Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Breathing Again

I feel like I have been holding my breath for the last few weeks! We heard yesterday, at the very last possible moment that we have finance to buy a house in Cape Town. Apart from anything else, we now know where we will be moving to when the removal truck comes in two weeks time!

This house is not only a place to stay, but a bit of security for our kids who are going to be studying at UCT. We are not planning on leaving Cape Town, but the church could send us anywhere!

And we have a big thank you to Kobus Nel who was our consultant at SA Home Loans. The Methodist Church system, especially as implemented in an unsophisticated setting like Mitchell's Plain, is complex. He managed to work through it all and get us the bond. (And I will now get some tax back as I discovered that my payslip was showing one thing and the circuit was paying me another!)

Too scared to pinch myself in case this is all a dream.

God is good.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to be rich

Is this the million dollar question? How do we get to be rich? There is a very interesting article at fin24.com and hat tip to Steve Hayes for picking it up.

This is economist Mike Schussler's basis for the article:

White people earning six times more than blacks, screamed the headlines after the release of the 2011 census.

I do not doubt that whites earn more than blacks - although in a way it is too simplistic to state it as such. 

At first this might seem like an article trying to justify white people having a privileged position and it might seem to be coming from a defensive position, but some of the points he makes are very useful. They are useful because they move us out of the realm of victimhood and into the realm of agency.
How can I be rich? You need to be white. I'm not. End. Victim.

Schussler points out a number of things, of which I am only going to mention four.

Median age: The median age of black people in South Africa is 21, that of white people is 38. This means that if you put every black person in the country in a line in order of age, the middle person in the line would be 21. Or in other words half of the black population is 21 or under and half is 21 or over. As Schussler points out, older people earn more. They have experience and have often been promoted to higher positions.

Message to people of all races: You are not a victim. Be patient. Income grows with age.

Educational level: White South Africans have a significantly higher level of education than black South Africans. 77% of white people have matric or more compared to 35% of black people. It goes without saying that better skills mean greater income. This is undoubtedly an effect of apartheid, but it can be overcome.

Message to people of all races: You are not a victim. Fight for an education and a matric, even if you are already an adult.

Commitment to work: I am combining two of Schussler's points here. The one is that over 73% of white people are either working or looking for work. Fewer than 54% of black people are trying to be part of the labour force in the country. This means that approximately 46% of black people between the age of 15 and 64 are not working or looking for work. There can be all sorts of reasons for this, but if hopelessness is learned it can also be unlearned. The other statistic regarding work is that white people stay in one job for an average of 71 months while black people remain in the a job for an average of 51 months. Longer commitment to a job tends to result in specific skills being acquired and an increase in remuneration.

Message to people of all races: You are not a victim. Look for a job. Accept a job. Stay in the job.

Schussler has other angles. The article is worth reading and you can find it here. Many of the stats quoted can be found at Stat SA here (it is a pdf).

Friday, November 08, 2013

Mitchells Plain and Guy Fawkes night

We had an executive meeting planned for the 5th of November at our church in Eastridge, Mitchells Plain. I received a call in the morning asking if we could please postpone it - tonight there were Guy Fawkes celebrations and they wouldn't feel safe being out or in the church.

It is the first time I've been asked to cancel a meeting for reasons of safety.

The next day I saw the rubber on the road where cars had been performing high speed tricks outside the church. There were pictures in the paper of a car with its windows smashed in Tafelsig.

But where I stay in Westridge, Mitchells Plain, there were only the sounds of fireworks. Lots of them and loud! But no unruliness.

Mitchells Plain is far bigger than people tend to think. Tafelsig is a little corner of Mitchells Plain - the poorest corner and where people do hear gun shots. But most of Mitchells Plain is calm and respectable.

I worry a little that what we find in Tafelsig is creeping up to Eastridge, but I also know that the rest of Mitchells Plain will push back.

It would be nice if the outside world didn't see what happens in Tafelsig as if it is happening in the whole of Mitchells Plain! There is hope in this community. Just give us a chance.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Truth For Truth's Sake

Since starting to work on my PhD I have been convinced that there is little value in "truth for truth's sake" in academia. I thought that research should lead to meaningful practical application and not arcane "how many angels can stand on the head of a pin" type discussions.

I think that I have been wrong. Two articles that I have read recently have made me stop and think. The first is from Scientific American and you can read the whole article here. It tells of a study of the results of reading 'good' literature on the reader's ability to empathise.

When study participants read non-fiction or nothing, their results were unimpressive. When they read excerpts of genre fiction, such as Danielle Steel’s The Sins of the Mother, their test results were dually insignificant. However, when they read literary fiction, such as The Round House by Louise Erdrich, their test results improved markedly—and, by implication, so did their capacity for empathy. 
This makes sense to me. I know that reading diverse, thoughtful books leads me to understand different people, personalities and cultures better, but I was not conscious of the extent of this until I watched myself over a few days. I would not have seen good literature as being practically useful, but rather of artistic value. And yet, if every Mitchell's Plain was to have a good dose of literature expanding their horisons (rather than music videos and 7de Laan!), how different could their worlds be?

The other article was the recent foreword to a book by Prof John Higgins written by JM Coetzee. He argues that universities should be producing critical thinkers who are able to question the status quo and see the shortcomings of things to which we have become used. Yet we water down that component into a short course or two and focus on skills that will build the (now never questioned or challenged) economy. It seems to me that this thinking is developed by engagement in questions that go beyond the immediately practical. Read the article here. Here is a quote from what he writes.

You argue - cogently - that allowing the transient needs of the economy to define the goals of higher education is a misguided and short­sighted policy: indispensable to a democratic society - indeed, to a vigorous national economy - is a critically literate citizenry competent to explore and interrogate the assumptions behind the paradigms of national and economic life reigning at any given moment. Without the ability to reflect on ourselves, you argue, we run a perennial risk of relaxing into complacent stasis. And only the neglected humanities can provide a training in such critical literacy.

There is value in truth for truth's sake - it teaches us to think and argue (constructively) and ultimately also to understand.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Including Women in Leadership

I wrote in a previous post about we needed to change the way we did things if we want to really include women in top level leadership. The challenge is to use the skills that women bring - no, to desire the skills that women bring!

I wondered what a synod would look like if we got this right. I suspect that not only women find big meetings like synods inefficient. We spend a lot of time on detail and very little time in meaningful conversation - partly because the detail just grows and overwhelms and partly because the discussion process is unwieldy.

Broadly speaking, I would say that women bring the skill of consultation and of facilitating discussion. Women like everyone to be heard and to have a chance to give input to a process. Men, broadly speaking, have the ability to make decisions and take risks. These are very broad, forgive me, I know that these are not always true. The point is, however, that planning requires consultation and decision-making and there is probably value in separating these out.

Certain leaders (all male) in my circuit think that consultation means telling people what they have decided to do! This troubles both men and women!

The other part of deciding on a plan is investigation. I don't have any feel as to whether that is 'male' or 'female'. But decisions cannot be discussed or made without information.

So the process should be investigation, discussion, decision but with the various stages led by people gifted in those areas.

The thought of applying this to a synod is overwhelming. But there must be a way!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I have to admit to feeling quite stressed about moving house at the moment (my husband would say that this is putting it mildly!) We are still waiting to see where we will be living. The flexibility of finding our own accommodation is great, and we are fortunate, but it is stressful!

When (if?) we move this will be the sixth house that I have lived in, in seven years! Last December was the only time we didn't move in the period. But somehow, this time is the most stressful and it should be the best move!

So many exclamation marks - perhaps I am trying to lift my spirits. Mostly trying to trust God - which I do at the core, but . . .

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Women in Leadership

Yesterday we had a get-together of women ministers from the Cape of Good Hope district. It was a casual after-another-meeting affair and apparently most people forgot that it was planned. I don't mind supporting other women in ministry, but generally it is not a priority for me and I suspect that any ambitions that I may have are thwarted by my lack of ability and not by my gender. Not that I am feeling particularly thwarted!

The thing is that we talk about the need to get more women in leadership and vaguely (or passionately, depending on personality) express concern, but never seem to get to grips with why there are not more women in leadership. Specifically we were mentioning women ministers in church structures.

For me, it is no mystery. I have no desire to be part of this leadership and perhaps others feel the same way. Graeme Codrington writes this in an article called Why women are a problem for business:

One of the main reasons that women are not making it into senior leadership positions is because they don't want to. It's not a capability issue; it's a choice. And the reason they're choosing not to is because they don't want to play a man's game in a man's world.

And that is simply it. I can't engage in high-level church leadership easily because I don't have a sufficiently aggressive or ambitious personality. I achieve things in other ways. I don't enjoy scrambling to make myself heard or to be taken seriously. I don't know if that is because I am a woman or not and so perhaps we are not even beginning to ask the right questions. Do we perhaps just need people in leadership to have different qualities?

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes the following in a Harvard Business Review blog called Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?

In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women. [hyperlinks removed]

I don't think we are going to get more women into leadership by continuing to do things in the same old way and expecting women to fit in. We need new ways that somehow combine the strengths of men and women - and also the strengths of more introverted personalities and more extroverted personalities.

Let's stop asking how to get women involved, but rather ask how  we can change the processes so that women are able to participate without compromising their natural personalities.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Buying houses

I have decided that selling one's house and buying another is a most stressful thing. While we are really hoping to be able to have our own house here in Cape Town, there are so many things that could go wrong. And hiccups and hurdles abound.

We have enjoyed being free of debt for a number of years . . . and now we must be careful not to lose or waste that which we have worked for so carefully. We may need to take on temporary debt.

Sigh. Is it worth it? I think so, I hope so!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Quack Quack

I am kind of proud of my son who was awarded the Dux medal for 2013 at Bergvliet High School yesterday. To God be the glory.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Knowing your community

I suppose the best way to know your community is to get out there and meet them. But the census data can also tell a lot. Earlier this year I found an analysis of Mitchell's Plain from the 2001 census that was extremely helpful. Now there are two other resources from the more recent 2011 census.

The Cape Town City website has all sorts of analyses that are most helpful. I have used the one where data is analysed by suburb to check out the Parow  area where I will be working next year.

A fun one that covers the whole country and summarises the census into dots on a map can be found at dotmap.adrianfrith.com It is a pity that the first choice on this one is to look at things by race. I found language fascinating and household income interesting too.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Heaviness and Lightness

The past few days have been quite hard. Those things that other ministers have to deal with landed on my doorstep. I want to say 'just when I had planned on getting stuck into my PhD', but that is callous when one remembers that what are problems or difficulties for me are crises and times of pain for other people. And for me. I haven't really figured out how not to totally enter into their pain.
And then there are the leaders who don't understand and bring out anger in me. And other leaders who also feel the pain.
But I think we are nearly through the worst.
God's timing is good. Just when I have started to make my way back into serious praying this happens - and I have been able to use what learned to give the load to Jesus to carry. So heaviness, but also lightness. God is good.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Internet Speed

There is an interesting article at Lifehacker about checking internet speed. People around the world get way, way, way faster internet than I do. You can check the speed of your connection speedtest.net.
This is what I got with Telkom ADSL in Mitchells Plain:

The people on Lifehacker got so much better results I can hardly believe it! Any South Africans willing to share their speeds in the comments?

Ministers' Retreat

I have spent the last three days on a retreat or breakaway with the other ministers of the Cape of Good Hope District of the Methodist Church. While I never like being away from home this was time well-spent.

This was my fourth retreat in the district and the best thing for me is that I am actually getting to know the other ministers. The retreats last year were difficult because the faces were nearly all strange to me. There are still some ministers for whom I haven't quite managed to put name to face, but most I can identify!

Retreats aren't really the time of quiet and restoration that the term suggests. There is business and conferencing to do, which are necessary (unless one prefers a top down approach without discussion and buy in!)

However I think we are moving towards having more growth time. This retreat we had retired Anglican bishop Geoff Quinlan speaking to us on the book of Colossians and it was great. We also had times of silence and reflection and group discussions.

I'm not sure that I am refreshed - rather tired and I inevitably seem to come back from retreats with a cold - but it was a worthwhile time and space. My personal takeaway was (again) the need for more prayer in my life. I know that I am going to get there, the momentum is building! Today I downloaded to my Kindle the book "Rooted in Love" by fellow South African blogger Margaret Blackie. This is a practical guide to Ignatian Spirituality and I am looking forward to journeying through it.

Monday, September 30, 2013


I am in that strange almost limbo stage that comes at the end. I have two months left here in Mitchell's Plain. While my mind is buzzing with ideas for next year and where to go next, they are useless because I won't be here. I know better (from experience) not to start anything new. I must just slow down and tread water until the end of the year. There is preaching and pastoral work. And leaders meetings. But otherwise, I must slow down. I remember this feeling so well from shutting down my activities in Pietermaritzburg and to a lesser extent from Johannesburg.

It takes quite a bit of self-discipline to just stop.

But I do have my PhD work and I intend to use every moment of this time productively on my thesis!

Friday, September 27, 2013

On referring to 'my church'

We had good feedback from the MCSA conference this year via Twitter and Facebook. It was great to share a little in what was happening. One of the titbits that was sent out was from the ordination service and was (presumably) addressed to the new ministers - be careful about calling the place you serve 'your church'.

This is one of the oddities of the way we speak. We use 'my' to mean things that we own exclusively, such as 'my squash racquet' or 'my breakfast', but we also use it to mean places that we belong such as 'my school' or 'my squash club'.

While I understand that we as ministers should never believe that we own churches exclusively (they belong to God), we should not be made to feel that we cannot belong to the church. Or even allow the church to feel that we refuse to belong to it.

So just as it is important not to see the church as 'my church', I think it is also vitally important that I do see the church as 'my church'!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Is my Christian community distinctively Christian?

I have been thinking about this question as raised by Matt Stone in his blog post with the same heading.

He says this:
 "Is your experience of Christian community so distinctive that it genuinely stands out from other social experiences? Are your non-Christian social networks so much less loving towards one another in comparison." And I ask this with scepticism because, honestly, mine is not. Sometimes the experience has been wonderful, sometimes less so, but even when it's been the former rather than the latter, rarely has it been that exceptional.

I've kept this post in my reader until I had time to write about it, so it is from a while back. Just at that time I decided to address some definite disunity in one of my churches. And I felt that Matt had a point. This church community is pulling in multiple directions and struggling to find focus. Perhaps it is a depressing example of Christian unity.

But it dawned on me that this is actually the exact point of community and loving each other. We don't give up. We don't despair at the different perspectives and different maturity levels and other differences that lead to conflict. Rather we are committed to one another come what may. And that is what loving each other means and what makes Christian community. It is nice when we all agree and can have a wonderful time together in each others company. But true community is when we persevere together through the conflict and difficult odds.

I sometimes despair of this community that I serve, but I admire them for the incredible tenacity that they show in keeping going.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Seinfield Chain

I have slowly dragged myself back into engagement with my thesis! Now I want to work on it in my free time. So I think I am ready to start a Seinfield chain. That means I will try to write at least 500 words a day and I will see how many days I go before breaking the chain. This could be tricky because we are going away on holiday for three nights next week and the week after is a three night ministers' breakaway. Will I be able to do it? I am now in the right frame of mind to try.

Here is a good Life Hacker article on Seinfield chains.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Keeping up with viral

This is just for people like me who discovered Gangnam Style long after everyone else and didn't get what they were talking about! What does the Fox say?

Monday, September 16, 2013

What I do when I am watched

I found myself thinking this morning. "The bishop is back, I had better check Facebook." Generally he records his coming and going in his Facebook status and I check it so as not to be disadvantaged by others.

But this Facebook thing is really making clear to me some of the silly ways that I think and behave. I have blocked it from my PC (just by self-will) and will only use it on my phone now, because by and large it just makes me unhappy. I cannot be as busy and effective as the sum total of people that I see on Facebook. I nearly always feel guilty that there was another place I could have been on any day. And so I feel inadequate and judged by those who do all these noble things (who are not thinking of me at all, but I am thinking of me!)

I wondered, "What if the bishop and others recorded when they had just spent an hour in prayer, rather than attendance at events. Wouldn't I then be motivated to something good?"
The thing is that we really believe that we earn ourselves noddy points by being out and about and being seen, but I think that if this is called a ministry of presence we are deceiving ourselves. I know that I cannot schedule my day completely with visits and meetings because for one thing I will become exhausted very quickly and for another I will not have the time and space to handle an unplanned event such as a death or sudden illness.

Twitter is a different story to Facebook. Apart from the fact that I maybe follow too many with whom I disagree, there are not so many people trying to impress and be seen. Imagine now, that I was to tweet my whole day. Would I be willing to reveal it to the world? Would I be willing to reveal how much blank space is in my diary and how it is used? Or would I feel that I am simply revealing my laziness? Would I admit to how little time I actually spend specifically in prayer?

I need to take some serious thought over the next few weeks as to whether I really live a life that I would be willing to tweet.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Technorati, Distractions and Priorities

September is Youth Month in the part of the Methodist Church where I am now. This means that having done the two Communion services for the month I am not preaching on Sundays until October. I have planned all year that this would be the time that I climbed into my PhD work and made serious inroads on my thesis.
But I am like a school child being dragged to school. Yesterday was my day off and I worked a bit on my thesis, but spent the whole time dying to see if I could write a Python script to get Technorati scores for blogs on Antioch Crossing.
Yesterday evening I wrote the script, but discovered that only six of the blogs on the list had meaningful Technorati ratings! Maybe if others were to register with Technorati we could have more comparison, but it may be that Technorati is also dying.
Anyway here they are. The number on the left is the Technorati authority. What is Technorati authority?

115  Urban Ministry Live and Unplugged
95    An Uncommon Path
95    Khanya
95    Carpenter's Shoes
85    A Vow of Conversation
79    Wessel's Place

In general, being linked to should increase a site's Technorati rating, so writing this is changing things!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Antioch Crossing

I have set up a blog just to carry the aggregator I played with yesterday. You can find it at http://antiochcrossing.blogspot.com/ Please visit and support it and consider putting a link on your blog. Maybe we can encourage people to blog a bit more!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

An Experiment in Aggregation

This is an experiment. If I can get it working, I might set up a web page for those interested! (You need to enable JavaScript.) It makes quite a nice aggregator.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Of Syrians and Samaritans

Sometimes I wonder why Jesus left out certain things. Are there any stories where Jesus did not heal or help someone? Surely there must have been some left untouched? If we heard those stories it would help us understand those who are not healed today. Or can we learn something just from the fact that we are not told?

And what about the story of the Good Samaritan? We have the heroes and antiheroes of the drama arriving on the scene after the terrible deed was done. And so we know that we should be compassionate and care for those who have suffered.
But what if the Samaritan and co had come upon the assault while it was taking place? What then would Jesus have expected?

Because then we would have a word on the Syrian situation, which we all know is not cut and dried. Is the Christian response to intervene and (hopefully) limit future suffering? Or is the Christian response to act peacefully, ourselves, at all costs.

Actually, I don't think that the parable of the Good Samaritan is about showing compassion and it is probably a statement about our society that we think it is. Compassion would have been expected even without Jesus saying so. The point is that the display of compassion (or non-display) turned around the perceived status of those involved. And so those who were honoured for their position in society were not honoured in this context and similarly the reverse.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Thus says the author!

I guess I am a product of postmodernism in that I tend to think that there are many things that we just don't know and might never know. But I'm not sure that this is proving helpful in writing my thesis.

I remember my exegesis oral exam last year. The passage under discussion was from the gospel of Matthew. I came into it fresh from a Greek exegesis course on this particular book at UKZN. We had a brief discussion (the orals are done in groups of students and examiners) on the date of writing in which many views were shared. We moved on and then one of the examiners fired at me 'What other book was written at about this time? Jenny, you should know' and through the haze of trying to follow what I had found a very wandering discussion my mind went into spin mode. 'When did she think Matthew was written? Prof Draper at UKZN holds strongly to a second century date. No, that's not what she is thinking. More people consider a date soon after 60AD - there was lots written then. What does she want from me?' She was in fast-fire mode and moved on before I could even begin to gather my thoughts. The answer was 'Galatians', which I can understand, and can now guess that she believes in an early date for Matthew!

Now I am reading the dogmatic words, 'Matthew - produced c.80 CE in Damascus - cites . . .'

I struggle to speak with such certainty. I suspect that there are benefits to my willingness to allow options, but I'm not going to change the world in this way.

Thursday, September 05, 2013


I learnt a new word the other day. Supramundane. It was applied to God and means transcendent - I suppose more than mundane. Sometimes when I blog my experiences seem mundane. Much of ministry is the same day after day and there is not much really to be said.
Most of the really interesting stuff is unbloggable because I can't violate the privacy of others.
And some things are newsworthy. Perhaps supramundane? A few weeks ago a young man drove his bakkie off the pier at the V&A waterfront. It was on the front page of the Argus newspaper. He was the 'adopted' son of a couple in one of my churches. Two very dedicated and wonderful people. I ask and they ask, 'why God?'.
But if I share newsworthy things it really skews the perception of ministry. This was a very sad occasion - but actually, so far, it has only caused me one visit to the family. Due to the nature of circumstances the young man was buried in another town. A very sad occasion, but one that only touches me peripherally. 
From a ministry point of view it is peripheral . . . but I guess these things do touch deeply as well.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


Stationing in the Methodist church is a process full of stress and angst. For ministers, congregations and bishops. However much I have tried to ignore it, this has been the background music - or noise - to my thoughts and plans for the last few months.
Subject to the approval of the Methodist Conference I will be moving to the Parow Society in the Tygerberg Circuit next year. My new superintendent phoned me yesterday to say that he would call me again after conference. We were both hesitant, wondering, is this appointment real, or is it going to change.
For me, this is already a change from what I was originally told, and so I know that change can happen. But I am now reasonably confident that Parow it will be. With some aspect of Ravensmead thrown in  - it is all mysterious at the moment!
But I am excited at the prospect of change. I am sorry to leave my congregations here in Mitchell's Plain. These two years have been a truly blessed time for me. There have been excruciatingly difficult times and it has never been actually easy, but it has been fulfilling. Certainly in retrospect!
Now, it is looking for jobs (husband) and schools (son), which are hopefully the same (husband being a teacher). It is also wondering about travelling to the University of Cape Town for my elder son and my two daughters who are planning to move to Cape Town. Where will we all stay? Together? What is the manse like? Will we be able to buy our own house? Our house in Johannesburg is on the market. Will it sell?
God has always, always been faithful to us in these situations. We hardly dare hope that he will continue to show us his kindness, but we do hope and believe. Mostly! I can't deny that background noise to all my thoughts . . .

Untying the Knots

I have spent time during the last three or four days making a major effort to get back into my PhD thesis. It hasn't been as hard as I anticipated. I have been very careful to work in the knowledge that my time available would be erratic and so the threads are all there to be picked up.
However, I realised this evening how much I am struggling to expand into my writing. I always have a tendency to use as few words as possible and I seem to have tied knots in my own wordstream - as it were! Write some stuff about the background to Paul's letter to the Romans. But why? It's all there in these other books. Go read if you want to know. No, no, the point is that you need to write it down so that the rest of the thesis makes sense. It is basic stuff, but it needs to be there to make it complete. Try to remember that not everyone has done all the reading and thinking that you have done. You need to communicate that. Oh? Can I write that all down? Will they be interested? You mean that I can use all of this stuff to make up my wordcount? But that's easy. Yes, well, that's actually the point!

And also a motivation to get back into blogging. To get the words to flow again. I guess I try to find reasons why I get more wrapped up in talking to myself than the outside world, but I'm not sure that I will ever understand. And so the solution is probably just to write!

Monday, August 12, 2013

New Things

We spent last week on IST and I have returned feeling oddly flat. This is probably because I also came down with a fluey bug as soon as I got home, but I am irritated because I was on a roll and now I feel like I'm back hitting a brick wall!

So this week is a week of good intentions. Back to steady spiritual disciplines, exercise, dreams and leisure. Beating the blues back with every weapon at my disposal!

So, I have a long things to do list . . . without even including my good intentions, but I am glad that there is so much happening. Now put my head down and go . . .

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Twenty Five Years

Twenty five years - that's how long Grant and I have been married today :-)
God is good.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back from leave

I had a very good break with my family. I have very mixed feelings coming back. I am more aware of the emotional strain of ministry, but don't have a very clear idea of what to do about it. All part of the learning.
It is good to be back, even with the load that is waiting. I definitely feel the sense of privilege, but also the sense of inadequacy within myself.
It is about trusting God.

Weirdest thing - I hurt the middle finger of my left hand climbing rocks while geocaching and I thought it was mostly better, but it is too weak to type properly! Feels so very funny!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I knew, when I decided at the last minute that I would go to the postgrad seminar at UKZN that I would be putting myself under tremendous time pressure for the rest of June. I'm not sorry that I went, but things are a bit stressed at the moment! Assignments due, planning for church for the second half of the year especially leadership development, pressures due to final decisions regarding next year's stationing (not my decision!) and of course people in hospital, dying or just generally in need. But - my daughters are home for the holidays plus a boyfriend and I am going on leave in one week's time!
There will be stuff that doesn't get done. Things that I would like to do. But when the time comes to rest and be with family I intend to seize it with both hands.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Leadership Training

I have had one of those morning spent in pursuit of assignment completion that are frustrating. I suspect that what happens with my church assignments is as follows: The education committee meets and has some good ideas for training focuses and assignments. They invite speakers and ask them to suggest assignments. The speakers provide very thoughtful questions. The committee then realises that these need to be marked and so put in a word limit. The student must then wrestle with thought-provoking questions and provide answers within the word count. At one point today that had me needing to answer 44 sub points at 10 words each. I've obviously had to mash them together and it feels unsatisfying!


I have been wanting to set up leadership training for one of my societies all year and have been struggling with the format. Knowing that it was an assignment question, I held my guns and today I have it. I'm not sure how generally useful it would be, but for my people here in Mitchells Plain, this is what I need. So, my seminar will be:

Passion for Christ and ministry.  This is the foundation for Christian leadership. This theme would include Christian disciplines and the development of Christian character and integrity.
Working with a vision. This is an important part of team ministry. This theme includes understanding the vision of the church (MCSA and society), fitting the particular ministry into the scope of the vision, making a plan to achieve the vision.
Building a team of volunteers. One is only a leader if one has followers. This theme includes recruiting volunteers, providing for training, organising volunteers and motivating them.
Communication Skills. No one exists as an island. This theme includes communicating with the leader above, with peers, with the ministry team and with the broader community.
Admin and organising skills. The key word here is responsibility. The theme includes keeping an appointment book and timekeeping, attending meetings or apologising, keeping records, good financial governance, rosters and delegation. 

(with thanks to Rev Ian France who put these as requirements in an advert for a children's pastor and  where they suggested themselves to me as topic headings!)

Saturday, June 08, 2013

A sort of a Christian Maslow's Hierarchy

I thought of this, this morning - it is based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Need. Click on the picture to enlarge if you can't read the text. It makes sense, but I wonder if it is true. If we do not feel more truly ourselves does that mean that we are out of step with Jesus?
Or does he expect us to be willing to live and work in a way that goes against the grain?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Putting Down or Picking Up

It has been a week of academics. I spent Monday and Tuesday at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal for a post-graduate seminar of progress reports. I found it beneficial to get my brain back into thinking critically, although my own work has been very slow. Hopefully, now that the direction of my thesis is confirmed I can get stuck in again. One of my supervisors invited me to submit a paper for a New Testament conference at UNISA later this year. I am terrified . . . I have to make a choice, as I will explain just now.

Wednesday and Thursday morning were spent at Stellenbosch University Winter School. This was less mentally intense than the postgrad thing, but also good to be part of. I think this must be the first time that I have experienced fellowship with NG Kerk theologians and church people. Very Afrikaans! Although they spoke English almost throughout, one could feel the effort it cost.

But it has all helped to reinforce the unsettled feeling that has been developing in me for the last four or five weeks. What am I? Why am I in ministry? What is my long term destination?
More specifically - do I persevere with academic work or do I focus on working in this community where poverty is the order of the day (and the academic stuff is pretty much irrelevant)?

Probably I will continue to do my best to do both, but ideally I should either drop the theology and academics or I should pick up the pace and do it properly. I can't possibly submit a paper to a conference without deciding to do it properly!

John Wesley said to go to those who need you most. Who is that I wonder?

Sunday, June 02, 2013

A Poem from the Holocaust

A discussion about the Documentary Hypothesis with my husband led me to thinking about the poem below. It was part of my Bib Studs course way back when I did my degree. I seem to remember it being presented as an actual happening rather than a poem (so I was a bit miffed when I realised now that it was not actually found in a railway car.) It was part of explaining how Cain and Abel can be seen as anti-xenophobic literature. It was written by someone who spent his formative years in a concentration camp during the second world war. The poem cycled through my mind last night. It is by Don Pagis and you can find other of his poems here. [It is intended to be unfinished. And you can just start the poem again after reading the last line . . .]

Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car
here in this carload
I am eve
with abel my son
if you see my other son
cain son of man
tell him I

Friday, May 31, 2013

What I learnt from synod

I got an answer to something that I have been wrestling with for a while at synod. This was an answer to the question what do we do about the abuse of women?

I find so many of our Christian responses well-meaning, but I'm not sure that they achieve anything. Does making God out to be female really help? Our synod supported the Thursdays in Black campaign which encourages people to  . . . wear black on Thursdays! with the intention of promoting awareness of woman abuse. I have always felt that this gave one the feeling that one was doing something whereas actually little was being achieved.

At synod a lady stood up and spoke, perceptively I think. We had all laughed during a Bible Study as the leader explained that the description in the Bible of an elder having only one wife stemmed from the belief that several wives were legal, but they were disruptive and a nuisance and so it was better for a man to have only one. This lady stood up and challenged us that we were willing to wear black which may or may not mean anything, but when it came to laughing at a hurtful stereotype of women we all gave in and legitimised it. (These are my words, I can't remember exactly how she put it!)

I felt that she had put her finger on the issue. If we truly are opposed to the abuse of women we need to vehemently reject these sorts of incidents. We know that they are intended as light-hearted and teasing, but they ingrain the idea that women are a nuisance and are appropriate subjects for jokes.
I just saw a facebook comment of someone wondering how a group of women is going to manage to keep quiet for the duration of a silent retreat - because we all know women can't keep quiet! I'd love one of our men in black to take that comment on.

Getting Out of the Boat

I have been rereading John Ortberg's "If You Want to Walk On Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat". I was reminded of this book at my pre-ordinands screening where one of the committee members asked me in which areas of ministry I found myself out of the boat - or, am I getting out of my comfort zone? [To which I replied that it is a while since I've seen a comfort zone!]

It amazes me how differently I read books now. I devoured this book this week because I needed the message so much whereas when I first read it I was a little disappointed. I think it all has to do with the level of risk and uncertainty in which I am living now compared to then.
By risk - I don't mean personal danger!

But John Ortberg's challenge to see Jesus 'passing by', to listen to his call and then to take the risk of failure was encouraging this time. And if there wasn't so much else that I want to do with my congregations I would love to do a preaching series on this book - it is very practical and helpful as regards finding one's purpose and meaning in life.

Talking about books, I am enjoying buying my son books for homeschool which I also read. I have recently read Good to Great by Jim Collins, Sometimes There is a Void by Zakes Mda and am nearly finished Quiet by Susan Cain. And the next order to Loot went in yesterday, so more coming!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Financing a Poor Church

I sat with the Executive Meeting of one of my churches last night and said that we had to do something about finances. (Again - this isn't new, but the problem isn't going away.) I proposed a fund-raising scheme and they were keen and I put pressure on them to set the example in giving to this.

But some of them really, really don't have the money. The census data for 2011 shows that this part of Mitchell's Plain has a monthly average income per household of R5000. That should mean that we receive an average tithe of R500 per member (or member-household). I just don't see that happening! Partly because we don't have every member of the household coming to church and partly because I think we have the lower part of the income structure in our congregation.


But I can't tighten the screws on them like this.

And they will insist on making a donation to the church district mission fund because the circuit tightens the screws on them.

So we are falling behind every month. Plus extra requirements.

But I feel like the Pharisees demanding the widow's mite - even if she gave it freely. The worst is, we are not the poorest circuit or society. How is the church ever going to make an impact in South Africa like this? We need a new model.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pentecost and Beyond

We are now through Easter and through Pentecost Sunday. It has been an awesome ride! I think the two churches have been faithful to God's call and mission over this period and I hope and believe that it has been a time of building and strengthening and equipping.

The next step is synod which is held this week in all the districts of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. They are held simultaneously because of the presiding bishop elections. My moment of trauma is the synod exegesis oral which is held this afternoon. Fortunately it is only with a committee, but having had a not-so-good experience last year I am not looking forward to this one.

I have been too overloaded to give any attention to my PhD and I am now mentally exhausted when actual time seems to be opening up. The question of whether or not I take leave in June/July has been answered. By then all my MCSA study work will be completed and I should have the rest of the year to throw at the PhD, God willing!

So, we are busy, but God is good!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I came across this demographic survey of Mitchell's Plain here which is based on hte 2001 census data. This is just one of the slides (you can click on it to enlarge). The survey has a number of similar pictures showing distribution of housing, education, access to water and so on. This picture is a combination of various socio-economic indicators. The key here is a bit confusing, but the bottom line is that red and pink are bad and green is relatively good, the cream is intermediate.

Having worked in Mitchell's Plain for a year and a bit, this picture is very meaningful. The line running down the centre of the map is the railway line. My two churches are to the right of the line (ok, east!). Beacon Ridge, which is the church that is struggling bitterly with finances covers the lower quadrant (Beacon Valley, Eastridge and Tafelsig).

The question, 'why are we struggling?' becomes a no-brainer when we look at this map. Even if people tithe, ten percent of R1000 is only R100. We need to raise R16 000 each month to get by.

Of course, this only means that we need 160 people with the commitment to tithe, or maybe a few higher income people. It doesn't seem fair though, that tithing becomes a life or death thing in a poor area and simply a 'spiritual discipline' in a wealthy area. The Methodist Church has been very strong on 'parity of stipends' as an effort to correct past practices where white ministers tended to get higher stipends. What it also means, though, is that poor churches get no discounts. The cost of a minister is the same across the board.

This really needs creative thinking - and there is more to it than 'the spiritual state of a church is reflected in its finances'.

Just for interest here are slides showing subsistence levels and education levels.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More pictures

Last week's photos were of Wesley Mission Methodist Church in Lentegeur. These are from my other church known as Beacon Ridge Methodist Church. This Sunday my husband and sons who usually attend Wesley came to Beacon Ridge to help lead worship. I hope that they will do that once a month in future. (One son is behind the singers at the drums!)

Here the congregation is 'passing the peace'. I find that the healthier the congregation the longer and noisier this part is!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Picture of the congregation

These are just two pictures of the congregation at Wesley Mission taken from the back during praise and worship time. If, if, if they were my only congregation I would probably start another morning service and I think we could increase church attendance by fifty percent. At the moment the Sunday School meets before the church service, so we would need other facilities for the Sunday School too!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Good to Great

I am reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. I know that I am years behind everyone else, but that's just how it is!
I can see why church leaders recommend these ideas, they are awesome. I have also bought his 'caveat book' which is called Good to Great for the Social Sectors and I am interested to see what it says.

So far I've read the chapters dealing with Level 5 leadership - I'm ok with that. Who and then what (seats on the bus) - I've heard that before and in different guises, I suppose as people have internalised it. Confronting the brutal facts. yes makes sense - although sometimes the brutal facts about the finances in my one church seem overwhelming (they aren't, they aren't!).

The hedgehog principle has me slowed down. I understand it - I think Jim Collins (no, it was someone else) also mentioned it during his talk at the Global Leadership Summit last year. It means finding that one idea that you are going to pursue and pursuing it relentlessly. But I will have to think hard how to apply that to 'my' churches - particularly the one that I joined only this year.

The three questions that one must ask to find your hedgehog principle are What can you do best, How is your economy driven and What are you passionate about?

Churches aren't in competition with each other like businesses are. So maybe we should ask what can we do better than the enemy? I'm not sure if that will help.

The economy of a church is important - and I like that it is drawn into the main working principle like this. Partly because if everything is healthy the finances will be healthy and to some extent vice versa. So I guess we want to maximise giving per family. Or should we say giving per church service? I struggle to see the options. Must think.

And the difficulty with the passion question, in this church, is that it is not very united. There is lots of passion, but all going off at different angles with very little intersection.
How long have I got left in this church? Maybe six months? Maybe eighteen months? I guess in that time I am going to be playing Find the Hedgehog!

Good times, if challenging.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

News vs Propaganda

My eye was caught by these two contrasting headlines. You wouldn't have thought that they were covering the same story.

From Independent Newspapers: Zille’s Gupta complaint dismissed

From Daily Maverick: The New Age vs. Helen Zille – TNA eats humble pie 

I guess we are a long way from The Star's slogan of 'telling it like it is'. Even if one argues that technically the IOL headline is correct, both the headline and the article read like propaganda. I might be about to hit the unsubscribe button!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Catch-up Time

I knew that the last few weeks were going to be absolutely crazy, but now there is just a moment to breathe and catch up. Today I have a small church service where I have been asked to speak and then two meetings that flow into each other tonight. After that I have no external commitments until Saturday. A chance to figure out where I am with my studies and EMMU requirements and if I am lucky a chance to look at my PhD (which is suffering from neglect).
Saturday is screening to enter the ordination phase of my training. I don't really know what to expect, so I must just try to be as well-prepared as I can.
Next week is the week leading up to Pentecost and we have a very focused outreach and healing time planned in the churches. We are praying hard and expecting to see God work with us and our community. At this point, all the planning and stress of the last few weeks hopefully becomes worthwhile!
The week after is synod, including the oral exegesis exam. This didn't go too well for me last year so I am not looking forward to it, but again there is not much I can do except to be as well-prepared as possible.
After synod I hope I will have another chance to breathe!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Remembering Ross

It is a year since Ross Olivier passed away. His friend Pete Grassow wrote this. Yes.

On IST with fellow past seminarians this week I noticed how much Ross is remembered. His legacy will endure.

Monday, April 29, 2013

For Pictures See

This is a nice picture of Beacon Ridge Methodist Church sent to me by the Youth. You can see the new wall. Unfortunately, the sliding gate was stolen soon afterwards. For more pictures you can visit the church blog at http://mitchellsplaineast.blogspot.com/. I am on IST this week - which means a chance to catch my breath. It has been very busy!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Graduate

I don't often boast of my children, but here is a picture of Charlotte. On Tuesday she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computational Physics, Summa Cum Laude. Very proud of her!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Following on from yesterday . . .

By and large, my stressful things worked out better than I expected. After spending time with the person I was counselling I didn't think that I should refer him anywhere - not that his problems are small, just that even  the most hot-shot counsellor is not going to be able to make them disappear. My bereavement visit fell into place so easily. Busy with my regular visits I mentioned this one to my 'pastoral assistant' and she said 'oh, they live just around the corner, do you want me to take you there now?' Awesome! And my potential conflicts were joking together after the circuit quarterly meeting that evening. The quarterly meeting was not without its trauma (as those of you who read my blog post before I took it down will know!), but the meeting did unanimously agree to recommend me for ordination without any debate. The superintendent arrived in good time and had everything under control.
Is God good, or is God good?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A little stress

I am feeling a little too stressed at the moment. Cut back to give myself space and realise it is still not enough. But I am sure it will pass.

I have to see someone today who I can only listen to. We are always encouraged to refer people to more highly trained professionals when necessary, but how do you do that when people are struggling with money and government social workers are overworked? This is not a desperate situation, I don't think, but I feel inadequate to help.

Bereavement when I still don't really know the congregation are difficult.

I must see someone about a conflict within one congregation that I see looming.

And tonight is the circuit quarterly meeting where they should vote as to whether I proceed to ordination. I don't even know if my superintendent is in town or what is happening! We just heard that he was away . . . Hopefully he is back.

So a little moan. Thanks for listening. It will get better!

Friday, April 19, 2013

More Scribblings on Belief

Do I need to put in all the caveats to what a wrote the other day about belief? I know that  things should be more complex than what I had to say. Ultimately I think that our belief should result from a quest for truth. Unfortunately, we cannot in all times and places determine truth with absolute certainty. We do our best, if we are honest and then move to the next step. Belief inevitably impacts the way we live and we need to ask ourselves whether a certain belief (or set of beliefs) is consistent with the lifestyle that we choose for ourselves based on our values, however they are derived. Having done all of that processing in our lives (on truth and values) belief does become just a choice to be made, with some validity.

In my ministry now I am encountering many people who live with their adult children who have 'become Muslim'. This is a cause of a lot of unease in the families and I had to meet with one old lady in my car because she felt that I would be unwelcome in the house. In general these children are not dedicated Muslims. They have just chosen a belief. I can't figure out the reason behind it at the moment, although I am almost certain that it is a denial of Christian lifestyle values rather than an embracing of Muslim ones and has very little to do with truth.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Belief is a Choice

These are not exactly random thoughts, but perhaps sort of scribblings. I might not agree with myself in another frame of mind.

You don't believe in God and you go visit your good friend who is a believer in Jesus. She tells you there is a cup of coffee for you in the kitchen. Do you believe her? Probably, unless there is some arcane reason not to - like you hate coffee and she knows it, or it is your secret code for 'my little brother is at home, let's rather go watch a movie'. So believing without seeing is pretty much ok here.

Another day she tells you that there is a kangaroo in the kitchen. You check the calendar - not 1 April - and you go and have a look. No kangaroo to be seen. You look outside. Nothing. You look questioningly at your friend - it was here she assures you. Some people pass by - did they see the kangaroo? No. You see the neighbours outside - have they had a kangaroo in their kitchen? No. Have they seen one around? No. You tell your friend that there are no signs of the kangaroo having been in the kitchen. But she says - there are! It's just that the kangaroo has always been here so we don't recognise the signs. Those footprints in the butter that we always thought were the elephant? Uh-uh. Kangaroo! Those things that go crashing down for no apparent reason in the middle of the night? Kangaroo. Well, you scratch your head and decide to let it ride for the moment.

This time, she tells you that God is in the kitchen. You are just quiet. Look at her to see if she is serious. She seems to be. You go look in the kitchen. No God. He is here, she assures you. You go outside and check with the neighbours. Have you seen God? Has he been in your kitchen? You feel a bit of an idiot. Some of the neighbours laugh at you like you are playing a prank. Some laugh and say of course he is in the kitchen, God is everywhere. Is he here now? Yes, of course. You go back to the kitchen and tentatively say that there is no sign of God in the kitchen, but you can guess what is coming. It is just the God has always been here and so we don't see the signs. The way the sun shines through and catches the glass on the drying rack to make a little rainbow - that's God. The jingle of the windchime - that's God.

What do you believe? Coffee, no problem. Kangaroo, ridiculous. God, difficult. But you trust your friend. She is not stupid or delusional. Actually, we just made up the kangaroo - she never mentioned a kangaroo in the kitchen. Choose what you believe. It's your choice. That's all it is. A choice.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Elections and Idols

Something has dawned on me about voting. You see we vote in two (at least) distinctly different arenas. The one is where we vote in political elections and church elections and school board elections for people to represent us in performing a function.

The other is where we vote for whoever we think is the best at something - like American Idols or footballer of the year. But we have no expectations of them after the vote - just that they carry on being good at whatever they do.

This is why we have so much disconnect. People vote because they want to support someone and say 'this is my guy' without understanding that in church and politics there is an expectation that he or she then takes on a responsibility.

This explains the odd attitude that people sometimes have about the DA (Democratic Alliance). Some will say that they are sore losers because they only work for people in the places where they have won elections. Why don't they work in other areas? Because they don't govern there (duh!) But for many people there is no (duh!) They don't get the difference between voting for popularity and voting for government.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Missio Alliance eBook Sale from Zondervan

Scot McKnight posts a list of books that are on sale during the Missio Alliance conference. This a conference of - perhaps one could call them orthodox arminians?

There are books by McKnight, Roger Olsen and others - $3.99 on Kindle.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Leadership and Management

I read somewhere (so much on the internet that I don't remember where I see stuff!) that the essence of leadership is facilitating change. That is a thought that has stuck with me and I think that is true. It is also another explanation for the stress of church ministry - if we are leading a growing and changing organisation we are constantly walking a tight rope of pleasing people and yet bringing about change.

Management, however, is about the effective functioning of the status quo. And about the effective putting in and managing of systems after change.

Both are necessary and important.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How the week goes . . .

On Monday our 'mission project', Saamwerk, started a new thing with an introductory course in crafts. I was very pleased to arrive on Monday morning and find a bunch of new ladies had signed up. Perhaps my slight pessimism about projects is misplaced. I can see this developing!

Monday evening I explained my plans for the next quarter to the worship leader and then the cell leaders at Wesley Mission. Lots of buy in and enthusiasm. The cells even promised to work at multiplying within six months which I didn't expect!

Tuesday morning was pastoral visits at Beacon Ridge - it was a good time. Tuesday evening was meeting with cell leaders at Beacon Ridge and sharing a similar vision as with Wesley. Their cell groups are still a few weeks old, but I was very excited to hear what is already happening in them. After that I did my first 'John Wesley visit' and went to see one of the Wesley cell groups. There were eighteen people squashed into the living room of the home - all sorts of people, young, old, churched, unchurched. The doctrine shared was a little varied, but I believe that God has something to work with!

Today, my pastoral visits at Wesley were canceled, but I've just heard of two members in Groote Schuur so I don't get to stop just yet. Still quite a bit of planning and admin to do today, but then I try to keep Wednesday evenings free of meetings and so tonight is free. Then tomorrow is study/sermon prep, meeting in the evening and Friday my day off!

It's been a busy week and one that challenges my introvert soul heavily, but very worthwhile. The next two weeks are full of leaders meetings and circuit meetings and then I am away on IST for a week. This week had to be a bit of a do or die week!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Book Regrets

Much of my 'formation for ministry' happened between 2002 and 2006. It was then that I studied for my BTh through the Baptist Theological College and was launched into all sorts of unexpected ministry areas. I also encountered the cell group phenomenon under the ministry of Rev John Gillmer at Bryanston Methodist Church.

At the time I couldn't afford to even buy all my text books, let alone extra books on cell groups and other things. All my life I have had the philosophy of buying books rather than borrowing them if at all possible. But there are times that it is just not possible.

Now I regret the lack of many of those books that I did have to borrow at that period. I want to reread some of the many books I read on cells - which are now many miles away in the BTC library.
Fortunately I can now afford to buy books. God is good.

But I still regret those others that I don't own!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Making Money

Finances are always (I think) a concern for churches. Last year I was in a church that was in arrears with its payments, but was situated in a relatively well-off area. During the course of the year we were able to catch up and end the year fully paid up.

This year, I am in a church that is way behind in its payments but is in one of the poorest parts of Mitchell's Plain. Realistically, will a church in this area ever be able to support a minister (at the moment they share me with another church, so they have half of a student minister) and be able to maintain its buildings and be able to function as a missionary body?

Part of me says that we must support ourselves. Part of me says the mission is too important and we should look for outside funding.

Wrestling . . .

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Learning to be an expert

I am wondering whether, or perhaps starting to realise that, I have no choice but to become an expert in certain areas if I am going to be a minister in Mitchell's Plain. I have a level of expertise in many areas - the classic jack of all trades and master of none - which is generally required of ministers, but this just isn't enough.

There are two distinct areas where I find this. They both start from the point that I make all sorts of assumptions about what should be obvious to the people around me. If I worked through something years ago, didn't everyone else? Why don't they know it? And thus my first struggle is to know my subject (whatever it might be) well enough to explain it from the basics in order to explain the need for change or to motivate doing something.

The second struggle is to know it well enough to teach it. I can start from some point above a basic level, but wow, getting back to basics is another story.

Some of you will have seen my struggling to make sense of 'mission' and 'projects' and how best the church can be involved with the community. Today I started thinking along lines of counselling which is a definite need and if practised may well identify other needs that the church could meet. Yes, this could be good. And it would be very beneficial to the churches if we had a number of trained lay counsellors. Ok, so where do we find training? At a price affordable by dwellers in the Plain? Not so easy to find.

I have done two very good Basic Counselling Courses and one university module. But I never intended to teach counselling. I don't have the experience to teach counselling. But I don't think I can keep putting things off because I don't have the skills. I just may have to learn to teach counselling (unless something turns up in my inbox . . . !)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Time Away

We spent the long weekend in Simons Town. Methodist ministers get one weekend off every quarter - which really means something when one usually works over the weekends. We had a good break and rest.

Awesome to:
look out over the sea every day.
just step out the front door and be jogging along the sea front within minutes
to know that the only thing in my calendar for a few days was 'holiday'
to watch cricket on tv
to play bridge with the family

God is kind to us.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Who reads blogs?

Blog stats are of interest to blog writers because we sometimes like to know that people actually read our blogs! But by and large the blog aggregators like Amatomu and Technorati give suspicious looking results. My own blog visitor counters at sitemeter and blogger give wildly different numbers as does google analytics.

A few weeks ago I found these useful tips:

Google Reader: - you can find how many people are subscribed to a blog by adding the blog to your subscriptions (I didn't previously subscribe to my own blog!). You click on that blog and then choose 'Feed Settings' from the menu and 'View details and statistics' from the submenu. Hey Presto - number of subscribers. No names though!

Google Page Rank - this is a Google Ranking which is a number out of 10. You can find it for any page at http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php and other places. (You can find how this rank is determined at wikipedia.) Google only updates the publicly available figures every few months.

Open Site Explorer www.opensiteexplorer.org/ allows you to enter a web page and it will show all pages linking to that web page. This is a limited option thing, so it will encourage you to pay for the service after a while.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A View from Tafelsig

These pictures are taken from the doorstep of one of the families I visited today.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Oikos Journey Chapter 2

(continuing a critique of the Oikos Journey. The first post is here)

This chapter is about the voices of the poor. The first paragraph invites us to think of ourselves as the 'non-poor'. This is a thought-provoking term. Who are the non-poor? I would guess the authors didn't want to use the word 'rich' as few of us think of ourselves as rich, but non-poor, yes I guess that could be me.

I love this line, "People are amazingly resilient, . . . and hope thrives against all expectations." When non-Africans write about Africa there is often a picture of despair and gloom. This rarely a true picture and it is good to see a bottom line of hope in this document.

The rest of the chapter is a set of quotes from poor people interviewed as part of the study. This certainly gives a voice to some of the poor. From an academic point of view, they are anecdotes, however and do not provide evidence of anything except the existence of certain individual cases. They give no sense of the scope of the problem and we are unaware of how the stories were selected. This not to deny that poverty is a concern in South Africa, just that this chapter in the document simply illustrates it and doesn't prove it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mission and Projects

We are trying to develop our mission project that is linked to the churches where I work. We have discussed and researched and I am just getting more and more confused. In some ways this is good because it is forcing me to get back to the basics. Why do we run 'projects' in our churches? What do we really mean by mission (in the social justice sense)?
But I am also struggling to get to a place of understanding!
The project that we saw at Learn To Earn is basically a school for adults teaching commercially useful skills such as sewing and woodwork. It has a Christian ethos, but basically it is a school. It seems to me that there are many opportunities in and around Mitchell's Plain for people to attend similar training. I might be wrong.
I think that Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain are worlds apart, because of the way Khayelitsha sucks people in from the Eastern Cape.
Should we be doing 'mission' in Khayelitsha? The Methodist Church already has a strong presence in Khayelitsha and attempts to work together have not historically been successful.
The Western Cape government has a lot of stuff up and running to help people get a hold on their lives and they do it a whole lot better than I am likely to do.
The bottom line, for me, is that the church needs to offer the community the power of Jesus in their lives - it doesn't need any more skills projects.
And - the people running our project are committed but don't seem to have passion. If they could just get a vision we could fly. I have vision . . . but I don't think we are ready for my vision. I don't think it fits with the people currently involved in the project.