Monday, September 30, 2013


I am in that strange almost limbo stage that comes at the end. I have two months left here in Mitchell's Plain. While my mind is buzzing with ideas for next year and where to go next, they are useless because I won't be here. I know better (from experience) not to start anything new. I must just slow down and tread water until the end of the year. There is preaching and pastoral work. And leaders meetings. But otherwise, I must slow down. I remember this feeling so well from shutting down my activities in Pietermaritzburg and to a lesser extent from Johannesburg.

It takes quite a bit of self-discipline to just stop.

But I do have my PhD work and I intend to use every moment of this time productively on my thesis!

Friday, September 27, 2013

On referring to 'my church'

We had good feedback from the MCSA conference this year via Twitter and Facebook. It was great to share a little in what was happening. One of the titbits that was sent out was from the ordination service and was (presumably) addressed to the new ministers - be careful about calling the place you serve 'your church'.

This is one of the oddities of the way we speak. We use 'my' to mean things that we own exclusively, such as 'my squash racquet' or 'my breakfast', but we also use it to mean places that we belong such as 'my school' or 'my squash club'.

While I understand that we as ministers should never believe that we own churches exclusively (they belong to God), we should not be made to feel that we cannot belong to the church. Or even allow the church to feel that we refuse to belong to it.

So just as it is important not to see the church as 'my church', I think it is also vitally important that I do see the church as 'my church'!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Is my Christian community distinctively Christian?

I have been thinking about this question as raised by Matt Stone in his blog post with the same heading.

He says this:
 "Is your experience of Christian community so distinctive that it genuinely stands out from other social experiences? Are your non-Christian social networks so much less loving towards one another in comparison." And I ask this with scepticism because, honestly, mine is not. Sometimes the experience has been wonderful, sometimes less so, but even when it's been the former rather than the latter, rarely has it been that exceptional.

I've kept this post in my reader until I had time to write about it, so it is from a while back. Just at that time I decided to address some definite disunity in one of my churches. And I felt that Matt had a point. This church community is pulling in multiple directions and struggling to find focus. Perhaps it is a depressing example of Christian unity.

But it dawned on me that this is actually the exact point of community and loving each other. We don't give up. We don't despair at the different perspectives and different maturity levels and other differences that lead to conflict. Rather we are committed to one another come what may. And that is what loving each other means and what makes Christian community. It is nice when we all agree and can have a wonderful time together in each others company. But true community is when we persevere together through the conflict and difficult odds.

I sometimes despair of this community that I serve, but I admire them for the incredible tenacity that they show in keeping going.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Seinfield Chain

I have slowly dragged myself back into engagement with my thesis! Now I want to work on it in my free time. So I think I am ready to start a Seinfield chain. That means I will try to write at least 500 words a day and I will see how many days I go before breaking the chain. This could be tricky because we are going away on holiday for three nights next week and the week after is a three night ministers' breakaway. Will I be able to do it? I am now in the right frame of mind to try.

Here is a good Life Hacker article on Seinfield chains.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Keeping up with viral

This is just for people like me who discovered Gangnam Style long after everyone else and didn't get what they were talking about! What does the Fox say?

Monday, September 16, 2013

What I do when I am watched

I found myself thinking this morning. "The bishop is back, I had better check Facebook." Generally he records his coming and going in his Facebook status and I check it so as not to be disadvantaged by others.

But this Facebook thing is really making clear to me some of the silly ways that I think and behave. I have blocked it from my PC (just by self-will) and will only use it on my phone now, because by and large it just makes me unhappy. I cannot be as busy and effective as the sum total of people that I see on Facebook. I nearly always feel guilty that there was another place I could have been on any day. And so I feel inadequate and judged by those who do all these noble things (who are not thinking of me at all, but I am thinking of me!)

I wondered, "What if the bishop and others recorded when they had just spent an hour in prayer, rather than attendance at events. Wouldn't I then be motivated to something good?"
The thing is that we really believe that we earn ourselves noddy points by being out and about and being seen, but I think that if this is called a ministry of presence we are deceiving ourselves. I know that I cannot schedule my day completely with visits and meetings because for one thing I will become exhausted very quickly and for another I will not have the time and space to handle an unplanned event such as a death or sudden illness.

Twitter is a different story to Facebook. Apart from the fact that I maybe follow too many with whom I disagree, there are not so many people trying to impress and be seen. Imagine now, that I was to tweet my whole day. Would I be willing to reveal it to the world? Would I be willing to reveal how much blank space is in my diary and how it is used? Or would I feel that I am simply revealing my laziness? Would I admit to how little time I actually spend specifically in prayer?

I need to take some serious thought over the next few weeks as to whether I really live a life that I would be willing to tweet.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Technorati, Distractions and Priorities

September is Youth Month in the part of the Methodist Church where I am now. This means that having done the two Communion services for the month I am not preaching on Sundays until October. I have planned all year that this would be the time that I climbed into my PhD work and made serious inroads on my thesis.
But I am like a school child being dragged to school. Yesterday was my day off and I worked a bit on my thesis, but spent the whole time dying to see if I could write a Python script to get Technorati scores for blogs on Antioch Crossing.
Yesterday evening I wrote the script, but discovered that only six of the blogs on the list had meaningful Technorati ratings! Maybe if others were to register with Technorati we could have more comparison, but it may be that Technorati is also dying.
Anyway here they are. The number on the left is the Technorati authority. What is Technorati authority?

115  Urban Ministry Live and Unplugged
95    An Uncommon Path
95    Khanya
95    Carpenter's Shoes
85    A Vow of Conversation
79    Wessel's Place

In general, being linked to should increase a site's Technorati rating, so writing this is changing things!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Antioch Crossing

I have set up a blog just to carry the aggregator I played with yesterday. You can find it at Please visit and support it and consider putting a link on your blog. Maybe we can encourage people to blog a bit more!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

An Experiment in Aggregation

This is an experiment. If I can get it working, I might set up a web page for those interested! (You need to enable JavaScript.) It makes quite a nice aggregator.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Of Syrians and Samaritans

Sometimes I wonder why Jesus left out certain things. Are there any stories where Jesus did not heal or help someone? Surely there must have been some left untouched? If we heard those stories it would help us understand those who are not healed today. Or can we learn something just from the fact that we are not told?

And what about the story of the Good Samaritan? We have the heroes and antiheroes of the drama arriving on the scene after the terrible deed was done. And so we know that we should be compassionate and care for those who have suffered.
But what if the Samaritan and co had come upon the assault while it was taking place? What then would Jesus have expected?

Because then we would have a word on the Syrian situation, which we all know is not cut and dried. Is the Christian response to intervene and (hopefully) limit future suffering? Or is the Christian response to act peacefully, ourselves, at all costs.

Actually, I don't think that the parable of the Good Samaritan is about showing compassion and it is probably a statement about our society that we think it is. Compassion would have been expected even without Jesus saying so. The point is that the display of compassion (or non-display) turned around the perceived status of those involved. And so those who were honoured for their position in society were not honoured in this context and similarly the reverse.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Thus says the author!

I guess I am a product of postmodernism in that I tend to think that there are many things that we just don't know and might never know. But I'm not sure that this is proving helpful in writing my thesis.

I remember my exegesis oral exam last year. The passage under discussion was from the gospel of Matthew. I came into it fresh from a Greek exegesis course on this particular book at UKZN. We had a brief discussion (the orals are done in groups of students and examiners) on the date of writing in which many views were shared. We moved on and then one of the examiners fired at me 'What other book was written at about this time? Jenny, you should know' and through the haze of trying to follow what I had found a very wandering discussion my mind went into spin mode. 'When did she think Matthew was written? Prof Draper at UKZN holds strongly to a second century date. No, that's not what she is thinking. More people consider a date soon after 60AD - there was lots written then. What does she want from me?' She was in fast-fire mode and moved on before I could even begin to gather my thoughts. The answer was 'Galatians', which I can understand, and can now guess that she believes in an early date for Matthew!

Now I am reading the dogmatic words, 'Matthew - produced c.80 CE in Damascus - cites . . .'

I struggle to speak with such certainty. I suspect that there are benefits to my willingness to allow options, but I'm not going to change the world in this way.

Thursday, September 05, 2013


I learnt a new word the other day. Supramundane. It was applied to God and means transcendent - I suppose more than mundane. Sometimes when I blog my experiences seem mundane. Much of ministry is the same day after day and there is not much really to be said.
Most of the really interesting stuff is unbloggable because I can't violate the privacy of others.
And some things are newsworthy. Perhaps supramundane? A few weeks ago a young man drove his bakkie off the pier at the V&A waterfront. It was on the front page of the Argus newspaper. He was the 'adopted' son of a couple in one of my churches. Two very dedicated and wonderful people. I ask and they ask, 'why God?'.
But if I share newsworthy things it really skews the perception of ministry. This was a very sad occasion - but actually, so far, it has only caused me one visit to the family. Due to the nature of circumstances the young man was buried in another town. A very sad occasion, but one that only touches me peripherally. 
From a ministry point of view it is peripheral . . . but I guess these things do touch deeply as well.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


Stationing in the Methodist church is a process full of stress and angst. For ministers, congregations and bishops. However much I have tried to ignore it, this has been the background music - or noise - to my thoughts and plans for the last few months.
Subject to the approval of the Methodist Conference I will be moving to the Parow Society in the Tygerberg Circuit next year. My new superintendent phoned me yesterday to say that he would call me again after conference. We were both hesitant, wondering, is this appointment real, or is it going to change.
For me, this is already a change from what I was originally told, and so I know that change can happen. But I am now reasonably confident that Parow it will be. With some aspect of Ravensmead thrown in  - it is all mysterious at the moment!
But I am excited at the prospect of change. I am sorry to leave my congregations here in Mitchell's Plain. These two years have been a truly blessed time for me. There have been excruciatingly difficult times and it has never been actually easy, but it has been fulfilling. Certainly in retrospect!
Now, it is looking for jobs (husband) and schools (son), which are hopefully the same (husband being a teacher). It is also wondering about travelling to the University of Cape Town for my elder son and my two daughters who are planning to move to Cape Town. Where will we all stay? Together? What is the manse like? Will we be able to buy our own house? Our house in Johannesburg is on the market. Will it sell?
God has always, always been faithful to us in these situations. We hardly dare hope that he will continue to show us his kindness, but we do hope and believe. Mostly! I can't deny that background noise to all my thoughts . . .

Untying the Knots

I have spent time during the last three or four days making a major effort to get back into my PhD thesis. It hasn't been as hard as I anticipated. I have been very careful to work in the knowledge that my time available would be erratic and so the threads are all there to be picked up.
However, I realised this evening how much I am struggling to expand into my writing. I always have a tendency to use as few words as possible and I seem to have tied knots in my own wordstream - as it were! Write some stuff about the background to Paul's letter to the Romans. But why? It's all there in these other books. Go read if you want to know. No, no, the point is that you need to write it down so that the rest of the thesis makes sense. It is basic stuff, but it needs to be there to make it complete. Try to remember that not everyone has done all the reading and thinking that you have done. You need to communicate that. Oh? Can I write that all down? Will they be interested? You mean that I can use all of this stuff to make up my wordcount? But that's easy. Yes, well, that's actually the point!

And also a motivation to get back into blogging. To get the words to flow again. I guess I try to find reasons why I get more wrapped up in talking to myself than the outside world, but I'm not sure that I will ever understand. And so the solution is probably just to write!