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!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Solid Ground

For the moment I feel like I am in a good place. In spite of the rant of the previous post, I enjoy presentations that challenge me (even if I disagree) so that is not negative. So here I am, back in Mitchell's Plain, determined to put things in place to help me cope with the year. I have started looking for:

a domestic worker to help clean the house;
a dentist to fix my teeth which are rapidly disappearing!
a local mentor to help keep me sane when everything seems too much;
and wondering whether an air-conditioner would be a good investment in my productivity.

Tomorrow my girls go back to Pietermaritzburg. We will see how I am feeling then!

Contextual Bible Study

This is a rant, I suppose. I'm writing just for me. This week I listened to the third presentation on the method of Contextual Bible Study that I have heard in two years. It was actually the fourth altogether because one of my courses for my BTh at the Baptist Theological College was on Contextual Bible Study. Every presentation was very good - partly, I suspect, because they were using material created by Gerald West the originator of CBS, although I may be wrong. (My degree course was explicitly based on a book written by him and prescribed for the course, which unfortunately I couldn't afford at the time and so used a library copy.)
But the thing is that two out of the last three presentations used the method to promote a sort of intellectual dishonesty that really irritates me. CBS suggests reading Bible passages in an indigenous way - what does it really say if you don't assume pre-packaged theological and spiritualised understandings. If you just read the passage, what does it actually say? This is cool because it raises good questions. From Matthew 20: Why were the workers hired for the vineyard standing in the marketplace? Does this passage have anything to say about a living wage and unfair labour practice? And so on.
But two of the last three facilitators took the next step of appropriating the passage to support other presupposed ideological conclusions - so now we don't use pre-exisiting theological or spiritualised understandings, but we have a new ideological understanding that is right simply because the other must be wrong.
So does the passage speak about unfair labour practice? Yes, they say. But what does it say? And here the intellectual dishonesty comes in because they don't know and so they just tag ideology on to it. The scripture raises the question, but it is not clear where the answer is coming from.
This belittles CBS - I am quite sure that Gerald West himself (knowing him) would give a fascinating interpretation of the passage and I am equally certain that it would be absolutely intellectually honest. Perhaps I am being too demanding of these facilitators, perhaps I am missing something - but I think even simple readers are entitled to consistency and straightforward thinking.
And as they would like to hear, the facilitators are entitled to their own understanding of Scripture!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I have been surprised by the impact of this week away from home. I feel more in tune with myself and more in tune with God than I have felt in ages. I have been trying to find in myself, over the last few weeks, the person I was when I entered training for the ministry - and I think I am approaching success. God is good!
Naturally, I am now analysing the past week and trying to figure out how this happened. Is it just being back in Johannesburg in summer? Is it physically getting away from the busyness of Mitchell's Plain? Is it the unexpected kindness of my pastors and leaders in the Methodist training department? Is it meeting with my mentor? Is it being part of challenging discussions? Is it being given time to revisit my sense of call? Is it just God's time?
I am grateful to the many people who have made this week revitalising for me.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I am at a compulsory seminar for student ministers. I knew that it would be a break from my busyness, but I'm still surprised at how peaceful it feels to have time to sit and read and write blogs this evening. I am in a room with two others, but they are off somewhere. The mosquitoes are pestilential, but the cool air after the thunderstorm is nice.
The pace of the day has been gentle (apart from the 4.30 am start) and it has been interesting to hear the experiences of other student ministers in their new circuits. It's strange how different and yet how similar these experience are. Generally people have been busy, they have had some unexpected stress and they have felt welcomed and accepted by their congregations.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


I'm still busy - not much more to say! But I took my day off on Friday with determination - helped by the fact that I haven't been feeling well. Tomorrow is the Covenant Service in Strandfontein and also the Khayelitsha section of the circuit. It's going to be a long day. Then next week is a seminar in Johannesburg for student ministers. I do sort of wish that I didn't have to leave my circuit while I am still trying to sort out the pieces, but the timing isn't actually too bad. I've got going with circuit work and a break now shouldn't hurt too much.
The main skill that I am using at the moment is prioritisation - there is so much that could be done, but there is no way that I can do it all. On my desk are applications for membership, baptisms, ideas and dreams from the finance people from both societies (nice), resolutions from the Methodist Conference that were referred to the Circuit Quarterly Meetings and more that I can't think of off the top of my head. Today I have a meeting with Youth leaders from one society and of course final prep for the Covenant Service.
God is good - and I really need him!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Speed Bumps

After writing about starting to feel on top of things I had an interesting day and a bit. My Thursday plans have been rearranged and my time has disappeared into a number of meetings, meaning I need to squash things in. Last night was a tough meeting that left some people upset and I suspect others totally unconscious of what was happening. Today a few difficult conversations, no electricity at home and arranging to give up my last free weekday evening (although I do this willingly in a good cause). But also some good conversations and a positive meeting.
I need to get it right to pour some serious prayer into my ministry!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Knowing names

Monday is admin day, in my scheme of things. In due course Tuesday and Wednesday will be dedicated to pastoral work - one day at each society. I hope to be present at the church building for some of the time and to do visits some of the time. And maybe a Bible study or so . . . Thursday is sermon/ service prep. Friday is my day off. Saturday and Sunday are potluck. Obviously there are worship services every Sunday, sometimes funerals on Saturdays, sometimes other things. My afternoons are dedicated to academic work - I'm supposed to spend 15 hours a week on in-house Methodist studies. Next week we will find out what these projects and studies are. I hope that some of that time can also be spent on PhD work - although right now the thought of getting to grips with a thesis is a little scary. Evenings have been pretty full with meetings so far - but that will slow down as things get on track.
Working through my email it's strange to see how the collection of names in my inbox are completely different. Gone are last year's correspondents and here are this year's. But it is really nice to be getting a handle on things and knowing all these names and all these people and vaguely knowing what they do in the church!
God is good!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I'm at my desk again this morning. I am trying to set aside a morning in the week to prepare for the weekend services. I have had mixed success with this in the past, but I need to figure out how to get it right this year. Tomorrow is Friday, which is my day off, so there is a little bit of TGIF in my heart this morning.
I have already done some admin and made some calls this morning - realising that some stuff is just not going to wait, sermon prep day or not. And I intend to guard my day off, so I'd rather be flexible with today. I am also realising that my attempts to divide the day into work, free and sleep are not helping. A meeting last night left me with plenty to think about and I struggled to sleep - how do I log that time? Can I give myself a bit of leeway this morning because I am feeling wrecked? Not that the sermon will prepare itself!
It's not easy, but I am starting to figure things out. And I am depending on God big time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Today is the first day this week that I am working at my desk. I desperately need to sit down and put dates in order - mostly in my phone calendar, but maybe on paper as well. I am starting to get enough of a feel for the job that I can plan. I am also battling down a sense of panic and am tempted to switch off all phones for a while! I am overreacting in my almost-panic, but I can see that I am going to need to be very disciplined. It is hard for me to say 'no' and in less than a week of real work I have already had to start doing it.
I usually go into the year with some goals in mind - often one of them is 'survive'. I am still not sure if I am in a place to set any goals at all (apart from survive!). But the fact is that I need to - while the working of the local churches may still be vague, I need to set goals regarding my family life and my own personal growth. So, if there is a chance, that should be part of my planning today.
So far, I am happy where I am, the people are wonderful and the family has settled in well. School started today  - another milestone. The girls are with us for another two and a half weeks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


It's only Tuesday and it seems like much later in the week! I feel as if I am playing the sort of computer game where obstacles keep on popping up in front of me and I have to get past them without losing speed. I know that experienced people will laugh at me and say 'that's what ministry is like', but I'm finding it a bit challenging. Wait, slow down, let me think . . .
I'm sure I'll get the hang of it all before I lose my balance - there are so many great people in these churches.

Monday, January 09, 2012


Things continue to get busier in my new job. I am doing a funeral today and tomorrow hope to get hold of minutes of meetings and financial reports to get an idea of where the churches are at administratively. Admin is not my favourite thing, but when it is correctly in place is makes life easier!
Things are going well - I am a little stressed by all the 'first time' things that I am doing, but this stage will be over in due course. My prayer is that God will continue to bless his church and his people.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Starting . . .

I'm starting to make the transition from 'holiday' to 'working'. Last night was a meeting with the stewards from Strandfontein and the superintendent minister. Today was visiting 'shut ins' from Wesley Mission and also a bereaved family from Beaconridge Methodist. Beaconridge is not one of 'my' churches, but my colleague is away at the moment and I will be doing the funeral on Monday.
People are starting to talk more to me about the churches, becoming a little more open -  not forcing me to read between the lines quite so much. That helps - as does meeting people for the second or third time and actually being able to recognise them!
Slowly but surely - ministry is a marathon, not a sprint.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


I stand at the beginning of a road which goes to an unknown destination, but an unknown route! I have been wondering how to structure my time and trying to plan, but I know that ministry is difficult to predict. I received my first call about someone in hospital last night and I went to see him this morning. Shortly after that I received a call asking me to do a funeral on Monday and to see the family. I had already set up some pastoral visits for Friday morning, so suddenly I am getting busy. And that is without taking into account Sunday's service where the local leadership is being inducted (whom I have not yet met!)
I am happy to have ministry here start to take shape!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Fun and Minecraft

Our holidays are rolling to an end - and generally we are all ready to get going again. In the days when we homeschooled we would have been heading to the bookshop and sorting out books and getting excited for the year - we didn't need to wait for dates or times! We are past that, but it is good to feel the familiar sense of needing something more meaningful to do than housework and lazing around.
Today was good - we (mostly my sons) dug and planted our vegetable garden. For them this is a mark of 'home'. We were not able to do that at all last year. Then we have all become absorbed in the computer game Minecraft (www.minecraft.net). You can only buy it online and is like digital Lego. That consumed much of today although there was a lot of patient waiting for turns on the computer. And finally, this evening, we played the board game Careers.
It has been really good family time. God is good.