On Tuesday evening we had our quarterly leaders meeting. And Michael and I left that meeting feeling so encouraged by all that we see happening in the life of this church through ordinary members, simply getting on and living out their lives of faith. Our youth and children's ministries (under the care of Marcia, Clifton and their teams) are going so well. And I am constantly amazed at the passion and enthusiasm that our youth and Sunday School teams have for investing in young people.
There's an odd-sounding question that Methodist ministers preparing for ordination are asked at various stages of the journey of probation – it goes something like “in what ways are you pressing on to perfection?” The question reflects John Wesley's conviction that Christians should be maturing, becoming more like Christ, sinning less. That process of becoming like Christ is one of the central tasks of the church – making disciples / mature followers of Jesus.
UMC has been buzzing these past few weeks with a number of exciting things on the go. Yesterday was our family fun day, and we have really enjoyed seeing home groups, friends, and individuals planning and preparing their events for the day. It is so special to come together as a community and ‘play’. A big thank you to all who helped make it happen, as well as those who came to take part.
For the last nine months or so a group of twelve ladies has met for a couple of hours every Wednesday morning in Kym's office. This week was the final instalment in a long journey that they have completed together as participants in our first Disciple course. Disciple is a 34 week course during which you read roughly 80% of the Bible and are given a big picture view of how the Scriptures weave together. It is a stretching experience, one that will literally change your life.
On Wednesday evening our home group was talking about the importance of sharing life together – not just doing a course or studying together, but being prepared to be real with each other – sharing our hopes and anxieties, joys and sorrows. Of course, it's risky – not as safe as maintaining the illusion that we all have it all together, all the time. But when we're prepared to take that risk, the reward is the richness of real community. To help us do this, we're going to try to ask each other five probing questions regularly – if the 11 small children in our group allow us the space :).
This week past has been a particularly busy week for Michael and I. We have felt like people tasked with doing a 20 piece puzzle, only to discover we have 30 pieces and we need to, somehow, make them all fit... One of the greatest lessons we have learned from a full diary, is the value of taking time on our own, pausing to read, pray and reflect, even in the midst of the busyness. In fact, the busier the week, the more important it becomes.
On Thursday morning a number of us joined our Anglican friends at All Souls Umhlali for an Ascension Day service. Although we have much in common with the Anglican tradition, there was a newness for me about all sorts of aspects of the service – the particular way in which liturgy is used, the approach to communion. It was wonderfully refreshing! I came away stimulated and reminded again of how helpful it is to be together as the broader family of God
On Thursday evening, in The Upper Room, we gathered together with a group of people new to UMC, who are interested in finding out more of what it means to connect and to belong. What a lovely evening it was – sharing (over coffee and some delicious brownies!) something of who we are and of how we each found our way to UMC. I was struck again by how privileged we are as a church family, to share life with such a diverse range of people.
These last four days, Kym and I have been in Westville for our district synod (the annual gathering of all ministers and lay reps from Methodist churches from the coastal area just south of Durban, all the way up to the Mozambique border). It's a time of re-connecting with colleagues, and dealing with a range of theological and administrative issues affecting the life and work of the broader church.
One of the joys of belonging to the Body of Christ is the depth of knowledge, skill, passion, energy and love that come with the diversity of the people who call UMC home. In so many ways, in so many different areas at UMC, people share skills, knowledge, resources, time, energy and vision. We truly are a body of many parts, joined together in Christ. This week, we have seen people sharing their gifts through participating in the Cantata. We know much time, effort and love went into this incredibly special event. Thank you to all of those who were involved.