Friday, July 31, 2009


We had a Wesley Guild Executive Meeting last night. How I feel after these meetings varies from very good to very bad. Last night's was good. I am finally starting to really understand the dynamic and how things work - and they are starting to get to grips with how I work. With a bit of give and take the team is almost starting to pull together. I mostly act as a facilitator, but that is ok. I do give my input as part of the team and I'm starting to see things that are important to me - such as Jesus - starting to feature more. I also want them to do fewer things well, rather than running around trying to catch up. That is not always under our control as the district and region both make too many demands on the circuit. But I think that we are winning - although there are still some difficulties!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Twenty One Today

Today my husband and I have been married 21 years. Pretty good, I reckon. Of course we are spending today, as we have all year, 1000km apart.
I think the distance has made us appreciate each other a bit more.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trashing the Town

When I was in Johannesburg and strikers 'trashed the town', it was something that happened over 10km away - maybe even 20km. Here, in Grahamstown, the place is so small that there is not a lot of town to trash in. Watching grey-haired (white) ladies trying to navigate their cars through the garbage on the roads made me wonder whether the strikers are hitting at the right people.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

God is Good!

Oh, God is so kind to me. I've just got the comments back from my supervisor on my draft Masters Dissertation and he says there are only minor corrections! I should graduate this year.


I see they've reworked Amatomu. Good! Maybe they will manage to fix the blogs whose stats aren't updating correctly - like Contact Online.

Monday, July 27, 2009

50 Minutes

I've just spent 50 minutes on the phone (cell phone) to my husband. That is a record for us. We quite regularly do 30 minute calls. In fact, our cell phone bills are quite big.
Whatever else I have learnt this year, I have learnt that I need my family around. The first few months apart was quite good for me. I've been available to my kids almost continually for nearly 18 years - remember they were homeschooled. I did enjoy the sense of space that I had away from them. Unfortunately I missed them at the same time.
If this year is supposed to be 'testing the call', it is not a fair test. I think I would be so much happier if my family were with me. I can't tell if my call is at fault, or lack of family is at fault. I pray that God will bring the church to do something with me next year that fulfils my sense of call and also the needs of my family.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Heavy Weekend

It's been a bit of a heavy weekend. I am tired! Yesterday was a funeral at Alicedale (50km from Grahamstown). It went ok, but there is some friction there between the stewards and it's going to blow up sooner or later. I had to rush back for a Wesley Guild General Meeting. This is a meeting that is open to all Wesley Guild members in the circuit - well, I suppose they are all expected to be there. It went on for three and a half hours and I really struggled to keep up because of the language barrier. I've managed to work quite well in small meetings where somehow the language isn't such an issue, but yesterday I saw again that working cross-culturally isn't just a matter of being willing. Language is really an issue. Also in a broader meeting like this you get people that need to talk because that is what they do at meetings. Two or three people will happily take the floor and keep talking while the rest of the meeting are visibly bored. And if my personal translator can't keep up, I can't really manage the meeting properly! I think at the end of the day, the meeting went ok. But I am discouraged.
Today I took a communion service at Paterson. We went the shorter route which is 58km down the main road to Port Elizabeth and then about 15km on gravel. After all the rain we've had the road was quite potholed, but it is worth it for the shorter distance. The Paterson congregation is bigger than most of the outlying societies and the service went quite well. They have a thing in the African church where a person called the igqogqa speaks after the preacher and does an altar call. I've only seen it done in special services, but one of the local preachers did it spontaneously today and I quite liked it. I am no good at altar calls, although I believe that it really helps people if they do come forward to make a commitment. In many ways today balanced out my discouragement, but there is more to ministry than preaching. But let me say this: God is good!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sexual Immorality

Here's a question that I am really struggling with. The struggle is with what is culture and what is morals. I am generally of the belief that sex is something that should tie two people together for life - if those people are Christians. So recreational sex is out and anything that encourages or leads towards that. But I notice that my Christian Facebook friends who are of a darker complexion than I am, have no problem with pictures that portray - what? Not actual sexual activity, but pretty suggestive pictures. They make comments indicating that they live with a degree of sexual freedom that I consider 'wrong'. Do I have the right to say to them that they are wrong? Is African culture more open to nakedness and talking about sexual activity? Am I just a relict from the Victorian era?
I wouldn't even know how to go about explaining to them if I do decide that I should. The Bible is very against 'sexual immorality'. Does that mean going against the sexual values of the current time? Or is there some absolute standard?

Feelings Cycle

I've got to the point where I feel that everything I feel I've felt before. Maybe that sounds odd. I feel a bit frustrated at the moment. I think it's because my time here is starting to come to an end. The church is talking about next year. Will they get someone, who will they get? I tend to keep thinking that things are not worth doing because I'll be going and won't be able to follow through. I feel like my ministry is so superficial. I know that there have been deep points. I know that I have made a mark. But somehow I want more!
And actually, my feelings are probably more affected by uncertainty over next year and missing my family.
Meaningless, everything is meaningless.
Just how I feel - not what I believe!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rainy Weather

Today, in Grahamstown, has been cold and rainy. I think in the last 24 hours it has rained more than in the rest of the year so far. I got into the office this morning and I could do nothing until my fingers warmed up. At least we have a heater in there, and it is dry. But it doesn't get very warm!
A side effect of the rain is that we had no visitors to the office. Except - an insurance assessor who having been directed to one of our other churches found his way to Shaw where our offices are. Which was lucky for him, because I could direct him.

I am starting to enjoy Shaw so much more. I'm now fidgety because I want to change things and make things happen and I can't! Well, I can do some things and I am - and I am learning a lot from these things. But the best I can do in certain areas is make suggestions for what they might do next year, when hopefully they will have someone to replace me. And of course, my ideas might be wrong, because this is not my home culture. But I don't think they are!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No More Fishcakes

I was going to blog about meals. And then thought - I really need to get a life! But it is complicated catering for one. My family left a loaf of bread when they went home just over a week ago. I finally finished the loaf today - I couldn't see any green mouldy bits!
The weather here is blowing up and promising to be very cold. The forecast is for snow on the mountain ranges.
I started this week anticipating meetings every evening and wondering when I was going to prepare sermons. And then all but one meeting disappeared, so I have time after all.
I am starting to enjoy the church where I am working more. I'm getting to know people - and increasingly I can see that there are people who genuinely care about their church. This is encouraging and makes it worth while to put in energy and effort.
I guess I'm almost feeling as if I belong.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I was walking to the shop this afternoon and saw our bishop pulling in for petrol. I wonder what the chances are of my passing him in the street - he is based in Port Elizabeth, not Grahamstown.
Then I saw someone from the tennis club in the shop. I explained that I had so many Saturday afternoon meetings that I had given up trying to play. We're playing this afternoon, she says, come along. Coincidence?
So I have just had a very good hour of tennis. God is good! Unfortunately, I am usually in PE on a Tuesday. I have meetings every Saturday for the next three weeks - I can't remember my diary any further ahead without looking!
But again, God is good! And I even have time to shower before my meeting at 5.30pm.


Both of the ladies from whom the church is renting my flat are wonderful! Today I feel it because I left home in the knowledge that they would do all my washing and have it ready for me this evening - even if it pours with rain and there is no tumble dryer. They will make sure the flat is clean. And on Saturday I gave them a questionnaire that needs to be filled in by ten people from three different churches - and no problem, they will organise for their church. They accommodate my enormous family in the holidays. On Saturday I found them with a great pile of colourful material - they'd spent the day making duvet covers and pillow cases for a new child welfare safe house. God has some good people in his family!

Monday, July 20, 2009

I want to write . . .

I want to write a book called "Shaping Your Story: Adventures in the Biblical Meta-Narrative", but the people I would like to read it wouldn't understand and would be scared off. Those who understand wouldn't need to read it.
O well, . . .

Sunday, July 19, 2009


This sounds like something out of Tolkien - I don't know where the name actually comes from. It is the name of the church where I led the church service this morning. On the road to Fort Beaufort. Turn off to Great? Fish River. Drive through gates into nature reserve territory. What beautiful surroundings! I could just put up a shack and stay there.
The circuit steward had me all geared up for another 100km trip. We left at 8:45 for an 11am service - but we arrived there at 9.30! Apparently they sometimes use a venue that is over the hills and far away, but decided to use a closer one this time.
A very different farm congregation - possibly due to this being part of active game farming. They were much more educated and much more engaging. It was a real pleasure to be with them.
No problem about us arriving early. Plenty of cell phone signal and the congregation were all phoned and we started just before 10.30am. Several people arrived in a police van! No walking for miles here - they send cars to fetch the more distant folk. It just shows what can be done with a little bit of initiative! God is good - if people will just see him and be open to him!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Interesting Week

It's been an interesting week. Two weeks actually. With my supervising minister away, I've been 'the' minister. Also, I've not been going to college so I have been in circuit all week. And it's been good. I like to control my own time and to plan and to do. I've been busy, as it happens, with my own meetings all falling in this week. But now things are slowing down again and my boss will be back. Sometimes it is too slow here. Sometimes I worry whether I have what it takes to be a minister. The temperament, whatever that is. Right now, I almost feel that I could let it go. But I doubt if that feeling will last. Although, if it does, I will stop this journey. There's no point in going where God is not leading. And I'm certainly not doing this for my own pleasure.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Now 100km West

Yesterday I went 100km in the opposite direction to that which I took on Sunday. I went to the small town of Paterson to take communion to the housebound. We visited about five homes. The stewards of the society came out in force so that there were seven of us going from home to home. The women's manyano ladies were wearing their bright red tops. There was a lady with a similar top in bright blue. One of the men was dressed as a preacher in long black coat. He also wore long pointed shoes and looked very smart. I thought that I fitted in fine with my bright yellow distinctly unclerical jacket!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

After the Party

The Arts Festival is over. My family is back in Johannesburg. Church meetings are happening again. And I go back to an empty flat :(
I'm feeling it more than I did before. I think the excitement of the newness of Grahamstown has worn off. In many ways this is good. I am more confident in what I am doing. I know more people. But I really miss coming home to my husband and kids!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Shaw Memorial Church

The large building at the centre of this photo is Shaw Memorial Church. It in one of six Methodist churches in the Grahamstown township where I am working. There are also three Methodist Churches in the town as well as numerous churches on the surrounding farms and in the smaller towns - such as Alicedale and Riebeeck East. You can enlarge the photo by clicking on it.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Today was my day off and my last day with my family. We went horse riding near Kenton on Sea. None of us are experts on horses, so this was a bit of a 'follow the horse in front of you' ride. But it was great for the kids (and for me)!

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I went to take a service at a farm called Grootdraai this morning. It is 112km from Grahamstown. I struggled with preparing for the service yesterday. I only knew on Friday that I was going. I don't know how to preach to these people out on the farms. Some of them are illiterate. Not many speak English. But sometimes there are one or two who are working in the 'outside world'. I have so little conception as to the nature of their lives that I find it hard to prepare a sermon. I don't know what they know well from the Bible. I don't know what their concerns and worries are. I don't know how to communicate.
I try to console myself that I am going with a message from Jesus - but am brought up short by the those who say that we are arrogant to talk about 'taking Jesus to people' because God has always been there. Well, then, why am I doing this?
I am increasingly going back to the roots of my faith. If I am called and sent by Jesus then there must be a reason for it. I am, in a sense, taking him wherever I go, even if he is already there. And I don't think that it is arrogant of me.
At the end of the day we got lost and took a 50km detour and only one local person actually pitched up to the service. It's not what I would do for fun, but I trust that our faithfulness will have encouraged this one person to greater faithfulness and will have in some way demonstrated the love that Jesus has for him. I don't particularly regret going out there.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Busy is good

I've submitted the first full draft of my Masters dissertation. I'm happy to have it in, and my supervisor back from leave, but I know that the thing doesn't flow properly. Hopefully over the next couple of months my supervisor can help me get it up to a decent level!
The Grahamstown festival is still making the town a busy place. We've been to three shows - Jazz, a teen modern dance thing and classical violin and piano. The Jazz and the violin were great, the dance was ok. We plan to see Andrew Buckland tomorrow (in Stilted)- I've always wanted to see him, so this will be cool!
It is different having my supervising minister away. The congregation has no choice but to speak to me and I am getting more of a picture of how things happen. They are very gracious about talking to me - even when they have to explain things sixteen times so that I can get a grip on what they are saying! It's nice that I can now take the initiative in helping people and making things happen.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


Sometimes moving into the next minute, hour or day productively just means pushing through time as if was an obstacle. At other times it means pushing through people and things as well as time. However, when there are people involved it seems as if time is rarefied and easy to push through. But the objectives achieved may be those of others and not your own.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Cats Are All Away

My superintendent is on leave. My supervising minister is on leave. Even the bishop is on leave. Only minister in circuit this week is a first year student - me! The whole town is at the festival, so it shouldn't be too stressed - except that there is supposed to be some district event here on Saturday and all the locals are involved in the festival (they take on extra jobs during this time). I'm looking forward to being a bit more of a 'real minister' this week.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Got to Work

I've got to get this first draft of my Masters completed. Got to. Limited blogging till then. Soon. Keep limiting stuff till it's done.
We went to see the Awesome Big Band playing Jazz on Sunday evening. We haven't done much of that sort of thing and we enjoyed it.
Going to work now!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

National Arts Festival

Everything for the next few days is 'Grahamstown Festival'. Which is cool! But they say, no church meetings. People will not even come to church on Sundays because they have jobs at the festival. There certainly is a buzz of activity in the town and even in the township.
It is great to have my family with me - they will enjoy the festival. We walked around the two 'flea market' areas yesterday and the day before. I'm not great at flea markety stuff, but it was interesting to see. I guess we will go and see some show or other before the festival is over - maybe my husband and kids will see more because I am supposed to be working!
We bought a set of sticks - I don't know what they are called. There are two straights sticks about a foot long, covered in rubber and then a longer, flexible stick, also covered in rubber. You use the two straight sticks to throw and catch and spin the longer stick. I've always wanted to try it, and I now have my own set! It is a lot of fun and the kids are enjoying them too.

Friday, July 03, 2009

On Holiday - Not!

Sigh. My husband is in bed. My kids are in bed. And I'm up at the crack of dawn doing ironing and aiming to get to the office early to do admin. It's nice to have them here, but it is hard that they are on holiday and I am not. My superintendent did offer me time off while they were here, but the Methodist leave system works that you get one weekend off in a quarter - unless you take leave in that quarter. Taking leave would mean that I don't get home to see them again before the end of the year. So I have rather negotiated an extra weekend off - so that I will be able to see them every six weeks or so. It's worth it to be working now. And I'm not exactly over-extended!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Talking It Out

I had managed to get myself into such a knot in the last week that my Learning Partnership meeting last night was really helpful. Only two others were there, but I felt able to share most of my frustrations with them. And, as is usually the case, just talking about the stuff really helped. Most of my frustrations are due to a build up of little things. That's good, because it's nothing major. But bad, because it is hard to find a solution, other than 'just cope'!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Sometimes cultural differences can be seen in odd dissonances. I'm busy with the three-monthly rush that our section of the church experiences to get the 'communion to the aged' done by the end of the quarter. These communions are done in the homes of the elderly and infirm and have a fair amount of formality to them. However, when the steward was opening a new bottle of grapejuice at one of the homes, the grapejuice fizzed out of the bottle and onto the table - which prompted an unprintable word from the steward. In my culture, that wouldn't fit with the occasion and with the formality, but to him it was nothing. But it made me feel a bit less stressed about always trying to fit in with the culture of the people I am working amongst - it is not as cut and dried as people sometimes think.