Monday, January 27, 2014

Parow Methodist Web Page

I am starting to update the web page for Parow Methodist. It can be found at www.parowwesleymethodistchurch.co.za. 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 fin24.com 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.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Truth For Truth's Sake

Since starting to work on my PhD I have been convinced that there is little value in "truth for truth's sake" in academia. I thought that research should lead to meaningful practical application and not arcane "how many angels can stand on the head of a pin" type discussions.

I think that I have been wrong. Two articles that I have read recently have made me stop and think. The first is from Scientific American and you can read the whole article here. It tells of a study of the results of reading 'good' literature on the reader's ability to empathise.

When study participants read non-fiction or nothing, their results were unimpressive. When they read excerpts of genre fiction, such as Danielle Steel’s The Sins of the Mother, their test results were dually insignificant. However, when they read literary fiction, such as The Round House by Louise Erdrich, their test results improved markedly—and, by implication, so did their capacity for empathy. 
 
This makes sense to me. I know that reading diverse, thoughtful books leads me to understand different people, personalities and cultures better, but I was not conscious of the extent of this until I watched myself over a few days. I would not have seen good literature as being practically useful, but rather of artistic value. And yet, if every Mitchell's Plain was to have a good dose of literature expanding their horisons (rather than music videos and 7de Laan!), how different could their worlds be?

The other article was the recent foreword to a book by Prof John Higgins written by JM Coetzee. He argues that universities should be producing critical thinkers who are able to question the status quo and see the shortcomings of things to which we have become used. Yet we water down that component into a short course or two and focus on skills that will build the (now never questioned or challenged) economy. It seems to me that this thinking is developed by engagement in questions that go beyond the immediately practical. Read the article here. Here is a quote from what he writes.

You argue - cogently - that allowing the transient needs of the economy to define the goals of higher education is a misguided and short­sighted policy: indispensable to a democratic society - indeed, to a vigorous national economy - is a critically literate citizenry competent to explore and interrogate the assumptions behind the paradigms of national and economic life reigning at any given moment. Without the ability to reflect on ourselves, you argue, we run a perennial risk of relaxing into complacent stasis. And only the neglected humanities can provide a training in such critical literacy.

There is value in truth for truth's sake - it teaches us to think and argue (constructively) and ultimately also to understand.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Including Women in Leadership

I wrote in a previous post about we needed to change the way we did things if we want to really include women in top level leadership. The challenge is to use the skills that women bring - no, to desire the skills that women bring!

I wondered what a synod would look like if we got this right. I suspect that not only women find big meetings like synods inefficient. We spend a lot of time on detail and very little time in meaningful conversation - partly because the detail just grows and overwhelms and partly because the discussion process is unwieldy.

Broadly speaking, I would say that women bring the skill of consultation and of facilitating discussion. Women like everyone to be heard and to have a chance to give input to a process. Men, broadly speaking, have the ability to make decisions and take risks. These are very broad, forgive me, I know that these are not always true. The point is, however, that planning requires consultation and decision-making and there is probably value in separating these out.

Certain leaders (all male) in my circuit think that consultation means telling people what they have decided to do! This troubles both men and women!

The other part of deciding on a plan is investigation. I don't have any feel as to whether that is 'male' or 'female'. But decisions cannot be discussed or made without information.

So the process should be investigation, discussion, decision but with the various stages led by people gifted in those areas.

The thought of applying this to a synod is overwhelming. But there must be a way!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Moving

I have to admit to feeling quite stressed about moving house at the moment (my husband would say that this is putting it mildly!) We are still waiting to see where we will be living. The flexibility of finding our own accommodation is great, and we are fortunate, but it is stressful!

When (if?) we move this will be the sixth house that I have lived in, in seven years! Last December was the only time we didn't move in the period. But somehow, this time is the most stressful and it should be the best move!

So many exclamation marks - perhaps I am trying to lift my spirits. Mostly trying to trust God - which I do at the core, but . . .

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Women in Leadership

Yesterday we had a get-together of women ministers from the Cape of Good Hope district. It was a casual after-another-meeting affair and apparently most people forgot that it was planned. I don't mind supporting other women in ministry, but generally it is not a priority for me and I suspect that any ambitions that I may have are thwarted by my lack of ability and not by my gender. Not that I am feeling particularly thwarted!

The thing is that we talk about the need to get more women in leadership and vaguely (or passionately, depending on personality) express concern, but never seem to get to grips with why there are not more women in leadership. Specifically we were mentioning women ministers in church structures.

For me, it is no mystery. I have no desire to be part of this leadership and perhaps others feel the same way. Graeme Codrington writes this in an article called Why women are a problem for business:

One of the main reasons that women are not making it into senior leadership positions is because they don't want to. It's not a capability issue; it's a choice. And the reason they're choosing not to is because they don't want to play a man's game in a man's world.

And that is simply it. I can't engage in high-level church leadership easily because I don't have a sufficiently aggressive or ambitious personality. I achieve things in other ways. I don't enjoy scrambling to make myself heard or to be taken seriously. I don't know if that is because I am a woman or not and so perhaps we are not even beginning to ask the right questions. Do we perhaps just need people in leadership to have different qualities?

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes the following in a Harvard Business Review blog called Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?

In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women. [hyperlinks removed]

I don't think we are going to get more women into leadership by continuing to do things in the same old way and expecting women to fit in. We need new ways that somehow combine the strengths of men and women - and also the strengths of more introverted personalities and more extroverted personalities.

Let's stop asking how to get women involved, but rather ask how  we can change the processes so that women are able to participate without compromising their natural personalities.