Saturday, May 15, 2010

Love-hate battle

I finished (I think) my Church History assignment today - been working on it in bits and pieces and actually way more reading than was merited by the assignment. I've had a bit of a love-hate relationship with my Church History class. I enjoy the lecturer, he has a broad knowledge and can generally handle my questions - so this is good. But we are doing early South African Christianity and I struggle with the text book that we have. BUT - let me say first that I recommend it as a resource. I have been working with it on a CD and the stuff on it is amazing. It is 'Christianity and the Colonisation of South Africa' by Charles Villa-Vicencio and Peter Grassow. You can read a review of it here. The CD has transcripts and scanned copies of all the source documents referenced in the book - for instance a prayer written out in Jan van Riebeeck's handwriting, journal entries, all sorts of stuff. It's really cool. My struggle has been - and this may well be my own 'white guilt' - that I find the book a bit too much 'anti-missionary'. I know that I like to see the good in everybody and sometimes maybe I take it too far, but were the missionaries really that bad?
Anyway, it has prompted me to read around a bit in an area that I was very unlikely to read on my own initiative, so that has been good. I found a book written by William Shaw that has been digitised by Google and you can download here. He was one of the 'great' Methodist missionaries and arrived with the 1820 settlers. The book is his own account of his work - part 1 is with the settlers and part 2 is about the African people. I find part 2 fascinating! I've only read three or so chapters so far, but his commitment to the people is amazing. And after 6 years living with Africans I reckon that he knew more about them than I do in spite having been born and bred in South Africa.
Also - I know a whole lot more about the Methodist Church in Grahamstown and having worked at Shaw Memorial Methodist Church there last year I was interested in the role that William Shaw played in that area.

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