Friday, June 20, 2014

Ordinands and Synod

For those who are interested, I thought I would write down what happens in a MCSA probationer's ordination year.

The year starts with an assignment where the ordinand prepares a programme for his or her year. This includes training, retreats, reading and more. This assignment is presented at the January seminar in a small group. The seminar has lectures and group work and consists of two or three days. After this another assignment must be submitted where the ordinand researches the subject 'ordination'.

Synod is the next big step. In the Cape of Good Hope District the synod event for ordinands begins with 'screening'. This is an interview with the same committee that interviewed the prospective ordinand a year ago. They look at their notes from a year back and try to determine if growth has occurred in the ordinand's life. They then recommend to synod whether or not the ordinand should be ordained.

For me, it was interesting to see the picture that the committee had drawn of me. I have a terrible tendency to accept people's conception of me and 'play along' and this has been exacerbated by the church training. I suppose also I have become aware of it, so this is a good thing. My own screening interview was fine.

The next evening sees the witness service where all the ordinands share their journey through probation with a synod congregation. We were told we had five minutes in the weeks before the service. This was amended to three minutes immediately before and I think were actually allowed about six. We receive a mark for the presentation of our testimony (and quite possibly we were all marked down for going over three minutes!) It never occurred to me that after the service I would go from a total unknown at synod to 'everyone knows me and now I can't hide'. The encouraging and positive comments were, however, very affirming and made up for my loss of invisibility!

The next item is the oral exam for presbyter ordinands (ministers can be presbyters or deacons). This was scheduled for the next day, Thursday, but actually came about late Friday morning. We received a long list of questions after the witness service on Wednesday night so there was too much to really prepare, but they were not totally unseen when the moment came. The wait was hard. I found my mind constantly going back to the questions which was not helpful as answers should be fairly to the point, not theses. For me, the actual exam went ok. God took away my nerves and broke through the mug that threatens to encase me in these sort of moments. I suppose this is arrogant, but it helps that generally I do know what I am talking about theologically! Again the comments afterwards were incredibly encouraging and affirming. So I felt good!

Finally the marks for the witness service and oral exam are given to the synod and the synod votes on whether or not to ordain the ordinands. All was good for my colleague Wandile and myself and so our next stop is the retreat during Conference and then ordination.

God has been kind to me.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Allowing religion to influence law

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has, presumably, inadvertently got all sorts of people upset by suggesting that law should be informed by religion. I suppose that people have many ideas of what religion is and thus the outcry.

On the elementary level that says religion teaches us to live well and law prescribes how we live, law influenced by religion should prescribe that we live well. But many people see religion as something that breathes disaster and ultimately evil.

I simply gather three interesting and, I think, constructive posts here.

Chris Roper makes the point that religion has the propensity to go bad. While religions may set high ideals, those ideals are often subverted by self-interest.

But this is the problem with Mogoeng’s desire to have religion inform our legal system: which Christianity is going to turn up? Which Islam is going to turn up, the Islam of Boko Haram, or the Islam of Malala Yousafzai? Which Judaism is going to turn up, that of the West Bank Wall, or that of Hannah Arendt?
(Christianity is the enemy of Christianity)

Dion Forster writes that religion is more specific in its application than is the law.

The law is intended to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their religious perspective. Laws should be based on the principles of justice and our shared human dignity . . . Religion on the other hand is based on beliefs that are not commonly shared . . .
(Why Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is wrong - law infused by religion is a bad idea)

Ryan Peter takes the discussion a little further. If it is not appropriate for the church to dictate to the state, should the state not give the church the same respect?

Separation of church and state means that the church doesn’t meddle in state affairs. Great, we all actually agree to that. That’s what secularism means. . . But here’s the other side of the coin: this separation also means that the state doesn’t meddle in Church affairs.
(Are today’s secularists really secular?)

At the end of the day, the church should be living by its own rules. I am afraid that we are too concerned with being 'prophetic' and too little concerned with keeping our own houses in order according to our own values and aspirations. (Not that I don't think there is a place for prophetic.)

In an ideal world church and state would be good influences on each other.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


I heard what I thought was a very odd statement at synod. It wasn't made by a Methodist minister!

"The world has been transformed, now the church needs to be transformed."

It was an off-the-cuff statement and maybe this person would not have planned to use this phrasing. Does it imply that God is at work in the 'world', but that the church is resisting him?  I would imagine that there are people who see things this way. But that must leave them with a rather different theological understanding of the church!

I don't think the church is quite where it should be, but I do believe that there is more value to being inside the church than outside.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Synod - been and gone

Does my blog remember me? Hello, hello anyone there?

At least my browser remembered my password!

Our district synod was held over the last few days. This was an important synod for me as it is the one which has recommended me to the Conference for ordination. The final countdown begins.

It was an unexpectedly affirming process . . . nice surprises are good.

Thus, barring any major disasters, I will be ordained in September. God has been kind and generous to me.

There is lots that I want to blog about from synod - or rather thoughts that have come to me as a result of synod - perhaps I will get back to writing again!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Parow Methodist Web Page

I am starting to update the web page for Parow Methodist. It can be found at And no, I didn't create the URL - the web page was here before me!

This is what I wrote today to the community:

This last Sunday was my induction service. It was held at Ravensmead Methodist Church as I will also be working there part-time. (Rev Fidler's induction service was held at Parow, so it was Ravensmead's turn this time!)

The service was led by Rev Vincent Harry who is the District Secretary. He had a great message for us and it was a good service.

In the service the congregation made some promises (and so did I, as the minister!) These were my words, in response to words said by Vincent Harry. The congregation responded with the words in bold.

I ask God to help me, and I invite you all to join with me in proclaiming the Gospel of life and hope.

Through Christ, we have Good News to share.

I ask God to help me,and I invite you all to join with me in commitment to the way of Christ.

May we reveal Christ's way through our words and example.

I ask God to help me, and I invite you all to join with me in sharing God's all-embracing love.

May we respond to Christ in all we meet.

And so we are all challenged to proclaim the good news of Jesus, to live like Christians and to show love in all that we do.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Parow Wesley Methodist Church

This is the inside of the Parow Methodist Church. My husband arrived early and was taking photos. I wasn't there as I needed to be at Ravensmead Methodist Church for their Covenant service. I will be working at both of these societies this year, although I share Ravensmead with a colleague (who happens to be the circuit superintendent).

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Getting going again

So much has happened in the last six weeks that I find it difficult to know what to blog. The bottom line is that most of it is good and my family and I are happy.

We are settled into our new home in Tijgerhof and transfer of the property should be complete in the next couple of weeks. We have not yet sold our house in Johannesburg, so that is a bit of a worry, but we are not yet without hope.

The younger generation all did very well in their end of year results and are moving into the next phase of their education. We will have three children at UCT, although the eldest is now doing her best to be self-supporting. Our youngest will probably be homeschooled in one manner or another again this year. For various reasons we are still trying to figure this year out for him. But in general things are looking good for him with an exciting scout group in the area and other fun stuf.

We are enjoying being close to a good library, squash courts, bookshops and various other facilities.

I have been at 'work' in my churches for just over two weeks now. Both Parow and Ravenmead Methodist Churches look like good places to be. I spent most of this week at our January ordinands seminar so I have not seen that much of the churches yet.

This year sees settling into the new societies, getting through the requirements for ordination and a do-or-die effort on my PhD. I am a little stressed, but mostly quite a lot happier than I have been for a long time! God is good.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Breathing Again

I feel like I have been holding my breath for the last few weeks! We heard yesterday, at the very last possible moment that we have finance to buy a house in Cape Town. Apart from anything else, we now know where we will be moving to when the removal truck comes in two weeks time!

This house is not only a place to stay, but a bit of security for our kids who are going to be studying at UCT. We are not planning on leaving Cape Town, but the church could send us anywhere!

And we have a big thank you to Kobus Nel who was our consultant at SA Home Loans. The Methodist Church system, especially as implemented in an unsophisticated setting like Mitchell's Plain, is complex. He managed to work through it all and get us the bond. (And I will now get some tax back as I discovered that my payslip was showing one thing and the circuit was paying me another!)

Too scared to pinch myself in case this is all a dream.

God is good.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to be rich

Is this the million dollar question? How do we get to be rich? There is a very interesting article at and hat tip to Steve Hayes for picking it up.

This is economist Mike Schussler's basis for the article:

White people earning six times more than blacks, screamed the headlines after the release of the 2011 census.

I do not doubt that whites earn more than blacks - although in a way it is too simplistic to state it as such. 

At first this might seem like an article trying to justify white people having a privileged position and it might seem to be coming from a defensive position, but some of the points he makes are very useful. They are useful because they move us out of the realm of victimhood and into the realm of agency.
How can I be rich? You need to be white. I'm not. End. Victim.

Schussler points out a number of things, of which I am only going to mention four.

Median age: The median age of black people in South Africa is 21, that of white people is 38. This means that if you put every black person in the country in a line in order of age, the middle person in the line would be 21. Or in other words half of the black population is 21 or under and half is 21 or over. As Schussler points out, older people earn more. They have experience and have often been promoted to higher positions.

Message to people of all races: You are not a victim. Be patient. Income grows with age.

Educational level: White South Africans have a significantly higher level of education than black South Africans. 77% of white people have matric or more compared to 35% of black people. It goes without saying that better skills mean greater income. This is undoubtedly an effect of apartheid, but it can be overcome.

Message to people of all races: You are not a victim. Fight for an education and a matric, even if you are already an adult.

Commitment to work: I am combining two of Schussler's points here. The one is that over 73% of white people are either working or looking for work. Fewer than 54% of black people are trying to be part of the labour force in the country. This means that approximately 46% of black people between the age of 15 and 64 are not working or looking for work. There can be all sorts of reasons for this, but if hopelessness is learned it can also be unlearned. The other statistic regarding work is that white people stay in one job for an average of 71 months while black people remain in the a job for an average of 51 months. Longer commitment to a job tends to result in specific skills being acquired and an increase in remuneration.

Message to people of all races: You are not a victim. Look for a job. Accept a job. Stay in the job.

Schussler has other angles. The article is worth reading and you can find it here. Many of the stats quoted can be found at Stat SA here (it is a pdf).

Friday, November 08, 2013

Mitchells Plain and Guy Fawkes night

We had an executive meeting planned for the 5th of November at our church in Eastridge, Mitchells Plain. I received a call in the morning asking if we could please postpone it - tonight there were Guy Fawkes celebrations and they wouldn't feel safe being out or in the church.

It is the first time I've been asked to cancel a meeting for reasons of safety.

The next day I saw the rubber on the road where cars had been performing high speed tricks outside the church. There were pictures in the paper of a car with its windows smashed in Tafelsig.

But where I stay in Westridge, Mitchells Plain, there were only the sounds of fireworks. Lots of them and loud! But no unruliness.

Mitchells Plain is far bigger than people tend to think. Tafelsig is a little corner of Mitchells Plain - the poorest corner and where people do hear gun shots. But most of Mitchells Plain is calm and respectable.

I worry a little that what we find in Tafelsig is creeping up to Eastridge, but I also know that the rest of Mitchells Plain will push back.

It would be nice if the outside world didn't see what happens in Tafelsig as if it is happening in the whole of Mitchells Plain! There is hope in this community. Just give us a chance.