Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Preaching revisited

This Sunday I did a church service as a practical component of one of my TEE College courses. It's interesting because eight congregation members and a minister need to fill in observation forms. Basically it went well. Three things that I learnt, or challenged me.
The first is my own observation and is that I have become more confident in my preaching and don't stress so much in preparation.
The second was from someone who put on their form - very tentatively - that she thought I made the congregation laugh too much. It's interesting to realise how conservative some people still are.
The third was that there was a sense that the congregation was a bit disappointed that I didn't bring a 'new thing' with me. This was the fourth time that I have preached there and I have done multimedia stuff previously, but this time I didn't. Partly because it was college service, but mostly I think, because I am tired! Pushing the boundaries is hard work at the best of times. But when I saw that people welcomed the push I was sorry that I didn't do more!

By the way, the response from all concerned was very positive - the observations above were not put negatively by the people.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pietermaritzburg

My husband and kids are in Pietermaritzburg for two days to have a look around. They are sleeping in an empty flat at Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary. So far, they say SMMS looks very nice!
The kids will be looking at their future schools (and university). My matric daughter has an interview at her prospective new school. Grant will be looking around Maritzburg Christian School who will be offering him a job. They also want to see the Scout Hall and maybe look at some houses that are to let.
Everyone is enjoying the adventure at this point!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Church Decorating

Funerals vary - I think according to the funeral policy taken out. Some have very fancy decorations in the church and programmes printed in colour and so on. Others are more plain. On Saturday I was part of a funeral service at a farm society called Blikana. On this occasion there were no fancy decorations, but the family had repainted the inside of the church - just whitewash, but it looked good. They had also washed the windows until they were invisible. I like that sort of thinking.

Festive!

These pictures show our Grahamstown congregation members at 'the closing of Rhona'. They came dressed in traditional clothes and were really beautiful. The spirit was festive and joyful and I enjoyed the vibe very much! (Rhona is sort of a fund-raising season.)
The two people in the front of this photo are two of the circuit stewards and they are two of my best friends in Grahamstown.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lessons from Confirmation

I have this kid in my confirmation class whose knee keeps popping out of joint. She can't walk if it pops out, but anyone can help her pop it back in. It makes the most distressing sound and causes her an enormous amount of pain. It has popped out at least once in every class except the last two. We always pray about it, even though part of me would rather not - because you pray and then you can see that she is still in pain and it seems like God is not interested. But yesterday I heard that they have found a doctor who can fix her with a minimally invasive op. To me it seems like a miracle, she has suffered for so long and the fix seems to be so easy. Well, we did pray . . .
My classes are finished now. I like working with the young people, but it has not been easy. It has been like trying to teach calculus to people who don't know arithmetic. Parents and children's ministry leaders - your job is so important!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Or Are You Just?

One of my phase 1 colleagues shared that someone, given the task of helping him to discern his call, had asked him, "Are you called, or are you just fluent in English?" He felt that the question was unkind, and maybe it was, but it has got me thinking. Our ability to do something may be an indication as to whether we are called to do that thing or not - because God equips us if he calls us. So if we can't do something, we are probably not called to it. But it doesn't necessarily work the other way around. If we have the ability to do something we are not necessarily called to it.
So now I keep asking myself, am I called or am I just . . .
It's a good question to ask.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Satyrs and Fauns

I'm mostly showing off here. My 11 year old made this little video as a homeschool project. He made the figures, took the animation photos, typed in the music and put it together in moviemaker. It doesn't look too good if you make it fullscreen, but it's only 3.5 Mb. Watch the mushrooms sprout up (and you don't have to watch ALL the credits!)

video

Virus Wars

I met the worst virus of my experience on a colleague's pc yesterday. But I had a lot of fun trying to catch it - exacerbated by the fact that it wouldn't allow me to install an anti-virus program and kept shutting down.
A couple of years ago I did quite a bit of virus troubleshooting and found the internet a great resource of info on how to get rid of the things. I find, recently, that if I search with Google I can get a whole lot of stuff that mentions the virus but is not helpful. It's the same if you search for a person's name and you get Facebook and Linkedln and whatever as results, which are not useful! I guess we need to find a way of separating useful info from the mass of stuff out there.
I had so much fun - should I be doing this minister thing? Why don't I get a job playing with pc's? I might even get rich!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where are we with Volf?

"Adequate reflection on exclusion must satisfy two conditions: (1) It must help to name exclusion as evil with confidence because it enables us to imagine nonexclusionary boundaries that map nonexclusionary identities; at the same time (2) it must not dull our ability to detect the exclusionary tendencies in our own judgements and practices." (pg 64)
I suppose the idea of nonexclusionary boundaries was and is a necessary arrival point, but it will be interesting to see what Volf does with them.
I am enjoying his ideas - the writing is very rich (full of concepts). And I always like it when an author writes something that supports something I've said, but couldn't get people to understand.
I don't agree with everything, but I am enjoying a very interesting journey.

Monday, September 21, 2009

An Update on Cows

It would seem that, at last, the cows are coming out of hibernation. I didn't realise that cows hibernate, but there definitely has been a lack of them on the Eastern Cape roads out of Grahamstown over the last few months.
I saw a beautiful big herd on the way to Kenton this morning. Mostly they were brown, but a number of smaller, white ones. I thought that they might be sheep, but they were cow-luminous and too far away to be certain.
I am now watching for white cows. Are they brown cows taking on breeding plumage? Perhaps the young, born in the spring.
Tomorrow, on the road to PE, the investigation will continue.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Boomslang

My experience of snakes, in the wild, has been limited to small brown, dozy-looking things, which I have not found very terrifying. Since I have been in Grahamstown I have heard stories of preachers refusing to go into pulpits (understandably!) because of the presence of a snake. This morning I was out at one of the farm societies and had my own snake experience. It wasn't actually very dramatic, but did make me realise that snakes are a bit scary!
It was right at the end of the service, after doing Communion. The stewards had unintentionally blocked the way back to the pulpit with the Communion table and I was quite happy just to finish the service from the front. Then suddenly the people sitting in the choir section started shrieking and pointing at the pulpit, into which they were convinced a snake had just made its way. I was quite happy to let the snake have the pulpit and we continued with the notices - then the snake was spotted in the roof. A creepy looking sinuous green-yellow beasty. I thought I was ok with snakes, but this one I didn't like. It appeared on and off between the corrugated iron sheets over the next hour or so. The people shrieked and laughed after the service.
One of the congregation who either works for a vet or has a friend who does (I couldn't quite get which) said that it was a boomslang. Apparently dogs are often bitten and there is nothing that they can do for them. But we all stayed in the building and ate a meal, although some were seen to be watching constantly and one old lady refused to sit down at all.
So I learnt something. And life goes on, even when faced with a real danger!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Evening Thoughts on Volf

So far, I love this book. "All sufferers can find comfort in the solidarity of the Crucified; but only those who struggle against evil by following the example of the Crucified will discover him at their side" (pg 24 in my copy).
And, "Many women tend to give so much of themselves that they are in danger of being left literally without a self" (pg 26).
This guy lives in the world that I know and recognise. I am looking forward to the rest of the journey, challenging as it might be.

Barry Marshall again

I prefer not to think about Barry. I'm glad that time has stopped thoughts of him being the constant backdrop to my mind. I know others have had the same experience. But I am constantly reminded of him in an odd and almost profane manner. Because he comes up in my blog statistics - my posts about him have taken many more direct hits than any other of my recent posts.
And it has got me thinking. Barry was very well-known, but I don't think that he had any desire to be famous. I don't know, but I don't think he had that insecure need that many of us have to cement our place in history. His wife said at his funeral that he just wanted God to remember him.
I wonder if part of the power of Barry was his ability to live passionately in the 'now'? Most of us distribute our energies almost randomly in the past, present and future. Worrying about what has been or will be. How much more could we be if truly lived in the 'now'? I think that I will take that as my legacy from Barry. To put as much passion and energy into now as I possibly can.
This was my original post.

Intimidation

I take two my (black) colleagues back to Grahamstown with me after college in PE. From Grahamstown they get taxis or hitchhike to Alice and to Bedford. This last week one of them needed to drop something off at Motherwell and we pulled off the highway and met his friend on the onramp on the other side. There were two or three men standing nearby and after we stopped they ambled by - and ambled off a little faster when they saw the colour of my skin (I guess).
My colleagues tell me that they were taxi drivers. They wait at points where people hitchhike and intimidate them and the drivers who stop for them. Jawellnofine.

***
Thought for the morning from 'Exclusion and Embrace'. Volf is talking about people's perceptions of loyalty and he says, "I must be a Croat through and through, or I was not a good Croat."

***
Xhosa phrase for the week, 'thatha le buck' - literally 'take up this buck' aka 'the buck stops here'.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Exclusion and Embrace

I have set myself a goal of reading Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Valf by the end of Tuesday. Or if not then, by next weekend!
I like it already. From the preface, "How does one remain loyal both to the demand of the oppressed for justice and to the gift of forgiveness that the Crucified offered to the perpetrators?"
I've seen this book quoted so many times! Now I WILL read it!

Pretence?

On Thursdays I am tired! I am realising that I am finding Tuesdays and Wednesdays at college increasingly taxing. Partly, I am not sleeping well and this is worse at college. Partly it is something to do with some sort of mask that I wear at college. I am trying to understand this. I don't suppose that we often consciously decide to wear a mask or to hide ourselves, and for me now it is not intentional. I started to realise this last week when talking to Ross Olivier about seminary next year. I realised that I wear this mask and that there is no ways that I want to keep on wearing it next year, for the whole year. It's not that I lie. I feel real when I talk to people. But something is keeping me stressed! It might be something to do with the smallness of the group.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Coming Together

Plans for moving to Pietermaritzburg next year are coming together. We almost certainly have a school for my to-be-in-matric daughter. It will be expensive, but it will be worth it - the school offers exactly the right matric subjects for her.
My husband has an almost firm job offer and places in the same school for our boys. We are not going to get rich, but it looks as if we will be ok.
My eldest daughter has been accepted by UKZN - she's not sure what for, but something!
I still need to hear confirmation after the Connexional Executive meeting over the last two days, that the church will be sending me to seminary in Pietermaritzburg, but it seems very likely.
God is good!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ups and Downs

This weekend:

My second daughter was patrol leader of her scout crew at the Chairman's Challenge raft event this weekend. This is for the top crews from Kontiki in Gauteng and they came 5th out of 15 this weekend.

I reread 'The Railway Children' and it made me cry!

I've done too much thinking about culture, identity, race, community, individualism and church. The answer to the questions can't be thought out, they can only be lived out. It is going to require a lot of grace on all sides.

A friend of mine is graduating with his doctorate in theology tonight. I am so pleased for him.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cool Music Video

Songwriter John van der Laar has put a video that he made of one of his songs up on YouTube. It's definitely worth checking out. Click here.
(You Are, from the album Every God-Beloved Life.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Two Thousand Kilometres

I took my new Honda Jazz for its first service on Tuesday. It was supposed to be a 15 000km service but the milage had crept up to 17 700km.
I bought the car at the beginning of December. It is now about the beginning of September and it has done nearly 18 000km. That means that I have been averaging 2 000km per month!
I do just over 1 000km because of my weekly trips to Port Elizabeth. The rest is in bits and pieces. The car is also still managing a steady 6 litres/100km. I am happy with it!

Driving to PE on Tuesday, it struck me that the thing I will miss most when I leave Grahamstown is my weekly drive to PE. Am I odd? I think I might be!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Seeing Me

I have been avoiding putting together the video of our college plunge because I suddenly realised that I was going to have to watch large quantites of myself on video. I know it is supposed to be good for you to watch videos or listen to tapes of yourself, but I haven't been able to do it. Anyway, I have now put the video together - while managing to fast forward through most of 'me'.
The main thing that I learnt is how much I use my hands when I speak. I had no idea that I move them around so much!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Techie Stuff

I'm busy with putting together a video of our college 'plunge' that we did in August. My netbook is doing fine with this, but the screen is a little small!

I occasionaly sanitise colleagues pc's and memory sticks (run an antivirus on them). Yesterday I was given a stick with 136 viruses! That is a record.

Today is Barry's memorial service. One in PE and one in Edenvale. It's raining.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Discovery

I discovered a new thing today. It happens quite often that people in the Bible are described by the ancestry of their mothers. Three of King David's best friends and soldiers were the 'sons of Zeruiah'. I realised today that Zeruiah was David's sister. So Joab and co were David's nephews. That puts a bit of a different spin on understanding some of the events in David's life.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Feeling Stupid

Chairing a meeting when I am the only English speaking person in a room of Xhosa speakers is NOT FUN. This afternoon I had what I thought would be a fairly straight-forward meeting, but which grew in complication. In the end everything went ok, but so much of the meeting was only in Xhosa that I really might as well not have been there. I could have insisted - but it would have meant embarrassing other church leaders, which I didn't feel was necessary. But the unconscious message given by the Xhosa speakers was, 'you might be one of our ministers, but it doesn't really matter whether you understand or not, because we are pretty sure that you don't have a contribution to make anyway'.
I know that it is not intentional. I believe that in other circumstances I could cope, even in spite of the language difficulties. But at the end of the day I am left seriously doubting my competence. And acknowledging that what really bothers me is that I feel stupid.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Amatomu Tracking Code

I eventually got around to exploring the beta version of Amatomu. For those who don't know, there is new embed code for their tracking. I noticed that my posts weren't being picked up in the left hand panel and the new code seems to fix that.
I've had quite a few hits from that left panel since fixing it, so it's worth it!

I'm going to do a funeral in Alicedale today. I like the Alicedale community and I don't mind doing the 50km drive. I'll spend about 6 hours on the funeral event (including travelling and a meal) and actively participate in about twenty to thirty minutes of it.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A New First

A very sad first time. The first time that I must delete a blog feed because the author has passed on. I've known Barry for a long time through his blog, but only met him this year. He was bright and energetic and maybe arrogant - but I didn't know him that well.
Oh Barry, I really had hoped to know you better. There was so much I felt that I could learn from you. So much that I wanted to argue with you about.
And this silly post says so little about how I really feel. But now you know the answers to all those questions that Methodists ask. Now you know for sure.

Siyabangena

I am back in Grahamstown and feeling far better about it than I thought I would! Spring is in the air - not as much as in Johannesburg, but it is there. The sun comes into my flat now and my winter depression is lifting. I had a brilliant weekend at home. I finished another assignment yesterday so that I only have two to go - but now that I'm into them I should be on a roll. I still feel like an ant on a soccer ball as far as church work goes, but I think I can see my way through to the end.
As they say in the classics, 'Siyabangena'!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Methodist Ministers Training

Steve Hayes asked, in a comment on a previous post, what the training programme for Methodist Ministers looks like, and it is a good question! I don't think many Methodists know either.
For the last fifteen years or so the church has used the 'Three phase system', which is nothing to do with electricity! It was intended to be an internship programme that would produce better ministers than a residential college or seminary education. This system is now being changed again and there is some uncertainty as to how it will look.

I am now in Phase 1. This is a one year programme that places student ministers in a cross-cultural setting. Ideally the student works with a strong mentor and is taught and guided by them. The student also attends 'college' for two days and one night of every week. This deals with academic stuff and 'spiritual formation' and reflective thinking about ministry. The problem has been that much of this doesn't really happen. Mentorship particularly tends to be lacking.

After achieving certain goals the student is promoted to phase 2. He or she then spends about three years in a church or different churches being mentored and trained while completing academic studies part time.

The year before ordination is phase 3 and the training is a little more intensive in preparation for ordination. The student is still placed in a church, but is now open for 'invitation' so that this particular church can invite the student to stay there for five years if all is going well.
So after 5 years of 'probation' the student will be ordained and be fully recognised as a minister (or presbyter) in the Methodist Church.

The whole system is being changed to revert back to three years of seminary education - with an emphasis on spiritual formation. From an educational theory point of view the three phase system was excellent. The problems came in the implementation and the need to trust the process (and students) to people who didn't really understand the system (much like is happening in SA schools with OBE). There are some really good mentoring people out there, but sometimes ministers are overloaded already, or simply not cut out to be mentors.

For better or for worse I am in the middle of a changing system - which I think is flexible enough that eventually it will accomodate the needs - educational and otherwise - of ministerial students.
And to Steve's question - yes we are all sent far from home. I think the idea is to be fair to people from outlying areas who have no choice but to be sent far from home. I guess it does make us strong. Whether it is fair to those of us with families, I am not sure.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Checkers in a Classic World

We were driving to the airport yesterday and my husband had Classic FM on for the traffic reports. He remarked on the Checkers ad which played and was jangly and hyped and didn't fit with the classical tenor - there was nothing 'wrong' with the ad, but it didn't fit with the mood of the station.
It made me wonder about my preaching. Nearly all of my colleagues in phase 1 are more conservative and traditional than I am and I don't think they quite know what to make of me. I think, to their ears, I might be like a Checkers ad on Classic FM - and I guess that I jar a bit. This has caused me quite a lot of struggle because I think I am more culturally conditioned to be Classic FM. But people seem to respond to my preaching - even in more traditional churches - and I can't bring myself to preach as I used to do 20 years ago.
I think the problem is that we are doing 'Classic FM' church in a world that is watching 7de Laan and Generations every day. So I guess I might jar my colleagues for a bit longer.
(And I actually do listen to Classic FM! But not in Grahamstown, being a bit distant.)