We reflect on living and doing ministry in a (post)apartheid South African city, negotiating
ongoing demographic and sociopolitical transitions and discerning appropriate faith responses.
We speak about the inevitability of these transitions, but then suggest that a view of theology
and ministry as change-making is not inevitable but a vocation and art to be acknowledged,
embraced and fostered. We argue for an epistemology from below or within, drawing from
Parker Palmer’s notion of knowing as loving – in community – and reflecting on his idea that
‘to know’ is ‘to be known’. In stressing the importance of reading the city, we show how
reading the city means to be read by the city too. It is in the journeys of ongoing self-awareness,
and personal confrontation, change and conversion – in relation to issues of gender, race,
location and class – that transformational urban imaginaries can be birthed. Finally, we reflect
on urban change-making as a process of personal, communal, institutional and systemic
transformation, happening on many different levels at the same time, through creating
conditions and spaces for change to occur. It is an ongoing call for deepening our journeys in
response to the overwhelming groans, of humanity and creation alike, for Gods’ urban shalom.
This research is part of the
Special Collection, ‘Change
agency in a 21st-century
South Africa’, and is part of
the research project, ‘Faith
in the City’, directed by Dr
Stephan de Beer, member of
the Department of Practical
Theology, Faculty of Theology
and Religion and director of
the Centre for Contextual
Ministry, Faculty of Theology
and Religion, University of
Pretoria, South Africa.
This article was informed by the journey of the TLF, an
ecumenical community organisation in Pretoria’s inner city,
celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018.