Monday, May 31, 2010

Cold Weather Sundays

It has just got cold in Pietermaritzburg - I have enjoyed the mild weather we've been having and this is not nice!
The service at Brentwood starts at 9am. After rejecting my son's suggestion that I stay at home (after I told him that I was a very junior and insignificant minister at Brentwood), I arrived there at 9.05. I was glad (mostly) to find the church building open, but not surprised to find people still setting out chairs and sweeping. It's so hard to get a right perspective.
I watched them setting up - all cheerful in spite of the cold. I could be irritated by the fact that we never start on time. That they see 9am as a good time to arrive and start setting up. That we started the service with less than ten people. That the preacher arrived at 9.20. That the preacher who was supposed to be assisting by doing the liturgy didn't arrive. That the steward arrived at about 10am. That my position is difficult to understand because I am white and I don't have an adequate grasp of Zulu.
Actually, all of this probably bothers me a lot less than anyone reading this might imagine. I can actually handle it quite well. But when I'm feeling flat it is nice to write a list of woes!
On the plus side is that they are learning to accept me and I am willing to be a bit more assertive. Although the most junior minister, I was the only one there on Sunday so I could contribute a little more. I can manage the liturgy moderately well, so I stood in for the missing preacher. I was very grateful when the preacher arrived because I did not want to preach! And those who were there, were there because they wanted to be there - because God matters to them. By the time the service ended there were about 30 people in the hall - and it felt like more. And the preacher managed to be done in 15 minutes and so the service didn't finish too late in spite of the late start.
For me, this is an assignment. I want to make it ministry, to match the fact that for the people this is their church. Their opportunity to worship, grow and be together as the people of God. I don't appreciate this automatically. I have to work on it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Enculturation or Christianisation?

I don't watch much tv, but this week I've gone through another period of trying to watch some more - and I suddenly understood something that I think is quite cool. Something that happened on Sunday.
Sunday was Pentecost Sunday and I was at Brentwood Methodist Church in the Zulu community of Tumbleweed. The steward reminded the congregation that it was Pentecost and there was a time of singing Holy Spirit songs in the middle of the service. After a while the middle-aged/elderly man next to me breathed, 'Feel it, it is here' and that was sort of taken up through our section of the congregation. Then, I didn't know that this was a World Cup slogan, and I just thought it was kind of cool, but wondered why he expressed himself in English.
Now that I understand, I think it is very cool. He and that part of the congregation took an earthly cup and filled it with holy fire!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Here's a question for someone to answer.
I occasionally read Scot McKnight's blog - I don't know how well-known he is in some South African circles, but he writes books and people quote him. I'm halfway through 'The Jesus Creed' and I like it.
But I'm confused about the site where his blog is hosted. is a spirituality site and has links to things like 'belief-o-matic' and angels. I actually thought that maybe this was all part of McKnight's work and tuned out for a while. But now I am thinking that his blog is just hosted there.
I wonder if he endorses these things, or if he believes that he is putting his faith out into the real world - rather than hiding in a little Christian corner, or what?
I'm fairly tolerant of people who differ from me on points of doctrine, but I'm not sure I could go so far as to accept some of the stuff on this site!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Missing Grahamstown

People often ask me if I am missing Johannesburg. The honest answer is that I have had maybe three or four moments when I missed Joburg over the last two years. But now I find myself missing Grahamstown. It is getting colder in Pietermaritzburg. The festival in Grahamstown is starting to hit the media. I did have some very good times in Gtn and last July was one of them.
I had my son staying with me for about six weeks before. My family came down. We went to the festival. Both the other ministers in the circuit went on leave and I could do a bit more ministry stuff.
Yes, there were some good times.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I said in a previous post that I was trying to start nothing new in May. This was partly to allow seeds that I had planted previously to sprout. I often get myself into situations where I have lots of time, so I look around for things to do. The next thing I know is that these things have grown and I'm struggling to keep up with all of them. So I am trying to be patient.
One of the problems with this is that I become unmotivated. The other, that I am facing this morning, is that after a number of weeks, seeds are starting to sprout and I've lost interest in those projects.
'Doing nothing new' hasn't stopped me dreaming - waiting for June. But I must go back now and try to rekindle an enthusiasm that I had weeks ago. I'll do it. If God wants it, it will happen (or hopefully it won't be me that stops it!)
The activity in the Methodist Church around synods and the related acrimony is absolutely mind-destroyingly depressing.
Lord - let me, and your church, light a candle and not just curse the darkness. (Although, if you don't mind, I think I'll do some cursing as well!)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wrestling with bias

I like to think that I have a reasonable knowledge of my own biases and that I am to some extent able to put them aside, but I have found myself challenged over the last few weeks. At seminary I have found it unfortunate that the seminarians seem to be very negatively critical of each other and as a result people are reluctant to preach or share in front of the group. I can't fully understand what is happening because somehow I am on the outside - I hear about this second hand. There are 77 seminarians at the moment. Of these, 66 are black, 9 are white and 2 are coloured. My instinct is to ask 'why are black people so critical of each other', but I am realising that even though it is a 'black thing' - which is why I am on the outside - my observation may well have been the same if the racial composition of the seminary was different.
So as I struggle with cultural differences and sensitivity, I also need to struggle with determining what are cultural issues and what are people issues. Are black people critical or are people critical? It's too easy in a situation like this to see it in terms of race. But - white people are definitely also critical. Me too, sometimes.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pre-school parents morning

I spent an hour or so this morning at the Brentwood Church where the pre-school had organised a meeting with the parents. Saturdays are the best days to get people together - even though there is time conflict with funerals and shopping and whatever else.
It was an interesting meeting to observe - although I did participate a little. The teachers and the chairperson of the governing body did a great job.
It was interesting to see that they struggled a bit to get interaction from the parents - if I had been chairing/ hosting the meeting I would have put it down to racial/ cultural difficulties, but that could not have been the reason here.
I need to stop 'using' culture as an excuse! Particularly in this community.
My challenge - reach out to people. Talk to them. Get to know them. Even if we are all shy of each other. I think being 'umfundisi' will be less of a barrier than it was in the Eastern Cape.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nothing new

I committed myself, this month, to doing nothing new. At least in terms of what I am doing at seminary. I find myself on a rollercoaster of new ideas and possibilities and it becomes a hamster wheel as well as a rollercoaster. I start feeling depressed and inadequate if I haven't done something that seems radical to somebody - according to whatever arcane way of knowing I use at the time.
So, this month I was to do nothing new. It's like withdrawing from an addiction. But I'm starting to find space to dream more realistically. To think of meaningful things that I can do that hopefully don't involve rollercoasters of any sort.
Today, I get to regroup. Where am I going with Brentwood Methodist Church? I've been reasonably passive for a couple of weeks, what has happened? And I am going to work on my PhD proposal. And hopefully read some stuff that I've been wanting to read for ages.
I suspect the day will be too short . . .

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I have a friend who suggested that he call himself a 'Euro-African'. I quite like the idea. If black people in America are African Americans, maybe white people in SA should be Euro-Africans. To me, it sounds better than 'white'.
I still prefer to get away from race, but if Black Consciousness insists on dividing us by race, then perhaps we need to establish a Euro-African identity.
I wonder if the term has negative connotations that haven't ocurred to me?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gender and Race

Yesterday evening I began to have cultural insights that have previously been lost to me - and these are regarding the way many black ministers see women in ministry. Unfortunately, I still don't know what they think. I can just see that they think something . . . and it's not in line with the official Methodist view of equality.
We had a speaker from the KZN Council of Churches who was passionately feminist. I tried to go along with it, to understand, but I must admit that later when I was thinking about it I just couldn't agree with her. She puts it that Syro-Phoenician women told Jesus just where to get off. Starting with, "Listen, Christ!" I do believe in equality for women, but I know what people mean when they talk about 'rabid feminists'. Not me.
I think I might be going to be very politically incorrect here - in fact some people might even see it as blasphemous (after all, pc is the new god, right?).
We've heard some bad theology at seminary. From a black man: when Jesus was on his way to Calvary everyone deserted him. There was no one there. But there was a black man who was willing to carry the cross for him.
From a woman: on the cross, Jesus was alone. The disciples deserted him. No one cared. Only the women were there.
The trick is the 'onlies'. Those passages are important because they do highlight the roles played by currently marginalised people - but we don't lift people by trashing others.
** politically incorrect bit removed. I'm a coward! **
But the real bottom line is that this is all nonsense and we should be talking about people. Human beings. Not black or white or male or female. The Bible is pretty clear that those distinctions are not important in God's kingdom.

Monday, May 17, 2010


My father said something to me - a long time ago. He said that when he started work, his father told him to never try and explain to his wife and children the stresses and strains of work as they would not understand. So when I started working myself, I looked for these stresses and strains. But while there is stress, I never found something that I thought I would not have understood.
Now, I am on the other side - never try to explain to a man the stresses and strains of being a working mother. It doesn't bother me at all, but I think that a lot of men just don't see what goes on behind the scenes - and I very definitely exclude my husband who ran our household last year while I was away and knows VERY well what it is all about.
Anyway, this thought was prompted by the fact that I have two homes - one at seminary and one with my family. One of the painful bits is that they both need to be cleaned. So last Thursday, my flat floor got its first mopping. Long overdue and it wasn't exactly clean to start with. I thought the kitchen floor was supposed to be a shade of grey!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Love-hate battle

I finished (I think) my Church History assignment today - been working on it in bits and pieces and actually way more reading than was merited by the assignment. I've had a bit of a love-hate relationship with my Church History class. I enjoy the lecturer, he has a broad knowledge and can generally handle my questions - so this is good. But we are doing early South African Christianity and I struggle with the text book that we have. BUT - let me say first that I recommend it as a resource. I have been working with it on a CD and the stuff on it is amazing. It is 'Christianity and the Colonisation of South Africa' by Charles Villa-Vicencio and Peter Grassow. You can read a review of it here. The CD has transcripts and scanned copies of all the source documents referenced in the book - for instance a prayer written out in Jan van Riebeeck's handwriting, journal entries, all sorts of stuff. It's really cool. My struggle has been - and this may well be my own 'white guilt' - that I find the book a bit too much 'anti-missionary'. I know that I like to see the good in everybody and sometimes maybe I take it too far, but were the missionaries really that bad?
Anyway, it has prompted me to read around a bit in an area that I was very unlikely to read on my own initiative, so that has been good. I found a book written by William Shaw that has been digitised by Google and you can download here. He was one of the 'great' Methodist missionaries and arrived with the 1820 settlers. The book is his own account of his work - part 1 is with the settlers and part 2 is about the African people. I find part 2 fascinating! I've only read three or so chapters so far, but his commitment to the people is amazing. And after 6 years living with Africans I reckon that he knew more about them than I do in spite having been born and bred in South Africa.
Also - I know a whole lot more about the Methodist Church in Grahamstown and having worked at Shaw Memorial Methodist Church there last year I was interested in the role that William Shaw played in that area.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Seminary Campus

Our internship group went with our American visitors to see the new seminary campus. We should be starting to meet there in July. It looks pretty amazing - even with builders and mud all over the place. The seminary has had a very mixed reception around the Methodist Connexion - there's a lot of scepticism about the whole idea. But, it must be admitted that if they can get the whole seminary up to the standard of the building the concept ought to fly. Will it be able to rescue the Methodist Church out of the mire of inaction in which it finds itself at the moment?
You can read more about the seminary at

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back at work

Yesterday was a good rest. I did lots of nothing, but also managed most of what I wanted to do as catch up, so I'm happy. Am I better today? Sort of. I still don't feel great. The worst is that while my body is sick, my mind is rested and that means that I get restless. And anarchical. And I say things a little too quickly. So we have some American - missionaries? - visiting us. I've already started by only greeting them in Zulu. Hopefully I won't be too much of a pain as we are meeting with them in five minutes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Off sick

I am planning on being 'off sick' today. Just a sore throat and a cold, but it has come so soon after the last bout that I don't have any patience with it. So I want to get better very fast! I'm not sure when last I took a whole day off work. I don't think at all last year.
But now I am thinking of all the things I can catch up while I have a day off! Will I do them? I want to, but actually I am not feeling that wonderful. I also know that I'll feel a lot better (in another way) if I get some of them done.

Monday, May 10, 2010

King Shaka Int

My husband flew to and from Cape Town this weekend, using the new King Shaka airport in Durban. It's big! Looks nice. There was a bit of traffic congestion on the road near Durban (I was driving from Pietermaritzburg), mainly because of construction work on new bridges.
On Sunday there were zillions of people at the airport - obviously locals who had come to check out the new thing.
Why is Shaka a hero? Maybe that's a bad question to ask . . .

Friday, May 07, 2010


Facebook has become like the old time market (or perhaps like a modern day African market). People stand there shouting out what they have for sale. They share their woes and their laughs. And some have nothing else to do so they just hang around there and talk about the day to day happenings of their lives.

Being Christians

One of the nice things that I see at seminary - and forgive me if I have said this before - is the way that people pick up the pieces after a disagreement. I've seen it more than once that there has been a bit of an edge to an interaction. The class or session ends and everyone goes their own way. Then the next week there is an air of uncertainty - how will those people be behaving? But it seems as if both parties have gone away, thought about the issue and decided 'at least some of that was my fault' and have come back with a desire to try harder and do better.
That gives me hope in the power of following Jesus.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

An extra hour

I have an extra hour this morning. Nice. I also have a Church History assignment - not sure what level course it is, but it has a 2 in the number, so maybe 2nd year diploma/BTh. Do I just repeat back what the lecturer told us, even if I don't really agree? Or do I spend ages substantiating something that he might not like? When the answers required are 400 words, I should do the first.
I could also work on my doctor's proposal.
Would you like to guess which I'll do?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Internal Ethic

On Sunday I was listening to a sermon on Matthew 20 - the parable of the workers in the vineyard who worked for different lengths of time, but were all paid the same. This sermon was in the context of Saturday having been Workers' Day. It was a very interesting sermon - mostly because it was in Zulu, which allowed me to pick up hints of what the preacher was saying and let my own thoughts do the rest.
I know that what I am thinking has been thought many times before, but still, there must be an answer.
There is enough 'earth' for us all to have enough to eat. Yet resources are distributed unevenly. We all have areas of ability (talents or skills) to offer each other. Why can't we all just work in our areas of strength and be paid the same amount? It seems to me I'd rather work as a computer person (which is skilled) than as a manual labourer. So I appreciate the manual labourer who does a job that I cannot really do. I'd be happy to get the same pay. Also, if someone is disabled and incapable of working a full day, let him or her do the best they can and get the same pay.
Unfortunately, we don't all have the same internal ethic. Too many people will say that if I get paid the same amount regardless of the amount of work that I do, then I will do as little as possible. So the system breaks down. But why can't it work in the church? Or amongst Christians in general? The fact is that even amongst Christians that internal ethic seems to be missing. What does that say about us? About the Holy Spirit? About our faith?
If there really are enough resources to go around, I wonder what the average monthly pay would be if it was equalised across the world?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Pre-school update

Last week I went out to the pre-school that I am 'helping' for the first time this term. It seems slow - to me who is always in a rush - but the place is settling down. I think that I should have been more aware of the fact that it is a new preschool when I started going there in February. I didn't really take it in that the children were still getting used to the environment and getting to know the teachers. Last week I saw that the children were much happier. The teachers have, I think, carried out the policy of only taking older children - there seemed to be fewer babies in nappies. There are some more structured activities.
It is still far, far, far away from where I would like to see it, but I think that progess is happening.