Umhlali’s Women’s Auxiliary has a long and proud history in our church of selfless service, enthusiastic and generous support for a huge range of mission projects over the years, and for nurturing faith amidst a caring network of friends. These last 18 months of not being able to meet have reminded us all of the incredible gift that our WA has been to our church.
Last Sunday we had our first service back in the church since 14 March 2020 – marking the end of a period of nearly 18 months of pre-recorded services. The words of our opening psalm set the tone for the service: "When the Lord brought back the exiles to Zion,we were like those in a dream. Our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with songs of joy" (Psalm 126)
Over the last week, I’ve been working my way through John Mark Comer’s excellent little book, The ruthless elimination of hurry. The title is a reference to a remark made by the late philosopher and Christian author Dallas Willard to author and pastor John Ortberg. Ortberg had just joined the staff of a large church in Chicago and he phoned Willard one day and asked him, “What do I need to do to be spiritually healthy?” After a long pause, Willard replied, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” Ortberg wrote down those words. “That’s a good one,” he said. “Now, what else is there?” Willard’s answer? “There is nothing else. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
The Bishops are spending time away with family in the Cape this week and so Clifton Bartholomew is leading our service this morning. In one of our upcoming services we will be having a special presentation for Cliff, who has now fulfilled all the requirements to be received as a fully qualified local preacher (or, in Methodist-speak, a “local preacher on full plan”). It’s been quite a journey for him – having his services regularly assessed by ministers and other preachers and completing a number of theology courses and some Wesleyan studies. This a milestone that we celebrate with him as a community as he joins our two other preachers at UMC (Ozzy Madlala and John Bredenkamp).
I saw a quote today attributed to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung which reads: “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” Jung would be the first to concede that we are more than just what we do, but the point he’s making relates to actions and intentions. It is our actions that determine who we become, not our intentions. My long-standing plans to learn to play the piano don’t make me a pianist; not even close.
Thankfully, it seems that across the nation, we have passed the peak of the third Covid wave and probably by the time that you read this a move to lockdown level 2 will be imminent. Our stewards met this week to plan the way forward as far as in-person services go and here is what we have decided:
Kym and I spent last weekend in Johannesburg as part of our ongoing Spiritual Direction training. This was the third module of the course, but the first time we met everyone in person (the first two modules were via Zoom and it was surprisingly difficult to recognise our fellow participants with masked faces and full bodies attached to talking heads!). Our sessions were hosted at Lumko – a Catholic Retreat Centre in Benoni.
One of the items on my lockdown list finally got a look-in this week. For the last 18 months, I’ve been telling myself that this would be the ideal time to pick up my acoustic guitar again and see how much my stiff fingers remember. Although I haven’t played much in the last few years, it turns out that the problem is not what the fingers remember. The real problem is that the callouses I used to have on my fingertips are long gone, and pressing soft fingers against thin metal wires makes for very short practice sessions … Sadly, there are no shortcuts to building up those callouses - the only way to toughen up the fingers is to keep playing.
I had the chance to visit All Souls Anglican Church this week and to (finally!) meet their ‘new’ minister, Rev Bruce Woolley, in person. I was also keen to have a look at their setup for live-streaming services and Bruce and I and their worship leader Gibby spent a happy hour geeking out over the various bits of technology that make the online worship experience possible :)
In the week following the unrest and looting that took place in KZN, I shared details with you of friends from a local NGO (www.HeartsThatHope.com) who were trying to do something to help the informal traders whose shops in Nkobongo, Shayamoya, Shaka’s Head and other nearby areas were stripped bare (and in some cases the building itself was destroyed).