John de Gruchy

Mandela as Messiah

The world seemed very different when I awoke last Friday morning and heard the news "Mandela is dead." I first heard about it in an e-mail from a friend in Canada who, so he told me, saw the headline while reading an article I had written in 1994 at the time Mandela was inaugurated as President of the new South Africa. He reminded me of what I had said at the time:

The Naked Christian

Last week Volmoed hosted a conference organised by the Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANISA). Amongst the books for sale during the conference was one entitled "The Naked Anabaptist" by Stuart Murray which I was tempted to buy just for the title! But lest you think that Anabaptists are some nudist sect and that Volmoed is turning into a nudist colony catered for by a "naked chef," I thought that I should say something about the Anabaptists for those who do not know who they are and what they stand for.

Finding the Grain

I received an e-mail last week from a good friend in Australia. She was responding to my meditation on the Tool Box last Thursday, reminding me that when I was in Melbourne I had mentioned to her that I had in mind to write a book about woodworking and spirituality. I had forgotten all about that.

Work out your own salvation

The abbot confided in me the other day that this is his favourite text from the writings of St. Paul: "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12-15). I assume it is because he does not believe that we should sit around waiting for someone else to save us -- we should get on and do it ourselves. That is an eminently practical way of going about things. And for good measure, we should fear and tremble while doing so. Working out our own salvation is a serious matter, is it not?

Embodied Souls

Last week I conducted a workshop at Mt. Fleur near Stellenbosch. One of the participants was James Grace, a lecturer in the School of Music at UCT. James is the leading classical guitarist in South Africa, and as it happens, he will be playing here in Hermanus later this month. But after dinner last Thursday he gave us an impromptu concert. He not only played with amazing technical skill, he also played with "soul." Something that goes beyond mechanical ability, lifting the music into a different realm that reaches deep inside you.

Beyond innocence

I think we would all agree that Barry and Molly have two of the most adorable twin grand-daughters, Chloe and Zara. A sheer joy to the family, they were also a delight to the rest of us who had passing glimpses of their curly locks and smiling faces. That lively image has stayed with me the whole week since last Thursday when I met them for the first time and, if I may say, I think they took a fancy to my beard. But another image has also been with me, the faces of two brothers who, so it is alleged with good reason, killed and maimed so many people at the end of the Boston marathon.


The bombings that took place this week in Boston at the end of the annual marathon have shocked not only Americans but people across the world. Whatever the motivation that lies behind this terrible act of terror, nothing can justify such killing and maiming of innocent civilians. Even if the bombings are acts of revenge for what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan since the American led invasions, they must be condemned, as must the bombings in those countries where every day is like that fateful day in Boston.

Mark’s minor characters

During Holy Week and Easter I preached a series of sermons at the Randpark Ridge United Church in Johannesburg, on the Passion and Resurrection narratives according to Mark’s Gospel. Mark’s was the earliest gospel to be written, probably based on oral tradition that went back to St. Peter. In turn, Mark’s gospel provided the basis for the writing of the gospels according to Matthew and Luke. Mark is also the shortest of the four gospels, terse and to the point and the most dramatic.

Reversal of status

My high school headmaster was more feared than loved, equally so by the staff and students. He used to stand in the corner of the quadrangle during short break every morning, keeping a beady-eye on what was happening. But his vision seemed to penetrate our ill-formed minds as well as classroom walls! He knew, so we thought, everything about us and what was going on in the shady sections of the school. He was my Latin teacher and I knew from experience how he could look one way in class while at the same time detecting what was happening in my own corner!

Phobias, Fears and Faith

It is all very well for Jesus to tell the leader of the synagogue, whose daughter had apparently died, not to fear, yet fear is one of the most natural things in the world and phobias abound even on Volmoed. Arachnophobia we all know is the fear of spiders, and acrophobia, the fear of heights, but did you know that ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes, agoraphobia, the fear of crowded places, cynophobia, the fear of dogs, astraphobia, the fear of lightening, trypanophobia, the fear of injections, pteromerhanophobia, the fear of flying, and mysophobia the fear of germs and dirt?

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