Hello from South Africa

Yes, it's your way-down-south South African chapter, checking in at last. Jen asked me to post a short intro (while I wait for the book to arrive), so here goes.

I'm Michelle, from the very bottom of the African continent. I grew up as a pastor's kid in a pretty conservative denomination, but my journey in the past few years has taken me to some very unexpected places. First as a tentative step out of denominational bounds, then involvement in a very different church, then a bit of happy-clappy for hype level, and finally to a place where I'm currently "home-churched" - just resting, learning and Be-ing for a bit. Add to that a sudden introduction via the web into "emerging" options a year or so ago, and it's quite a mix!

"Emerging" hasn't really hit this continent too hard yet. Much of African spirituality is rooted in ancient practices, very conservative views and church as the building you go to every week (or else!). You'll still see Sunday-best dressed folk, Bible under the arm, on their way to church every weekend. You'll still hear church bells peal out their "alarm clock" at 9 a.m. There are pockets here and there of folk doing things differently - a group in Cape Town that meets informally and works among the homeless, the beach ministry and church-in-a-Muslim-run-restaurant for surfers, the kids who started a skaters ministry. But most have never heard the term "emerging", and I often have to try sum it up in words they can relate to, without sounding weird for being enthusiastic over its possibilities.

Funny thing is, the further along this journey I get, the more I realize I have to learn. Each step forward feels like a couple back.

Most of my mind-expanding learning has been online via forums, blogs and online publications. This will be the first official "emerging" book I'll read, though I have read a couple of Brian's articles online.

I initially thought I'd have to keep a dictionary close at hand when reading this book - I'm not "up" on all those big theological terms that everyone seems to throw around so readily, even if my dad WAS a pastor. But I've been pleasantly suprised so far that it's really understandable, there are plenty of explanations for commoners such as myself, and it's struck a chord with where I am on this journey.

I'd also like to hand out copies to a good few people/pastors I know... :)

Looking forward to reading the rest of the book, and to the ensuing conversation here. Blessings to all today!


Thomas said...

Thanks for the intro Michelle,

We've been part of an emerging church for the last eight months, in Johannesburg. We're called "Kleipot Gemeente" which is Afrikaans for "Clay Pot Community". Brian's thoughts have influenced us a lot, we're looking forward to read his new book. Thanks for the great blog

Michelle said...

Tom, do you agree that any "emerging" seems to be happening mostly among the Westernized (white, English speaking) churches? There still seems to be nothing in that line among the majority of churches in the continent, with most of them (non-white, non-English speaking) being mainly conservative and traditional? That's I guess what I was trying to say - and sorry for leaving your group off the list of those emerging! :)