Monday, August 31, 2009

I think . . .

I think this is who I am:

Race: Greyish-purple
Culture: Postmodern eclectic
Language: English
Theology: Postmodern evangelical
Liturgical preference: Western contemporary or multi-cultural eclectic.
Using words like 'postmodern' and 'eclectic' indicate a vagueness that says 'you may not define me, I will choose how to define myself' - where define means essence not description. I give my right to self-definition over to the living Jesus and accept the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit in trying to make that a reality in my life.


I think in South Africa, especially in the Methodist Church, we have the ability to get away from race. I don't think we need it and I don't think it is helpful. What I have heard from Amahoro, and from people who talk about postcolonialism, tends to re emphasise race. White people have 'done' stuff to black people and now white people must fix it or stop fixing it or black people must do this or that. While I respect the need to learn from history, I want to stop worrying about whether I as a white person should be working in a predominantly black church or not. We are people together and will learn from each other.

Whether I like it or not I am English-speaking and while I can follow a little in other languages I do not have the aptitude to learn other languages easily. The other things tend to be a matter of choice and are open to change and growth! Culture, language, theology, liturgical style (and also churc h structure) tend to be the separators in the Methodist Church. Is this wrong? Or should we just work together with an interesting mix?

I think this could be rearranged and there are gaps, but I am going to work with this for the next few months.
(It's interesting that it didn't occur to me to put gender in there. I wonder why not?)


Well, where am I now? I fly back to Port Elizabeth tonight. The weekend away has helped me a lot in terms of understanding the things with which I am struggling. I don't think that I am sufficiently refreshed, but I will cope. This morning and tonight I will spend time in setting goals for the next three months and probably for the next year. I received a phone call from SMMS last week, dealing with my studies, and it seems virtually certain that I will be at seminary next year, but in all probability for only one year. I think I can handle that - even enjoy it.
But now goals must be set - something I normally do at the beginning of a year. But now I need to be sure that I entrench the learning from this year and that I don't just move on to a new experience next year.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I'm tired! I predicted that I would crash on the Friday of my weekend off and it seems I was right. But hopefully this is the beginning of rebuilding. It is very good to be away and to re-establish a sense of perspective on life and ministry in Grahamstown.
And of course good to see family and friends.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Home Again

It is very good to be home! I get to see my daughter's black eye from when she was hit by a softball on Tuesday. I can hear the coughs of three of them who are recovering from flu. My elder son's voice is breaking and he is becoming a real teenager.
I see how much they are all having to pull together to just keep the home running.
They are having to work hard to allow me to do what I am doing. It puts quite a lot of pressure on me to be sure that I am doing something worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Where to where

I understood something yesterday that I have been struggling with. Our group of Phase 1 students works quite well together - so we can talk quite freely about issues. Twice, in the course of our discussions (with external leaders) I have said that I am confused by the way that the Methodist Church doesn't just accept that we have two main ways of doing church and work with that. People have responded oddly, in that they seem to think that I am saying that the church should be divided into black and white. We've never been able to engage in that discussion because of time and I've wrestled with it because I wasn't talking about race or division at all. And the lack of anger in the responses puzzled me, if it was thought to be a racial issue.
I think I've got it now. The student ministers assume that I am saying that 'black ministers should learn to do black church' and the same for white. I suppose it is a logical assumption. But I think that they understand now is that the point is that we need to learn to work as ministers in (at least) two totally different contexts, and it doesn't help to pretend that they are the same and that they should be dealt with in the same way.
I'm almost afraid to post this, because maybe I will still be misunderstood. But we will struggle to move to church 'to' somewhere if we don't acknowledge where we are now. And there should not be value judgements where there is no understanding. We should be beyond race in the church. We need to deal with language and liturgical issues. Possibly theological issues. And we need to look for a way of working together that builds on our strengths.
Some of this stuff I have wrestled with in my Masters dissertation. I suspect that I will wrestle more for further studies. There is SO much potential in the Methodist Church, if we could just trust each other and open up to each other, without powerplay and insecurity and whatever else gets in the way!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Spring is springing

I am finding spring in the Eastern Cape interesting. The road from Grahamstown to Fort Beaufort is lined with low-growing, yellow, daisy-like flowers - they definitely brighten up the road. The road to Kenton has yellow flowering bushes, the blue plumbago is starting to flower and the prickly pears are getting red knobs. Much more interesting than the roads in Johannesburg!
Psychologically, I almost resent spring coming while I am still away from my family! I have to make a conscious effort to enjoy it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Almost Restored

uThixo ubuyisa umphefumlo wam. (God restores my soul.) Learning Xhosa in a church means that I am learning a different vocabulary!
I was so tired on Friday! Sensible people sleep when they are tired, but I get more and more wound up and find it harder and harder to sleep. So Friday afternoon, after I got back to Grahamstown, I cancelled my confirmation class and read a detective story almost non-stop all afternoon. I was in bed at 8.30 and I slept! Saturday I also took easy, although I had a meeting and a sermon to prepare. On Sunday I had plenty of energy for preaching - although I was tired afterwards.
But it is amazing how quickly one can recover. I am now struggling to understand why I have felt so low in the past four or five weeks.
A big part of the restoration is that I leave on Wednesday to go home to Jhb for my weekend off. So I am not stressing now with planning anything, except what to do in Jhb. I'm not sure how I would cope if that break was not coming up!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Not-so-bad Meeting

I wasn't looking forward to my meeting this afternoon much, because it was very likely to be a difficult meeting. We called a Wesley Guild General Meeting (in other words for all guilders in the Grahamstown circuit) because two executive committee members had resigned and we needed to hold elections to replace them. We also needed to replace the 'vice' for reasons which are a bit complicated!
The meeting was due to start at 2pm, but there were only about 5 people there. No good for serious elections. Eventually after 3pm there were enough people and most of the executive committee had arrived. I must admit I was feeling a bit discouraged.
But the elections went well and I now have a team that I believe will work very well together. It is so good to feel that when I go at the end of the year and there is a new minister with the Wesley Guild, that there will be a team in place to oversee the change. God is good.

Friday, August 21, 2009

North End Outreach 4

Our 'plunge' is nearly over and we go back to our respective churches this morning. Most of what I have learnt is 'unbloggable' - I can't really talk about it because it might somehow compromise other people involved!
But it has been a very good experience. We spent yesterday morning walking the streets again. My group spoke to a number of people and also visited the soccer stadium offices, a preschool, the department of agriculture and a Catholic church. Not everyone had time for us, but most people were at least polite. It was very interesting.
Last night we had our 'event'. The church wasn't full, but there were a fair number of people and I think that many of them were newcomers. The phase 1 team pulled together so nicely and I was really pleased.
I got the energy to get through the week! God is good. It was a struggle being together 24/7 and without enough sleep, but we made it. I must admit that I think I was the most 'frayed around the edges'.
Tomorrow I have the morning off as there is no funeral for me to do. That will give me a chance to catch by breath. I have a difficult meeting in the afternoon and a service on Sunday morning and then I am on the home stretch for going home next weekend.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

North End Outreach 3

Yesterday I was struck by how we were starting to see the different strengths that members of the team have. There are those with real and definate pastoral skills. Those who can organise and those who can relate to young people.
Also, different people are starting to contribute to the team discussions. It is so good to hear ideas and comments from those who are often quiet.
But it is very tough. I knew it would be, and to put energy in anyway was a choice that I made. I suppose I would do it again - but right now I am just hoping that I can keep in one piece for another 24 hours.
And then I get back to Grahamstown for a heavy weekend in circuit.
But soon after that I go home for a long weekend.
I hope that I am walking in the path that God has in mind and that we will have a blessed time at our outreach services tonight. Youth in the hall and adults in the church with snacks afterwards. Please pray for us!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

North End Outreach 2

Yesterday was interesting. We spent the morning going door to door in the area. The idea was to talk to people and get a feel for what sort of person lives in North End and what particular struggles they have in their daily lives. People were far more willing to talk than I would expect to find in the area that I came from in Johannesburg. If I was a minister here, I would definately perservere with this exercise.
The afternoon and evening were a little tense as tired group dynamics appeared. I hope that no one overreacts too badly this week. I know that I am tired and I really don't have the resources for this week. I think that God will expect us to operate as a team - and our shared resources should be enough. I wonder how he is going to carry us through.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

North End Outreach 1

Today is our first full day in our 'plunge'. We arrived last night and had a good discussion of what we are doing and how and who is responsible for what. It is so good when you see different people picking up the things that they are good at or the things that they know. Especially when there are people who enjoy doing the things that I struggle with!
Today we are walking the streets and some focus points - like the law courts - and engaging with people. We want to find out about 'living in North End' also to invite them to our EVENT on Thursday evening.
I think we are going to learn a lot.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Being Absorbed

Sitting in church, idly looking at my hands. And I realise that I am wondering why they are such a funny colour. Everyone else has dark skin. Mine looks odd, even to me.
I don't want to lose my own cultural identity. I want to understand others, but I want the freedom to be me.
Is the church setting me free to follow my call? Or is it tying me down? This is a question that needs answering before next year.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Titles of Power

It's been interesting to see how people call me in the African church. I'm used to umfundisi because the people back home in the informal settlements in Jhb didn't know the difference between a minister and a lay preacher and called me moruti and umfundisi however much I objected. Casually, one to one, I am Jenny - all the time. In a semi-formal setting I'm umfundisi Jenny or by some of the Rhodes students pastor Jenny. But funerals are very formal.
I am happy with umfundisi (reverend or minister) and I'm happy with Mama umfundisi (sort of Mrs Minister). I'm not comfortable with umfundisikazi. I am rarely called that and means both 'female minister' and 'minister's wife. I feel a bit second-rate when I get that one.
Then there are the oddities. At funerals I'm occasionally addressed as Tata mfundisi (Mr Minister) - I thought maybe they had bad eyesight, but it seems to be intentional. Then last week this was stepped up a notch! I was called Bawo mfundisi (Father minister).
But today I was lifted twice. First I was addressed as Mongameli (which means chief, but in the Methodist Church is the superintendent minister). About half an hour later I was addressed as Bawo Mongameli (Father Superintendent).
Just as well that I am a passionate believer in Matthew 23:8-10.

Friday, August 14, 2009

We're gonna rock North End

Please pray for our Phase 1 'Plunge' that happens next week 17-21 August. We are doing an outreach and discovery programme into the North End area of Port Elizabeth. Please pray that God rocks the place and people discover his love and his joy! And pray for us - 11 student ministers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Funerals again

Is this useless information? I learned it today. My experience (in the black African church) has been that ministers conduct funerals on Saturdays. Children and people who aren't members of the church are buried during the week. So I thought this was a status thing. I was surprised to find that a minister who passed away last week was not being buried on a Saturday. Why not? Ministers are buried on Thursdays. Ministers' wives are buried on Tuesdays. I didn't ask about ministers' husbands! Grant, do you have a preference?
Our cultures are so different in South Africa.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Toy

This is my new toy, which I bought from a phase 1 colleague. I'm going to try to find someone to give me lessons. I think I desperately need to do something that is NOT church and is NOT theology.

Cursing God?

I read yesterday someone suggesting that when things get rough we want to be like Job, who was tempted to curse God and die. I get so frustrated with the church (not my local church - a slightly broader picture) , I must admit that I feel very like Job. But seeing the comparison helps - because I want to be like Job and win through. I want to believe that somehow God is in contol in spite of this all.
We can't escape the fact that this world is a bad place - and sometimes that means the church institution too. I feel so helpless. But I know that 'all' I have to do is to be faithful to God in the small things that I can do. He has a plan to use all of us small people to bring a Job-like victory. But that makes it so important that I look for God's will in every thing that I do - knowing that it is part of a larger purpose and not a detail that seems insignificant to me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Marking Time

I feel as if all I want to do is mark time for the next two weeks. Until I go home for the weekend. There is so much good stuff happening. So many places I want to put energy. But at places deeper than I can control, I need a break!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Too Much

If I had a dream: Put me and 10 other student ministers down somewhere for a week and tell us to work for a revival in that place. Give us a church building and some resources. And a free hand.
Man, that should be so good. And that's what we've got at phase 1 college.
There are problems, though. The student ministers have a morale that is pretty close to rock bottom. Maybe there are one or two that are ok, but most of us are finished. Just tired, homesick and so on.
We've also got two weeks to prepare - which means the Tuesday and Wednesday of two weeks. They couldn't reasonably give us more time, but the time is not enough. We still have to write our polity exam this Tuesday - that takes energy!
So we have what I think is a great idea, and as I say, something I could dream about. But I don't think we will be able to do it justice.

Friday, August 07, 2009


I watched myself this evening, sitting cross-legged on a table, leaning against the wall. In my corduroys and tracksuit top and takkies. Watching a small group of teenagers in a Rhodes University seminar room wrestle with some Bible passages. In front of me my take-anywhere kit of projector, mini sound system and computer all set up to show a movie.
They might be township kids and I might be a student minister, but my God is so big!

Postmodern or Counter-modern?

This post by Stray has been on my mind. This is what he says:

Something felt like it was missing. The something I refer to is at the end of 1 Cor 4: "For the kingdom does not consist of talk but of
power". Now, again, I'm not criticising anyone in particular now - I'm just saying that, even amongst emerging church people in general I see a real lack of talk about power and, quite frankly, the supernatural

He has hit the nail on the head and has crystallised some of my thoughts. Many people who are postmodern in outlook would also see themselves as countermodern - in other words they don't like some of the stuff that modernism has done to us and to Christianity. But others have continued down the 'modern road' and become postmodern in another sense. They have embraced the logic and rationalism of modernism almost to the exclusion of any sense of deity and of God's involvement in history. But somehow we are all riding on the same emerging train. Maybe the time is coming for that train to break up.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Internet Blackout

I haven't been able to access the web since Monday evening (now Wednesday morning). I think it was something to do with MTN. It would occasionally download my email, but I couldn't get anything to come up in a browser.
When I woke up this morning there was no MTN signal for my cell phone - in Port Elizabeth.
Things seem to be working now - I hope that is not just by chance!
We are back at Phase 1 college this week. Everybody is feeling a bit flat and counting the days until the end of the year! This has certainly not been an easy year.
We are also waiting for Conference in September to find out what will happen to us next year. Everything keeps changing!

Monday, August 03, 2009


I am really trying to reconcile myself to going to seminary in Pietermaritzburg. I think I am winning. But I still hope that the church will decide that it would be better to station me.
I've often wanted to live in Pietermaritzburg - but I don't think for any particularly valid reason. It's close to the sea - well, closer than Jhb - but not too humid. The parts that I have seen of it are pretty. The organisation African Enterprise is based there - and I went through a time of seriously wondering if I could not fulfil my 'call' by working for them rather than the Methodist Church.
My eldest daughter would benefit by our being in Pmb because she could study conveniently at UKZN. The whole family is keen for an adventure and to move away from Jhb. I am confident that I will not be stressed academically - I have had no problems this year with the undergraduate courses. It will be a privilege to learn from Neville Richardson and Ross Olivier. I'm not sure who else teaches there. I don't know what they will want me to do. Can they force me to do a doctorate? I'd rather do one while in circuit. Maybe I could do another honours degree. I could choose something arcane that would fascinate me. Maybe they will insist on me doing another BTh. Whatever, it will not be the centre of my life. Psychologically, I am packing the experience away into a tiny corner of my life and I will live for my family, for adventure and probably to write.
But I sense that such wrong feelings are at the root of this and I wish it could be otherwise.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

English and Afrikaans

I can't even begin to count how many Xhosa communion services I have done. Today was my first time to do communion in an English-speaking church. Immediately after that I did my second-ever communion in an Afrikaans-speaking church. Last time I had half an hour's notice that it was a communion service! I did not feel at all prepared.
I've got into a bit of a rhythm with preaching in farm churches and doing Xhosa communions. I found this morning quite stressful. I really believe that there is some force out there that does not like me and gives me a hard time. But I am learning to handle it. And learning that I need to control my mind firmly in the days leading up to the service, else negative thoughts dominate and preventing me hearing God properly.
But I got through this morning and while I wish I could have done some things better - especially in the Afrikaans service, I think God was able to do his thing.
Now I need to unwind. At home I would have gone outside and sat by the fishpond until I felt ok. It's a bit harder here. Just take things slowly. I'll go for a walk just now. Keep trusting God. Believing in myself.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Noises in the Night

Squee-tunk. Squee-tunk. Squee-tunk-tunk. Squee . . .
Snail on the outside of the window next to my bed.