Sunday, April 27, 2008

Update on Hlalanathi

I was preaching at Hlalanathi in an informal settlement again today. We have introduced 'Planned Giving' which is the giving system used in traditionally white Methodist Churches. The people at Hlalanathi wanted some sort of recorded giving scheme, but we were reluctant to use the 'Pledge System' - I don't really know how that works, but I believe it can be abusive. We have given out ten sets of monthly envelopes and have three on the waiting list. We started giving them out last Sunday and even got the first envelope in the collection today. It is important to us to show the people that we take their giving seriously and to be totally open with what happens to the money. The congregation believes that a previous minister used to take their offering and use it to buy airtime for his cell phone!
I also preached a commitment sermon and did an altar call - a bit difficult without a communion rail! Most of the congregation came forward (about ten people) - probably recommitments - and I am hoping that taking a public step like this will motivate them to take their Christian faith even more seriously.
I am taking the service again next week and hope to build on this! God is good!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What really matters?

I suppose I am asking myself if I am an unnecessary pain in the neck sometimes!
I went to a Bible expo at a church near us. They had really put a lot of work into it and there was lots of interesting stuff to see. I had my two boys with me (homeschool outing!) and was explaining some of the things.
I was staring at a scroll of Hebrew writing, trying to work out why it looked odd. Eventually figured out it was upside down. The other Hebrew exhibit was also upside down. So I thought - I can probably just discreetly turn them around and no one will notice - and I did.
I guess I felt guilty about interfering and mentioned what I'd done to the local minister when he wandered past. Then I felt guilty about 'raining on his party'. No one else was likely to notice or care.
What is more important - to have something 'right', or to care about people's feelings? In this sense there is an 'absolute truth' - the exhibits were upside down. But what does the rule of love say? I suppose if I had to live that hour again, I would adjust the exhibit and say nothing. And if it had been a church further afield I may have done nothing at all!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Kensington Methodist

This is part of the front of the church at Kensington Methodist where I did one of my trial services on Sunday. The pulpit is just off the left edge of the picture. I haven't preached from that sort of pulpit for a long time - high up and on the side. In fact, I usually preach from the same level as the congregation. I like being close to the people, but it is really nice to be able to make proper eye contact with more people - which is what you get from a high pulpit. Our church has just put in a slightly raised platform - that also helps with the eye contact. And stops me from moving around too much, which I gather, bothers some people.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Trial Services

I did two trial services today as part of the journey to the ordained ministry. I guess I feel pretty wiped out. But - they are done. And I passed both of them, which I suppose is important!
Fighting feelings of inadequacy. Does God really want me to do this? Why doesn't he make me a better preacher?
But I felt his presence so strongly. Somehow it has got to work out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What is right or moral?

Incest case: we're 'consenting adults'"I knew it was illegal, of course I knew it was illegal but you know, so what," said an Australian man after fathering a child with his daughter.

This came in the IOL news update in my email. Why do we feel that this Australian man was wrong? Why does he feel it right?
Does the Bible offer any help? The New Testament?
What provides the standards for sexual morality?

The Old Testament rules out incest. The New Testament says nothing about it specifically. Is it reasonable to expect that the Bible should have a specific word about every possible course of human action? Of course not. Can we take the OT's stand on incest and yet reject its stance on the stoning of adulterers?

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount seems to set higher standards for our own behaviour than the Old Testament - if you even look at a woman lustfully you are committing adultery. But he also sets a standard of forgiveness rather than vengeance - no more 'eye for an eye'. Can we take it that the Old Testament laws have value, but that these must be understood along with the new message that Jesus brought of repentance and forgiveness?

Or is incest ok? Especially if contraception is used so that there are no children.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Liturgy or No Liturgy?

I was preaching at Hlalanathi again last Sunday. I was a little disappointed to have a congregation of only five people. How soon the expectations rise! Not so long ago I was very happy if there were two people!
The older, more traditional members were not there, but I decided to try to use the abbreviated liturgy anyway. Those there made a valiant effort, but they did not really know how to sing it. I am constantly torn between those who say that they cannot enjoy church without the liturgy and those young people who would surely come if the church was less formal.
Sometimes I think it would be better if the Methodist Church did not try to plant churches in informal settlements - leave it to churches who are able to genuinely connect with people. But I guess that is not a particularly loyal sentiment!
Can or should the Methodist Church change?

Friday, April 04, 2008


I am struggling with how I spend my time at the moment. I know that I am by no means alone. I can get to the end of the week and I feel that I have achieved nothing! People tell me that is normal - and if I ever get to be a 'proper minister' that's how it will be. But I am not happy with it. Somehow I need to make sure that I do the things that I am needed to do - and those things are things like preaching and to some extent dreaming (or visioning). I end up supporting other people in their work (which is good) at the expense of mine (not good). And I have some very real issues that I need to work through - or perhaps areas that I need to develop in my life - before I hit the real world of phase 1 probationing.

It is so hard to pull back. To be seen as unhelpful. And besides, I like to escape from the real challenges in my life. The treadmill also takes me out of meaningful conversation with God so that I struggle even more.

But today I had time to pray. To hear God. I wish he would make things easier for me, but it helps to know that he is really there and that I'm on the right track.

I found this image while looking for pictures of hamster wheels. Someone has created a usb device that runs a motor on the wheel. The faster you type, the faster the hamster runs. I like this crazy world! Review.