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 :-)