It’s a sunny Saturday morning here in Johannesburg. Maybe a little chilly, but that's to be understood. After all, it’s winter here.
This may be my last email to you from Africa, as Monday I start the long journey home. I’m gaining an appreciation for just how far from Vancouver I am right now. Three of the guys living in the house I’m staying at are from the London area. We’re a long way south of London, but the time difference is only one hour so they think nothing of chatting online or on their cell phones with friends and family back home. In my case there is nine hours between Vancouver and here, so as I start to write this at about 10 am I’m assuming most of you in BC are snug in your beds!
Let me tell you a little about my day yesterday. I spent most of it with Arnie Swiegers, who is the country director for Oasis South Africa, which in turn is part of the global Oasis community. (Oasis was founded by Steve Chalke, who wrote a book called The Lost Message of Jesus which has been influential in my own thinking. Ironically, this book caused quite a stir a few years ago with regard to Steve's thoughts on penal substitution!) I met Arnie briefly last week at the Amahoro Gathering when he came up for one day with my friend Tom Smith. It turns out Arnie and I have been on similar trajectories; he left a career in banking to work for Oasis and launch their work here in South Africa.
The day started off at “The Hub”, Oasis’ office/clinic/you-name-it located in a house just a block or two from where I’m staying. We’re actually in a rather “middle class” neighbourhood, but I’ll explain more about that in a moment. Friday is pre- and post-natal clinic day at The Hub, so the place was jammed with pregnant women, mothers, and snotty-nosed sick infants. Arnie tells me they see about 100 people a week. Outside there is a women in the back of a pick-up truck (called a buckey here) on a bullhorn encouraging people throughout Cosmo City to come in and get tested for HIV.
Cosmo City is a prototype community, and is a little hard to describe. It starts with the squatter’s camps, or “informal settlements” as they are officially known. For instance there are more than 100,000 people living in squalid shacks on about two square kilometers of land not far from here. There are many of these settlements throughout South Africa, and the government is thinking through how to deal with them. Many of these people are South African, but the problem has been exacerbated by refugees. Nobody knows the real number, but it is widely believed that there are three to four million Zimbabweans in South Africa, fleeing the disaster that is their own country. Some of the camps have power to light a few “street lights”, and many people tap into the lines to bring power to their shacks. (I met a man who ran a line almost 2 kms through the camp to his own place.) All have water brought in by the government to central tanks that people can draw on, and also pit latrines in a few locations throughout the camp. Some of the camps are “unofficial”, meaning they’re not recognized by the government. Those communities get water but nothing else.
As I said, Cosmo City is a prototype. The idea is to get all the people out of the camps into more permanent housing. As you can imagine this is a huge, expensive undertaking. Here’s how it works: The government has identified two informal settlements as feeder communities for Cosmo City. First, they go into the camps and surround the place with barbed wire. Then, they go through the camp and conduct a survey, and mark door frames with a bar code to show that the occupants have been accounted for. Then they tell everyone that they are (eventually) going to move. Finally, they place guards at the entrances to prevent more people from moving in. (As I saw yesterday though the security is a bit of a joke.) When they come to take you to your new home they level your shack so no one else can occupy it.
If your monthly income is less than 2000 Rand per month (about $280 CDN), you qualify for a free house. These are extremely small, but they have power and running water. If your salary is less than 8000 Rand per month, you qualify for a somewhat larger house. You must purchase it, but the cost is heavily subsidized. Here’s the interesting part: Although apartheid as official policy is long gone, there is real concern here because people are still segregated economically. In order to try and break those distinctions down, there is a third level of housing here. These are nice middle class houses by local standards, and they must be purchased without any subsidy. The hope is to more closely integrate the different economic classes, but it remains to be seen how well this strategy works. This third level of housing is where I'm currently staying.
There is another informal settlement close by where instead of moving people they are simply knocking down shacks and building houses on the spot. There’s a density and a timing issue here though, so people are still being displaced. It is a mammoth undertaking, and I’m told that they could build homes at this pace for the next 20 years and still not have adequate housing for everyone. The government is to be credited though with trying something.
That’s a quick overview of the landscape... back to my drive with Arnie.
We drove from The Hub over to a government health clinic located right inside the informal settlement. It’s a bigger building than The Hub, and there was a larger group of people waiting there. We brought over about 50 blood samples, taken that morning at The Hub, for pre-natal testing, as Oasis has a deal with this clinic where they will do the actual testing. This testing is vital; if a pregnant woman tests positive she can be given a drug which virtually eliminates the possibility of the baby being born positive. At this larger facility there were exactly 2 samples waiting to be tested. The government has realized that NGO’s can do this work much more effectively, so they are starting to help fund those agencies that prove themselves efficient.
From there we drove through several of the camps as Arnie explained to me how things work. He then took me by one of the most expensive developments in Johannesburg. High walls, electric fences, and gates staffed by heavily armed guards. From these multi-million dollar homes you can actually see one of the unofficial camps. In fact, this particular camp is being moved because the same developer owns the land the camp is on and wants to expand the wealthy development.
We then stopped for coffee and had a long theological and philosophical conversation about this bizarre country of outrageous contrasts. We both agreed that although things seem completely crazy here, in fact South Africa is simply a microcosm for the entire globe. We in the west are those rich folks behind the fences, and Africa (and other places of extreme poverty) is the squatter’s camp we can see just down the road a bit. In South Africa the two extremes are in physical proximity; they are literally right next to each other. In the global example we are in virtual proximity.
This is obviously a simplistic look at things, but I think it’s fairly accurate. In an age of instant communication, we are in virtual proximity to those places in the world where suffering is a way of life. It’s easy for me to sit in Arnie’s car and condemn those uncaring people behind the fences, but the reality is I am one of them. And no, I don’t have any answers for what we do about that situation, other than to echo our friend Brian McLaren and confess that everything must change.
We need a new theology of development. We need a new theology of community. Quite frankly we need a new theology of Jesus, because the one I grew up with seems to only work in a world where virtual proximity does not exist, and where distance allows for ignorance. We need to work through what it means to love our neighbour when everyone on the planet lives next door.
I don’t want to end on a down note because quite frankly I don’t feel that way. I have more hope today than I have ever had before. As I’ve said a few times throughout these notes to you I’ve had a feeling for a while now that Africa is going to save the west, and not the other way around. At the beginning of this trip I would have admitted that I didn’t have a clue what that actually meant, it was just something I felt. I’m still not clear on it, but I’m growing more and more convinced that I might be on to something. As Africa works its way through some of these mammoth issues, they will have much to teach us, if we are willing to listen.
Well, yet another day without the bandwidth to log into Typepad, so I'll send this to you instead of posting it. This was a brief thought I scribbled down in the bus Saturday on the way out to Cape Point, based on something I heard during the Amahoro Gathering last week.
When you get right down to it there are only...
2 people groups
On this Earth:
The Haves and the Have-Nots.
All other diversity is to be preserved, defended, and celebrated as critical for the completeness of the Kingdom of God. This one distinction is to be obliterated.
I know I’ve been jumping around a little in these emails, but hey, I never promised they would unfold in chronological order! Today let me say more about our field trip to Cape Town that took place over the weekend. It was a fantastic time, so this might be a long one.
Friday morning came early as 50 or 60 of us boarded a bus and headed for the Johannesburg airport. For most of our African friends the conference was coming to an end, and many of them were scattering to different parts of the continent and heading home. However, twelve of us flew to Cape Town for our field trip. (Other options were to visit an urban ministry in Johannesburg, or World Vision in Swaziland.)
Once we landed in CT we headed directly to The Warehouse.
“The Warehouse was established in 2003 by the Anglican Parish of St. John’s in Wynberg and exists to serve and help the South African church network, primarily in the Cape Town metropolitan area, in addressing poverty and injustice effectively. We work with local churches in rich and poor communities by helping them implement sound, effective and practical acts and renewed attitudes that change the lives of the poor, restore dignity and build meaningful relationships.
This is explored through five strategic pillars, namely prayer, mobilisation, equipping, innovation and advocacy. The projects that come out of these pillars tackle the most painful wounds on the body of our nation - orphan care, high-risk youth and gangsterism, unemployment, redistribution of resources, as well as training and development in community work and social transformation. This is all done with a deliberate and intentional focus on prayer.”
Needless to say that visit had my mind racing with the possibilities, both for Linwood House Ministries, and other groups that I am familiar with who are involved in the downtown eastside, such as Streams of Justice.
From there we traveled to Cape Town’s most famous landmark, Table Mountain, to ride the cableway up and catch the sunset. The view was stunning and the sunset was beautiful. After we drove through one of Cape Town’s wealthiest suburbs located at the base of Table Mountain, on a beautiful beach. Just as was the case last weekend in the mall cafe in Johannesburg, I was reminded yet again of the incredible disparity between poor and rich that exists in this country. You simply can’t escape it, although my Afrikaans friends tell me many of their peers have structured their lives in a way that insulates them from this reality. Given careful attention to where you live, who you associate with, the routes you drive, etc., it is almost possible to delude yourself into thinking you live in Europe. And yet this Africa.
From that wealthy neighbourhood we travelled to the black township of Guguletu, to the JL Zwane Church and Center, where we were to meet our host families. JL Zwane is a beautiful facility located in the heart of the township, and is pastored by Spiwo Xapile, of whom I will have more to say in a moment. There my friend Bill and I met Liziwe Mahlatshana, who would be hosting us for two nights. Liziwe is a single 37 year old women who lives with her 14 year old niece, called ZuZu because her real name “is too complicated” in a small house in the township. (The weekend prior Liziwe had hosted two other American men who were part of a larger group visiting the church. We had a lot of laughs over what the neighbours must be thinking with all these white men frequenting her place!)
It was late, and everyone was tired, but we had a wonderful meal together at Liziwe’s place, along with Jeff and Caroline Gill and their host, whose name I couldn’t possibly spell.
Saturday morning we met again at the church and travelled to the coloured township of Mannenberg. (The racial distinctions in South Africa are Black, White, and Coloured. The details are too complicated to get into here, but although there is freedom of movement now, economic and other pressures still assure that townships remain relatively racially segregated.) Here we had a quick drive around and were given a look into life there, particularly the over-arching control of the township by gangs. This added yet another layer of complexity to our understanding of South Africa.
To mark the contrast again, we drove from Mannenberg out along the coast, heading for Cape Point. We passed through several beautiful coastal towns, where the faces were mostly white, and where it would not be difficult to convince yourself that you were actually in New Zealand or a similar locale. But no, we were still Africa, as I kept reminding myself. Places like Kalk Bay, where we stopped for fish & chips on the wharf and watched seals battle for guts thrown over the side of the fishing boats tied up there. Places like Boulders, where we watched endangered African penguins building their nests on the beach. Incredible.
The rain came and went all day, and as we approached the park entrance to Cape Point we debated going in (there was an entry fee and the weather was questionable) but in the end we decided to go for it. On the road in we saw an ostrich, an animal that simply proves the point that God has a sense of humour. When we parked the bus the clouds dried up, and we ended up having a fantastic time there. We climbed to the top, opting to walk rather than take the funicular that would have taken us up with no effort. It was stunning. A common misconception is that this is the place where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, but in reality that spot is about 350 kms to the east. Close enough though. It was breath taking. My friend Andrew Perriman and I also climbed down to a pristine beach where the sand whipped you in the face with the same wind that had shipwrecked countless vessels as they rounded the Cape over the centuries. The hike was a workout, but well worth it.
It was a stunning outing, only surpassed by watching a baboon give birth on the road out, right beside our bus! You read that right. Bill managed to capture most of the big event on video, so it will be on YouTube at some point to prove that I’m not making this up. Of course this then became the barometer for the rest of the weekend--everything else we saw was “nice, but it’s no baboon-birth”!
We continued around the Cape on our way back to town, passing through tiny English village-looking places like Misty Cliffs Conservation Village. The illusion didn’t last though, as the road took us through yet another township on our way back to Cape Town. We capped of the evening in a beautiful restaurant located in a mall that reminded me of the Eaton Centre in Toronto. Of course I had the ostrich in honour of our earlier sighting. The bird I mean, not the birth.
Sunday morning for me was the highlight of the weekend.
We were to meet up at JL Zwane at 9:15 as our group was scattering to three or four churches that morning, but Bill and I needed to be there at 8 am as our host was involved in their weekly Leadership Development meeting. Jeff and Caroline were there too, along with Tracy and Seth.
I mentioned Spiwo Xapile earlier. He had spoken at the Amahoro Gathering on the Reformation of Children and blew me away. This guy is brilliant. Before the meeting he briefly told us that the purpose was to really engage the laity, to develop leadership in order to make the work of the church sustainable beyond the pastor. Many African churches are dominated by the personalities running them, and Spiwo wanted to break that mold. He explained to us that a post-apartheid mindset was still alive and well in his black congregation that resulted in the people waiting. Waiting to be told what to do. Waiting to be led, as opposed to desiring to lead themselves. Spiwo’s thinking is way outside the box and impressed me beyond words. He is kind but intense, and when he looks you in the eye you know that there will be no wasted words coming out of his mouth.
Switching easily between Xhosa and English, Spiwo started off the meeting by explaining why we were there, and then asked us to briefly say who we were, where we were from, and what we did. I was second to last. I said I was involved with a ministry that worked with women trying to break the bonds of prostitution and drug addiction, which I’ve found is the best way to describe to people here what Linwood House is all about. As the last person introduced themselves, I noticed with just a little concern that Spiwo was staring at me pretty intensely, which I’ve already implied is not a look to be taken lightly. I was a little worried that I had offended him somehow, perhaps with the reference to prostitution. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Spiwo then shared that the agenda for that morning’s meeting had originally been to discuss the recent World Economic Forum which had been held in Cape Town, and also a government corruption scandal that was currently headline news. Did you catch that? These were the topics to be discussed. In church. The World Economic Forum and government corruption. The kinds of subjects that actually intersect with people’s lives in a very real way. Outstanding. However, he had something else in mind for the morning conversation.
He started off by asking for a show of hands from those who would leave the church if they started a ministry to prostitutes. No hands went up. “Well, then,” Spiwo said, “Maybe we can learn something from our Canadian brother.” And he called me up and we interacted on a very broad range of subjects for about 30 minutes.
Spiwo asked about what Linwood House does, and I was able to describe the relational ethos of LHM. Being incredibly insightful, he asked how other, perhaps more traditional churches related to what we did. I had a chance to talk about the privilege and responsibility of walking with friends in the DTES, and not seeing them simply as “projects”. He asked if this was a lonely place to be and I laughed out loud. He talked of his own struggles, of losing friends and colleagues because of his fringe views, and his belief that we are to be Jesus in the world. He asked how I came to think this way, and I was able to share some of our personal story and our spiritual journey. It was incredible.
Between Spiwo’s questions and a few from those in attendance, we went way over time and had to draw things to a close. As I sat down he continued to talk to me about how the world was getting smaller, and how we needed to learn from each other. For example, he said, “What if a few of our people came to Canada to learn from your ministry for a couple of weeks?” I laughed again, because in my head I was already planning the LHM trip to Cape Town. Needless to say there is a lot to talk about here, but maybe, just maybe, it’s getting close to the time for that elusive first Linwood House trip to Africa. Africa has so much to teach us, and the mind boggles at what we could share with them, what in turn they would do with that shared knowledge, how they would make it uniquely African, and what we could in turn learn from them!
We formed a circle, about 50 or 60 of us, and our new friends prayed for us, and sang too. It was a beautiful moment. After, Liziwe told me that she was sorry we didn’t have more time to talk because she had a similar story. We’re going to explore that a little through the wonders of the internet, and I look forward to furthering these relationships as we can.
From there I suppose it was appropriate that I experienced the contrast yet again, as seven of us headed to downtown Cape Town to take in the morning service at the beautiful and historic Cathedral Church of St. George, where Desmond Tutu once presided. It was wonderful to share in the liturgy and the Eucharist as English, Afrikaans and Xhosa were all used in the service. From there it was lunch at Rene’s house, who was one of the organizer’s of this year’s Amahoro Gathering, then off to the airport for the flight back to Joburg.
Let me end this note by saying that just like last year’s conference, the field trip was all the more meaningful coming on the heels of so many powerful conversations at the Gathering itself. It’s one thing to listen, and to share together, but that when that knowledge is matched up with experience, it becomes very real, and it moves even further from your head to your heart.
OK, that was a long one! I’ll leave it there for now. I’ll just say again that South Africa is different than any other African country I’ve been to, but I think it will take as much, if not more, processing to sort through this experience. I’m amazed and grateful to God for this strange, wonderful life that I get to lead.
PS. Here’s the Collect from Sunday morning’s liturgy for you. It says it all:
Father of justice and love
You call your Church to witness
That you are reconciling the world to yourself:
Help us to proclaim boldly the good news of your love
That all who hear it may be reconciled to you
And work together for peace and justice;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever, Amen.
Sorry about the gap in communication. Friday morning we flew to Cape Town, and returned to Joburg Sunday night (last night). Now I’m staying at a house with 3 young Brits who are here on a gap year and a young African, all working with Oasis. Of course, I arrived to the news that they’ve had no water since Saturday afternoon. I’ve stayed in today (Monday) waiting for the guy to come fix it, but so far there’s no joy. Needless to say if I don’t get to a functioning toilet soon there’s going to be an international incident.
More about Cape Town later, but for now I should fill you in on another highlight from last week.
The biggest stir of the week was caused by the visit of Adriaan Vlok, the former Minister of Law and Order in the last apartheid government. In conjunction with the Minister of Defense, Vlok oversaw the enforcement side of the apartheid equation. As he told us, despite being raised in a Christian home and considering himself a believer his whole life, he only became a real Christian in 2006. Since that time he has sought the forgiveness of many that had suffered under him, and caused quite a public stir a couple of years ago when he washed the feet of Frank Chikane, who had been poisoned while incarcerated in one of Vlok’s jails.
One of the Amahoro organizers is a South African named Sean Callaghan, and he participated in the panel discussion with Vlok. After Vlok had been interviewed extensively, Sean spoke up. He shared that as a young man he had been conscripted into either the police or the defense forces--I can’t recall which--and had actively participated in what he called the “death squads”. He said he had suffered through 15 years of post traumatic stress, and to this day when someone in his house feels the need to curse, they say “Vlok”, which is very close to the Afrikaans version of the f-bomb. Sean was visibly upset as he confessed this and asked for Adriaan’s forgiveness. For his part Vlok said that it was time that he helped remove this “curse” from Sean and asked him for forgiveness, and they ended up washing each other’s feet right there on the stage. It was quite a moving moment. Sean made reference for the need for the younger generation of 40-something white South Africans to reconcile with the generation who came before them. This was something that never would have occurred to many of us from the west. We’re well versed (at least we’d like to think we are) on the racial issue, but the multi-generational nature of the evil of apartheid was something new to us. Very clearly this opened up a lot of wounds for several South Africans in the group... there is still a lot of healing to be done.
I should add that many of the black South Africans, as well as some of the whites were definitely not satisfied with Mr. Volk’s demeanor. Admittedly he did seem to shrug his shoulders and say, “What could we do? We were at war.” a lot. But, as others pointed out, this man had come very, very far from where he once was.
Last year the conference was held in Rwanda, and that afforded us the opportunity to go deeper with the issue of genocide. In South Africa this year I have been given a real education on apartheid and life in post-colonial Africa. It is a complex and complicated issue, and the echoes are still clearly and loudly reverberating in South Africa, 15 years after the democratic elections of 1994.
I can’t tell you what a humbling privilege it is to be here.
(Images from my friend Fuzz Kitto's library)
We've been going from dawn till way after dusk, but I wanted to send a quick couple of thoughts.
Some of you have probably heard me say that I think Africa is going to save the west some day. I've no idea what I've meant by that, but nevertheless. Well, I think I'm starting to get a glimpse.
I've just come out of a presentation by Brian McLaren on some material for his next book coming out in 2010, A New Kind of Christianity. It is ground-breaking and paradigm-shattering. He gets heat now for his writing, but he ain't seen nothing yet. Pre order it now or put it on your wish lists, but don't miss it.
Thanks for traveling with me. I've given up on the idea of blogging during the conference, but hope to do a lot of thinking and writing next week. Here's a snap-shot for you: I had lunch on Monday in a squatter's camp, or "informal settlement" as they're officially called. 110,000 people living in shacks on a 2 sq. km patch of land. Tomorrow we're off to the Apartheid Museum. Friday morning we fly to Cape Town to visit Robbin Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Sunday we're back to Johannesburg, then I'll spend next week hanging out in a yet as unconfirmed location, but it looks likely that I'll be staying with new friends from Oasis who work in these squatter's camps. Never a dull moment.
A note for the Linwood gang: I've had several conversations that suggest maybe its time for us to start thinking about a LHM trip to Africa. There are lots of people here doing amazing things in the areas of prostitution and trafficking. We've been having parallel conversations about the Olympics and the 2010 World Cup, which will be held here in South Africa.
That's it for now... more when I can.
...and now it's 5:30am, so I thought I'd update you with some of my thoughts from the past few days. Conversations with my friend Tom Smith (@soulgardeners)have been deep and thought-provoking. Here's some of what I wrote in my journal on Saturday morning:
Sitting in a Seattle Coffee Company shop in a mall in Johannesburg. It could be any mall in North America. Very strange. A country now governed by blacks, where the minority whites still control the majority of the economic resources. Also a growing black middle class who, in Tom's words, "Don't give a shit about the poor either."
This is causing me to rethink my belief that racism is the root of it all. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the root is an inherent self-centeredness, a lack of concern for the other. It's easy for us to hide this fact when the injustices we focus our attentions on are thousands of miles away. Then they almost become a philosophical curiosity as opposed to anything that will actually require a change in the way we live. As someone once said, the indicators of the health of a society are the sizes of the cracks it will allow in it. Think of our own homeless ranks, our own first nations reserves. Ah, but those are somehow different, we say. How?!
I'm sitting in a coffee shop in a mall in a city where 1.5 million people live in squatter's camps. As Tom says, when it all happens in such close proximity, "You can't hide from it here." And yet in a way we do. Sitting in this mall, I hide from the camps, just as when sitting in my home in Vancouver I hide from the homeless there.
Another part of the conversation this morning centered around the impact of the "theology of apartheid". Many, many people believed that God put some people in castles and some in the gutter, so some are content to live where they are, believing God has put them there. "Predestination economics", if you will. And if you believe God makes some people poor, well then those poor people need somewhere to live, so you grow comfortable with the notion of the squatter's camps. It's not a far stretch from there to apartheid. The poor often believe this too, which makes them susceptible to the health and wealth prosperity gospel, which seems like the only "God" way out of the mess.
I guess in a nutshell it's become clear to me that "systems of apartheid" exist in many places and in many guises. But, it's easier for us to point or fingers at the problems "over there" than to take a look at what we may be complicit with.
Today Tom will introduce me to some of his friends in the camps, then we'll head out to the Amahoro gathering location, which is apparently about an hour away. More later.
The conference doesn't start until Monday but my mind is already racing. See if you can sort out what I'm thinking through the haze of the jet lag. (It's 6pm and dark here, and I've got to make it until at least 8!)
Yesterday I spent several hours in Frankfurt, Germany with Daniela (Thanks Dani!) We talked about Germany and Germans, about Africa, about faith, about living this Jesus thing out. It was great. Then it was back to the airport and on to Johannesburg, arriving here this morning at 6:30am. Here's what struck me. I know it's a generalization, but we in North America need to get out more often. The rest of the world doesn't seem to realize that North America is the centre of the universe, and yet they seem to be getting along OK. More to the point, If all the world is our neighbour, then we need to to develop more of a global worldview. It's exciting to think that everyone I encountered in the 36 hours of transit is made in the image of God, and the Jesus wants to enlist each and everyone of them in the "great redemption project." I'm not saying we all need to jump on planes, but we need to become more aware of life on this beautiful planet.
The world is becoming smaller and smaller, and yet ironically that means there is more and more to know about, and to care about. And ironically, this kind of expansion of our borders always takes us right back to our local surrounding, and changes the way we see it. Right now I'm thinking about how my life needs to change in light of this reality. Exciting!
Anyway, the room is spinning, so I'm going to sign off before I start to really ramble.
PS. The folks at Emergent Village asked me to write something up in anticipation of the conference, so here's my effort.
This year as I traveled to South Africa for the Amahoro Gathering I was operating under very strict instructions from my community. It seems that I have this habit of traveling to these great places, hanging out with incredible people, and participating in exceptional conversation, then doing a lousy job of sharing it with my community.
My instructions were clear - Send us emails. Lots of emails. I may end up expanding on some of these thoughts later, but for now I'll simply reproduce them "raw" for you. As always, your thoughts on my thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
The anticipated arrival of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler next year has energized many churches to sieze this occasion for bold witness and community service. With thousands of people from around the world descending on this region, and with the expectation of a massive television audience for the Games, churches have viewed this as an opportunity to live out their calling and mission by participating in the Olympic festivities in a variety of ways (hospitality, chaplaincy, volunteer service, etc.).
It is worth pondering, however, what the Olympics is all about, and whether the vision of the world promoted by the Olympic Games is compatible with the vision of the kingdom of God announced and embodied in the mission of Jesus.
Does the spectacular ritual of the Games, and the philosophy of Olympism that guides its production, uphold the perspectives, beliefs and values that lie at the core of the ‘good news’ proclaimed by Jesus and his early followers?
Is there a way of thinking and a mode of perception embedded in the ideology of the Olympics that is essentially at odds with the message of solidarity and liberation expressed in the teaching and life of Jesus? These are some of the issues we want to explore together, both through a creative presentation of the rhetoric / reality of the Olympic Movement and the biblical witness to the kingdom of God, and a time of respectful dialogue and discussion.
We believe that these are important questions to consider, and that our understanding of the Olympic Movement and our posture toward the Olympic Games cannot be separated from our fidelity to the Crucified One.
We invite you to come and engage with us.