I met with my Learning Partnership last night, as we do each month, and last night's meeting was mainly to discuss my progress thus far as a Phase One, and to go through the small forest of trees that have been cut down and transformed into reports for Synod. Some of the questions require quite a bit of soul-searching, especially those that I am required to answer for myself. One such example was a question on how I see myself. I answered that I am generally quite an upbeat, optimistic person tainted by a degree of cynicism carried over from my days as an auditor.
There are times that this cynicism comes out when I look at the Church, as some of my previous blog posts will have revealed. And there are many things going on that cause me great distress. But last night at the home cell meeting, my mind went back to a conversation that I had with my Superintendent this past Sunday, in which he said that whatever he may have encountered at the hands of the institution at large over the past 36 years that he has been in ministry, what keeps him going and true to his call is the sense of service to the local church community. While the local church context is not without its problems, there are also many, many salt-of-the-earth people who love Jesus with every fibre of their being and wish only to serve Him.
And as I got into the shower this morning, I remembered something that I read in my son's school newsletter about five years ago. Responding to a question concerning drug abuse - a problem that, sadly, plagues most schools and private schools in particular (because the kids have easier access to the money needed to buy the junk, perhaps?) - the headmaster was quite candid in saying, "yes, we have had the odd learner involved with drug abuse, and this is how we deal with the problem". He then proceeded to list the measures taken by the school, including awareness programmes, counselling, and so forth.
I remember thinking at the time that I would rather have the headmaster acknowledge that there is a problem and take active steps to deal with it, rather than to stick his head in the sand and deny that such problems exist in the first place.
And so it is with the Church. I can only speak for the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, for that is the institution I serve as a probationer minister, but I have no doubt that every church on God's great earth has problems of some sort. How can it be otherwise? They are imperfect institutions, run by imperfect people, trying their best to serve a perfect God.
So where do I go from here? I'm not going to deny the problems that I encounter - that would be like putting my head in the sand. Rather - just like the headmaster of my son's school - I'm going to continue to acknowledge the things I encounter. But more importantly, I'm going to channel that energy into doing something about it. Starting with prayer.
George Bernard Shaw said: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man."
A time to count our losses - This year has been a year like no other! We have gone through highs and lows - and then more highs and more lows. The roller-coaster ride has been hectic...
15 hours ago