Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Purpose and Meta-Purpose

Mark Zuckerberg spoke at a Harvard graduation where one of his points was that finding our purpose in life is not good enough - especially for the so-called Millenials.  (Read here)

Today I want to talk about purpose. But I’m not here to give you the standard commencement about finding your purpose. We’re millennials. We’ll try to do that instinctively. Instead, I’m here to tell you finding your purpose isn’t enough. The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.

If I look at the places where I work as a church minister, I think that is a pretty good analysis. In a country where unemployment is high, purpose is hard to find for a lot of people. Telling them to 'catch a wake up' and find purpose in their lives is not helpful. They are too disillusioned and often not adequately prepared by their education and upbringing to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, even if opportunities did exist . But asking those who have momentum and are progressing successfully through life to help create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose is meaningful.

It is the old fashioned Christian idea of taking the focus off 'me' and putting it onto 'you' or others. Yes, I want to understand that I have a reason for existing, a benefit to offer - but I also want to insist that you should have a reason for being and if that reason seems to be denied by society, something needs to change.

There is this idea of purpose and meta-purpose which sounds pretty profound - if I could just figure out what it means!

Practically, I want to challenge the young people in the confirmation class to find purpose in looking to the needs of others. To learn to be empathetic. To be active in helping. And possibly they will discover that sometimes the need of others is to find purpose. Then they can invite these others to join them on the journey.

Power of prayer

Zackie Achmat, who found himself sharing a protest outside parliament with a group from some churches, said that he wasn't interested in praying. I guess in his mind praying is at the least passive and at the worst ineffective.

I have found that when I pray for a community from the pulpit, and the congregation is obviously part of this, change happens. I'm sure it is not only as a result of prayer - activism is also often needed - but it seems to me that there is a link between prayer and change.

We have prayed often and earnestly about the violence and gangsterism in the Elsies River community. A new, additional, satellite police station has now been opened in the area. It would be fair to say that this was triggered by the tragic death of a child, but I believe that both prayer and protest paved the way for this solution. We will continue praying - now for the success and effective operation of the satellite station.

The question I had was how it happened that when I prayed so seldom the prayer was still effective - as I have not been in the pulpit in Elsies River every week. I think I found an answer today during a prayer meeting at 'my' other church. I heard congregants praying with the same sort of words with which I lead them and I realise now that when I pray I also model praying and this is picked up, probably subconsciously, by the people listening. This means that many people continue praying in the week, and weeks, what they have heard in church.

So prayer in the pulpit is multiplied many times and God is invited to work in our world over and over again. Pretty powerful!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

What is this thing called time?

What is this thing called time? I suddenly have it. I am starting to work on my backlog. What an amazing sense of freedom.
Not that I am doing everything that everyone might hope from me, but the important is distinguishable from the urgent.
Mostly this sudden increase in the volume of time is a result of my PhD being finished. Eventually! Corrections and revisions done, graduation date set.

Also both church societies have settled into the rhythm of the year. The society leaders are no longer waiting for me but are able to get going with their contributions to the work of the church. God willing, I will be keep up with them all from now on!

Now to expand my horizons.

I saw a strange beastie on my run this morning. It was black and furry, like a cat, but shaped like a mongoose. Small for a cat, but big for a mongoose. It streaked across the road towards the dam. Time to enjoy this!

My almost two year old border collie is running beautifully now. She even had her nose just at my knee, where it should be, instead of half a pace ahead. Her dog school teachers would never believe how good she can be! More time for dogs now.

I'm thinking/ dreaming/ playing around with the idea of doing an MBA or Post Grad Diploma in Business Administration. They are expensive! Priced for company sponsorship - the church isn't in that league.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Drawing Maps

This is my 'nerd kit' for the next few days. My thesis is submitted - now just to wait for the examiners which will take a while. In the meantime I am on leave for the next few weeks. I am going to keep myself occupied by attempting to map the place where we are going camping.
Thus I am kitted out with a compass, maths set, a measured length of string and squared paper.
All just for fun - no stress, deadlines or meetings!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Big Rocks

Someone said that if you want to fill a container with rocks and sand, put the rocks in first and the sand will fill the gaps. If you put the sand in first, you may not be able to get the rocks in.

I guess that ideally the rocks in our lives are our priorities, but for me recently they have been the non-negotiables. So October saw my being away for three days on District Ministers Retreat. We had Prof Roderick Hewitt from UKZN speak to us. We also had Fees Must Fall protests happening - so our group work time was spent applying what Prof Hewitt was teaching to our understanding of the protests. We left the retreat a few hours early to go and be on the university campuses.

I also spent two days in Johannesburg on a workshop presented by the Education for Ministry and Mission Unit (EMMU) of the MCSA. This because I have been assisting with the School of Vocation in our district. The SoV is intended to help people refine their understanding of their own call - whether it be to full time ministry or otherwise. I think this is a helpful function.

It's strange how these total only five days, but in terms of ministry they mean the loss of almost two weeks work. I don't regret the time . . . Just some of the stuff I have been doing. Perhaps I will unpack some of it on the blog later.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Three Prompts and You're In

I said,

"When I have finished my PhD I'll get back on to social media."

I said,

"Until then no distractions allowed."

I'm not quite finished - but all being well it is just a matter of weeks. It has been a long and sometimes hard journey and so I don't want to speak too soon.

On Friday I wondered whether I should update my blog - if my thesis was close enough to finished.
On Saturday someone mentioned he had discovered my blog and had enjoyed it.
On Tuesday faithful blogger Steve Hayes left a prompting comment on my blog.

I guess that's three prompts and in (rather than three strikes and out.)

The last six weeks have been absolutely crazy - and not because of the thesis. There has been way too much crammed into my life. It is just the grace of God that there were no pastoral emergencies at the church.

The benefit of using time for writing that is not driven by deadlines (such as a personal blog) is that it fills space 'softly'. A church minister needs to have time built into his or her schedule to deal with the unexpected and to be able to get to a hospital when needed. Writing allows me to use time productively, but that time is still available if it is needed elsewhere.

I need to commit to keeping that space in my life and my days - and not to feel guilty on the many days that it is not needed for emergencies!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Wrestling Bears

I am still actually trying to write a PhD thesis. It is taking me far too long. It is just plain difficult to find large blocks of time in which to work. When I have momentum I can work reasonably well, but when that momentum is lost I spend time first wrestling the bear into the cage. Catch it. Force an arm into the cage. Duck as it snaps at you. Wrestle the whole top part in. Jump back as it forces its way out. Take a deep breath and body slam the bear backwards. Push the door shut, lean your shoulder against it, lock it and then you are working.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Fresh Expressions, fresh blogging

I started attending the Mission Shaped Ministry Course being run in Cape Town this morning. One of the suggestions for the course is that participants find a way of reinforcing what they have learnt - by journalling, sharing with others, blogging, . . . So I thought maybe this blog could come back to life for a bit.

Fresh Expressions is this thing that I have heard bandied about in the context of the British Methodist Church and while I've felt sure I could guess what it was about I haven't been sure. So when I heard that this course was happening in Cape Town I thought I would give it a go.

I was a bit hesitant because I have always been in favour of alternative ways of doing church - and have tried a few ways myself and I wondered if I would find much in the course that was new. Also - I am afraid that society and culture are changing so fast that I'm not sure our courses can keep up with them! However, I also thought that it wouldn't hurt to be reminded and to be challenged again - and of course, there was always the chance that there would be plenty of new stuff!

The best thing about today was the networking. I didn't anticipate this, and perhaps I should have. The Methodist Church is strong because of its reliance on the fellowship within circuits, but today I was reminded of the ecumenical fellowship. I don't want to be disloyal to my fellow Methodists, but I can see some interesting partnerships in the future.

I am reminded that I have a tendency to let authority figures have undue influence on my well-being and my willingness to innovate. I wonder if I can be bold enough to step beyond that?

The material covered today suggests that what the course teaches will be 'old ground' for me, but it was really good to be with people talking about this stuff. I have so many ideas, so much I want to do in church, such a shortage of my own time and energy, but with this as a motivation I hope that I will manage to put more into practice.

The last few months have been such a good time of refreshing and revitalising after the demands of probation. I am coming back to myself. I think this is going to be a good part of the journey.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Twenty One

My daughter turned 21 a week ago. She had friends and family around over the weekend. We had a beautiful day for it.

Transport to church

This was parked at the back of the Ravensmead Church last Sunday. The rain has eventually stopped (mostly) in Cape Town and church attendance is picking up. It is also actually light when the early services start.