Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Judging Character

Something that has struck me is that as a minister I can't always go with the flow. This might be an obvious leadership principle, but in many ways it seems more Christian to give in to others and let them have their way. When it only affects me, that's fine, but when it affects the church, I just don't have that luxury. I can risk hurt to myself and bear it, but hurt to the church could be a much more significant thing.
The other aspect to this that I have just realised now is that of judging character. I always prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt and believe them to be basically on my team. I thought of saying that I am not a good judge of character, but mostly I have not been surprised . . . but those times I have been have caused pain to others beside myself. I need to get to know people in order to know their characters, not only their competence. Obvious. Well, no, I have taken too much for granted with people that I thought were peripheral!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Reverend Minister

I sometimes laugh and sometimes want to cry when people call me 'Reverend'. It is a firmly embedded custom in the community where I work that the minister is addressed as Reverend - usually as a standalone form of address (which I always believed to be grammatically incorrect). I have been told by many that they were brought up to do this and it would be disrespectful to do otherwise.
But it has become quite a telling thing.
There are those who call me Reverend and it is a distancing mechanism. They don't want to engage with me as a person, perhaps they don't even want to engage.
Sadly there are those who call me Reverend with words and behaviour of such insolence that the title is a mockery (not many of them though!)
There are some who have decided, probably because I am a probationer, that they will not call me Reverend, but by my first name (which I prefer, so I rarely notice that there is a hint of lack of respect!)
Then there are those who call me Reverend and make me feel as if it is my name because it is spoken with warmth. And these people will often accidentally call me by my name and not notice at all (but I notice and it makes me happy!) There are lots of these people and they make this journey worth while.
And of course, there are those who are able to break the mould and call me by my first name and still have respect for me (normal human being respect I mean, which is what I look for.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Minister as Professional

I spent some time at the dentist this morning and it helped crystallise a dilemma that I have. Is the minister a 'professional'? My dentist is. She is smartly dressed in a customised dentist's uniform and calls me Mrs Hillebrand. She offers me expert advice and treatment. Her manner is what we call professional.
Part of me itches to be a minister like she is a dentist. But if I am honest with myself, this is because she has a barrier between herself and me. The relationship is strictly professional. The relationship is not personal. I relate to the dentist, not to the human being.
How much easier it would be to keep that barrier at church. To be the expert theologian and church manager/ leader. To wear a uniform that sets me apart. To do only what is in a job description. To separate myself from the pain and politics.
I think we are very confused in our expectations of ministers. We want the professional and separate, but we also want the fellow human being, the fellow traveller on the spiritual journey.
The dentist does not want my advice about treating my teeth - we don't have 'every member dentistry' like we have 'every member ministry'. And perhaps it is this that is the tipping point. We choose between an elite minister and the facilitator of community ministry.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Homeschooling Again

We have decided to homeschool our youngest son next year when he will be in Grade 10. We think that he needs time to catch up with himself and become a bit more self-motivated. Our other three children were homeschooled throughout primary school, but our youngest got caught up in all the instability of my going into the ministry. This is not to say that he hasn't coped - all the children have managed very well. It is just to say that I feel that we owe him something for what he gave up.
We were all ready to go with a correspondence college when the school he is currently attending and where my husband teaches offered to be his support base. This is awesome because he can learn in his own time and way but still do the school assessments so that he can have a report at the end of the year.
The report is necessary because I don't know where we will be living in 2014 when he will probably go back to school. He is looking forward to it very much.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Blue and Black

The end of the year is bringing a rollercoaster of feelings and experiences.I go from mega-highs to mega-lows within each day. One of the blues is the change of societies under my care. I am looking forward to my new opportunities, but there is a lot of tension left unresolved and perhaps even flaring up again in my old church. I know that I need to just move on, but until the year is over I can't.
One of the highs is that this same society is ending the year financially in the black. I couldn't believe it when I saw the financial report for November. But this society that I was told has always been a month behind is now very definitely caught up and not owing anything. God is so good.
(But I wish he would sort out the other stuff too...)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Cell Group Celebration

These are just some pictures from our cell group get together last night. Our cell groups have only been running for two or three months and it was awesome to hear the enthusiastic reports. Mostly people were excited about the new sense of caring and support they had, but others shared a new insight into the Bible and a new ability to read it. For me, I was excited about a crop of potential leaders. There were nearly 50 people there. God has been good to us!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


I am currently reading Axiom by Bill Hybels. I bought it about six months ago for the unfortunate reason that I found it on sale for R40. I struggled to get into it then, but when I picked it up now I found that it really connected with me. Probably because Hybels is teaching leadership to people in settled situations - I spent the first few months in the church in Mitchell's Plain trying to keep my head above water. But I do like Bill Hybels' way of doing things and I struggle with some of my immediate superiors who do not really understand the concept of vision. Some want to force me into the 'maintenance minister' mould, but I can't do it!
Reading the book of Joshua from the Bible with my Bill Hybels eyes open, I really like Joshua's leadership approach and the response of his 'society stewards':
"Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!" (Joshua 1:18)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bible Reading

I have decided that next year (but starting now) I will do the same Bible Reading Plan that I used in 2011. You can read what I posted then here.
It will take me through the whole Bible in a year with one reading each day, but a different genre each day of the week. There are days, but not dates and it really worked for me. I have struggled to get into any system of Bible reading this year and am hungry for it!
My enthusiasm to get going was dampened when I found that the first day's readings are from Romans. I have written a bit over 27000 words on the letter to the Romans for my PhD thesis in the last few months. I can recite certain sections of it! I will start on day two.

Monday, December 03, 2012


I am at a point where I haven't been before. That is that I am entering the second year as minister of a society. The thing that I have found unexpectedly is that as things are getting going I am running out of leaders and I don't know the congregation in general well enough to find more. I am a bit afraid of being swamped next year. My very next step needs to be in the direction of leader development!
This is only true for one of my societies, I have struggled to get any momentum in the other. But as it happens the circuit has decided to switch me from that society to another. This was to accommodate a colleague of mine, but I still feel a bit of a loser. If I had done better with that congregation maybe I wouldn't have moved!
But I can see lots of possibilities for the new society and I hope that all will go well with the 'old' one.

Sunday, December 02, 2012


One of the churches where I work has a vision for growth in its Sunday School and also outreach and empowerment ministries. The problem is that there is not enough space for this growth. We have land, but need more buildings. We are engaging in a process that will hopefully generate a best way forward - which may lead to building another hall the same size as the existing one. We could probably do it. The thing is, how well will we be able to maintain it afterwards?
Churches in Mitchell's Plain have benefited from overseas funding in order to put up their buildings. This means that their experience of building is very different to what I am used to. I asked a Bible Study group from the biggest Methodist Church in Mitchell's Plain how much faith it had needed to put up their big complex. I expected them to share a sense of risk and adventure and perseverance. But actually, the money was just there because it had been donated. The local committee needed to be involved, but they never really felt the cost of the building process.
Overseas funding isn't usually called upon for building maintenance, and that is when the crunch comes for the local society. When they have to raise money themselves to do repairs to the structure. And this comes without the excitement of a new building and new possibilities.
And so we could get funding to put up another building - I doubt if we could do it without. But what about the maintenance? I think that we need to be very creative in our solutions to our problems.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

From under a rock

During the last few months I have had the recurring feeling of 'coming out from under a rock' as I overcome some new obstacle within myself. I feel it at the moment and the sense that actually I might just survive all this. I say it hesitantly, knowing that when one comes out from under a rock one's skin is white and sensitive and easily damaged, but I do believe that I am getting stronger.
The year has been hard, but I have learned so much and grown so much that it has been worth it for me. I know that in many ways my congregation members have had to be patient and I hope that many of them have also benefited from this year in one way or another.
I am struggling to focus as there are changes within the circuit that affect me. I just want them over and done so that I can plan for next year, but they seem to drag on . . .
I also need to learn to be patient!

Friday, November 30, 2012

To stand . . . or not

My family and I have been in Mitchell's Plain for nearly a year now. I don't think any of us regret the move here or the experiences that we have had. It's been a bit rough for my husband and boys travelling 30 kms to school every day (and then back again), but they have settled in well.
Church has been challenging for me. Especially in the first few months I found myself on the point of giving up time and time again. But I am glad that I have persevered and there have been many, many good times.
Coming to the end of the year I find that I am reflecting on my mistakes and the things that I could have done better. This is quite depressing at times! But I am wondering whether more than anything else I need to learn to stand up for myself more. It seems odd to me to say that maybe I need to buck authority more . . . but perhaps that is my problem - the way I phrase it and perceive it. Is disagreeing strongly with my boss 'bucking authority'? Is refusing to give in when I can't understand his reasoning 'bucking authority'? How hard should I fight for what I believe is right? Or do I wait until I am ordained and just treat everything now as a learning experience? So much to learn still.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


I really must get more disciplined about blogging!
Doing well with running every day.
Generating about 2000 words a week on my thesis.
Keeping going with church . . .

Here's a useful link I have just downloaded the next cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary into Outlook from there. Sunday readings as well as other special events on the church calendar. I don't always (or at the moment even often) preach from the lectionary but it is useful to have at hand.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rent a Duck

I asked my husband the other day if he knew of anywhere one could rent a duck. There was that moment's silence that there always is while one processes a thought in the hope of discovering some actual rational meaning. The only oblique reference possible was to my younger son who is sometimes called 'the duck' because he was scratched by a duck when he was a baby and we always wondered whether he would grow up to have duck-like powers. This didn't aid understanding and so my husband asked me why I would want to rent a duck. Because we don't seem to have hadedas in Mitchell's Plain. Oh.
This picture was taken on our lawn at night. It is wall to wall snails which make a disconcerting crunching noise as I walk from my garage to my front door. Ducks and hadedas eat snails.
I have heard hadedas two days in a row now . . . there is hope, seeing as we don't seem to be able to rent a duck!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Seniors Group

I am sitting in the vestry of my church at Strandfontein while a group of 'seniors' have their first seniors club meeting. I think that having an office rather than working from home is more conducive to being available to people, but generally it is just as isolated if I come and work here. Today is different. I like that they are taking the lead and just needed a push from me to get going and I like that I can be in the background - involved, but not in control. The seniors group is an important opportunity for older people stuck at home to get out and find some fellowship. God is so awesome when we don't get in his way too much.
This photo is not the best - I didn't want to disturb the group when I took it. There were about six ladies when I opened in prayer, a few more have come in since then.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Anglicans in Lentegeur

This afternoon I attended (well, took part in, insofar as I had a line to say) the institution of the new rector of the Anglican parish in Lentegeur. I have realised that I don't know much about Anglicans, actually. It was good to be part of the service and to meet the new priest in the area. I hope that we connect further - she is also of the female persuasion and this is her first parish as rector (if I understand all the terms correctly!)
 This is the bishop of the diocese of False Bay, Merwyn Castle.

The lady kneeling with the purple hood is the new priest Ruth Swartz.

Monday, October 29, 2012

This weekend past . . .

What do I do on weekends? It varies, and sometimes apart from sermon preparation and Sunday services I can do whatever I like.
This weekend started with taking my eldest son to a cricket match (it is nice for me to be able to do this!). I was supposed to be rushing back for a Section Youth meeting, but this had been moved late the night before, so I could take my time. (A Methodist Section is part of a Circuit and is created to aid administration in larger Circuits. The division is often created by the different ways societies do church and by who needs to meet together at which occasions due to their own traditions!)
Next stop to Makro to buy more flipchart paper which has been in short supply for too long in my economy and also new pens.
Home to write minutes for the Section Leaders Meeting held earlier in the week. We often struggle to find people willing to write minutes. Also checked through some financial stuff comparing the payments made by one of my societies to the receipts of the Section. People don't question things much, so I'm a bit of a novelty to them here. Other admin odds and ends.
Next a building planning meeting at Wesley Mission Church. Very exciting. We have a mission unit funded project operating on the premises which needs better accommodation and also a crying need in the Sunday School for more premises. We had an outside facilitator and it was a productive meeting. However, there is a hint of discouragement because of the general instability in the churches due to ministers that come and go and the congregations' perception is that they are disregarded. I feel a pressure that I have no means of releasing.
After this I was supposed to go to a farewell function for another minister in our circuit, but my head felt like it was exploding and I still I had a service and sermon to prepare for the next day . . . so home.
And now I need to go and get on an aeroplane, so maybe we'll talk about Sunday another day :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A mobile experiment

I am experimenting with blogging via email on my cell phone. It seems
a bit of a mission!
The bird picture (if it is there) is just to see if it works.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Truck Drivers' Strike

One of my congregation has been struggling to find work. A few weeks ago he found a job and although it is is hard work he is so pleased to have it. He's a truck driver.

Monday, October 08, 2012


I wrote my things to do list up on my flip chart instead of my usual exam pad page this morning.
The length of the list is not particularly meaningful, because some things require just a simple email or phone call, while others mean quite a lot of work. I must admit that I feel quite intimidated by the list - although it does not all need to be done today. It does include preparation for two Bible studies, a Sunday sermon, a special service sermon and a funeral which are all this week.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Moving fingers

One of the reasons I chose a touch screen phone as my new phone is that I was fascinated by Swype. And in the end I couldn't use the phone without it because I find it hard to type on the touch screen.
For those who don't know, you swype by running your finger across the screen keyboard from one letter in the word to the other. It is amazingly good at figuring out what you mean.
It is also sometimes very funny when it guesses wrong, and often most irreverent. Thus the great Methodist institution of Local Preachers almost invariably comes up as Local Poachers. My sons' Christian club at school is called Ambassadors, but Swype prefers Assassins. And I was somewhat bemused to look in my calendar and see that I had scheduled nepotism classes - they turned out to be baptism classes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Being Available

I guess this is in some ways a follow on from my previous post. Tuesday and Wednesday morning have generally been times that I am available to my congregations for visits. Mostly this has gone well, but we really are running out of people to see. My 'visiting stewards' are, I think, finding me a bit demanding and I feel as if I am saying, "Isn't there just one other person we can see?" All in good spirit and I am happy with the way things are going, but my inclination is to decide to use Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for something else. And that is when disaster strikes, because as soon as I make another plan, an urgent visit is sure to arise. And so I am having to be creative in my flexibility.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I'm waiting for someone to come for a meeting. Fortunately at home. It would appear that they are not coming. That's ok, the meeting was not critical. But my time has been stretched so much that I find it hard not to feel resentful.
This is a recurring frustration cycle that I find myself in. I get busy. My appointments start to be back to back and every evening. And as I struggle to fit things in people (usually the one who set up the meeting) let me down.
But I have learnt that when I feel the frustration I have allowed myself to become too busy and too committed and take myself too seriously.
Ministry cannot be done in fifth gear. It just cannot. Simple. Because the rest of the world can't keep up.
And so I do everyone a favour by slowing down, forcing space into my schedule, and not getting too wound up about things.
It's also a good discipline to learn to trust God!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A special service

On Sunday the Confirmation Class led the service. This is a group of 16 crazy young people who have been a real pleasure to work with this year. One of our local preachers was delegated the task of coaching the class for the service so I just participated as a congregation member. I felt very proud of the kids. But it was also special because my elder son is in the confirmation class. It is so good to see how well he has been accepted. He has played bass guitar in the worship team since the beginning of the year and is now playing keyboard for the hymns. He also accompanied one of the young people who sang a song in the service and gave one of the two minute messages. God has been good to us.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Macaw Adventures

Kiki our green Hahn's Macaw is nearly one year old.
She is playful and amusing and generally we don't find her too noisy at all. She can be nippy (one of the words that she says is 'ow'!) She makes a good companion to me, although I wish I could take her outside the house without fear of her doing something silly - even with her wings clipped she manages to fly short distances.
We enjoy the funny things she says. Her favourites are variations on Kikibird, Hello Kiki and Come Kiki. Today we had a duet - I would say Come Kiki and she would say Come on - all the time steadfastly refusing to come to me from the roof of her cage. She also said 'thank you' when I put her seed in the cage this morning. She still like to say 'squawk' and best of all, my husband has taught her to purr when her head is scratched! Apparently while I was away she also informed the family one night that it was time she was covered up by approaching my youngest and instructing him 'night night'.
She has definitely been a worthwhile addition to the household.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When you've got three months

I went to see someone this morning who doctors have given three to six months to live. It is a lady who I have got to know because she has been around at odd places I have visited. Someone who is always willing to help out. But not a big name in the church. And then she was the reason for my first visit at Groote Schuur Hospital. And now she has three months or so.
I really didn't know how I was going to approach the visit - I had no idea of how she might be feeling. It is one thing trying to imagine how one would feel in that situation, another to actually live it.
In the end it wasn't a hard visit because she is absolutely determined that nothing will defeat her. She was in pain, but up and about and planning to live the time she has without fading away. I think she knows that it will be harder than it seems, but she is going to face it.
Life is tough, but God is good.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Back to the real world

After two weeks of being on retreat and IST it's back to circuit this week. Lots of ideas from talking to colleagues while away, but also lots of work that needs to be caught up on and in a hurry. Today is catching up on some visits to people who were ill while I was away (tomorrow will be more of the same but at my other society). Tonight I have an executive/ society stewards meeting and I need to look through all the financial stuff and have a pre-meeting discussion with someone. The end of the quarter is near and I need to do the preaching plan - and this one is complicated because of Confirmation services and all the Christmas-type services. And there is the ongoing struggle to understand how my societies work and to make sure that enough of the correct procedures and practices are in place. I'm too scared to actually have a look at my things-to-do list for today to see what I have forgotten!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Retreat Reflections

Our district retreat was dedicated to us finding renewal and a return to passion. It was great to get away and not spend the time on business or listening to lectures. There were 'lectures', but they were on being renewed. There was time for quiet and mutual support and there were people praying for the group of ministers the whole time. The time was helpful to me.
Of course, it was also nice to get to know who is who in the district a bit better and to find the times to listen to how other ministers are doing things in their churches - especially for me as I am not in my home context and there is still a lot of which I am unsure.
God is good!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

District Retreat

I am in Paarl for a three day district ministers' retreat. Today we had cool worship and time to be quiet. Like a real retreat :-)
God is good.

Confirmation One-Day Camp

Our confirmation class was supposed to go on camp this last weekend, but something went wrong with the planning and organisation. Instead we had a day spent at the church. We did some 'talks' and some playing and some praying. We also painted the container on the church premises that is used for a skills development project. Here are some painting pictures.

Monday, September 03, 2012

I wrote a post . . .

I wrote three or four posts about things from which I feel I have been set free in the last weeks. The only thing is that I can't bring myself to publish this particular one, because I have to admit that it is not actually true, although I would like to believe it. It was about being free from being concerned about the way the church measures me and my ministry. I struggle because I can't always see the logic or the reasoning behind the things that 'they' say or do. And so I think that I should just do my best and not get too stressed about things that probably aren't that important anyway.
But actually they often cycle through my mind again and again in the middle of the night.

Friday, August 31, 2012

IST Reflections

Three brief thoughts on our IST in Port Elizabeth.

We went to see a factory and watched work on their assembly line. I enjoyed this very much. It was part of our focus on socio-economic issues and I found it helpful to see factory workers in action and I have a better idea of the difficulties that they might face.
While I understand the need for probationers to get together and I value much of what we did, I find it very tiring and have come back to circuit depleted. I might just be too old for this!
The difference between the conditions in the townships in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape is marked. There we found roads with potholes, piles and piles of rubbish lying around and tap water limited to a trickle because of damaged pipes. I can't say that there is no litter on this side - there is and the wind makes it difficult to keep our church grounds tidy - but there are not piles of dumped black bags which just accumulate. Stuff is regularly tidied up.

And now, I'm happy to be back at home, although next week sees all the ministers off again for the district retreat.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Setting the church on fire

The fire brigade had to be called when a fire started in the church during our IST. Maybe it's a sign of what this group of probationers is going to do . . .
(It was an electrical fire in the lights and did not spread.)

In Service Training

We arrived in Port Elizabeth yesterday for our probationers' in service training. There is an agreement between the Cape of Good Hope District and the Grahamstown District that we do our IST's together. Last time they came to Cape Town, this time we have travelled to them in Port Elizabeth.
The best thing, as always, is hearing other people's war stories. It is so reassuring to hear that other people also have tough times, but also discouraging to realise that conflict and power struggles seem to be the norm in churches. It is also really good to have a chance to share with ministers who have been doing this for a bit longer and to be able to ask questions and get advice.
The actual programme for these few days is not actually that important!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Role Models - good or bad

I didn't make a conscious decision to stop writing over the last little while. It just seemed as if I needed to stop. Reevaluate. Find out if I had anything to say. It has been a good time of working things through. Finding myself, as it were.
One of the things that I realise I have done is to abandon some of my role models. Well, not to abandon them at all, but to be more careful about how they influence me. I have found that when people give me advice or teach me in a structured environment I evaluate what they say, accept some, reject some and keep some to think about. I have been far less discriminating in accepting behaviour and values modeled to me. Not that it has been bad, but mostly other people are not me and I am not other people. People like Pete Grassow, Ross Olivier, Costa Stathakis, John Bailie have had an impact on me, not because of what they have said, but because of the core values that I have seen behind their ministries. And I have just had to accept that although I admire these things and still aspire to them, I will not be able to achieve them in the way these people have. I know that this is a  really basic concept and I should have been more alert to it, but I wasn't.
So, amongst other things, Pete modeled balance in life to me. But his way seems almost clinical and I know that I am not in a place to do that now. And it's ok. Amongst other things, Ross modeled a passion for social justice and a need to be involved in everything. I can't do that or be that right now. And it's ok. Costa, amongst other things, passion, drive and vision. My churches can't take that yet. Not now. It's ok. John - many, many things that I have learnt and will still learn, but one that I can't do like him is his concept of hard work. I value it. I hope I do work hard, but it doesn't look like his looks. And it's ok.
I have found that it's one thing to read something like I have just written and quite another to actually identify this and work through it. I feel disloyal to people I value. But I would imagine, and hope, that they don't see it this way!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I hope to have a photo of something from church or otherwise for the blog today. But apart from managing to charge the battery on my camera, I forgot all about it!
The family and I have been bitten by the geocaching bug and we spend most Sunday afternoons exploring a new bit of Cape Town and looking for geocaches. I find it an excellent way to unwind after Sunday services. Today we walked down the main road Muizenberg following clues, found the cache and finished with ice creams.
Life could be worse.
Tomorrow all the Western Cape probationers head for PE in a 14 seater bus  for a week of in service training. Not my favourite, but the sooner it begins the sooner it is finished!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Blogging again

On Thursday morning I was sitting in the library at Stellenbosch University. The aircon was on and the sun was shining outside. I was warm and comfortable. It was the first time that I had spent some hours at a desk in the library working. And the first time that I have even been to the library for about four months.
I looked down at the shelves of books on the floor below me, I breathed the bookish air and I thought the time might just be right to start blogging again.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Phone - Nokia 701

I upgraded my cell phone yesterday and it is fun to have a new toy. I went from a Nokia E63 to Nokia 701.
This is how it went:
My phone is due for an upgrade. I feel obliged to get a new one as I continue to pay the same on contract whether I get a new one or not.
I'd really like to play with Android.
Research all the Samsung Galaxies.

My daughter upgrades to Galaxy Y Pro. She puts in the sim and the phone wants her Gmail account, or please open a Gmail account. My dislike of being owned by a software company kicks in. Maybe I don't want an Android phone.
I like Nokia. I find the phones intuitive and practical and while I want to play, I also really need something that works right first time every time.
So research Nokia phones.

Decide on the 701. All my contacts and calendar entries (and other things that don't matter to me so much) transferred via Bluetooth without a hassle and it's all happening.
I'm still getting used to the touch screen keyboard, but so far so good.
(I don't know if I am now owned by more than one software company . . . but anyway!)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


This week, I admit, I am coasting towards holidays. I will be on leave for two weeks from the weekend and may actually not even connect to the internet during that time. For now, things are slowing down. I can't wind things up when I won't be here, so I'm finishing off things and not starting new things. I know that I'll have a bunch of work when I come back . . . , but that's then.
I am already getting a new perspective on my life and realising that I might have been pushing myself a bit hard - but I can also see other people stepping up to the mark and running with things that I have initiated. I am starting to believe that we can win in these churches. Finances are still a sweat and I hate it that church has to be so much about money - but it is in God's hands. We can only do our best.
So at halfway through my first year - I think we are doing ok. God is very, very kind to me.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Actually Reading the Text

I've periodically attempted to put together a programme to teach people to read the actual text of the Bible with understanding. So many people are afraid that they will not understand that they don't even try to process the actual text. Others believe that they already know what the text says because they have heard so many sermons on it and they don't actually read the words. I've never got very far with my project but Mark Penrith has put something together that I think could be adapted for general use. His target audience is those who already have some training, but I do think it could be used for others if it is presented slowly and in a step by step way. You can download the booklet here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More on Teaching

I visited the Scripture Union bookshop here in Cape Town because I wanted to buy the Youth Alpha manual. And I was reminded of all the things that are available for teaching courses and Bible studies in the church. Suddenly my perspective on my struggles with teaching has changed. In Johannesburg I found that people were becoming bored with all  the material available, but here I find that people are hungry to learn. It is very exciting and I can start to see what I can apply from my 'previous life'. I think I have a better idea of where people are 'at'.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wishing . . .

that I was at the theology and religion conference at UKZN this week.
I should have gone.
There were just too many hurdles.
I wish I had persevered.
On the other hand
my daughters are in Cape Town and it is nice not to have just greeted them and left for Pietermaritzburg!
There will be other opportunities.
I hope.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The 'Learned' Teacher

The leaders at Wesley Church, when asked what they would like me to do for them, said 'Run a Bible Study'. So we tried. I knew that I was over-committed, but felt that if I didn't start then I would never get moving.
I found it surprisingly difficult. I haven't led a Bible Study for quite a few years, with being at seminary and being shipped around the countryside for training. I found myself quite clueless as to how to structure the material and what to teach. Which is odd, because I used to enjoy Bible Study.
I think that the problem is that my teaching hasn't kept pace with my learning. Long ago (in what feels like another life) I would read up for a sermon or Bible Study and get all excited about the new stuff that I found and then share it with my audience. This worked quite well. But now I find that I have read a lot of stuff. To get excited I need to venture into areas that people in general might find arcane. My trick of just sharing what excited me does not work anymore. And in a sense, I've never really learned to teach. (Somehow preaching is different, although there are similarities!)
My challenge for myself is now to learn to teach, then get excited about it and then share it. Feels like a mountain to climb, but a good mountain and the Holy Spirit is an exciting guide. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Anarchy and Oppression

Over the last couple of days I have been reading a book that has made me think more than any for a while. It is a free e-book called Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. It was published back in 2008 so I am a bit behind the times reading it, but now that I have a Kindle I am getting to these things!

Little Brother is written in response to the security crackdowns in Europe and America as a result of terrorist attacks and threats. The author is vehemently against the invasion of privacy and curtailment of individual freedom that has been the result of this increased security. Think of passenger checks before boarding an aeroplane and of where people are now not allowed to take photographs as examples. The book is written so that it fits in a genre with 1984 and Brave New World - in a possible future.

It raises all sorts of questions about freedom and legislation (or law in Biblespeak). The thing with the book is that I found myself reading and agreeing and then being pulled up - do I agree with this or not? When is legislation ok (or even necessary) and when is it a violation of rights?
I believe that Jesus came to end the oppressive power of law and human authority. He was the ultimate rebel - going so far as to die without a struggle (defeating human power systems) and then to rise again (defeating death and laws beyond our knowledge). When we oppress people with law (legislation) we are taking away the freedom that Jesus died for. BUT what is the alternative? As far as I can see the belief in the book is 'I can do as I like as long as it doesn't hurt other people', which is far too facile to be a life philosophy. The hero had no problem falling in love with a girl even though it hurt one of his other friends. And we cannot consider ourselves islands touching only that which we see - and this I admit the book brings out to some extent.

If we are not guided by legislation, or our own good intentions, what determines our best course of action?
As Christians we believe that God has the overall picture and the best intentions for us and so we struggle to find out what he knows and wants for us. But it boils down to whether we believe this about God. Can we win through ultimately? These beliefs are called faith. But I don't think they are unreasonable.
I'll stop here to prevent this post getting too long! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Double Benefit

I have figured out how to combine my two 'toys' very productively. The toys to which I refer are my treadmill and my kindle. There is the most perfect spot for parking my kindle on the display of the treadmill and if I increase the font size I can read it while I am running. So now everyday I am supposed to read one chapter of a 'useful' book while I spend 20 minutes on the treadmill. This is working very well because I find that if I don't feel like exercise I probably very much want to read the next chapter of the book and vice versa!
I have to concede that I have given in to the fact that I am totally unfit and am now starting an exercise programme at the walking level so it is easier to read. (I use the marathon training schedule suggested by Tim Noakes in 'Lore of Running'.)
The book that I am reading at the moment is 'Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Christ Can Change Your Life' by Lois Tverberg. I thoroughly recommend this book - not only for the interesting reflections on Jewish practices and readings from the Rabbi's, but also for the wonderful contemporary applications of Scripture passages. Very practical.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The value of the individual

Supposedly western culture values the individual more highly than other cultures. It is said that individualism is a fault of western culture. I don't agree with the latter and I don't know about the former.

Stories like the two below challenge me to reassert the rights of the individual. How can people be so basically uncaring?

Dr Bongi wrote this about an incident several years ago:

"good evening sisters." no answer, unless silence is an answer. "sorry to bother you but the patient in bed 5 in cubicle d is in a bit of distress."

"we'll check on her now now." i knew what
now now meant in our strange south african english. now now was not as soon as now and implied no urgency. now now was not as now as i wanted it to be.
"mamma, i'm here" i whispered as i approached her bed, just in case she was asleep. she lay with her head to one side. she didn't stir. i walked closer and took her hand. it was cold and clammy. i leaned towards her face. even in the darkness i could see her eyes were open, but they were fixed in the stare of death. she had died alone and i had failed her completely.

Please read the whole story here. It's heartbreaking.

And Cheri shares about something that happened just the other day.

They took her back to that hospital several times over the next two weeks, only to be told there was nothing wrong, and were sent home.  By the time her frantic parents finally got someone to pay attention a week ago, the hospital-acquired blood infection had thrown her into multisystem failure.

This is also a heartbreaking story. Read it here.

Friday, June 08, 2012

E Sword

I need to do a structural analysis/ breakdown of the book of Romans for my thesis. First step - get rid of chapter and verse markings. Hooray for e-sword - print format '7' does just that.
(For those who don't know, e-sword is free downloadable Bible software).

Here is the link.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Beat Frequency

At some stage when I was studying things scientific I learnt about beat frequency. This is the frequency obtained my creating a wave pattern by superimposing several other regular wave patterns. At intervals the contributing waves all peak at the same time - or at least achieve a regular combined maximum.
It feels like my life is like that with different cycles of activity all being added up. There is the cycle of circuit meetings, district events, local leaders meetings, the cycle of the week and the cycle of the day. Every few months things to slow down to a manageable pace for a few days. Today is one of those days - I think. I do have to finish my assignment, prepare a financial report, print out notes for tonight and then spend from 4pm to 9pm at one church event or other. But somehow there has been time to think about other things. Mostly surfing the web for Bible Study material - people rave about Disciple - but would it be right for where I am? And then telling myself I promised I would start nothing else new this year!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Just do it

I have set aside today and tomorrow to try to finish my church studies. Talk about a struggle! My experiences with these studies over the last few weeks have been so negative that I am totally demotivated. My attempts at positive thinking and hopeful optimism are weak and pitiful. Yet I know that they must be done. I can't allow myself to work on my PhD research during study time (I can work on my day off!) until they are done. They hang like a cloud over me.
I know that I am not alone - university students are writing exams - why can't study always be fun?

Friday, June 01, 2012

A bit of space

Today is my day off and I am enjoying the space! Partly, I am actually getting over this cold/flu and feel I can enjoy myself!
Plans for today - Finish rereading 'The Truth' by Terry Pratchett. Play Achievement Unlocked 3 the latest crazy online elephant game by 'John' at Armorgames. Last weekend we put down vinyl tiles in the study and I might buy a carpet and a desk today. I might actually even do some work on my PhD. I have done nothing for weeks with the demands of circuit, synod and EMMU. Actually I need to do some work on my Methodist studies as well, but motivation is seriously low for that.
Try not to think of all the things that I could be doing church-wise!
Oh yes, and hopefully a funny DVD and takeaways with the family tonight.
God is here.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Some things that challenge me

I said a post or so ago that I needed to become more sure of what I believe and of what I am called to. Here are two challenges that face me.

The postmodern (or ultra modern) denial of absolute truth has a spin off that says people are never 'lost'. It is demeaning to talk of the lost. (I'm not sure if we should call them differently-found.) This encourages a softening of evangelistic endeavours. And besides it makes people uncomfortable if we put them on the spot.
I know what I really believe. I believe that people who have had the opportunity to know Christ and have turned him down, or not yet accepted him, are lost. I believe that he is the way to a greater salvation than we might find in the world. I don't want to intrude on people - their choice is their choice - but I do think that if I am a minister I should be clearly communicating what I believe to be the truth.

The other challenge is the sense that I get from the local church is that the minister is 'scored' by the number of visits made. With a visit missed giving a negative mark of about 20. I like to visit people and get to know them and I believe it is a useful part of helping people grow, but when it becomes a rod to beat the minister with it is a sad thing. I think that this is a losing system - the minister will never win, unless the church is fairly small. I could spend my life trying to please people by living up to their expectations and actually achieving very little at the end of the day.

Maybe it boils down to what we had as one of our Scripture readings on Sunday. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 'On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.'

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Assertively Certain

I have spent the last five years or so learning to think fuzzily. I'm pretty sure that I didn't set out to do it, but I am convinced that I am now an expert fuzzy thinker. But I am also convinced that this is not much good to man or beast.
There is much that I like about postmodernism. To choose one thing, it's love for authenticity. But its embracing of plurality is now giving me a hard time. Give me any situation, any argument and I will develop five different possibilities for a way forward, all 'true' according to some measure. Of course effectiveness is only seen on trial. But which way forward do I believe is right? Somewhere along the line I have learnt to understand multiple positions, but have abandoned the belief that there may actually be an ultimately right or correct position.
Philosophically that might be acceptable. It helps with writing academic papers and having conversations with a variety of people. But it makes me useless as a leader. I tend to have the attitude that if someone will give me an idea of where they'd like to go, I'm pretty sure I can get them there.
The time is about now when I actually decide what I am here for. Why am I a minister? What do I believe God wants me to do? What should I be preaching as 'true' theology? What am I willing to lay down my life for? What is going to stop me just whiling my time away waiting for the next holiday? Sure, I can give many different answers. But what, for me now, is the correct answer? God's answer? When am I willing to say that culture does not have a voice? That expedience is not a factor? That there is only one way to go?
What will I stand up for and lose the respect of others for? When will I take a chance that I might be wrong because I am so sure that I am right?
All the objections to this come rising up. The difficulties. Yes, but . . .
No buts. Do or die!

Monday, May 28, 2012


In the Methodist Church we believe that children may be baptised. We believe that God is already at work in their lives and there is no reason that they should be excluded from the 'means of grace'. This little boy and his brother were brought by his granny. It was so cool to see how she dressed them in white tracksuits. They are from the poorer part of town and she found a practical solution to 'special clothes'.

Friday, May 25, 2012


My bright green mini-macaw, Kiki, is now nearly eight months old. She has been a good investment, keeping me company and providing light relief as she is a natural comic. She has been learning to speak - on her own agenda. She doesn't pick up the things we are trying to teach her ('Sorry for you' and whistling 'Yellow Submarine'.) But she has learnt to say 'Kiki-bird' in a very recognisable way. She also makes a sound that is obviously how she hears running water, but I can't hear the similarity.
Yesterday I heard for sure the next properly recognisable word. She was sitting on the bottom of her cage sleepily repeating, 'Squawk' (as in English, not bird-speak) to herself. So we now have a parrot something like Gaspode, Terry Pratchett's talking dog who says, 'Woof' when people expect him to bark.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Bright Side

There are days when I want to blog. The thoughts pour out of my mind, wanting to be entered via the keyboard. But I can use none of them. They are just a reflection of the confusion and frustration that I feel of the different aspects of being a student minister. I want to moan about so and so, but I really like and respect him, so while I am angry or confused, I don't what that committed to perpetual memory. Sometimes circumstances seem to be the fault of some person, and yet they are just as caught up on the hamster wheel of life as I am. Sometimes it seems as if we are all bowling along in maniacal hamster wheels, barely in control and it is a miracle that there are not more disasters.
It is discouraging and sometimes it is very hard to see the bright side. To believe that I (we) have given up our lives for this.
But we trust God that he will continue to lead us.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I used to have a reasonably good memory. I'm not sure if it is because I am getting old or if it is the randomness of ministry, but my brain feels like a sieve. Three times this week I have let people down - or been on the verge of it - because I have completely forgotten to do something. Fortunately other people reminded me or made a plan and nothing was too serious, but I know that I HAVE to get something more systematic in place.
My ideal at the moment would be for the four Mitchell's Plain churches to employ a secretary who could work three mornings a week and do work for each society. The hassle is (as always) finances. But I am going to see if I can get any buy in to this idea.
Otherwise, I might seriously think of employing someone myself. One day a week. I just wish I had an office!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Today is Tuesday and one routine that I have got into and that is working is that Tuesdays are for visiting people from Strandfontein Methodist Church. It is great because I don't have to drive it. There is a wonderful pastoral assistant who keeps track of who is sick and in hospital and gives me a call to set things up.
I'm still somewhat struck down by flu today, but am feeling better and so we are venturing out. All the way to Stellenbosch Hospital! This particular congregation member is now in his third hospital since he has been ill.
I wish I could combine this trip with a visit to the university library, but I have not given the actual work of my PhD a thought since before my church IST a couple of weeks ago. I desperately need to get off the hamster wheel of work for a moment and do some planning - both for circuit work, my church studies and my PhD. I hope that June will be quieter, with fewer evening meetings.
There are two hospitals on my list for this morning - but just maybe the other will have to wait for tomorrow. And then the Pentecost Week church service this evening, with sermon to prepare.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Day After Synod

We attended synod this last weekend.
I quite enjoyed attending synod as an agent (or perhaps active partner). Not that I said anything at synod, but for the first time I am a minister able to initiate things in circuit and it was good to hear what people are doing, see what resources are available and collect ideas. Also to learn some of the day to day things that make the district tick.
I have also come home sick and would dearly love to spend the day in bed. I also haven't had a 'day-off' for a couple of weeks.
However, circuit life carries on and I need to figure out how to reschedule my life to deal with 'suddenly' having church services every night this week. My baptism preparation classes will now happen after the baptism service. Seems weird, but I can't see another way of doing it (and I don't want to cancel the baptism service!!) And of course I must prepare a sermon and preach tonight. And deal with the preacher who did not pitch for his service yesterday. And so on.
But I am glad to feel useful (if somewhat confused) and I hope that I can offer something to these people here in spite of my inadequacies. I feel like I am learning more than I am giving at the moment.
At the end of the day,  God is always good.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Coming up

The next big event in our church life is the District Synod. This is a two and a half day meeting of representatives of all churches in our district (Cape of Good Hope). I am not a very experienced synod-goer, so I am going with as much of an open mind as possible. While some people really dislike synods there are people in my congregations who would love to go.
After that there are services every evening leading up to Pentecost. I know I ought to be excited at the thought of preaching four times in different churches, but I did not know that these services were held until yesterday and so I have to rework my diary. Sometimes (often) ministry is a hamster wheel and it is just not possible to take advantage of the potential of every opportunity.
As always I am trying to remember that this is God's church and my job is just to do the best I can!

Monday, May 14, 2012

An intersection

It feels as if I am standing at a crossroads today. But it is an unusual crossroads because I have to travel all four (or even five directions) eventually. The choice is just which I do first and how I go on from there!
Synod this week. I ought to read through the 'blue book' (agenda and reports), but I don't have it, so I need to track it down. Probationers synod oral exam tomorrow - I'd better do some prep.
Circuit work. I was away last week on IST and am busy with synod for four days this week. Cram what I can into three days (and know that a day off is not going to happen!)
EMMU studies. My next deadline is the end of June. I had better get working because I haven't even started the second batch and the time is short.
PhD studies. I am motivated for this and really want to get going. I am requested to go to a seminar at UKZN in June and I need to put into motion all the steps to get permission to leave the district and be there. I need to get some work done before then, but it looks increasingly unlikely that I will!
It is good to be busy. It is good that things are settling down into a sort of order. I feel that I have a handle on much of my life. I just need a supernatural boost of energy or two!
But God is good and if he has called me I believe that he will equip me.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jon-Mark Olivier - tribute to Ross

Jon-Mark Olivier pays tribute to his father - and addresses the Methodist Church of SA on behalf of his family. (Sorry about the ads.)
(Link via Pete Grassow on Facebook)

Video streaming by Ustream

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Fulfilling Leadership

Here is an incomplete thought for today. Someone I follow tweeted something like 'I never want to have to follow a leader who finds his fulfillment in leadership'. I instinctively understood that to mean someone who glories in his leadership and possibly abuses it. But I had to stop and think about the fact that I am sure that I find some fulfillment in leadership. I believe that I have been called to lead. Surely a leader ought to find fulfillment in leadership?
Wouldn't it be better to say, 'I never want to have to follow a leader who finds no fulfillment in leadership'?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

In Service Training

I have an 'In Service Training' from today until Friday. Fortunately it is in Cape Town so I get to sleep at home. Today started at 5am as I left to go and fetch some of the people from the Grahamstown District at the bus terminus. Now we are killing time until the IST starts at 11am.
I have mixed thoughts about IST's. The fellowship and mutual support is definitely good. I am not sure if we really need the 'academic' component after spending years at seminary - and it is really hard to do assignments, that have uncertain value of themselves, while working in circuit.
So I take this time as break from routine and enjoy being with people who are going through probation with me.

Monday, May 07, 2012


Today marks a bit of progress. I have three meetings. One is a regular monthly business meeting. The other two are meetings with people who have a vision for taking the churches forward (one from each of 'my' congregations). I have become used to meeting hurting, disillusioned people. Today it will be good to meet with people with vision and enthusiasm. Not that I haven't met with enthusiastic people before, there are many, but today feels very intentional.
God is good.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Ek sal jubel!

Here are some pictures from one of the church services where I preached and led communion this morning - Wesley Mission in Lentegeur, Mitchell's Plain.

 The vocalists in the worship team.

 Instrument section.

Some of the congregation.

God is very good!

Friday, May 04, 2012


I went off day before yesterday and bought a Kindle. I know I'm a bit slow, but I really haven't 'needed' one. I still don't, but see the future of computing changing and thought I'd better try to stay in touch. My plan is mostly to use the Kindle for academic works that the rest of the family won't particularly want to read. Other books - fiction and lighter Christian stuff tends to get absorbed by several members of the family and so 'real' books are better. Of course, my younger son has imbibed a lot of somewhat esoteric information by reading the back covers of my academic books, so we're still losing something by getting a new toy!

It was very cool to download a Greek New Testament onto the Kindle yesterday. This could really work for me! I still need to get a good dictionary and an English Bible.

I submitted a very rough draft of the first chapter of my PhD this week. Most of the work was done last year, but still it feels that I am making progress so now to keep up the momentum.

Work is busy. Next week we have a probationers' in service training so that will be a bit of a break.
Holding on to Jesus in all things!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Rev Ross Olivier - a picture

I don't know how many times I have searched my collection for a picture of Ross that does him justice. Today this one works for me. He is with one of the seminarians' newborn baby.
And so he passed away yesterday. It sinks in slowly. So many pictures of him, cameo incidents in my life as a seminarian. So many that I am still replaying as I apply them to ministry.
Ross once said to me that I was the third most difficult person to know that he had ever met. I laughed (inside, because he was frustrated with me), because to me he was the most difficult person to know that I had ever met. I think that we were both used to other people opening up to us and not really having to say that much about ourselves until we chose to.
The last three months that I was at seminary we struggled through those barriers and I was enormously grateful for the gift that he gave me of allowing me to really know him. I can never describe all the pictures, but I'm glad that our paths crossed.
Ross, thank you.

(Memorial Service Friday 11 May at SMMS at 10.30 am)

Update - links:
The Witness
Wondering Preacher 

Ross's testimony 

Jon-Mark's Tribute at the memorial service.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


We have been away for a few days. My daughters are with us for the first time since they left for their studies in Pietermaritzburg. It has been a very good break. But now we need to get back into Easter and church and the inside-outness that says everyone else is on holiday except me!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Synod Exegesis

Every year student ministers who are not at seminary need to write two pieces of exegesis. Because I love the Bible and I enjoy exegesis this is something that I actually look forward to (although I quite often have to pretend indifference!)
I submitted mine for this year - as I did last time - with some amusement. How will they mark an exegesis of several verses that is limited to 500 words? I always divide assignments into sections and so divide out the word count. We are required to do the exegeses in three sections - approximately 166 words each. Thus I needed to give the context of the gospel of Matthew in 166 words, the meaning of the text itself in 166 words and an application to my own context in 166 words.
I am confident that our marker this year will have an understandable way of marking - but I have wondered how one knows what to put in and what to leave out.
But I am grateful to God for one aspect of ministry that I might find easier than others do - and also that I am well past being stressed about 'marks' as long as I pass!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Banks make me cry

I have not had good experiences with banks in the last couple of years - and yesterday had me in tears (which is unusual for me in public!)
Being a minister has some perks - the church provides a house (manse) and pays the lights, water and telephone. But in order to change our postal address at the bank we need to supply proof of residence - such as an electricity account. Or perhaps an Edgars account. We don't have any shop accounts and all the normal utility accounts are in the name of the church. Our circuit finance people reckoned that a letter from the superintendent on a letterhead should do the trick.
So yesterday my husband and I went to ABSA hoping to sort out the postal addresses (having moved from Pietermaritzburg to Cape Town) and for me to open a bank account to receive my stipend. No such luck. The letter from the superintendent was deemed inadequate. One of us could however swear an affidavit that the other lived with us at the specified address, but this would be valid for only one of us. (Doesn't make sense to me, but . . .) So we made sure all my husband's accounts were in order. Mine - are left with the statements going elsewhere, regardless of our attempt to tell them that we have moved.
The best that the bank could suggest was that the owner of the property accompany me with his ID book to the bank and sign an affidavit. In my case, this is the Presiding Bishop. It's not quite the same as asking me to bring the pope, but it's close.
I was in tears in frustration at the absolute impossibility of it all - and feeling sorry for the poor staff member who was only the messenger of the system.
I'm sure something will work out - my superintendent assured me that his bank would have sorted it all out and perhaps that is the way to go.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Minister as Doll

When we talk about the role of a minster we give him or her many names. Leader, servant, administrator, preacher, pastor and so on. The one that I have been exposed to recently is one that I find very difficult to handle. This is 'The minister as doll.' What happens is the minister walks into the church and greets whoever he sees. Very soon someone picks the minister up and puts him in the vestry. This is where the minister belongs before the service. When the service starts the minister is carried to the platform and in due course to the pulpit. At the end of the service he is placed at the door to shake all the hands. He is carried back to the vestry to sign the Collections Journal and then to be part of the closing prayer. The minister is then put back into the box and he will be taken out again next week. Or perhaps earlier if we decide to play 'hospital visits'.
I'm not sure if this sounds cynical - it shouldn't be, because the people playing dolls are utterly sincere and this is simply their conception of what a minister does. Their need for the security of the ritual and routine is a little frightening (within the context of my denomination).
This is not one of 'my' churches, so I simply move on. But it is a difficult role for me to play.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I have never liked to preach a sermon twice. Unlike people who carefully record and store every sermon, if I have notes I throw them away as soon as I get home. This isn't because I don't think it is right, but because I have found it hard to get excited by an old message.
There are, however, some parable sermons that I re-preach and are settled in my mind so I don't need much preparation. I was surprised to find how well one was received when I used it a couple of weeks ago (and I expected people to find it a little shallow!)
And then we have a church service every Wednesday evening during Lent and I have been sent to a different society in Mitchell's Plain every Wednesday. Being a bit hard up, I decided to just use the same Lent sermon each time - and again it seems to be well-received.
I am challenged to think that re-preaching sermons may actually be a good and useful thing!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I ought to . . .

I ought to blog. I'm not sure why I am not writing.
Perhaps I feel that I have entered a new world that cannot be communicated.
I am afraid that anything I say will either sound falsely cheery or like I am feeling sorry for myself.
Which I am not - I feel like my life is taking hold, it has meaning. But it is difficult.
Just a few words, just to break the ice. Maybe I'll get back into writing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Masai Cricketers

How is this for a cricket picture?

The story is that a group of young people in Kenya have formed a cricket team as part of their social responsibility. For more pictures and the story go to Innovate Africa Unmuted. The article was reblogged from Atlantic.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Running non stop

As the next step in my search for disciplined living we bought what my boys call a human hamster wheel. I eventually accepted that I was not going to be jogging through the streets of Mitchell's Plain and was starting to think about joining a gym. I was not optimistic about the gym idea and just buying a treadmill and doing the gym-thing at home occurred to me. And so I did it, being very much in two minds as whether it was a good use of money or not. This was last Wednesday and so far it has been a good investment.
We all see it as a bit odd, of course, to do our running in the hall. The dogs still get excited when they see me putting on my tackies - there's always the chance that they might be coming too - but then I stand on this funny machine. One dog tried to run along with my son, chasing him, but was firmly removed from the venue.
My elder son is fascinated by the speed of the machine - it has a maximum of 16kph - and he scares me by setting it as fast as he can go and sprinting in the hallway. My younger son believes that he has found the meaning of the low 1kph setting and demonstrated by going down on all fours and crawling on the treadmill.
The programme settings are a bit arcane - do people really spend a lot of time at 2kph? But I am now running again! God is good.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Translation bias

My almost, but not quite daily readings and translations from Galatians have reached chapter 1 and verse 15. I have heard people that know say that while the NIV is a good translation it does have a bias towards a certain theology. It is very difficult to do a translation without referring to your own theology! Just as it is always difficult to be truly objective - especially if you are unaware of your own background prejudices.
Today I came across an example of this (although it may just be my inadequate knowledge of Greek!)
The phrase ὁ ἀφορισας με ἐκ κοιλιας μητρος μου occurs. This literally means 'the one having separated me out of my mother's womb', but the NIV says 'who set me apart from birth'. Does the separation refer to the birth process? Or to election and calling?

I think that to decide that it means calling is allowing theology to interfere with the translation. But one would also have to refer to other usages of the phrase to see if there is a pattern in its usage. The one other use of ἀφοριζω that I happened to come across refers to God 'cutting off' people (septuagint Malachi 2:3).

I'm not sure that the NIV is justified in its translation.

The post on my Greek blog is here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Good news

The good news is that I heard yesterday that my PhD proposal has been ok'ed by the Higher Degrees Committee at UKZN. It was all poised to happen at the end of last year and I am very pleased that it has now gone through. Much gratitude to my supervisors and all who worked at the process!
From my side, it is March already and I have not read or written a word for the thesis. I have thought about it. I have the book I want to read at hand. I am almost afraid to start! Time is a problem - but even more so energy. I am finding that ministry is exhausting and there is always more to do and that I am inevitably disappointing people.
But, I am going to get through it all, one way or another. If I am here because God wants me here, then I believe that he will give me what I need to succeed. God is good!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Doing church in Kraaifontein

My trial service yesterday was at Scottsville Methodist Church in Kraaifontein. I was really challenged by how 'waxed' the church is. Everyone knew what they were doing and there was a general air of efficiency and organisation and maturity. I enjoyed being part of their service. My part of it went ok - just my usual difficulty of being enormously critical of myself that tends to put a damper on things (I preached too long and I could feel it!)
I am realising that the churches in Mitchell's Plain are 'between'. They do not follow the pattern of the traditionally Afrikaans-speaking churches nor that of the traditionally English-speaking. And I don't feel that they have settled into a comfortable place of just being themselves either.
But God-willing, we will grow together this year and hopefully reinforce the foundations!

Friday, March 02, 2012


Thursdays should be quite relaxed days for me. Sermon prep and confirmation classes. Yet the last two Thursdays have passed in a blur. Admittedly, because I had meetings with the other circuit staff both those days. But, much as I plan my time, it is not really my own. This week I have had to cancel appointments and have done zero work towards my church assignments because other things came up. It means that next week my studies will have to take priority. In theory, I have the flexibility to do that and I think it will work out. I am keeping my head above water and God is good!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What is work?

One of my challenges in ministry is understanding what work is. I have this sense that work is busy activity and constant application with regular achievement. Much of ministry is reflective. Much is listening. Much shows little measurable reward. And so I feel guilty. When I sit back and let the Scriptures for Sunday wander around my mind trying to find formation I feel that I am not busy and not active. Yet it needs to be done, else there won't be a sermon on Sunday.
When I sit back and think about the shape of the churches and pray and wonder about what the next step needs to be in our working together, I feel lazy - I should be out doing something. Yet this sort of thinking needs to be done for me to be an effective leader.
I may have blogged before about trying to make prayer part of my work. But if I walk around my garden, or the grounds of one of the churches, praying, I feel like a fraud.
Eugene Petersen talks about the secularisation of church and I think this pressure to be active all the time is part of that. My own achievement orientated personality also spurs me on to activity and busy-ness. But I am convinced that success in the church comes from obedience to Jesus and following him. So I need to get the nature of work straight in mind.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trial Service

I have a trial service on Sunday. So my mind is a little taken up with all that involves. I need to prepare a printed order of service. I will be leading the service in an Afrikaans church, so I am finding hymns and readings in Afrikaans. Fortunately I can preach in English. I need to preach from all three readings in the lectionary (my normal practice if I use the lectionary is to choose two). I am not stressed about the service at the moment - more worrying about all the other stuff that I need to get done! Hopefully I don't get too stressed at the last minute,

Monday, February 27, 2012

Simons Town

Every quarter Methodist Ministers get a 'weekend off'. This means from Friday through to Monday inclusive. Given that I preach every weekend and generally work Saturdays, this is a good thing.
This weekend was my first weekend off in my new station. I cheated and worked on Friday, a little. But we (my husband and my two sons and I) spent Friday night to Sunday afternoon in Simons Town. We rented a cottage overlooking the calm, deep blue sea and totally chilled. We walked and explored and saw penguins in the wild. We played bridge and watched cricket on the cottage DSTV. And we read books and talked and got back in touch with each other. It was great!
And I think that I have fallen in love with Cape Town.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Confirmation Class

Confirmation Class is what I do early on Thursday evenings. The picture shows most of the group.
I am starting to feel like I am settling in. Time is tight and I certainly did not spend my 15 hours on my church studies this week as I ought to. But I do think that I am settling into a rhythm. I am learning to see my work as running one church of 500 people, rather than thinking I have two jobs with smaller churches which I somehow have to juggle. As I result, I am delegating ruthlessly. I had hoped to have a secretary, but I am discovering that ordinary church members are willing to do admin jobs and do them well and conscientiously. I just need to get over being afraid to ask!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday. I did not grow up with the celebration of Lent and I have come into contact with Ash Wednesday services only in the last few years. So, as I have to lead an Ash Wednesday service tonight I don't have a deeply ingrained understanding of its meaning. I don't have a sense of history in the occasion (as I might have with Christmas or Easter). I don't really have a Biblical understanding of Ash Wednesday - or even of Lent really.
Is that a confession? Part of me resists being drawn back into the rituals of Roman Catholicism. Part of me understands that the return for some of us to the rituals adds a novelty that allows us to see beyond the repetition to the meaning.
So I have been wrestling with the question, "Why are we actually going to church tonight?" and I hope that I will have a good answer for the congregation!

Monday, February 20, 2012


There has been increased muttering on the web about how little privacy people who connect to the internet really have. I long ago accepted the fact that if a web page can bring up a list of my folders for me to browse, it can see anything it likes on my pc. I've accepted the fact that my email is available for any arbitrary technician at the ISP to read. I know that web pages are tracking me when they offer me free Hebrew Courses (because all Jesus people are interested in online Hebrew!) And so I treat my pc as almost a public space - protected mostly by my insignificance to the world in general.

Here are some interesting links:

From Seth Godin:
No, you don't really have a privacy.
What you care about, I'm guessing, is being surprised. You don't want to be surprised to discover that the card company is sending you gift certificates for VD testing because you've been staying at hourly motels. You don't want to be surprised that a site you've never visited seems to know an awful lot about your buying habits.

From BoingBoing:
In the New York Times, Charles Duhigg takes a creepy look at how Target mines its customer data to predict major life-changes, like pregnancy, so that they can send coupons that guide customers into thinking of Target as the go-to place for all their prenatal and child-rearing needs.

And from IOL:
Twitter has admitted harvesting contact lists from its customers’ mobile phone address books without telling them.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Feeling blessed

Today was a special day at Wesley Mission for two families who had their children baptised. I am very blessed to be part of that. I feel fortunate to have a part to play in talking about Christian parenting and in conducting the service. I am overwhelmed that people will sit and listen to me preach! But God is working, has been working (long before I got here) and will still be working (long after I move on). It is so good to be part of that. And to be part of the team that makes church happen at Wesley Mission. The worship team, the sound team, the projector operator, the communion stewards, the society stewards, the collection stewards, the Sunday School and so much more - all happening this morning. God is awesome.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Today is my day off. A chance to reflect. I think this week has been better than the previous weeks. I am still finding it hard work, but I feel a bit of traction. One of the churches is 'happening'. We have confirmation classes, children being baptised, leaders asking for Bible Studies and suggesting break away sessions. This is exciting and I am starting to get a vision for the church. I just wish that I had more time and energy - but I do believe that as I settle in this will come.
We are moving forward with the other church as well. This week I was able to do pastoral visits to sick people. I have done many visits in this church, but to people hurt and confused by the church - and I still have a list. I find this exhausting, but there is no alternative but to keep going if I truly believe that part of ministry is to bring God's healing. And I see no future for this church if we don't find healing. Unfortunately, we are not even in a place where we are working together for healing yet. So, much prayer is needed.
I tend to compare myself to other ministers settling in and wish that I could be as effective and as quick off the mark as they are - and then remind myself that I am still a student and this is my first 'proper' appointment. I often wish for more experience - but there is only one way to gain that!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


If you are a minister and you visit 20 people, the one person that you don't visit will be the one that is remembered. If you are a church member and 20 people call you when you are sick it will be the one that doesn't call who will be remembered (especially if that was the minister).
The pressure on a minister to be perfect and all-powerful and never-tiring is immense.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Starting the day with Greek

This is my Bible reading for today, cross-posted from the Greek blog because it has some relevance to getting on with each other cross-culturally and will probably get a mention in my thesis, when I get there!

It's Galatians 1:3

χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ Θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ Κυρίου ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

This verse is pretty much Paul's standard greeting in his letters.

χαρις ὑμιν - grace to you (plural)
και - and
εἰρηνη - peace
ἀπο - from, away from
Θεου - God, genitive case following ἀπο
πατρος - father
και - and
Κυριου Ἰησου Χριστου - Lord Jesus Christ, all genitive case because of the ἀπο.

It is well known that shalom or peace was the standard Jewish greeting. The standard Greek greeting was χαρειν, which meant 'joy' although the greeting had become a formula (such as good morning or goodbye to us). Paul's use of χαρις was almost certainly an echo of the Greek greeting, although he modified it to use χαρις (grace). Thus Paul's standard greeting was a combination of Greek and Jewish and similar to the practice of South Africans who will greet a group with "Good morning, molweni, dumelang, sanibonani".

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trying not to be tired

Today should be an unusually relaxed day! I don't have a meeting or visit scheduled for tonight so far, which is unusual. Yesterday, between work and studies I put in over twelve hours. It wasn't a good idea. It was a productive day, but I was too tired at the end. Maybe I will develop the stamina to cope better with days like that, or maybe I will learn to limit the hours. I guess there will just be days that are longer than others.
The two main things for today are taking Communion to some of the older people in the Strandfontein congregation and heading off to Stellenbosch University to hopefully join their library. In between, a bit of work on my EMMU assignments. And then this evening to catch up with my husband, all being well!

Monday, February 13, 2012


I am writing my blog now when I have already generated a things to do list for this morning that is over a page long. The list is calling me, I keep thinking of things to add, but the fact of the matter is that I will not survive over the long term if the 'urgent' on my list dominates me. I so easily get overwhelmed in the emotional trauma of the church - I need to make sure that am standing on solid ground. So here is a commitment to blog as close to every day as I can, to remind myself to keep perspective. To remind myself to keep up other daily disciplines - Bible reading and focused prayer as well as work and relaxation. I still haven't figured out how to exercise regularly. Squash doesn't seem to be a Mitchell's Plain thing (someone suggested table tennis!)
I have finished my 'read the Bible in a year' programme that started last year. It took me a little more than a year, but I feel a sense of satisfaction in having completed it. The 'Honest Bible' programme is in a bit of a hiatus as they struggle through trying to do the Mosaic Law in chronological order, so what should I do next? I find that I have become dependent on the discipline of the year programme. Ken Schenck has been translating a verse from the Psalms every day and thus he is my inspiration to translate one verse from the Greek New Testament every day. Not an enormously demanding exercise, but I think one that will be good for me. Last year I read several chapters every day. Now I will be reading one verse every day. It feels spartan. I will try to keep the Greek blog up to date with my daily reading and translation.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


The photo doesn't do these flowers justice! Today was my induction service at Strandfontein Methodist Church and I was given the beautiful church flowers after the service. The service was led by the District Supervisor of Studies, Rev Mervin Williams and he was assisted by the superintendent of our circuit Rev 'Fandas' Fandaleki. I was blessed to have these people give their time for me and my congregations. (Also by all the other people who helped and participated!)

Saturday, February 11, 2012


So my blogging is becoming more and more sporadic. Is that how it will always be? Or will I settle into a rhythm and start thinking and reflecting again?
If I don't find a rhythm I will be in a pickle because I won't be able to do my job! So here's hoping that I do get back to regular blogging.
The last ten days - busy. In many ways I am challenged by fears that I will not be able to cope. By the feeling that this ministry thing is more difficult than I anticipated. My mind is full of revolving possibilities and action replays of events and conversations. That is ok for now, but I need to get past it. I need to accept that not everyone is going to like the way I think, that I am not going to live up to my own ideals and perfectionist standards and that I probably should stop taking myself so seriously. I think in time that will come.
Meantime, I am looking forward to a more 'normal' week next week that doesn't include time away from the circuit. This last week had a three day retreat, which was useful, but broke the rhythm.
I have led my first confirmation class which was a group of 12 very enthusiastic teenagers and was a lot of fun. Next up will be my first baptism service in this circuit - I hope I can remember how to fill out a baptism certificate and that I can find the society's baptism register. In fact I probably need to find out where to buy certificates. So the new things are still coming thick and fast.
I have to admit that it is not easy. I'm not even sure if it is getting easier or harder as I go along. Is God calling me to this? Am I just a wimp when the going gets tough? Time will tell!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Trying to reflect

Thursday morning is my time for sermon prep. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't! Today I actually have my sermon mapped out already. I need to do a PowerPoint, choose hymns and give some thought to the fact that the church where I am preaching opens its early service for the first time in the new year on Sunday - so I will be preaching twice.
My mind is buzzing with politics, trying to untangle the complications of the past year at the churches. Struggling with emails that I don't think are wilfully difficult, but I can't just ignore, wishing that one could start at a new church with a clean slate.
My mind is also buzzing with ideas for moving forward, struggles with the difference between Christianity and churchianity, how does one do mission if people in the church aren't following Jesus - or am I making that judgement based on one or two individuals?
And also being grateful for so much positive stuff and so many helpful people - in the midst of angst about churches paying assessments one of 'mine' has already paid more than half of February already (is it obvious that this is not the one with all the other issues?)
But I need to pray and reflect and prepare a sermon, not have a buzzing mind.
Maybe writing a blog post will have helped :-)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I have mentioned before my attempts at structuring my days. I have a tendency to get involved in something and just keep going indefinitely (on one hand) or to just never get started (on the other). For this reason creating a structure is important - even though I feel free to modify it on the fly. A long time ago I heard a rule of thumb for ministry that divided the day into morning, afternoon and evening and said that one should work two out of three sessions. This takes into account the fact that so much ministry stuff happens in the evenings. I also need to put in study time so I have divided the day into mornings (three hours plus two hours), afternoons (three hours) and evenings (two hours). Every day I must work for five hours on ministry and three hours on studies. And then take time out!! Because I am busy nearly every evening that works out to three hours ministry and three hours study during the day - so far that is working. Yesterday I did admin at home and worked 7am to 10am. Then I went out without feeling (much) guilt and was back to do study stuff from 1.30 to 4.30 and then meet with someone in the evening.
This sort of loose structure works well for me!