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!