Saturday, December 20, 2008


The church where I am going in Grahamstown actually consists of 19 different preaching points. I received a copy of the preaching plan last week and am beginning to see things as they really are (and not people's guesses and surmises). Some of these points are quite distant from the centre - the furthest is 80km, but most are actually in a fairly close area. There is a school of thought that says that they should all be brought together and that they should worship together and function under the leadership of the minister. But these places resist that. They are presumably led by Methodist 'stewards' and 'local preachers'. The minister will see them to give communion about once a quarter and does some pastoral work occasionally. But the communities really run themselves.
Isn't this the ideal that many people strive for? Close-knit Christian communities that are present in their own communities as a place that Jesus is known. Able to reach out to their neighbours, because they live and worship in the same place. And they have the continuity of leadership that cannot be supplied by the church - because paid ministers cost money.
So much 'emergent church' stuff and 'new thinking' has been done by the Methodist Church in South Africa for years and years. Of course, I don't know how effective the structures are in Grahamstown - according to what I value! That remains to be seen.
Stephen Murray blogged about the requirements for missional community leaders. What will my role be? How can I best equip and encourage these leaders? Many of whom have years more experience in their situation than I will ever have.


Anonymous said...

My comment is simply that the bigger churches try desperately to create what you seem to have at your new station. They will be jealous of you. They call them “cells” and try to create a “cell church”. Early Methodism had classes with leaders and – yes, that is our heritage – LOCAL preachers!!! You are probably inheriting strength, depending on the vitality of the groups. I know of several significantly unsuccessful attempts at amalgamating a number of small churches into a larger one. It has generally caused much heartache and disruption of the Lord’s work. The problems come largely from seeing churches as administrative units, rather than members of the Body of Believers, of which Jesus Christ is the Head. We pray that you will have great wisdom as you go and will pray for you as the Lord calls you to mind.
It does remind me a little of what Jonathan is trying to establish in Moz – hubs with 40 satellite churches.
Derek Weston

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Derek
Yes, I agree with you that is exactly what I am thinking. And yes, just like what Jonathan is trying to do.
The downside, for me, is that the minister becomes a 'communion-dispensing machine', which is certainly not what I am called to. Perhaps local preachers should be allowed to administer communion? (I know that has been said before!!)

Jenny Hillebrand said...

By the way, the Shaw Section of the Grahamstown Circuit has 139 Local Preachers and 19 Preachers on Trial!

Steve Hayes said...

Is it a "church" or a "circuit"?

Are those "preaching points" or "societies"?

As I understand Methodist ecclesiology, ministers are itinerant in circuits, serving the local societies and building them up and training their leaders.

Has this changed?

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Steve. Sorry to be so long responding. You made me think! Methodist itinerancy relates to the length of time a minister spends in a circuit - so it is never a lifetime appointment. We have invitation periods of two and five years which can be extended. John Wesley, at least at one point, would only allows ministers to spend one year in a circuit. There are pros and cons to this system!
I didn't think of work in a circuit as being sort of itinerant amongst the churches. Wealthier churches (Methodist Societies) have one or many ministers working in them. Poorer circuits must share ministers amongst the societies. I guess most of us would prefer to work in one society. But, you are right, it is a sort of itinerancy and I must think about what that means!