What should our focus be now?
Centre for Public Witness Task Team
The Centre for Public Witness recently met to place the Centre's activities in the light of radical changes in our context. This led to an in-depth discussion of our current context. The fact that we are consist of members the DRC and the URC broadened the conversation and indeed helped us to look at the world around us with a wide lens. We would like to share with you some of the most important comments made:
Civil obedience and self-discipline are now of cardinal importance. We can prepare ourselves for either anarchy or an avalanche of regulations, should this not occur. Every citizen's level of responsibility should rise. We believe that restrictions should gradually be relaxed, but that our responsibility and self-discipline should be increased. The church should set an example.
On poverty, we believe that we will see new and unprecedented levels of poverty and inequality soon. At the same time, COVID-19 revealed the systemic and structural inequalities within our society. We see the inequality not only in income and food security, but also in basic things such as, space during the lockdown, access to medical services, data, and communication tools such as ZOOM and TEAMS. We see the inequality in congregations that have greater access to electronic forms of payment/donation and who can easily communicate through a variety of social media platforms. For some, it is easy to maintain social distance during a funeral of 50 people in their church building. Others' churches are just too small for that.
We are convinced that a new economy will come to light after COVID-19, but we feel just as strong about asking sooner, rather than later, which economic models will control and dominate the economy. Will existing fault lines be defaulted or are we going to use the opportunity to restructure? With some of our colleagues are not certain about their salaries, we also need to ask how this new economy will take effect in the church.
The word empowerment is widely used. The question, however, is how people can already be empowered during the lockdown to become part of the economy, now and afterwards. Currently, food worth millions of rands is distributed. However, people are not empowered in that way, instead we are strengthening a culture of dependency.
In the meantime, it is important to shift our focus to the broader needs of our communities as well. Indeed, the need is more than just food parcels. Some people no longer have enough money to cook the food. We see colleagues who no longer have food on the table and members whose businesses are on the brink of bankruptcy. We see loneliness among the elderly and confusion and even anger among the general population. Trauma, which was already part of our society, continues to increase. It is extremely important that congregations now look through a wide and sensitive pastoral lens.
In conclusion, the task team is convinced that this time provides a golden opportunity to help us strive for unity and further concrete expression. Time challenges us, creates an opportunity, but can also judge us hard if we disregard each other now. We are very grateful for the networks that have already been formed at local and synod levels and are being strengthened these days. Maybe now is the time to take the courageous next step. If we do not mend the injustice of the two church structures (DRC and URC), then al our praiseworthy charity will only be a tenth of our spices and not the justice which the law and the Word of God demands (Mat 23:23).
The question is: where does this leave the church?
More than ever, the following values should be communicated:
The surrender of the self and self-interest. A new emphasis on true communication.
A life of gratitude.
A spirit of discernment and sensitivity.
Civil obedience and responsibility.
A critical evaluation of old economic models as well as reflection on new possibilities.
A constant vigilance to not allow the lockdown to increase our own comfort zones.
An attitude of dependence.