Friday, December 31, 2010
I will blog again about church and theology soon!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
We have found that we have had a more relaxed December than we have had for years. 2008 saw me preparing to move and moving to Grahamstown. 2009 saw the same for Pietermaritzburg, but the whole family this time. This year we moved house, but otherwise things have stayed much the same.
My brain is not even constantly struggling over theological problems! So I don't have much to blog . . .
My big frustration is with UKZN. I want to be thinking about my PhD plans and thesis, but communication from them is close to zero. Maybe I'm going about it in the wrong way . . .
Maybe God is telling me to take a holiday!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Weather Underground is the source of this information and other cool facts. (The link takes you to my location near Midmar Dam!)
Saturday, December 18, 2010
And I am grateful that there is space to dream. That there is space for me to serve the church and to grow myself. Going back to seminary next year won't be so bad.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Tick another thing off on my 'things I have done' list!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
This year I have travelled to Howick and back on average twice a week - that's about 20km from Pmb. There has been the occasional trip to Durban - about 90km. But local travel is a bit more - it was about 8km from our family home to the seminary. It is a bit frightening how much these little trips add up.
After 2 years the Jazz is still going well and I am still very pleased with it!
Monday, December 13, 2010
I enjoyed it. It tells the story of the Roman lawyer Cicero and the author claims that at least 50% of the action is historically true and that there is nothing in his telling that could not possibly be true.
Along the way we meet Crassus who crucified thousands of slaves along the Appian way. Also Julius Caesar as a reckless, scheming youngster. It is so easy to see how Paul would fit into this saga - although he appears in history about 100 years later. Cicero's crafted arguments and political tactics illustrate the world that Paul lived in. Definitely a helpful book to read!
Monday, December 06, 2010
We all need the break. It has been very good to be busy, and I hope useful, but now it is time to stop!
The photo is of the Grade R group singing a song at their graduation yesterday afternoon at Brentwood pre-school. We are very proud of them and their teachers!
Thursday, December 02, 2010
This is my fourth home in four years! And that is not counting the two flats that I had (I still have one) at seminary and the two nights a week that I spent in PE last year. I am learning not to be tied to place or physical things. I am still so grateful to be in the same town as my family, unlike last year when we were 1000 km apart!
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
But it's all good. Most of it is Jesus stuff - which is where the action should be!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
And let not any eunuch complain, 'I am only a dry tree.' . . . better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Kunguwe onomusa wonke
Yenza ngentando yakho.
The last line is the same for all the verses. This verse simply means, 'you have all the power, you have all the wisdom, you have all the grace (or kindness), do according to your will'.
It expresses such a simple and yet real faith - God is good. We can trust him. Let him do his will in our lives.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
I am wondering if energy isn't the gift that a minister offers a congregation. I know that when I am strong I can walk into a meeting or lead a worship service and raise the energy level. When I am tired or not confident in the situation I can't - or at least not easily.
The other thing that energy does is allow a minister to be flexible. Organising stuff at seminary is so difficult because the schedule is changing constantly and it is really hard to get people together for, say, a worship practice. Now try to organise something that puts people in the seminary together with people outside the seminary - one has to be flexible.
I know that I am tired at the moment. I know that I am struggling to bring energy. I know that I want to just give up and cry when something doesn't come right. And I'm not complaining - this is life, but I'm trying to figure it out.
The third thing about energy - and especially as a mother - is that a day off means that you stop working for the church and work for the family or household instead. So my Saturday means cleaning the kitchen and doing the ironing as well as sermon prep if I am preaching. It isn't really a day off.
I know that I would be stronger if I took a week day and just did my own thing. Got away from the family, or did a fun thing with them. And I would be far more effective as a minister. I could bring energy because I would have energy. I could be flexible. I could cope with the unexpected situation. Of course, taking the day off while others are slaving away would also be perceived as lazy. So I need to make the conscious step to deal with that.
I suddenly understand the difference between this and a desk job. I can work on computer programming and web stuff for hours. But I never need to supply energy to the people or world around me. If I am tired I can just bury myself in my work. Hide away. A minister can do that quite a lot, but that is not the point of ministry.
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. In God's strength maybe I can get that right. I know this is nothing new. I know Jesus did it. But I think I've really understood it for the first time.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
So here is another thought about church and culture. Contextualisation. Tall Skinny Kiwi has written a blog post about 'Skate Churches'. He tells of churches that have built Christian conversations with young people by engaging them through skateboarding and surfing. For me, this is what missional Christianity is all about. This is where the Great Commission comes into action. This is what Jesus did - only skateboarding wasn't relevant in his earthly day so he got involved with fishermen and tax collectors and so on.
I have been involved in English-speaking Methodist Churches that can see this vision. They might be nervous, but they would be willing to step cautiously into the gap. However, from my point of view, the black Methodist Church could never even conceive of taking such a step. Church is as much about its form as its content. This is a problem for me.
Black Consciousness and Steve Biko followers will tell me to sit down and shut up. A white person shouldn't talk to black people about how they do church.
Yet I don't see myself as separate from other South Africans. Our destiny is in the same vehicle. There is not one world for black and one for white. We are all in this together.
Sometimes - no, often - we are driven by ideals that are illogical and inconsistent. I feel helpless!
But I suspect that with perseverance we will see Jesus' plan for South Africa.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Everything thing seemed to be resolved and resolved well, so I was hoping to see a good turn out on Sunday. And I did. I left the service early, but by then, the church was full!
So I have a lot of hope for Brentwood. Rev Kumalo's opinion is that power struggles are second nature to the church and as ministers we just have to learn to deal with them. This is not a part of ministry that appeals to me!
Friday, November 12, 2010
I know that it is just a transitional feeling. I know that I will find other things to fill up my time. But in the meantime it is an unpleasant feeling. It is also a reminder to have more in my life than just church work. Outside interests are vital. But I struggle with that - and do get too caught up with work.
Jesus never seemed to feel guilty about going off on his own . . .
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I spent most of yesterday morning at the Phakamisa programme in Pinetown and I feel much more comfortable that the Pietermaritzburg project is on track. This is such an awesome opportunity.
Today I need to get my worship programme for Friday printed out before I go out at 9am. I will meet my husband at the seminary chapel where I hope he will help identify any major outstanding issues with the sound system. Tomorrow we meet with the guy from Wesley Methodist who will be doing the sound for the carol service. It seems bitty, but this is foundational for future community ministry based at the seminary chapel.
Then, a local meeting regarding Phakamisa and this afternoon will be devoted to Brentwood. I can even, almost, get excited about trying to create a comprehensible financial statement for the year so far!
Let Jesus rule . . .
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
In favour of the web page is the fact that the church receives international sponsorship and this will allow the sponsors to see that there is life in the church.
As to the rest - maybe the community will rise to the opportunity. Maybe it will be surprisingly successful. It is easier for Jesus to work through us when we are moving!
Monday, November 08, 2010
This is actually something I am struggling with. It could be that all things come as a mixture - preaching involves preparation, delivery and response. Most ministry is a combination of admin and people - the Brentwood preschool demands my listening presence, almost as a priority. There is a lot of admin for me because the people there just aren't sophisticated to do it - although they can see what they want. I don't much enjoy either - yet the impact that it makes when I do listen and help almost makes it worth it.
But I'm still not really getting to the nub of it. Maybe that's why we just hide the whole thing under the term 'calling'. I do it because there is the sense that this is what Jesus is asking from me. Neither enjoyment or impact is actually relevant.
Still not there . . . very much thoughts in progress for this week!
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Then my internet connection hung, which it does occasionally, so I thought I'd try out the new AVG PC analyser. Then I saw that it was just a hook to get you to buy their tool, so I downloaded the latest version of Ccleaner and ran it. Then I got my internet connection working and got Kindle working and then I started reading John's book. Then it was time to do something else.
But the headache is still there today - so I either struggle through it until the weekend, or I just drop all but the essentials and hope that it's gone by lunchtime - which is usually what happens if I do drop everything.
Not complaining! Just for the record - even Christians get headaches, have hard days, struggle with life. Even ministers in training. Even mothers.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
But then, many of these same people to convince you in theological discussion will say, 'it all depends on how you see God. What is your picture of God?' And this is also a good question. Absolutely, how we see God affects our behaviour, our lifestyle, our faith.
But our picture of God depends on our beliefs about God and that comes back to doctrine. So faith IS an assent to certain doctrines - starting with our picture of God - whether we see him as a God of love or punishment or suffering or whatever. Which boxes about God did you tick?
Maybe questions about the virgin birth don't seem so relevent. But ultimately, what you believe about God is going to affect your behaviour, lifestyle etc.
The trouble is that in the past people have simply ticked boxes without applying it to their brains and their lives. They could tick boxes - know what they ought to believe - but not translate it into actual belief and therefore lifestyle change.
Faith is belief (doctrinal assent) that results in relationship with Jesus and a changed lifestyle.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
And I am pretty sure that my family has a house for next year. We should be picking up the keys today.
God is good.
So for now, I keep planting, trying to remember to pray, and we'll see what the Lord allows, or causes, to grow!
Monday, November 01, 2010
As I have thought about it on and off in the last few weeks I am seeing a possible relationship. Certain theologians prefer to focus on the 'now' of salvation rather than the future - to the point of excluding future salvation altogether. This is valuable in combating the extreme of only focusing on future salvation, but I do think leads to low morale in the here and now. Jesus did pray for the coming of his kingdom on earth and we should be working for that. But we also need to hang on to the promise of a time that is coming that will be better. If we only live for the kingdom of God now and there is little visible sign of its coming we become discouraged. We need the knowledge that it is not all about now, but partly about the not yet.
Paul says, 'If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.' 1 Corinthians 15:19. I believe in Jesus who brings hope upon hope!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
15 Authors (meme)
Fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose.
Although I find this similar to having to do the thank you's after an event - you're sure you're going to forget someone really significant! But let's have a go - in no particular order.
1. Isaac Asimov
2. Robert Heinlein (earlier books)
3. JRR Tolkien
4. CS Lewis
5. John Ortberg
6. Rick Warren
7. Terry Pratchett
8. Ken Schenck
9. Andre Brink
10. CS Forester
11. Zakes Mda
12. Millard Erickson
13. Richard Foster
14. The Bronte Sisters
15. Aldous Huxley
I'm fairly sure that if I took my time I would change this list, but there we go. Some explanation:
Two names that definitely would not come off - John Ortberg and Terry Pratchett. If I could be anyone other than me I'd like to be one of them! Just make Terry Pratchett a Christian :-) They both write with such insight.
Tolkien, CS Lewis - need I say anything?
Asimov and Heinlein - read when I was a teenager - the great unknown, survival against the odds.
Rick Warren, Richard Foster, Millard Erickson, Ken Schenck - Christian writers that help me see things more clearly.
Brink, Mda - South African writers that communicate South Africanness to me.
CS Forester - Hornblower was my hero for a long time - we see life from inside his soul, his fears and weakness (similar to Harry Potter early books).
Bronte Sisters - fascinated by their taking on of the male dominated world of literature.
Aldous Huxley - too likely to come true.
And so to tag some others:
John van der Laar
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The upside is that if I just put my head down and get on with it I will actually have achieved a lot in a short time!
So to work . . .
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
It would be good if there were black Africans who could engage with me on this . . .
So next question - how do we turn the theological blogosphere less white?
How do we get black Africans to trust white Africans with their theological thoughts?
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The friendship - when I read the profile description of INTJ's it fits me so well it is scary. But it makes me feel good because I feel more 'normal' - maybe I am not so way out there different as I sometimes feel. Usually when I do tests that claim to 'profile' me I find that I sort of see myself in the result, but it's not striking. The MBTI does fit me quite well.
The fear - am I nothing more than a predictable result of my genes and my circumstances? If this fits me so well, then all I have done is submitted to the natural course of events. My achievements are not mine, my failings are not mine. I am just a piece of straw blowing in the wind.
It really is a reminder that God has made me who I am and whatever that is, I should be using for his work and his glory. No need for pride in achievements, but also no need for beating myself over my head for my weaknesses. Not that I can just let those weaknesses rest . . .
Monday, October 25, 2010
INTJs can rise to management positions when they are willing to invest time in marketing their abilities as well as enhancing them, and (whether for the sake of ambition or the desire for privacy) many also find it useful to learn to simulate some degree of surface conformism in order to mask their inherent unconventionality.
Some days, running the simulation is just too much effort!
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I had a sense, for whatever reason, that they were glad to have me there today!
Friday, October 22, 2010
As we were leaving a belligerent looking young man came after us and said he wanted to ask me a question. He pointed to the African shrine in the corner of the garden or yard. What about this? What about the ancestors? I was quite scared and didn't have time for a thought out answer and just said, 'Jesus is more powerful than any ancestor could be.' Suddenly the man was full of smiles and said that he was glad to hear what I had to say.
It was only a long time after that I understood that the reason he was glad was that I hadn't just said that the ancestors don't exist. It wasn't helpful to him to be told that something he perceived as a real and dangerous power in his life did not exist. But to be told that there was a greater power was helpful.
More in another post!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
But slowing down, the tiredness kicks in. Even though the work is less, I don't want to do it! Push just a little harder, just a little further, nearly there. I hope that being a minister isn't like this - I don't suppose it is . . .
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
African culture and religious belief relies heavily on the concept of guidance by the ancestors. They believe that ancestors speak to them in their dreams and direct them. While western Christians talk about the call of God on their lives, Africans will speak of the call of the ancestors. I am not sure whether the church, by and large, has managed to differentiate between these two ideas of calling.
Now, what does the Bible say about the dead speaking to us?
We have the Old Testament prohibition against consulting the dead - which Saul defied when visiting the witch of Endor. We also have Hebrews 11:4 which says that Abel, though dead still speaks. We have the Lord's refusal to allow the rich man to warn those still alive of the future consequences of their actions. We have the meeting between Jesus, Elijah and Moses on the mountain of transfiguration.
In cases where people are spoken to by spirits these are always referred to as dangerous, if not evil - and there is no case where the spirit is permitted to remain. There are so many instances of spirits being cast out that I don't think I need to list them!
Perhaps I should mention three other 'experiential things'. I don't believe that I have ever conversed with a dead person. I do believe that when someone has experienced the loss of a loved one there is the tendency to believe that the loved one is around, watching over them and listening to them. The Roman Catholics' belief in the intercession of the saints may come into this discussion somewhere.
However, I cannot come to the conclusion that the Bible admits of safe, healthy interaction with the dead. The trend is to warn us away from 'other' spirits. So, if the dead are living amongst us communication with them is not the norm - to say the least.
It occurred to me after writing this that I have not taken angels into account. Angels are really God's messengers - could he use ancestors in this way? It is possible - although then one would assume that the ancestors are living with God (as we know the angels do) and not among us.
Monday, October 18, 2010
So we are looking again. Enough space for border collies and four teenagers. We were really lucky/blessed to find the place where we are now so easily (not that it felt easy at the time!)
We are looking at a place tomorrow - it looks about 80% alright. I don't think we can afford to be fussy.
The previous writer in the discussion said, “but surely the position and location of the spirits of the dead is a theological question, and a sort of undifferentiated African Sheol located in the home is irreconcilable with the Biblical revelation?”
Is there anything in the Bible that prevents the possibility of this African Sheol? I know that Science (which could be called a western cultural construct) denies the possibility of the spirits of the dead being amongst us. When someone is dead, they are gone from the world. I am comfortable with that. But the same science says that what I perceive to be divine guidance is simply a certain natural (or unnatural) functioning of the brain and also that Jesus could not have risen from the dead. So in this case I choose not to go along with science. But as regards the living dead, perhaps all we have is a cultural conflict.
Bearing my western cultural prejudice in mind – what does the Bible say about the dead?
Jesus says that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – but he is a God of the living not the dead. We are surrounded by the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews. Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus – where the rich man observes the living. Saul and the witch of Endor. What if we read these passages from an African worldview rather than a scientific western?
What happens after death? We are not too sure whether we go instantaneously to heaven/judgement or whether we must wait for the end of the world. Again, some of our understanding of these issues is based on the western philosophical concept of eternity as being ‘outside of time’ – this is not necessarily a Biblical concept.
But it might be that in my attempt to see things from ‘the other side’ I am missing some things that supports the western point of view – and I would appreciate any guidance in that regard!
The reason that I am thinking what I am thinking is not because I want to encourage syncretism, but rather that I feel if there is error in the African way of thinking, we need to be sure where that error lies. I do not believe that the ancestral spirits have the power to intercede for us and that can be shown from the Bible. We don’t need to appease them, again Biblical. But can we reject their existence based on Biblical evidence?
Saturday, October 16, 2010
I also have 'Paul's Narrative Thought World' by Ben Witherington III - and I supect this is going to help me link in the South African element. How would South African struggle and post-struggle narratives shape our thought worlds and thus our hermeneutic?
However, the question still remains as to whether the South African angle can meaningfully add to our understanding of hermeneutics. I think I have enough of an idea to make a Masters - but I've got to crank it up a bit to get to PhD level.
I enjoy this very much. Maybe I should make next year at seminary an academic year!
Friday, October 15, 2010
So I will be working on finding reading for my PhD and maybe homing in on a topic. I will be working on Zulu, for which I have a Unisa exam on Wednesday. And I will be working on my Greek with which I am currently always a step behind.
And I will take my teenage daughter shopping.
All things that I enjoy and have a sense of immediate benefit to me!!
Does that make sense - that it reduces guilt? Doesn't matter - because today I am not feeling guilty about ANYTHING!
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I ought to have been awake enough to catch the same-sex synchroblog.
I ought to be participating more in other people's blogs.
These oughts ought to be telling me something!
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I've been speaking to the seminary president about my plans and hopes for next year at seminary and I think that we will work out something useful. I am finding that there is too much that I want to do - and it is very difficult to know what to drop. Which is a much better place to be in than having too much that I don't want to do! The principal components of the plan are my PhD studies and working in a local church. Nothing that requires too much rocket science to put together, but somehow it does require a fair amount of thought.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
A major part of Jesus' ethos was humility and not 'lording it' over others. He consistently tells us to take the lower place and put others first. Amongst Christians, understandably, this has become the 'way to be and the way to do things'. However, Jesus doesn't actually completely do away with the idea of respecting our elders and giving honour to those who deserve it. But we have forgotten that part.
The problem comes in that if someone because of their ability is promoted to an area of greater responsibility there would under certain systems be an expectation of greater reward, respect and status. This is many ways compensates for the increased stress and pressure. BUT because we need to see everyone equal and we feel that striving for status is wrong we do not wish to reward these people for what they are doing. In fact, we may make them feel guilty for having achieved a position that can be seen as a status position. For this reason many people (who have all the right Christian principles in mind) resist taking any position of authority - in spite of the fact that he or she may well be the best person for the job. And so - those with less qualms and possibly less ability get planted in positions of responsibility.
I wonder if we don't need to regain a sense of giving people status and privilege where it is due. Now, how do we stop people pursuing position for the privilege it gives?
Monday, October 11, 2010
My children enjoyed being with other kids and also the fact that they were welcome in the activities, but were also welcome to go off and play if they wanted to.
It was good to get to know people. Prestbury, for me, is where I go to church on Sunday evenings, but for the rest of my family it is their church home. It was nice to get to know the people they know!
God is good.
Friday, October 08, 2010
[St] Francis seems to believe that there is a knowing passing between all creatures, and that the animals have a kind of consciousness that they can give to us. Have you ever let an animal hold a gaze into your eyes? I know it from my Black Lab, Venus, and from other animals I have encountered in nature. It is somehow healing and connecting at a deep level. It is always compassionate. (Richard Rohr)
You track the antelope. He knows you are there. He knows he has to give you his strength. But he runs and you have to run. As you run you become like him. It can take hours and exhaust you both. You talk to him and look into his eyes. And then he knows he must give you his strength so your children can live. (Vimbai Gukwe Chivaura)
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
In the meantime, reading an article on African Hermeneutics I find one statement that everyone says is true, but with which I strongly disagree and one with which I strongly agree.
1. "It is impossible for the African to separate interpretation and understanding from all other aspects of life" I think the author is referring to the idea that Africans have no separation between the secular and the spiritual. This is pretty much what John Mbiti concluded from his study of African religions. I have no doubt that he was correct. However, I think that the today's urban African has an enormous seperation in his thinking between the secular and the spiritual. How does one explain the crime rate in South Africa (high) when one sees the apparent commitment to Christianity (apparently 79%) if one does not accept that people's faith is not affecting their lifestyle? In other words, the spiritual is separated from the secular.
2. "The text that African Hermeneutics tries to understand is much wider than the biblical text, or western-oriented theology, since it includes the African world as text." I find this to be true - most African Christians (in my opinion!) give their culture and lifestyle equal status to Scripture. For them 'truth' is found in text and context (by which I mean social context). This is a difficult tension to hold - yet I think the way forward is to find the most Christian way of holding this tension, rather than to pretend that it doesn't exist.
Point 2 really interests me - but it veers away from Biblical studies into whatever the study of culture is, so I may not be able to work on it in my PhD!
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
It goes along with the taxi drivers who were stopping motorists on the N4 and letting down their tyres if they were carrying passengers.
This country has sick elements and we need to face it!
Sunday, October 03, 2010
It was interesting to observe the visitors - they are obviously used to a more formal service than we have, but they adapted well. I haven't seen a manel/ frock coat for a while. His dress reminded me of Grahamstown. And made me aware that Brentwood is quite different as an African congregation.
There was a meal afterwards and then I needed to give our visitors a lift - via Howick Methodist where their colleague was preaching. I was home by 1.30 which wasn't too bad.
But it is sometimes hard to see if God is really at work in situations. It was not an easy morning for me (although I wouldn't call it hard!) Did my role help people know Jesus better? Probably I impressed the visitors (white person at a black service) - but I'm not out to score noddy points for myself. It somehow has to come back to Jesus.
Trust. I have to trust him, even when I can't see it for myself.
Friday, October 01, 2010
I started the week with a moderate amount of 'refreshed by the holidays energy'. I did feel like I was hitting a bit of a brick wall when I came back to the seminary - but it hasn't been too bad. Maybe it is just the usual adjustment from being in control of one's own time to being at the mercy of others. I have been working way too hard - and there is not a soul on the planet who can even begin to understand that(oh, alright - I guess everybody goes through it!) I think this might be an integral part of the minister's life - and I am very happy to confess that if this part of 'formation' then I am happy to be doing it in the relatively 'safe' seminary environment. And it is formation because I am subjecting myself, by and large, to the 'working way too hard' - it is not decreed by others.
But at the end of the week I am able to believe that God is faithful. I can see things coming together in a number of places and already I feel a sense of burdens being lifted. God is good.
Some of the seminarians are very stressed. Others seem less so. One has been discontinued by the Methodist Conference. The new term carries on.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
"No man! No wonder you are so weak. When we give you a diet, we expect you to cheat on it. You are going to kill yourself."
My grandfather was understandably peeved.
In the Christian life, we have the words of Jesus, "Love your neighbour as you love yourself."
Yet advice in many leadership and lifestyle books is, "Don't worry so much about pleasing others/ what other people think about you."
Somehow we have turned Jesus' words to love each other into a thing that destroys us. We try to please others and . . .
Abandon our principles
Abandon our self-interest and self-worth
And probably other things.
How do we reinterpret those words into our society today?
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I thought of something that helps me pray - should have thought of it ages ago - yesterday morning I prayed for the people whose Facebook updates and tweets showed up on my cell phone during my prayer time. I prayed for people that I've never even thought of praying for before. I'm going to try to add that to my regular routine.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
But so often it is the structures that are supposed to bring life that breathe death. I try to enjoy chapel worship, to connect with God, even just to speak to him, but I find these times so so hard. And I don't think it is because I am irreligious!
But, we try to keep the spark - Jesus and me!
Monday, September 27, 2010
I am at the museum for a meeting at 8am - early because I needed to drop my daughter at the university in time for her lectures. Feeling a bit bad because I am missing chapel and my covenant group meeting. And I'm not sure where this meeting is going. It is with one of the local churches and the Pietermaritzburg Pre-School Association looking at a project we want to do. I'm not sure who else will be there.
It is the first week of the last term of the year. I have quite a busy time ahead. I am looking forward to the holidays - even though we will be moving house in that time. Hopefully we find a house!
Focus for this term - make sure that Jesus is part of any projects that I participate in (if I can). It is so easy to play church, even play kingdom of God. Easy to do things as if they were just organisational and not essentially spiritual. And yet, things go so much better if we are working with God, not independently of him, however pressurised we may feel to go with the flow of busyness.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Am I doing the right thing with my life? Where will I be next year? What are my goals for the next 15 months?
Realising that I am changing - in many ways back to the person I was ten years ago. Is this a good thing? In some ways, yes - an increased emphasis on academic thinking, on assertive leadership. In some ways , no - becoming more independent, needing 'people' less. I feel part of the seminary machine. I need to be part of a family - seminary family?
But it is a phase and I think that I will keep the good and hopefully the bad won't stick too closely when I move on. Two more months and this year is over. I wonder what God is planning for me for 2012? I wonder if I will be conscious of 2011 being preparation for that?
Choices - but I am glad that I have choices. I am glad that I am busy. I need to work at seeing Jesus in all of this.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
This can give rise to a mild sense of panic - but especially when I start thinking of the year after next when the church will (hopefully) send me into circuit. We will then have a child studying in Durban and one in Pietermaritzburg. I see us travelling around the country, leaving a child in each university town and having to pay for all their lodgings (as well as university fees) . . .
I think it is a grace of God that we cannot see the future! I am sure that everything will work out alright.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
In reality, my life consists of bits and pieces. Today I tied myself down and did some admin (boring, force myself!) Now I will go out to Brentwood pre-school and just be 'pastoral'. So ordinary and unromantic.
Yet in this postmodern era (and it is postmodern) the theory only has any life when combined with a recognition of the reality of day to day mundanity (is that a word?)
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I also have space today and tomorrow to catch up with my work. I have the gist of my sermon in place for Sunday - it's a complicated Sunday, being WA Sunday and part of a course of Contagious Christianity - got to fit it all together.
The problem with coming out of myself is that I am more aware of other's struggles - my husband is sitting with matric trials to mark and deadlines.
Sometimes, in all of this, I wonder if I am really still a Christian. Going to seminary doesn't make me a Christian (by any means!), going to worship doesn't do it, reading my Bible - better, but not there. Praying - much better. But I think that it is the sense of living every moment of the day (or as many as possible) in the awareness of living in and for Jesus that does it. His Lordship has actually got to be an integral part of my day or I've lost the plot. That has been harder to get right this year than ever before! Today, I believe I can get there.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Nowadays, the BMC is making itself more public within the church and is making its role one of providing empowerment to black people within the MCSA. The more noticeable role over the last year has been the way it is has 'organised' people into senior positions within the church by rallying votes within the BMC for the leader of its choice. Thus (?) the leader of the church's education unit is a senior member of the BMC. The Dean of Studies at SMMS is the connexional president of the BMC.
Many people feel that the days for the BMC are over. Obviously many more don't.
Perhaps there is a place for it. It is clearly racist - without apology.
Sometimes I feel angry, sometimes hurt. I try hard to be friends with black and white. Sometimes this feels like a slap in the face for those of us who are determined about reconciliation. Sometimes we understand.
But how much better if we could all work together.
Monday, September 13, 2010
The first was my feelings. I was a bit angry because I could have done other things that morning. I had to make arrangements for my kids to be looked after, I'd put people out. But it was also nice not to have to sit through a long service in a language I didn't understand on a summer's day. As I drove back for the second time I couldn't tell whether I was hoping for people or no people. I'm not sure that this says good things about my commitment to the place.
The second was about respecting other people. Mvume Dandala asked a question in our colloquium last week which was phrased around the idea of black people suffering from self-hate and a sense of inadequacy as a result of apartheid. That is undoubtedly true, but the lady who was hoping to find the church happening on Sunday could feel that same sense of self-hate and inadequacy - from her treatment by the church. And maybe I should have been more assertive there.
Thirdly driving through both Howick and Hilton (I was too late to go to service there, although I thought I might) it was good to see that most churches had full parking lots and a good overflow. One might be inclined to think that more people would go to church if there was more parking.
I must admit that I really enjoyed my drive around Hilton and Cedara - it was a sort of a Sabbath for me.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Came home and did nothing. For a bit. Then I fixed up some stuff on the seminary web page. Then I tried to work on my UNISA Zulu course, but had to fight with my cd that isn't co-operating. Drove past some houses that are for rent to see what they were like. Went to the shops. Will write an end of term report just now for my internship programme. But somehow it still feels like I'm taking time off - maybe because I'm at home!
Nice, summery weather, with the end of the year and holidays in sight.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Drop daughter at UKZN - omitting the now often heard instruction as to what she should do should student protests turn nasty (which happened yesterday).
Fix bug in web page due to MS Word putting its own interesting XML code into documents.
Still to do: Greek homework for this morning.
Create document for photocopying of song words for tomorrow's chapel service because the projector set up is not working yet.
Going to look at a project at Pinetown Methodist Church - with special interest in their training of creche teachers - some interesting plans as to what we might do at a church in Pietermaritzburg.
Meeting with UKZN/Sorat admin guy about their web page.
Workshop with other 'Formation Interns' about church viability and audits.
Fetch any kids still not home. Go home. No worship practice because we did it yesterday!
My days aren't usually quite this full, but getting there. I do believe that somehow God will use me in all this and it feels meaningful and worthwhile.
God is good.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
I'm starting to read for my thesis again - that's also good.
Monday, September 06, 2010
The bad news is that the owners of the house we are renting are coming back to South Africa and need their house. So we have two months to find accomodation. That was a bit of a shock, but at least we are here in Pmb - it will be a nuisance, but not impossible.
We rented this house while my husband was in Johannesburg and I was in Grahamstown and neither of us knew much about Pietermaritzburg at all. We accepted the house based on photos emailed to us. And it worked out very well - we will be sorry to move.
No doubt God has a plan.
Sunday, September 05, 2010
I was challenged by the colloquium on Saturday night where Dr Simanga Kumalo and Dr Greg Jones spoke on 'Forming Transforming Leaders for Church and Nation', which is the seminary's mission statement. I would love to have this sort of engagement more often - but it is still too diffuse. We try to cover too much ground in too little time. It is good to be talking and I see the possibility of doing more!
I also enjoyed being with, and seeing John van de Laar 'do his thing'. He wrote the liturgies for the services and was on hand to keep everything running smoothly. He is an inspiration.
Thanks John, you touched me!
Friday, September 03, 2010
Take a deep breath.
I don't enjoy 'functions', but I presume that many people do.
There are people who have worked very hard to get the seminary to where it is and they certainly deserve a celebration.
May God be glorified and the name of Jesus lifted high this weekend.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Am I trying to apply western solutions to an African problem? Is there an 'African governance' that doesn't require contracts, financial statements and measurements of goals?
I still don't know what is required to make the pre-school 'legal'. In a formerly white suburb there would tend to be checks and forms and threats of being closed down. These things are just not viable in formerly black areas where there is a crying out for anyone to be helping the vast numbers of people in need. In the western world we talk of qualified teachers and accreditation and minimum salaries. We talk of the need to pay school fees and follow up for those who don't. These things are just not feasible in the area where I am working. We can't afford an accredited teacher. We don't really need one - we need someone who cares passionately for the children and is willing to learn.
Sponsorship doesn't seem to work. The system must be self-sustaining. Apparently those schools who are sponsored don't last.
I am floundering.
But you know what - the school will work and will keep going . . . in spite of me.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
What is odd is that because I now feel on top of these things I feel much more able to cope with my other commitments.
And then my son's fish died yesterday and I know that I should have chased him to clean the bowl before - and again I'm reminded that my family and kids really do matter and I can't let that get out of hand.
But I feel more in tune with the way God wants me to live at the moment. There are people who are upset with me - who feel that I should be doing what they want (and I don't mean seminary staff!!) but that's actually ok. This is about Jesus and his work. So there!
Monday, August 30, 2010
The Evangelical 'lives out of the Bible'. We read the Bible and are inspired, motivated, taught, challenged, but also corrected (ok, that sounds just like 2 Timothy 3:16, but I wasn't meaning to quote). Often the Bible is rather used as a judge or a 'place to check if something is ok'. If that is the primary way that the Bible is used it can become something that breathes death, rather than the life-breathing that is given when we read the Bible and live out of it.
So our lifestyle comes out of what we read in the Bible.
Putting that into theological language we can say that our praxis is determined by our theology which is obtained by our reflection on Scripture. A problem may come if we do not in turn reflect on our praxis - is it in fact achieving what we desired after reflecting on Scripture?
So this does part company with Liberation Theology type theologies which say that our theology comes as a reflection on praxis. I'm not sure how the Bible fits into that theme.
As always, I need to think more about this, but I like the idea of living out of the Bible.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
That is not to say it is completely impersonal. The love and generosity is genuine and I felt very honoured. Rev Kumalo says that the gift of traditional clothes for both of us demonstrates that we have been truly accepted by the community.
God is good - because who am I and what have I done?
Friday, August 27, 2010
Next weekend is the official opening ceremony with the accompanying influx of dignitaries and presumably long speeches. This weekend is the African initiation of the seminary - complete with cow sacrifice.
I do not have the faintest idea how to respond to this!
It goes against so much of what I have learnt and believed about God and sacrifice. But I also understand that it is deeply important to African people - and this is usually reflected in a separation of 'church' and 'tradition'. If church won't accept the tradition then the traditional practices will be done seperately.
I've been speaking to black African people over the last few weeks, trying to understand what it means to them. My bottom-line understanding is that the sacrifices offered are in order to appease or placate the ancestral spirits or living dead. The 'worst case' scenario (in my mind) is that the sacrifice is being made asking the spirit of Seth Mokitimi for permission to name the seminary after him. I asked what would happen if he wasn't happy and was shrugged off - 'we would have known by now if he wasn't happy'. The best case was that it is simply a sign of thanksgiving.
Does the Bible say that we should not have minor gods after the One true God? I know that there should be none before him, could there be some after? The 'ancestors' are not idols made of wood and stone, but 'living?' beings.
I have just received the seminary president's explanation of the event, but have not read it yet. I will make more comment when I have read it!
(Actually, I think I am supposed to put it on the seminary web page! I'll post the link when that is done . . . there goes my time to work on my proposal!)
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Helping with strike relief is great - but my programme is not lecture based and the time I give to the strike is lost. It doesn't help me if the seminary cancels lectures (although that only happened for one day anyway). But somehow I am keeping going and in spite of spending this afternoon at the hospital again I am starting to feel like I am winning.
I worked in a more general ward today at the hospital - young psychiatric patients. Even apart from the strike their situation is very sad. But I guess it is better than being on the streets and uncared for.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
In the end we went in and out quite uneventfully.
I know that the strikers want more money, but I can't see the justice in allowing helpless people to suffer as a tool to get their own way.
But I am glad that we could make a contribution. And those taking the laundry to the seminary residences and operating the machines have been working way beyond the few hours spent at the hospital. It is good to see people willing to give and to sacrifice themselves for others.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Unfortunately, I had to mop out the door and down the passage. My singing lady tried to come with me, but a visiting nursing sister chased her back into the ward. So I mopped by myself. And the old people sat in the ward/tv room by themselves.
But for a moment it was good!
On the other hand, training in understanding the Bible is definitely helpful, as is preaching. So is the Bible self-revelatory or not?
I wonder if the real thing is that the more we know of the Bible the more we can understand it. We talk easily about 'the whole tenor of Scripture' - but how many people genuinely know for themselves what is in the whole of Scripture? Yet academic training in Biblical Studies tends to teach selectively rather than holistically.
It's coming clearer, but I need to think some more!
Monday, August 23, 2010
Firstly, the conference was a time of deep healing for me of wounds that I just did not know that I carried. I really need to focus on allowing that healing to 'take' and to remember this moment. I feel so reinspired to be a 'good' Christian and I can sense God's love and grace for myself and others in a way I haven't felt for years. I am so humbled and challenged and afraid that I can't live up to this.
Secondly, I have become aware of the real damage that is done by labelling each other - particularly within the Methodist Church. I know that I and others in presenting the Evangelical position have been labelled Fundamentalists, which is not fair and is not the same thing. Beyond that, there is the sense that all Fundamentalists are judgmental and graceless and that again is not fair - although we all know people who are like that. I realised that many people who take the label 'liberal' are not liberal in the sense of the 19th century liberals, but are often more dogmatic about their position than Evangelicals. Our labels in the Methodist Church are not helping!
Thirdly, I was so affirmed by meeting people who think like me. They were intelligent, deeply committed, loving Christians. I feel I am in good company (although I may have a way to go to be like them!) I have read Ken Schenck from Indiana Wesleyan University for some time and have enjoyed his thoroughly Wesleyan position. Martyn Atkins from the Methodist Church in Britain encouraged me so much with his intelligent and reasoned understanding of Evangelicalism. I am not alone!
By the way, the key speakers were Rev Dr Martyn Atkins who is general secretary of the Methodist Church in Britain and has been principal of Cliff College for some years. Also Ross Olivier, our seminary president and also a former general secretary of the MCSA. There was also an address by Rev Norman Raphahlela from the Education for Ministry and Mission Unit (part of the MCSA structure).
God is good!
Sunday, August 22, 2010
What I think at the moment- it's ok to believe the Bible is the word of God. It doesn't mean I am a fundamentalist (I don't read it word for word literally).
It's ok to believe in a 'whole salvation'. We speak of both personal salvation and social salvation. Personal holiness and social holiness.
The Bible informs us of these salvations and 'holinesses'. I go to the Bible to discover how to live in order to bring about the kingdom of God.
Sometimes people understand the word 'evangelical' differently and even negatively - that doesn't mean I am like their understanding!
The Methodist Church has always had a missional ecclesiology and we should reclaim that.
There is too much more and I really need to process it properly.
I came away believing that there is real hope for the Methodist Church and the God truly is a God of love and action.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The 'trouble' with spirituality is its personal nature. My spirituality is the way I encounter God heart to heart - or at least that is my current understanding of the term. I come from a tradition that is rooted in a modern worldview and therefore things are analysed and explained - to a large extent I understand my spirituality and can explain it to others.
I don't think that this means that those spiritualities that cannot be analysed and communicated so well are wrong. Something like centring prayer is probably practised in many different ways - some I might see as right and some I might see as wrong, but I will only understand it if I can experience it. And even then, I might not understand it. I see African spirituality in the same light. I'm not sure that it can be taught. It needs to be imbibed. I may well never come to understand it or experience it fully.
The other thing is, of course, that while something may not be wrong just because it cannot be explained, that does not mean that it must be right. The question I would ask is whether one demonstrates some sort of positive change as a result of one's spirituality - fruit, I suppose.
But then change is also a cultural bugbear.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I started today with 'double Greek', including a test. I then dashed off to Brentwood where we took Communion around the township of Mphophomeni - which is about 5km from Brentwood. I had to rush back to UKZN where I was late for a Greek SI (which means Supplementary Instruction, although it seems to be compulsory). Then to the new seminary campus where the computer guys have managed to sort out enough that I can upload photos onto the web page again. After that, time away from the seminary while I did the family's weekly grocery shopping and then rush back for 'Community Worship' at one of the residences.
I can't complain - it was a useful day. God is gracious.
Monday, August 16, 2010
There are two ways of looking at it.
1. The congregation expects the minister to provide hope and optimism and so if I can't pitch up cheerful and full of beans I should rather stay at home.
2. The congregation needs to see that the minister is a human being just like they are and they also have the responsibility to care for their minister.
I somehow want to make both work.
I don't think I preached well, but I wouldn't have got through at all without somethiong extra from God!
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Another South African Methodist blogger who I only discovered recently - Don Scrooby.
And for those who haven't discovered this 'mobile' Christian site So What?
Friday, August 13, 2010
Today - we did worship for chapel. Nearly everything went wrong and some of it was my fault. So, we learn from that. I also need to figure out what the actual enrolment is at the pre-school and put together some sort of accounts to have a vague idea of what is actually going on. I'll post more about this another time.
I need to figure out what is going on with the SMMS web page - we have several computer companies involved and I don't know who has moved what where. I have minutes and emails to write. I'd like to almost complete the revision of my PhD proposal, but my motivation is low, because I'm not sure if they will have a supervisor for me at UKZN anytime soon. I have notes to write for one small group session for my local church (fun) and local preachers workshops to plan for Brentwood. And a sermon to prepare for Sunday. I guess I won't get it all done today!
It's nice to be busy. God is good. Now, if he could just remove my sore throat and the rest, I'd be happy!
Thursday, August 12, 2010
At the moment I feel that I have plenty of scope. There are opportunities. I can pick things up or lay them down. And this is great because it is a little like a real church situation - there is always work to do!
So, I feel that I've been going flat out today so far. And I still have worship practice tonight. Now I am trying to stop and take a break for a couple of hours . . . while there is still work to be done . . .
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
That is my culture. I like it - mostly because I am used to it, I suppose, but it also makes sense to me.
This makes it very hard for me to enjoy church services where this shouting is the normal procedure. Now that I am away from the outreach situation I am able to believe that this is an acceptable alternative spirituality. That it is ok for people to worship and find God like this. While I was in it and after an extended period of time I started becoming unhappy, uncertain, insecure. But I really think that was more culture than spirituality.
I have found the same misfit in Pentecostal churches. I'm not happy with extended periods of talking in tongues, when I don't know what is going on.
I need to think more, but I have a lecture - so rather this than nothing today!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
In our African mission we were able to go from home to home and generally gain access even during the day and during the week without making any appointment. Not everyone was pleased to see us or allowed us in, but we could at least make contact. In the suburban context it is very difficult to do this because houses tend to be empty or and shut up during the day. Also people tend to be unwelcoming, which is a pity.
I think we need to include the preparation and prayer aspect and also the pastoral aspect in our outreach.
Sunday, August 08, 2010
We ate well. We slept in various homes in the township - I shared a double bed with a (female) colleague. We were woken by roosters at 3am! People were wonderfully friendly and helpful.
We also had a number of Evangelists and Biblewomen who met with us and worked with us. These orders within the Methodist Church cater for those who wish to work fulltime in the church, but not to enter the ordained ministry - usually because they do not have the academic background required. In black African settings they are very useful as there are not usually enough ordained ministers and they carry a lot of the pastoral load. You would recognise the Biblewomen by their blue uniforms with wide white collars. Evangelists wear a clerical collar with the stud in the front, to distinguish them from ordained ministers. I think that deacons do the same . . . I'm not sure!
The style and organisation was very black African and I did find that a bit of a strain. They call the preaching 'nyuka' preaching, or YMG preaching. It has a lot of shouting and passion, and for us westerners, little content. Not that there aren't preachers who can combine the two - I have heard some good (to me) sermons - but they are few and far between! I guess, though, that if this works for people, it's ok. Sometimes I can almost understand it, but I find it very difficult.
It has left me tired and a little discouraged, but it was good to be exposed to this way of doing mission.
Monday is a public holiday - time to recharge the batteries!
Thursday, August 05, 2010
We will see what happens - my own feelings are neutral. I know too little to either look forward to it or be afraid of it!
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
At lunch time we have our covenant group meeting. Most of the group are keen and interested, but one or two just seem to want to be difficult. Still, it should be good.
This afternoon is Zulu classes - last week's class was good, so should be ok. After that I have pre-school governing body meeting at Brentwood.
Somehow I have to fit admin in around the edges. I think I'm getting a cold.
That's my life today. God is good.
Here comes the noise and I must stop!
Monday, August 02, 2010
I asked myself which five areas of church life really needed to be excellent. That's an interesting question. What must exist, what must be adequate and what should be excellent?
Unfortunately, it is also not a helpful question in the context. Off the top of my head I chose financial management, worship and preaching, mission focus, small groups and every member ministry as key areas of church life. Not one of those - from my western perspective - is even adequate at Brentwood. Ok, preaching and worship will do. But otherwise . . .
So I want to turn my back on it because the problems seem too big. There's not enough that I can do. And that is the malaise in a large part of the Methodist Church. Ministers and leaders are just overwhelmed and so ministers give up and wait for their time to move on to the next church, where they hope they will be able to make a difference.
Something needs to change. We need to be more open to God's power, even to believing in ourselves. To take risks, to change. I am thinking more about 'black' churches, but it affects English-speaking churches too.
Need to think.