I am a member of a task team comprising seminary students who are tasked with assisting a local Circuit with a viability and visioning assessment exercise, part of which entails regular feedback and strategy meetings on Thursday afternoons.
After today's meeting Ross asked me, quite out of the blue, whether the plans for my proposed PhD are on track. More particularly, whether we could do any advance spadework with the University of kwaZulu-Natal so that I could be "pre-registered" for the PhD programme so as to start as soon as I have completed my seminary studies in June next year. (For those who are not aware, simultaneous registration with more than one educational institution is prohibited under South African law, otherwise I could have possibly been registered for the PhD already).
But the conversation soon turned to other matters surrounding my future study plans - in particular, whether my family and I are still on board with the idea of staying on at the Seminary for a further year (i.e. to the end of 2012), the purpose of which is to be within striking range of the University. And I must say that I have mixed feelings about this. While Seminary life is challenging in many good and pleasant ways, in particular from an education and formation point of view, it also comes with some less pleasant challenges (some of which I've articulated in a previous post).
The other matter relates to our parents, with both mine and Belinda's mothers living in our property (a pair of semi-detached houses) in Johannesburg. The financial upkeep is substantial, but manageable. However, of greater concern is their ages - my mother is 72, and Belinda's mother is 75 - and we are experiencing a growing degree of discomfort with having them live on their own, 500km away. So selling up and relocating the folks to Pietermaritzburg is an option to consider.
There's also the matter of James starting high school in 2012, and given that the MCSA's stationing process can literally send you anywhere in Southern Africa (my colleage Kevin Endres, for instance, is being stationed in Windhoek, Namibia next year), I have reservations in allowing him to start high school and then have to change schools after a year. This points to me leaving Seminary at the end of 2011.
On the other hand, if I am accepted into the PhD programme, then from that point of view, leaving at the end of 2012 is the better option. It is also not absolutely out of the question that a station could open up in Pietermaritzburg or within striking range, whether for 2012 or 2013, and I have already indicated to Ross that I would like to be up for consideration should such a post become available. Certainly we've settled in nicely in Pietermaritzburg, what with my attachment to Prestbury, Belinda serving in a number of different ministries, James at Sunday School, both James and I involved in Scouts, his sport, our new friends...
Obviously, if this doesn't happen, then I need to be prepared to go whever the Church sends me. It's difficult, this - especially given the need to honour my commitment to "go to whichever Circuit I am sent to". And I have no intention of dishonouring this commitment. However, one has to also consider the needs of family, and hopefully the Church will be pastoral in this regard.
Still, I have time on my hands - time to talk, time to pray, and time to engage with the appropriate people. And when all is said and done, time will come when I need to simply leave the whole thing in God's hands, knowing that it is ultimately God's ministry that I am called to serve in.
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