed to a storyline. A weaving of one another’s lives on the ground, rather than a prescription from “above”.

We met in the great cathedral of sky in full view of Table Mountain, the cool breeze perfectly complimenting a warming winter sun. Each had brought symbols of their relationship to the 3 B’s. We sang a new hymn “Light and Dust”

Continue Reading Belong, behave, believe: A 3 “Be” Storyspace…

(un)Knowing God – the continuing adventure through darkness and light

March 23, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Posted in community, emergent spirituality, meditation, movement, music, painting, worship | 2 Comments

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” KJV.

This is my personal  and brief perspective…..

This last Sunday our group of faithful believers gathered to consider the darkness of being light and lightness found in searching the dark side. The journey of faith is usually “seen” as a journey from darkness to light, however we journeyed with the mystics of old this Sunday,  like the 5th century theologian Pseudo-Dionysus, who realized that the more we try and fathom our faith in a loving, good and gracious God, a cloud of unknowing can close around us.  How often our struggles in times of darkness paradoxically draws us closer to the  light of hope found in our Saviour, Jesus Christ.( almost Buddhism)

On Sunday Nic lead the group though a journey that highlighted the darkness found within the ambit of a God that is light.

The event opened with a reading from Matthew Fox bringing glory to darkness in an age of enlightenment. It was a wonderful passage that broadened our view into the role that darkness plays in the process of creation and birth.

After this reading I briefly introduced three of my paintings dealing with light and dark and the transcendant verses the imminent nature of God. I couldn’t remember the names, so hear they are:

In the dark.


Staring at the darkness of light.


Parallel and the (im)possible.

We then read some illuminating quotations and verses, in some cases contradicting each other. After this we read the dark psalm 88, also known as “Heman’s lament” after the “maskil of Heman the Ezrahite”, Selah.  Throughout this process we spent moments in silent contemplation.

This lead to the next part of the mornings liturgy and Nic sang a new song he had recently written called “Ancient  Ways”. It’s wonderful lyrics are below:

Ancient Ways

That which is not seen by the eye,

but that by which the eye sees:

know that to be God, know that to be

That which is not expressed by speech,

but that by which speech is expressed:

know that to be God, know that to be

That which is not thought by the mind,

but that by which the mind thinks:

know that to be God, know that to be

There the eye does not go, nor speech, nor the mind.

We do not know, we do not understand.

Different from the known, and also the unknown.

These are the ancient ways, written in the sand.

That which is not heard by the ear,

but that by which the ear hears:

know that to be God, know that to be

That which is not breathed by the breath,

but that by which the breath breathes:

know that to be God, know that to be

This was followed by Theresa  leading the group through an unusual gesture/movement with stones. We each held two stones, one  in each hand, a “light” stone and a “dark” stone. We considered  contrasting emotions and moments in life as we moved our hand and arms while holding the stones.

The final stage in the mornings journey was a ritual of lighting candles and sharing followed by a times of praying for one another.

It was an intriguing morning that left me reflecting on a God that, in my experience, I see through a glass, darkly. However, through faith I know that one day will I see face to face. This faith, in the words of Peter Rollins, ” is born from an event that is so luminous we are left dazzled by its incoming– an event so deep that we are saturated by it, so vast that we dwarfed by it, and so bright that we are blinded by it”

I have posted a parable, written by Peter Rollins, called BLINDNESS at my blogsite (click here) that I recommend you read as a follow-up to this last Sunday morning’s gathering.



“Re-membering” : Sun 21st Feb 2010

February 23, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Posted in meditation, movement, remembering | 2 Comments

by Roger Witter.

“The Lord Jesus, in the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread and when he had given thanks he broke it and said, ‘Take, eat this is my body which is being broken for you’ … Similarly, when supper was ended, he took the cup saying, ‘This cup is the new agreement in my blood: do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me’.” 1 Co 11:23-26 (J.B. Phillips)

This Sunday past we partook together of the Table of Remembrance, prior to which Andrew led us into a time of contemplation, which he entitled “Remembering”. After considering what immediate association the word “relations” evoked in us, we were invited to first recollect, and then share, a particularly “extreme” (or exceptional) bestowal of self-sacrificial that we had personally experienced.

Andrew reflected on two events, the first being a surprise birthday party that Theresa had arranged for him soon after their wedding, and the second the assistance and support his brother had recently rendered in the midst of a crisis.

I then followed with two experiences of love my father had exhibited towards me not long before he died in my early years, both of which significantly shaped my inner conception of what God is like.

Anna went on to share how that while the meaning of Christ’s death had come home to her in a personal way when she was eighteen, it was her experience of being loved without regard to self during a demoralising health crisis that had
especially made the unconditional nature of the Father’s love real to her.

Theresa in turn recalled how that while she and Andrew at the time of their wedding might well have been regarded critically for marrying at such a young (and penniless!) age, they in fact encountered quite the opposite, with
everybody contributing really generously – including her father, who sold his boat in order to finance the event.

Finally, Nic reflected on two seasons of Jungian therapy he underwent sayiongh how these were great time of being “re-membered” and held.

After this period of reflection (which I think everyone found to be particularly moving) Tess introduced a rather meaningful exercise in which we attempted, by employing short phrases and creative body movement, to encapsulate and express the things we had been sharing.Thsi was done in such a way that each new mantra was added after recalling all the other matras – a practical example of memory.

This was followed by a celebration of the Sacrament. As we each made our way to the table to partake of the bread and the wine, we retold some particular event in the life and ministry of Jesus that we felt especially expressed the unconditional (and often passionately assertive) love that resides in the heart of the Creator towards each and every
one of us.


February 8, 2010 at 11:35 am | Posted in forgiveness | Leave a comment

I have posted a meditation on the theme of yesterday’s gathering here.


The Afterlife

January 12, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Posted in art, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , ,

Last Sunday we met at the Brands and Mariza led us in a reflection on the afterlife. Rather than sermonizing, she chose to give us the task of constructing a collage of our thoughts and feelings on the subject.

What do we think happens to us when we die? What would we like to see happen? How do we feel about it? Is there life after life after death?

To the sound of The Lama’s Chant we worked on our collages and then each participant got the chance to explain their pictures to the rest of the group.

The range of beliefs, thoughts and feelings about the afterlife were fascinating, but throughout the discussion profound respect was given to the very personal reflections.

I can’t remember what everyone said, but here follow some snippets…

Roger Witter chose to reflect on his life thus far, with death and the beyond remaining a big question mark. Anna spoke intimately of the levels and layers of conciousness that are already within our grasp of experiencing and that death merely extends that reach. Roger Saner focussed on the hope for the material restoration of creation and pondered on what we will eat on the new earth! Danya shared that for her death could simply be the end of life, but that she was also attracted to the idea of reincarnation. Andrew and Ann depicted the flight of the soul into the beautiful, blue beyond. Theresa designed an infinity symbol. Nic constructed a koan reflecting the paradox and absurdity of pondering the afterlife. Mariza created a multi-dimensional picture, with visceral sworls of crayon reflecting her feelings about life after death. I spoke about my attraction to both Buddhist ideas of becoming one with universal conciousness and Tom Wright’s ideas of the new earth and expressed the hope that both, contradicting states will become a reality in the hereafter.

I think we all found it liberating to talk about death and life after death, without doctrinal restrictions of what we are ‘supposed’ to believe, and recognizing that whatever lies beyond death is a beautiful, paradoxical mystery.

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