Friday, February 26, 2010

Reporting time

End of the month. Time to put in a seminary report on my internship experience in February. How does one evaluate this sort of experience?
Some stuff is psychologically or emotionally 'easy' for me. Leading contemporary worship with a team that supplies my lack of musical ability is a real pleasure. The web page is fun - although not much concrete has been done yet. Working at the preschool is emotionally draining and it is hard to feel a sense of satisfaction - yet this will be my biggest growth area. Church on Sunday - also draining because of the difficulty of fully engaging with the Zulu-speaking people. And then I am doing research for Dr Kumalo - still to really get going with this. And then, somehow, to find time to start thinking through a doctoral topic for myself.
My feelings are up and down. But things are good. I see hope.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Postcolonialism revisited

We live in a crazy, busy world. We are so pleased with ourselves for having invented the concepts of 'worldview' and 'culture' - these concepts help so much in understanding each other. But in this crazy world we move around and change so quickly, we really need to work out better ways of understanding each other. Mathematically I would be talking about the first derivative. Maybe philosophically it would be a meta-something. Where we talk about changing states and not states themselves (where state=worldview).
I am struck by the fact the the reformation really happened over a period of what - 200 years? We experience reformations of that magnitude in a generation. We've gone from fairly primitive telephones to cell phones in living memory. From massive computers and punchcards to netbooks and iphones in living memory. From Brian McLaren's 'Generous Orthodoxy' to 'A New Kind of Christianity' in a few years.
And we are playing catchup. Here are two links relating to postcolonial thinking: Cobus van Wyngaard and Tom Smith. They both come from such different places to me. Yet their stories and experiences are just as valid as mine (or perhaps mine are just as valid as theirs). Cobus gives me an insight into the Afrikaner mind that I never really imagined or understood. Tom is on a journey of getting to know people who are different from him - perhaps rather because they are poor than because they are black, but I don't know. In the Methodist Church, for all its faults, this option of getting to know different people has been an ethos for years. So I am in a different place. And black people find themselves in different places too - especially with the fast changing 'black' economy.
So, if postcolonialism says that we need to take a step back before going forward (let's revisit our stories), then I would agree. My fear is that we so enjoy going back that we never really move forward.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Steve de Gruchy

My thoughts are somewhat overshadowed by the fact the Prof Steve de Gruchy of UKZN is missing. It seems that he must have had an accident on the river and no one knows what happened to him. So now they are searching.
And I remember last year the chill that I felt when I heard that they were searching for Rev Barry Marshall who was swept out to sea. The search, the wait, the questions.
I don't know what the latest news is, but I pray, 'Lord vindicate yourself.'
(Prof de Gruchy is head of the UKZN School of Religion and Theology and a minister in the Congregational Church.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Postcolonial Thoughts

I had a very interesting conversation with my (black) ministry supervisor on Sunday. I've been struggling with this whole 'postcolonial theology' and the stuff that comes out of the Amahoro conferences. The thing that seems to be said there is that we can't forget apartheid and also that we can't forget the 'damage' done by early white missionaries. It's as if remembering these things should be key parts of our formation as Christians. I might have oversimplified this view point, but it is one that has really hamstrung my minstry over the last year and a bit. Who am I, as a white person, to tell any black person what to do? Who am I to potentially force my culture on someone else - perhaps by my own ignorance of cultural differences?
My supervisor told me yesterday to get over it. (Ok, he was a bit more polite). The time has come to stop seeing things in terms of colour and race and to move forward together, each of us making our God-given contributions.
It seems ridiculous that I needed to hear it - but I did need to and from a black person. So, I'm sorry, but postcolonialism and white guilt and Amahoro and whatever else is now in my rubbish bin. The past is past - not to be forgotten, by any means - but no longer to hamstring us and force us to continually relive the hurt (on all sides). Sometimes, western culture actually has an enormous amount to offer us all - including black people - and I won't deny people that benefit.

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's not all bad!

I think I must stop stressing everyone by saying how busy I feel. I mean it is true, I do feel busy, but I think that I am getting order into my life. I am also just consciously taking time out to slow down.
One of the things that I am doing is introducing contemporary worship and multimedia stuff to the seminary chapel service once a week. This is a lot of work, but I am so excited to be doing it that I don't mind. I have the most awesome team who works with me. Nothing is too difficult or too new for them to try. This morning I heard 'Come now is the time to worship' sung with such power and energy that it really makes it all worthwhile. Truly God was in this place!
Now I must go out to 'my' preschool. I am not working in my area of strength, so I find this a lot harder - but it also has its paybacks. Yesterday I got there and found the main teacher absent. I can't quite understand how she can go off for the morning and leave the kids with the 'baby' teacher, but she did. So the kids and I did an impromptu lesson and they respond so well to just a little attention.
I'm not going to get everything done this week that I ought to, but tomorrow is a new week!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Going a little too fast

I guess this is part of training for ministry. I don't know if you could exactly call it spiritual formation. I have been going flat out for the last week. I have managed to go for a run only once. I've read only about two pages of a leisure book and about three chapters of a soft Christian book - I usually read much more (even if it is escapist nonsense). And I still feel guilty that I am not doing what the seminary wants and I'm not there enough for may family and . . .
I always promised myself that I would not feel guilty and act embarrassed if, as a minister, I met someone from the congregation in the shops (some come over all apologetic that they should be at work). But I can see myself getting there. Like, if I take a moment to breathe I'm not good enough. So, I've somehow got to get a handle on this. And I'm taking time to blog even though I've got things to do. But, I'd better, at least, do the next three things on my things-to-do list before I even think about washing the car!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Odd-shaped life

Now, please don't think I am complaining! I have been moved to a new flat at the seminary - one that I don't have to share with another seminarian. This flat is in a different block and the noise from the traffic is absolutely unbelievable. I found myself, last night, thinking about prisons and concentration camps and being in places where people have no choice but to endure physically pretty uncomfortable situations.
I started asking myself when does one endure stuff, hoping to become desensitized and when does one say - no ways. The thing is that we do become desensitized to the rough things in life - the things we would rather not think about like prostitution and pornography and stuff that happens 'out there' and we are able to close our ears and eyes to.
But, for me, I have discovered that the bathroom in my flat is quiet enough for me to think. So this morning I have my wheely chair in here (fun on the bathroom floor) and have managed to get enough quiet to create - I've been struggling to get together a worship set for Friday. I think this is probably the first time that I've played my guitar in a bathroom! I will see about moving my desk in here too.
So life sometimes has an odd shape, but we can still move forward.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesdayish thoughts

Am I a perfectionist? How can I be a perfectionist when I am so far from perfect in so many things? Or is that because I am a perfectionist?
My son is having teeth out today. Not nice, but hopefully will get his mouth on the road to being sorted out.
Why does Luke say that the women did not put the herbs and so on on Jesus body because it was the Sabbath and 'in accordance with the commandment'? Luke has spent a fair amount of his gospel showing how Jesus did good on the Sabbath, in spite of the commandment, and encouraged his disciples to do likewise. Why did the women choose not to anoint the body on the Sabbath?
I'm trying Feedreader instead of IE to read my feeds for a bit. The IE feed file keeps getting corrupted and won't update and is driving me dotty!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Morning

Today is 'free' for me - there is little structured activity, which means that I can take the morning to do admin and plan the week. So I come into Monday morning feeling a bit panicky, but hopefully after the morning I will feel in control and able to get through the week!
We have chapel on Monday morning at 7:45 (I am sitting in the chapel/ classroom waiting for it to begin right now). Today I have a meeting with Ross Olivier (the seminary president), unless it has been rescheduled! He wants to talk about the web page and the ministerial students fund. I also have some things to discuss, but we will see.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Back to Pre-school

I am sitting in the church building at Tumbleweed near Howick (the Brentwood church). There is a pre-school teacher working with a group of about 15 little kids. It is pretty noisy! The kids range from in nappies to about 4 years old. There are older kids but they are not here today (nor were they yesterday!).
Yesterday, I arrived later and they seemed to be finished the day's programme. Today they are doing things so that I can actually see what they do! While I am sitting with my computer on my lap the teacher doesn't feel so observed and seems more able to carry on . . .
What am I to do here?
When my own kids were little I read all I could on childhood development and early childhood education - I was probably quite expert then, but it was a while back! It does mean that I have a strong feeling for how important pre-school is for kids - well, not for kids, but for the adults that they will become. So I have an enormous vision for this pre-school.
I have one day a week - that is for planning and dreaming and implementing. I have two teachers who have little choice but to perpetuate their own understanding of education. Can I help them look beyond their own experience? Should I? Am I a 'whitey' interfering in African culture? Actually, this Tumbleweed community is educated. They want the 'whitey' stuff. They have decided to teach the children in English - which, like it or not, is the best way to give the kids a chance to cope in the real world when they are grown up.
Now kids are crying . . . I can't run away . . . let's see what God is able to do with me this year!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Black Diamond

With a couple of weeks of waiting I've managed to read a bit, which has been nice. I finished 'Black Diamond' by Zakes Mda the other day. I've only read one other book by Zakes Mda and found it compelling reading - almost too compelling, so I was a little nervous to pick up another one when I was about to get busy. This one was quite a lot lighter, but very a interesting read. The book is quite openly a portrayal of contemporary South African society for North American readers. Being a South African myself, it was like overhearing a conversation between a South African and an American. The book's reputation is that of being critical of the current rise of the black elite - but I think that the book is fairly neutral, allowing the reader to make their own, straightforward observation that things aren't quite right in SA society today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

UKZN Worldviews

I went to a systematic theology lecture on worldviews at UKZN yesterday. It was cool to go to university and be a 'real' student. I haven't had much success previously as a student in a classroom, though, so we'll see!
There was interesting stuff to observe - but I don't have much time to reflect! Most of the class (20-30) were from SMMS. Most were black, as was the lecturer (this is relevant when it is about worldviews).
I was (again) grateful for my degree from the Baptist College that was so firmly rooted in both Africa and the Bible. Worldviews is like the theological air that I breathe - but some people find it new.
I was impressed by the clarity of thought and argument of one of the non-SMMS students. I wish that we had more like that amongst our own number. I guess that is partly what SMMS is all about.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Seminary Programme

I am afraid . . . that my seminary programme is too busy and that I won't do anything as well as I would like; . . . that I am getting too old to put energy into things like I used to; . . . that I am getting lazy; . . . that I have forgotten how to trust God.
But I would rather be too busy than bored. I'd rather walk on the edge than sit in comfort. I'd rather be afraid than never do anything new. And God always, always, always comes through.
I think my prayer will be that at the end of this year I will believe that I have accomplished at least one thing worthwhile.

Monday, February 08, 2010


My seminary programme is still fluctuating as everything is put together - because I don't fit into the standard 'needs a degree' category (because I already have a degree). But one thing that does seem certain is that I will spend sometime in a semi-rural community near Howick in a Methodist Church called 'Brentwood'. I went to the service there on Sunday. There will be three ministers working there. One is Dr Simanga Kumalo who works for UKZN but will work at Brentwood parttime. Another is a second year seminary student and the third is me.
It was interesting to see a Zulu context after the Xhosa of the Eastern Cape. There were subtle differences in their response to me, which I need to reflect on. In the meantime, I find that I can begin to pick up some of the Zulu after my exposure to Xhosa - but the languages are very different in spite of what people say!
The day was long. We arrived at 9am, just when the service should have been starting, but hardly anyone was there. Eventually the service ended at about noon. Then we had a meal and an unexpected leaders meeting - which I left early, just before 2pm.
I think I will enjoy this engagement from the point of view of working with a consistent group of people. Last year, I preached at a different church every Sunday, and generally only preached twice at any given church throughout the year. I'm not sure that I will preach much here, but I should get to know the people.
Already there is a lot for me to think about!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Slaves, Women and Homosexuals

I have eventually finished reading the book, 'Slaves, Women and Homosexuals' by William J Webb. I say 'eventually' because I bought it at the beginning of last year planning to read it then - but I only started it recently. It is about understanding the Bible by using what Webb calls a 'redemptive hermeneutic', which sounds to me very much like my understanding of 'progressive revelation'. Basically, Webb says that we must ask ourselves what the text would have said in the context of the day. Was it modifying contemporary culture? In what direction was it moving the culture? If it was moving culture, we should look for an equivalent movement in our culture today, not attempt to apply the text literally. For example, we could take the Bible to endorse the practice of slavery, if we read it literally. Or we can recognise that the Bible's instructions for the treatment of slaves was liberating in the the context in which it was written. What we hear then is the liberating movement and need to extend it (and not encourage a reversion to slavery). A very good book to read - especially if you are wondering whether we can still trust the Bible today.
The book was recommended to me by Stephen Murray.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Real Love

I came across a couple once who used to foster babies who had been abandoned or removed from their homes for one reason or another. They loved and cared for the little ones until they were found permanent homes. The odd thing is that the babies were all black, and this white couple were fairly openly 'anti-black'. Because of this I struggled to understand why they were doing this fostering with such energy. Then I heard one of them say, 'they don't know how to look after their babies' and it struck me that they took in the babies in the same way that someone might take in a stray dog.
Christian love isn't just a caring for someone's well-being. It MUST contain a large element of respect for the individual being loved. That is sometimes more of a challenge than it seems.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Pietermaritzburg Churches

My family and I have been to services at three different Methodist Churches so far this year. We seminarians are encouraged to visit different churches and later on we will be 'attached' to one of them. So far it has been easy because I have had 'connections' with the churches - people I knew before, or as in the case of Hilton, a blog buddy that I wanted to meet.
It might sound odd, but I have been so happy to see that all the churches seem to be 'happening' places. There is a vibe and a sense that they are places where God might well be found. There is an optimistic spirit. Without wanting to seem unduly negative about the Eastern Cape, it is a different spirit to what I found there. Churches had financial difficulties, they were short staffed and I was left with the impression that the Methodist Church was not in a good space outside of Jhb. This isn't by any means a scientific comparison, because I did not go, myself, to many churches outside of my own circuit. Also they probably do send phase 1's to churches that might not be in as good a space as others (otherwise they could afford an experienced minister), so the experiences of my colleagues may have been a little biased.
But, still, I am encouraged by the church in Petermaritzburg. It's not the same as Jhb, and I am reminded a little of the churches of my childhood, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

BTW I got through yesterday. God is gracious, as are his servants.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Getting Complex

My eldest offspring started with arrival activities at UKZN over the weekend. We are all settling in and finding our feet, and boy, is it getting complicated! Last night I was about ready to give up. There are six of us with different schedules and interests. We have two drivers (so far) in the family. We might just have to take turns at doing things we like! It is not helped by the fact that both ministry and teaching are not 8 to 5 jobs and that my husband also needs to be part of the work of a local church. And it is the end of the month and bills must be paid and shopping must be done and . . .
If you don't see me tomorrow you will know that I drowned!
But it will work out. One way or another - if God has anything to do with it.