Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Carols by Candlelight

This photo shows part of our seminary choir singing at the circuit carols by candlelight on Friday. This event was held in the seminary chapel.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Life feels a little detached at the moment. We are in the final stages of moving house, I'm finishing up my church work for the year, the seminary programme is done. In less than a week we'll be going away for a few days - we all need the break!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leaping Greek

I went to the Greek text, while preparing my sermon for today, for the first time since I've been studying Greek. I have used an interlinear Bible on and off for quite a while, even though I haven't done much formal Greek study. This time going to the Greek was so exciting! Phrases leapt off the page as I understood them. This is just so awesome!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Tentatively I look out from the tunnel where I have been hidden the last two days. Between exams and unexpected lectures I have been struggling a bit. I look around to see what's waiting on this new day. Aghh no! Back into the tunnel. Just a bit more digging and I'll be through.
But it's all good. Most of it is Jesus stuff - which is where the action should be!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


On Sunday the Local Preacher at Brentwood preached on Isaiah 56. I think he focused on the importance of keeping the Sabbath, but I was struck by the references to eunuchs. I am familiar with passages in the Bible where God offers hope to barren women, but this passage that talks of infertile men was off my radar screen! vs 3 and 5
And let not any eunuch complain, 'I am only a dry tree.' . . . better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yenza ngentando yakho

My only participation in the service at Brentwood on Sunday was to 'pray for the congregation' at the request of the local preacher taking the service. He was touched by the prayer and requested that the congregation sing hymn 238 in the Zulu Methodist hymn book. The third verse goes like this:

Kunguwe onamandla onke
Onokuhlakanipha konke
Kunguwe onomusa wonke
Yenza ngentando yakho.

The last line is the same for all the verses. This verse simply means, 'you have all the power, you have all the wisdom, you have all the grace (or kindness), do according to your will'.
It expresses such a simple and yet real faith - God is good. We can trust him. Let him do his will in our lives.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I think I am starting to get a handle on the importance of ministers taking a day off every week. I spoke to someone this week asking him why he felt our Friday chapel worship didn't work so well the previous week. Using my own words, what he basically said is that it lacked energy.
I am wondering if energy isn't the gift that a minister offers a congregation. I know that when I am strong I can walk into a meeting or lead a worship service and raise the energy level. When I am tired or not confident in the situation I can't - or at least not easily.
The other thing that energy does is allow a minister to be flexible. Organising stuff at seminary is so difficult because the schedule is changing constantly and it is really hard to get people together for, say, a worship practice. Now try to organise something that puts people in the seminary together with people outside the seminary - one has to be flexible.
I know that I am tired at the moment. I know that I am struggling to bring energy. I know that I want to just give up and cry when something doesn't come right. And I'm not complaining - this is life, but I'm trying to figure it out.
The third thing about energy - and especially as a mother - is that a day off means that you stop working for the church and work for the family or household instead. So my Saturday means cleaning the kitchen and doing the ironing as well as sermon prep if I am preaching. It isn't really a day off.
I know that I would be stronger if I took a week day and just did my own thing. Got away from the family, or did a fun thing with them. And I would be far more effective as a minister. I could bring energy because I would have energy. I could be flexible. I could cope with the unexpected situation. Of course, taking the day off while others are slaving away would also be perceived as lazy. So I need to make the conscious step to deal with that.
I suddenly understand the difference between this and a desk job. I can work on computer programming and web stuff for hours. But I never need to supply energy to the people or world around me. If I am tired I can just bury myself in my work. Hide away. A minister can do that quite a lot, but that is not the point of ministry.
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. In God's strength maybe I can get that right. I know this is nothing new. I know Jesus did it. But I think I've really understood it for the first time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Two of our Brentwood Grade R graduates. I am working on graduation certificates with their photos!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Izikathi zewashi

SMMS Zulu exam today. Telling the time: first the number (in zulu) then lemizuzu (which means minutes) then emuva or phambi (after or before) then kwehora (hour) and the number of the hour.
Good luck us!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

. . . and culture

I am struggling with thoughts for a post about homosexuality and culture, but can't get them together properly.
So here is another thought about church and culture. Contextualisation. Tall Skinny Kiwi has written a blog post about 'Skate Churches'. He tells of churches that have built Christian conversations with young people by engaging them through skateboarding and surfing. For me, this is what missional Christianity is all about. This is where the Great Commission comes into action. This is what Jesus did - only skateboarding wasn't relevant in his earthly day so he got involved with fishermen and tax collectors and so on.
I have been involved in English-speaking Methodist Churches that can see this vision. They might be nervous, but they would be willing to step cautiously into the gap. However, from my point of view, the black Methodist Church could never even conceive of taking such a step. Church is as much about its form as its content. This is a problem for me.
Black Consciousness and Steve Biko followers will tell me to sit down and shut up. A white person shouldn't talk to black people about how they do church.
Yet I don't see myself as separate from other South Africans. Our destiny is in the same vehicle. There is not one world for black and one for white. We are all in this together.
Sometimes - no, often - we are driven by ideals that are illogical and inconsistent. I feel helpless!
But I suspect that with perseverance we will see Jesus' plan for South Africa.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Brentwood - looking good

When the service started at Brentwood yesterday there was only a handful of people there. That is fairly usual, but I was particularly worried because there has been a bit of a blow up amongst the congregation members over the last few weeks. Some people are frustrated that things aren't happening fast enough in the church and have been trying to bypass the elected leaders. It came to a head last week and Rev Kumalo held a congregational meeting and they did some serious talking.
Everything thing seemed to be resolved and resolved well, so I was hoping to see a good turn out on Sunday. And I did. I left the service early, but by then, the church was full!
So I have a lot of hope for Brentwood. Rev Kumalo's opinion is that power struggles are second nature to the church and as ministers we just have to learn to deal with them. This is not a part of ministry that appeals to me!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Feeling Lost

The trouble with catching up and having less urgent stuff to do is that I start to feel lost. And oddly enough, inadequate. Do I really matter any more?
I know that it is just a transitional feeling. I know that I will find other things to fill up my time. But in the meantime it is an unpleasant feeling. It is also a reminder to have more in my life than just church work. Outside interests are vital. But I struggle with that - and do get too caught up with work.
Jesus never seemed to feel guilty about going off on his own . . .

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Today I woke up feeling like I wanted to work. The last few weeks have been rough, but I am winning! Things are going off my 'to do' list faster than others are arriving. I am catching up.
I spent most of yesterday morning at the Phakamisa programme in Pinetown and I feel much more comfortable that the Pietermaritzburg project is on track. This is such an awesome opportunity.
Today I need to get my worship programme for Friday printed out before I go out at 9am. I will meet my husband at the seminary chapel where I hope he will help identify any major outstanding issues with the sound system. Tomorrow we meet with the guy from Wesley Methodist who will be doing the sound for the carol service. It seems bitty, but this is foundational for future community ministry based at the seminary chapel.
Then, a local meeting regarding Phakamisa and this afternoon will be devoted to Brentwood. I can even, almost, get excited about trying to create a comprehensible financial statement for the year so far!
Let Jesus rule . . .

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Brentwood Web Page

I've spent the last couple of days working on a website for Brentwood. I've debated quite a lot with myself as to whether this is a useful thing to do or not. Why should a tiny, fairly poor community have a web page? How will they maintain it? Will it have any impact at all on the local community?
In favour of the web page is the fact that the church receives international sponsorship and this will allow the sponsors to see that there is life in the church.
As to the rest - maybe the community will rise to the opportunity. Maybe it will be surprisingly successful. It is easier for Jesus to work through us when we are moving!

Monday, November 08, 2010

What do I want?

People sometimes ask me what sort of church I want to be a minister in. Or where I want to go. I am asking myself what I enjoy about ministry. What breathes life into me and what breathes death. I guess when I've figured that out I'll have a better idea of where I'd like to be - one day when I am a grown up minister and may have some choice in the matter!
This is actually something I am struggling with. It could be that all things come as a mixture - preaching involves preparation, delivery and response. Most ministry is a combination of admin and people - the Brentwood preschool demands my listening presence, almost as a priority. There is a lot of admin for me because the people there just aren't sophisticated to do it - although they can see what they want. I don't much enjoy either - yet the impact that it makes when I do listen and help almost makes it worth it.
But I'm still not really getting to the nub of it. Maybe that's why we just hide the whole thing under the term 'calling'. I do it because there is the sense that this is what Jesus is asking from me. Neither enjoyment or impact is actually relevant.
Still not there . . . very much thoughts in progress for this week!

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Somedays you know things just aren't going to happen. The weather in Pietermaritzburg has been hot and humid. I started with a headache yesterday - so I didn't work on my assignment yesterday afternoon as planned. Never quite got to even opening the file on my computer. Instead I saw that John van de Laar's new book was available on Kindle. I've been meaning to explore Kindle and get his book, so I downloaded the Kindle PC app and then I downloaded the sample of John's book.
Then my internet connection hung, which it does occasionally, so I thought I'd try out the new AVG PC analyser. Then I saw that it was just a hook to get you to buy their tool, so I downloaded the latest version of Ccleaner and ran it. Then I got my internet connection working and got Kindle working and then I started reading John's book. Then it was time to do something else.
But the headache is still there today - so I either struggle through it until the weekend, or I just drop all but the essentials and hope that it's gone by lunchtime - which is usually what happens if I do drop everything.
Not complaining! Just for the record - even Christians get headaches, have hard days, struggle with life. Even ministers in training. Even mothers.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

More on believing and being

A question that keeps coming up in emerging theology circles - and others I suppose is, 'When did faith become an assent to a set of doctrines?' It's a good question. Can I only be a Christian if I believe certain things? Let's put aside the belief in the centrality of Jesus and the cross, for now - although there are some who don't even see that as necessary. Does it matter whether or not I believe in substitutionary atonement? The virgin birth? The priesthood of all believers? Surely being a Christian isn't a matter of ticking the right boxes on a doctrinal multiple choice paper?
But then, many of these same people to convince you in theological discussion will say, 'it all depends on how you see God. What is your picture of God?' And this is also a good question. Absolutely, how we see God affects our behaviour, our lifestyle, our faith.
But our picture of God depends on our beliefs about God and that comes back to doctrine. So faith IS an assent to certain doctrines - starting with our picture of God - whether we see him as a God of love or punishment or suffering or whatever. Which boxes about God did you tick?
Maybe questions about the virgin birth don't seem so relevent. But ultimately, what you believe about God is going to affect your behaviour, lifestyle etc.
The trouble is that in the past people have simply ticked boxes without applying it to their brains and their lives. They could tick boxes - know what they ought to believe - but not translate it into actual belief and therefore lifestyle change.
Faith is belief (doctrinal assent) that results in relationship with Jesus and a changed lifestyle.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Good news and good news

I just got a letter from UKZN saying that I've been accepted for a PhD next year. I'm not sure which track they are expecting me to do (Practical Theology or Biblical Studies), but whatever is fine!
And I am pretty sure that my family has a house for next year. We should be picking up the keys today.
God is good.

That time of year

University lectures are finished. I enjoyed my Greek so much - thanks to a great lecturer at UKZN (Pat Bruce). Now I am feeling holidayish, but I can't stop yet. Now is the time for sowing the seeds for next year. I am excited because there are a number of projects that are on the horizon - I feel very blessed to have so many options. My problem is that I am afraid of overcommitting myself. There is also the possibility (at the back of my mind) that the seminary will overrule some of what I want to do - I am still a student/seminarian! I don't think that will happen - at least not in an unreasonable way - but it adds to the uncertainty. So this week I am running around with Brentwood things - the preschool graduation is coming up and I want to help them make their big ideas happen. We are hoping to start doing training of pre-school teachers in Pietermaritzburg as part of Phakamisa which is based at Pinetown Methodist Church. This is just such an exciting opportunity - children matter, especially here and now. I also hope to be more involved in Prestbury Methodist Church as part of my internship programme so there is thinking and planning happening there. Academics - my PhD is on a new track, but still not a fast moving one. I don't know if it is going to come together.
So for now, I keep planting, trying to remember to pray, and we'll see what the Lord allows, or causes, to grow!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Believing and Being

Something someone said or implied at the recent MERM conference has stuck with me. Someone said that people with more liberal theological beliefs often struggle with low morale. The implication or statement (I can't remember how it was phrased) struck me because in the Methodist Church in South Africa we see an increase in liberal beliefs and an increase in low morale. But I would never have thought of relating them.
As I have thought about it on and off in the last few weeks I am seeing a possible relationship. Certain theologians prefer to focus on the 'now' of salvation rather than the future - to the point of excluding future salvation altogether. This is valuable in combating the extreme of only focusing on future salvation, but I do think leads to low morale in the here and now. Jesus did pray for the coming of his kingdom on earth and we should be working for that. But we also need to hang on to the promise of a time that is coming that will be better. If we only live for the kingdom of God now and there is little visible sign of its coming we become discouraged. We need the knowledge that it is not all about now, but partly about the not yet.
Paul says, 'If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.' 1 Corinthians 15:19. I believe in Jesus who brings hope upon hope!