Sunday, April 20, 2014


The alarm rang at 4:45am.
No one else in the house moved... only I was up. I dressed with scattered intent, and sleepily drove my way through the silent city streets. The mist-darkened sky reflected the glow of the street lamps back at my passing vehicle. Finding a parking place I joined other huddled figures as we made our way to the edge of the playing field of a local school where we set up deck chairs, or perched on the school’s wooden benches. 

The clergy people gathered around a small wooden table as they arranged the sacramental offering for the morning, while the technician fussed over his portable sound system, ensuring that the microphones and speakers were correctly placed. And then we cracked into life as Rev Diane welcomed us all to a sunrise service on Easter Sunday.    

I had joined a motley collection of people who gathered to watch the sun rise. We were united by our faith’s conviction that just as the light will conquer the darkness, so Jesus will conquer fear and death. Along with many, many other Christ-followers around the world, we sang Easter hymns, read from our sacred scriptures and prayed together. This was not the glamour and glitz of a well-organised “special event”. It was just a few people singing off-key, praying from the heart, and sharing hot-cross buns and instant coffee

In many ways this is the stuff of my faith. While I do not deny my satisfaction at the conclusion of an efficient, well strategized and technically excellent service of worship, this morning takes me back to the essence of my faith: the reminder of Jesus that “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).  I found my faith revived through fellowship with other Jesus-followers.

And I am grateful.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Wedding

 My daughter Jess married Greg.
So much is contained in this simple sentence – and I have spent the past week thinking about this. I have decided to mark this milestone in my life by recording it as a blog.  

My first reaction to the wedding was joy at the evident happiness of both Jess and Greg. They both positively glowed with contentment throughout the celebrations. In addition to our delight at welcoming Greg into our son-less family (or was it Greg’s family welcoming a daughter into their daughter-less family?) was the arrival of Amy, our youngest daughter. She is teaching English in Japan, and took leave to join this celebration.

The ceremony took place in the Church of the Good Shepherd-Protea, a stone chapel across from the entrance to Kirstenbosch Botannical Gardens in Cape Town. This Anglican Church resisted the removal of its members under the notorious Group Areas Act, and these resilient members continue to offer sacred space to the wider community. My colleague Kevin Needham officiated at the wedding. He has been both a personal friend, and a friend to the family for many years.  I am grateful that he could share this event with us as he adds enormous value to our lives.

Greg’s bestmen - all members of his band - played the Trumpet Voluntary on their brass instruments for Jess’s entrance. Jenny and I walked in with her and I loved the relaxed informality of the occasion. Kevin helped make everyone feel welcome, and the music was great. Jess and Greg shared vows that Kevin had helped them design, and at the appropriate moment Jenny and I stood up and answered the question of “Who gives this bride?” with an affirmative “We do, with all our love”. And before I was ready for it, Jess and Greg were pronounced husband and wife and we were outside the church blowing bubbles over them.

They then led the way across the road to the Kirstenbosch Manor House for afternoon tea. This consisted of tea and coffee organised by O’Ways Tea Cafe, who offer the best tea and coffee in Cape Town. Mingwei offered expert advice on tea, while Sandson was the ever obliging barista. This was accompanied by cheese and biscuits and cake – all gluten-free to cater for my family’s gluten allergy. 

Greg’s brother Adrian made a speech on behalf of the Abraham’s family, and I offered words from our side of the family.
Here is what I said:
Jess & Greg

Speeches at weddings can be hard... Not only for the one making the speech – but also for those who have to endure them. I am therefore not going to make a speech: but instead i will tell three stories: two about Jess & one about Greg.

Let me tell you about Jess soon after she was born in 1988
We had her baptised at the Historic Methodist Church in the centre of Somerset West. This was a community service where all the Methodist Churches of the region had come together: English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa.  Jessiw was baptised by Charles Villa-Vicencio – who read the scripture passage today. Charles turned this into a community celebration. He carried her down the aisle holding her above his head like a trophy. And everybody cheered.
Charles asked Jenny and me if we would bring her up with good moral and religious values, and if we would teach her how to serve her community.
Wwll  Charles – we did our best. She is a mature young woman who serves the community as a teacher; she is loving and compassionate.
Jess: we are proud of you.

I will Tell you about Jess at school.
We wanted our children to learn two things:
·         to learn to love reading
·         to learn to love music.
And so we bought many, many books. We read our way through the whole Harry Potter series. We also bought them each a recorder. Then we began piano lessons – which Jessica hated! The day came when Jess came home and announced: “I don’t want to play the piano. I want to play the saxophone”. We knew nothing about the sax – except I have a friend who plays sax for a jazz band called N2. And I often played KennyG around the house.
So we found a second hand sax – and I acknowledge Merwina Taljaard who left us some money in her will to do this.
Jess was disappointed with this instrument, because all the other kids had shiny instruments but hers was dull. It was probably 60 years old, and had been played in a Cape Minstrel band for many years. But she felt better after we took it to be serviced and discovered that shiny instruments are not the same as good instruments.
So she went to UCT music school with the sax as her instrument... and as they say in the classics: the rest is history.

The third story flows out of this: Jess began to talk about Greg. Well it was Greg and Harm and Lincoln. Then it became Greg. Greg this and Greg that. Then Greg’s first visit.  This was on Wednesday 10 September 2008:
I quote from my personal journal entry of that day: .

“Jess brought Greg home, which produced very mixed feelings in me. She likes him because he is gentle... It is hard to be a father and to allow her space to grow. I understand that I must step back and allow her space to grow – but I do not want to see her getting hurt!”

 Greg: Jenny & I want to thank you for being gentle and kind to Jess.
You have given her courage when she has struggled
And you have calmed her down when she got stressed.
Jenny and I want to wish you both the very best for your future.
We will be supporting you all the way.
You have all our love.