Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Twenty One

My daughter turned 21 a week ago. She had friends and family around over the weekend. We had a beautiful day for it.

Transport to church

This was parked at the back of the Ravensmead Church last Sunday. The rain has eventually stopped (mostly) in Cape Town and church attendance is picking up. It is also actually light when the early services start.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Blaauwberg Nature Reserve

Wednesday was a public holiday and our family went exploring up the West Coast. We did a 4km walk in the Blaauwberg Nature Reserve and saw many pretty flowers.

A House in Gugulethu

Just an ordinary house in a quiet street in Gugulethu in Cape Town. The day after my ordination the man who lived here was stabbed to death. His brother is a faithful member of one of the societies I pastor and I came to see him here on Tuesday. Too many questions . . .

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Well that was the moment. The words said were "Lord, send your Holy Spirit upon Jenny Hillebrand for the office and work of a Minister in the Church of Christ."

The ministers who laid hands on me were the Presiding Bishop, Rev Zipho Siwa, the General Secretary Rev Vido Nyobole, the General Secretary elect Rev Charmaine Morgan, a past Presiding Bishop Rev Mvume Dandala, the Bishop of the District where I serve Rev Michel Hansrod. Two presbyters were of my own choosing, Rev John Bailie and Rev Simanga Kumalo.

I feel privileged to have had such a group pray for me!

Otherwise, how do I feel? Very tired - almost drained. It has been emotionally taxing. But I also have a sense of lightness and hope that this is now a beginning of something good.

God is always good.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Nearly Ordination

Today was the last day of our retreat in preparation for the ordination service tomorrow. In the afternoon we appeared before the Methodist Church Conference (the national synod if you like) and were accepted into 'full connexion'. This basically means that we have gone through all the necessary hoops and the Methodist people are now happy to accept us as ministers. Some of us are presbyters who will administer the sacraments and others are deacons who perform a more strictly pastoral role. Tomorrow, all going well, we will be ordained.

The photo shows all the ladies in the ordination group. There were a total of 35 people, eleven of whom were women. Of the eleven, six are presbyters and five deacons.

Apart from a difference in role, presbyters are in training for at least six years, including time at seminary, while deacons spend at least three years in training.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Scripture Union Bookshop

I went to the Scripture Union Bookshop in Rondebosch today. I had ordered the Hillsongs Kids dvd for our Sunday School and it had arrived. I was hoping to buy the Alpha Parenting Children dvd, but it was not in stock. We always buy the Wow Hits cds and hadn't bought the 2014 one yet. The book was a bit of an impulse buy . . . I bought it very much hoping that it wasn't going to make me feel even guiltier about all the things I'm not doing right as a pastor/ minister! So far so good, after one chapter.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Newlands Forest

We went for a walk in Newlands Forest this afternoon after church services and meetings. It was pleasantly cool and damp.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Christian Brothers Centre

The ordinands from Cape of Good Hope  and Grahamstown districts are spending three days at the Christian Brothers Centre in Stellenbosch. It is very beautiful here. Very wet at the moment!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tygerberg Hospital

I went to visit someone at Tygerberg Hospital this morning. I have only been to the hospital once before and felt very unsure of how to get around it. I went by myself today and took my time. I'm not sure if I parked in the best place, but it was a long walk to the building! Fortunately the patient I went to see was close to this entrance. He had a heart bypass operation last week. He was full of tubes, but looking well.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Secretary's Computer

Our secretary at Parow Wesley has been using a computer with less than 1Gb ram and running Windows XP. The opportunity came to get a new machine and I spent today setting it up. Mostly that meant running Windows Update on an almost non-existent internet connection. It was my day-off, so I was at home and just let it run while I got on with other things.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Gift

I was given these cosmetics as a gift when I preached at Norwood Methodist Church on Sunday. On the Sunday closest to Women's Day (9 August), many churches invite woman preachers specifically. I much prefer it when I am given this sort of gift. Often money is given and some preachers develop an expectation of receiving compensation for preaching. Even if I dislike monetary gifts, it is almost impossible to refuse them without embarrassing the giver!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wheel of Time

I have been reading the Wheel of Time series of books - along with the rest of my family. We have occasionally had four different books from the series out from the library simultaneously! Part of the appeal of the book are the themes of redemption, sacrifice and servant leadership. Someday, if not already, someone will write about "Christian themes in the Wheel of Times series" just as has been done for Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Christian themes resonate with most of us.

Another series that is popular at the moment is Game of Thrones - although that is better known as a TV series. I got halfway through the first book when the harsh cruelty of the story and the pornographic descriptions got to me. I liked the characters and was intrigued by the story. I imagine that the storyline eventually offered at least hope if not nobility. But the taint to the telling was destructive. It worries me that for many people these harsh themes resonate.

The world seems to wage war for our souls.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Grant was at a loose end on Friday, so he bought me sunflowers. It's been so long since we had flowers, it seems our vases have broken or gone awol.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ordinands and Synod

For those who are interested, I thought I would write down what happens in a MCSA probationer's ordination year.

The year starts with an assignment where the ordinand prepares a programme for his or her year. This includes training, retreats, reading and more. This assignment is presented at the January seminar in a small group. The seminar has lectures and group work and consists of two or three days. After this another assignment must be submitted where the ordinand researches the subject 'ordination'.

Synod is the next big step. In the Cape of Good Hope District the synod event for ordinands begins with 'screening'. This is an interview with the same committee that interviewed the prospective ordinand a year ago. They look at their notes from a year back and try to determine if growth has occurred in the ordinand's life. They then recommend to synod whether or not the ordinand should be ordained.

For me, it was interesting to see the picture that the committee had drawn of me. I have a terrible tendency to accept people's conception of me and 'play along' and this has been exacerbated by the church training. I suppose also I have become aware of it, so this is a good thing. My own screening interview was fine.

The next evening sees the witness service where all the ordinands share their journey through probation with a synod congregation. We were told we had five minutes in the weeks before the service. This was amended to three minutes immediately before and I think were actually allowed about six. We receive a mark for the presentation of our testimony (and quite possibly we were all marked down for going over three minutes!) It never occurred to me that after the service I would go from a total unknown at synod to 'everyone knows me and now I can't hide'. The encouraging and positive comments were, however, very affirming and made up for my loss of invisibility!

The next item is the oral exam for presbyter ordinands (ministers can be presbyters or deacons). This was scheduled for the next day, Thursday, but actually came about late Friday morning. We received a long list of questions after the witness service on Wednesday night so there was too much to really prepare, but they were not totally unseen when the moment came. The wait was hard. I found my mind constantly going back to the questions which was not helpful as answers should be fairly to the point, not theses. For me, the actual exam went ok. God took away my nerves and broke through the mug that threatens to encase me in these sort of moments. I suppose this is arrogant, but it helps that generally I do know what I am talking about theologically! Again the comments afterwards were incredibly encouraging and affirming. So I felt good!

Finally the marks for the witness service and oral exam are given to the synod and the synod votes on whether or not to ordain the ordinands. All was good for my colleague Wandile and myself and so our next stop is the retreat during Conference and then ordination.

God has been kind to me.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Allowing religion to influence law

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has, presumably, inadvertently got all sorts of people upset by suggesting that law should be informed by religion. I suppose that people have many ideas of what religion is and thus the outcry.

On the elementary level that says religion teaches us to live well and law prescribes how we live, law influenced by religion should prescribe that we live well. But many people see religion as something that breathes disaster and ultimately evil.

I simply gather three interesting and, I think, constructive posts here.

Chris Roper makes the point that religion has the propensity to go bad. While religions may set high ideals, those ideals are often subverted by self-interest.

But this is the problem with Mogoeng’s desire to have religion inform our legal system: which Christianity is going to turn up? Which Islam is going to turn up, the Islam of Boko Haram, or the Islam of Malala Yousafzai? Which Judaism is going to turn up, that of the West Bank Wall, or that of Hannah Arendt?
(Christianity is the enemy of Christianity)

Dion Forster writes that religion is more specific in its application than is the law.

The law is intended to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their religious perspective. Laws should be based on the principles of justice and our shared human dignity . . . Religion on the other hand is based on beliefs that are not commonly shared . . .
(Why Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng is wrong - law infused by religion is a bad idea)

Ryan Peter takes the discussion a little further. If it is not appropriate for the church to dictate to the state, should the state not give the church the same respect?

Separation of church and state means that the church doesn’t meddle in state affairs. Great, we all actually agree to that. That’s what secularism means. . . But here’s the other side of the coin: this separation also means that the state doesn’t meddle in Church affairs.
(Are today’s secularists really secular?)

At the end of the day, the church should be living by its own rules. I am afraid that we are too concerned with being 'prophetic' and too little concerned with keeping our own houses in order according to our own values and aspirations. (Not that I don't think there is a place for prophetic.)

In an ideal world church and state would be good influences on each other.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


I heard what I thought was a very odd statement at synod. It wasn't made by a Methodist minister!

"The world has been transformed, now the church needs to be transformed."

It was an off-the-cuff statement and maybe this person would not have planned to use this phrasing. Does it imply that God is at work in the 'world', but that the church is resisting him?  I would imagine that there are people who see things this way. But that must leave them with a rather different theological understanding of the church!

I don't think the church is quite where it should be, but I do believe that there is more value to being inside the church than outside.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Synod - been and gone

Does my blog remember me? Hello, hello anyone there?

At least my browser remembered my password!

Our district synod was held over the last few days. This was an important synod for me as it is the one which has recommended me to the Conference for ordination. The final countdown begins.

It was an unexpectedly affirming process . . . nice surprises are good.

Thus, barring any major disasters, I will be ordained in September. God has been kind and generous to me.

There is lots that I want to blog about from synod - or rather thoughts that have come to me as a result of synod - perhaps I will get back to writing again!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Parow Methodist Web Page

I am starting to update the web page for Parow Methodist. It can be found at www.parowwesleymethodistchurch.co.za. And no, I didn't create the URL - the web page was here before me!

This is what I wrote today to the community:

This last Sunday was my induction service. It was held at Ravensmead Methodist Church as I will also be working there part-time. (Rev Fidler's induction service was held at Parow, so it was Ravensmead's turn this time!)

The service was led by Rev Vincent Harry who is the District Secretary. He had a great message for us and it was a good service.

In the service the congregation made some promises (and so did I, as the minister!) These were my words, in response to words said by Vincent Harry. The congregation responded with the words in bold.

I ask God to help me, and I invite you all to join with me in proclaiming the Gospel of life and hope.

Through Christ, we have Good News to share.

I ask God to help me,and I invite you all to join with me in commitment to the way of Christ.

May we reveal Christ's way through our words and example.

I ask God to help me, and I invite you all to join with me in sharing God's all-embracing love.

May we respond to Christ in all we meet.

And so we are all challenged to proclaim the good news of Jesus, to live like Christians and to show love in all that we do.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Parow Wesley Methodist Church

This is the inside of the Parow Methodist Church. My husband arrived early and was taking photos. I wasn't there as I needed to be at Ravensmead Methodist Church for their Covenant service. I will be working at both of these societies this year, although I share Ravensmead with a colleague (who happens to be the circuit superintendent).

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Getting going again

So much has happened in the last six weeks that I find it difficult to know what to blog. The bottom line is that most of it is good and my family and I are happy.

We are settled into our new home in Tijgerhof and transfer of the property should be complete in the next couple of weeks. We have not yet sold our house in Johannesburg, so that is a bit of a worry, but we are not yet without hope.

The younger generation all did very well in their end of year results and are moving into the next phase of their education. We will have three children at UCT, although the eldest is now doing her best to be self-supporting. Our youngest will probably be homeschooled in one manner or another again this year. For various reasons we are still trying to figure this year out for him. But in general things are looking good for him with an exciting scout group in the area and other fun stuf.

We are enjoying being close to a good library, squash courts, bookshops and various other facilities.

I have been at 'work' in my churches for just over two weeks now. Both Parow and Ravenmead Methodist Churches look like good places to be. I spent most of this week at our January ordinands seminar so I have not seen that much of the churches yet.

This year sees settling into the new societies, getting through the requirements for ordination and a do-or-die effort on my PhD. I am a little stressed, but mostly quite a lot happier than I have been for a long time! God is good.