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  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.

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Join 100 Million Christians in taking a stand on Corruption and Poverty! Click here for more information.  Follow @EXPOSEDCAMPAIGN on twitter, like EXPOSED on Facebook - visit the EXPOSED website.

Friday
Aug162013

Giving thanks for the life of Brother Roger - Taizé Community

Today I give thanks for the life and ministry of Brother Roger today. The establishment of the Taizé community is a continuing gift of renewal and missional blessing to the Church across the world.

It reminds me that simple courage and constant obedience can often be used by God to bring about transformation, healing and renewal.

 

In 1940, despite the spread of war in Europe, Roger Schütz crossed the border from Switzerland into France to pursue a community life characterized by simplicity and the fellowship described in the gospels. From early on in his life, Brother Roger knew that such a life together could be a sign of reconciliation for Christians from different denominations.
After settling in a French village called Taizé, Brother Roger was caught for hiding Jewish refugees and had to leave France after two years. When he returned after World War II had ended, he was accompanied by a few men who became the first brothers of the Taize community, which grew into an ecumenical community with brothers on all continents, bearing witness to what brother Roger came to talk about as a “parable of community.”
On August 16 2005, during evening prayer in the Church of reconciliation at Taizé, Brother Roger was stabbed to death by a mentally ill woman.
- Common prayer (16 August 2013) -  http://commonprayer.net

 

Monday
Aug122013

On my way Oxford - so blessed!


As I write this I am sitting on the Oxford Tube (which is actually a bus service (called a 'coach' service in the UK) between London's Victoria station and Oxford).

My time in London was both productive and fun. I had the privilege of staying in a friend's flat which was very central. On Friday when I arrived. I had three meetings to go to - I cycled to all of them, and to dinner with my sister in law, on Doris the Brompton. It was super!

Saturday was a free day (except for one short informal meeting with a friend from a local Church). I was still struggling with a head and chest cold so I took it easy in the morning, met my friend, and then too a long slow ride out to Richmond. On Saturday evening I came back and caught up on email, administration and did some preparation for the Oxford Institute and a few other calls and meetings I have lined up for this week.

Each day I have also spent an hour or so on Skype or FaceTime with Megie, Courtney and Liam. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for that technology that allows me to stay in touch when them. While I was out cycling I even called them using Viber - it was like having a normal cell phone conversation! All of this was possible because I bought a Vodafone SIM card a few trips ago and loaded that into my iPhone again with a web and SMS plan. I get 500mb of data for the 10 days. It is so useful - I don't think I would have been able to cycle around London with google maps! And of course being able to Skype, Viber and have access to my emails is a massive help!

Yesterday (Sunday) I attended the 9.30 communion service at Holy Trinity Brompton. It was a wonderful service. I have worshiped there many times over the years I have been coming to London. The first time was in 2005 when Sandy Millar was still the Vicar. This Sunday's service was marvelous. They had planned for children and families, there was great worship, a superb message, and enough liturgy and the sacrament to satisfy my 'high(er-ish) church' inclinations. I felt renewed and blessed after the service.

While I am an extrovert, I find that as I grow older I have needed more silence, solitude and reflective time. My life is so busy, I need time to pray, to think and just to be still on God's presence. Sunday gave me that opportunity.

My friend, Wessel Bentley, arrived in London at around 5pm and we took the rest of the day to cycle through London and show him the sights. He hired a Boris bike while I rode Doris the Brompton. We did 28 km and saw Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gardens, Marble Arch, Buckingham Palace, the Mall, Trafalgar Square (South Africa House), Scotland Yard, Methodist Central Hall, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Lambeth Palace, the South Bank of the Thames, the London Eye, the Tate modern (and Founders Arms pub for a Guinness), the Millennium Bridge, St Paul's, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Burger King in Gloucester street, and Harrods before hitting home! So awesome!

This is an important week. It is the 13th Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies at Oxford University. I have three tasks, first I am charging one of the plenary sessions at which Prof Rui de Souza Josgrilberg is the plenary speaker. Then I am co-chair of the Theology and Ethics working group with Prof Sergei Nikolaev. I will also be presenting my paper on Church and state in that group (please see my earlier post on this blog for details of that).

During the week I will also be doing a webinar on faith and the workplace for Call42 - I am excited about that! People will link in from all over and I will do a presentation and have a Q and A session on my experience of faith in the world of work (some of which is based on my work in the Corporate world, some from my book 'Transform your work life' and some from ore recent research and reading).

I will also be meeting my friend and fellow Methodist, Len Sweet, who is teaching in Oxford this week.

Lastly, our EXPOSED - shining a light on corruption campaign is launching in Nigeria on Tuesday! I pre recorded a video message for their launch and will be watching the event with great excitement and interest. Nigeria is critical to the continent of Africa, and even the Church across the world! Some of the largest, most vibrant and most influential Christian movements of our time come from that nation of 170 million people who are active in their country and spread throughout the world.

Together with these activities I have a few conference calls for Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED to be on during the week, and need to stay on top of email and office work.

As always, I am missing Megie, Courtney and Liam terribly! I cannot wait to be home with them!

I would appreciate your prayers for my wonderful family, and for the activities that will take place this week.

Wessel and I were saying last night as we sat chatting along the Thames just how fortunate and blessed we are! I am so aware of that blessing, and so thankful to God! It is truly unmerited. But, I am grateful each and every day for the opportunities I have been given by God, and the grace of others!

Saturday
Aug102013

A Brompton ride the Richmond and back

I arrived in London safe and sound just around 7am on Friday the 9th of August. After collecting my luggage and clearing customs (where I had to have the Brompton B bag scanned twice to convince the customs officer that there was nothing untoward in the bag!) I made my way to the lovely flat that I am staying in near Harrods in Kensington.

I unpacked my Brompton and found that it was in perfect condition.  The only little bit of 'repair' that was needed was to bend the front and back mudguards back into their proper place again (obviously when the bag was put in the hold it got a little squashed under some other luggage). I put the clamps back in the bike, pumped the wheels, had a shower and a shave and headed to my first meeting at Elephant and Castle - it was awesome! A quick 7km ride.  See the Endomondo track below.

I had two other meetings on Friday, and cycled to both, and then met my sister in law and a friend in Covent Garden for dinner.  All of the rides were great - although I am still struggling with a bit of a head and chest cold.

This morning I woke up a little later (a good night's sleep after a long flight and a busy day is always welcome). Then I cycled to Hammersmith and back to get some stuff sorted out for my luggage. After that I went for a lovely long ride to Richmond from Kensington (with a bit of Hyde Park at the start), ate a lovely lunch at the Orange pub in Richmond and then cycled back to Kensington (41km - slow, but fun).

Here is the Endomondo track for that ride.

Here are a few pictures from the ride. The Tow Paths along the Thames were not all smooth riding - in some places they were not paved at all.  Then I found few KM's of cobble stone - Paris Roubaix on a Brompton!

Here is a lovely picture of my Black Brooks leather saddle.  They are very comfortable and durable. I have this black one on my M3L and a brown one on my M6L.

One of the great things about a Brompton is that you are allowed to take it to places where most other bicycles would not be allowed! Here's Doris in the 'Orange' pub in Richmond where I stopped for lunch.


This is the business end of my Brompton! I love my little brass bell (helpful when riding in the city - pedestrians seldom look where they are going. A little ring of the bell alerts them that I am coming and keeps them, and me, safe).

A Brompton and some House Boats along the Thames.

This evening I got back to my accomodation and spent a few hours doing some administration, catching up on emails, and doing some preperation for this week's conference at Oxford University. It was wonderful doing a bit of admin knowing that I had just had a lovely day of cycling.

My cold even feels a bit better!

Thursday
Aug082013

Packing my Brompton M3L bicycle for a trip to London and Oxford

Last night I packed my beloved Bromtpon M3L folding bicycle into a Brompton B bag so that I can have a bicycle with me in the UK while I am there for 10 days. I am training for a 200km mountainbike ride in November (the Wines2Whales) and I can't allow travel to drop my fitness! So, Doris the Brompton is coming along. Not to mention that it saves lots of money and time to ride around London and Oxford on a Bromtpon instead of using the tube and buses.

There are many posts about flying with a Brompton. My biggest issues were bike safety and weight. I needed to ensure that the bike doesn't get damaged in transit, but also that it doesn't exceed the 30kg weight limit when I add clothes and toiletries in the bag with the bike. I use the Brompton B Bag since it is quite large (I can pack the bike and my clothes / toiletries into the bag), and it has wheels and a few handles. I am fortunate to have Voyager status on Star Alliance airlines and that allows me to take 30 kg of luggage, as opposed to the regular 20 kg that other passengers can take.

Here are a few pictures of my packing.

1. First I removed the clamps from the steering column and the frame and put those into a small bag (they can very easily get bent or broken), then I put some clothing over the extruding parts (saddle and the front fold, and a scarf over the left folded pedal).


2. Next I put the Brompton cover over the bicycle since I will be packing clothes around it and don't want to get grease or oil on my clothing.

3. Next I put the Brompton with its cover into the Brompton B Bag.

4. Then, I packed my clothes around the sides of the Brompton - notice that I put my shirts and jackets into a suit bag to protect them and folder them over the top bar of the bike. The rest of my clothes were then put into the open spaces in the bag. There are lots of those!

5. When I got to the airport I had the bag wrapped in plastic to protect it (notice that I had the center and front handles exposed so that I can still lift and drag the bag). You'll also see that the bag, with my clothes for 10 days, weighs in at 27kg. The bike and bag actually weigh around 15kg. So, I have 12kg of 'stuff'. Since I have some meetings and will be presenting a paper at an academic conference in Oxford I had to take smart shirts, jackets, ties and the like.

So, let's hope and pray that it arrives safely at Heathrow and I can ride it! By the way, I let the air out of the tyres (important!) so that the added pressure during the flight doesn't pop the tubes. I also put a pump, spare tube, lights and a puncture repair kit in the bag.

Check back to see how I get along once I am in London!

Wednesday
Aug072013

Leaving for London and Oxford tomorrow

Seven years ago I had the privilege going to Oxford University for the first time.  I was fortunate to be selected as a member of the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies at Christ Church in Oxford.

You can read about that visit in these posts on my blog.

Tomorrow I will be heading to England once again.  I have some meetings with our London team for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' and will also be visiting my friend Tricia Neil at the Alpha International offices - they are doing such amazing work.

My very good friend, Dr Wessel Bentley (the Chief Researcher from the Unit for the study of religion at the University of South Africa) will be coming to Oxford as well.  Wessel and I have written a number of books together and have been friends for most of my ministry. I am so blessed to be able to share this trip with him!

Our most recent book is entitled 'Between Capiltal and Cathedral: Essays on Church and State relationships' - you can order it on kindle here and a paper copy here.

I will be presenting a paper at the Oxford Institute in which I argue for the importance of having a secular state.  I have often encountered a mistaken understanding in popular Christianity which assumes that if one has a Christian state (or head of state in some variations of that theme) then the nation will be better.  Sadly, research has shown that Christian political parties and Christian politicians often fair no better (and sometimes thankfully no worse) than their secular or 'other faith' counterparts.

In my paper I argue that what we need is a robust democracy with a just, secular, state that protects the rights of all of its citizens, regardless of their faith persuasion.

Think about this - there are three possible faith orientations in the modern state.

Religious state (such as in Iran, and currently in Egypt).  This is not helpful if you do not belong to that particular religion, or even to the variation of that particular religion that is the same as the persons who hold power (as we saw in Iraq under Sudam Hussein).

The anti-religious state - this is probably akin to what we saw in the former Soviet Union, Cambodia and China.  In this state religion and religious persons are persecuted.  Naturally I am not in favour of this approach since I believe that religious freedom and religious belief are central aspects to human flourishing.  Some of the modern anti religious fundamentalists (such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens) tend towards this approach - not only do they purport not to hold a faith position (which is utter nonsense! Of course they have a faith position, it is a form of secular humanism or scientism), but they wish to persecute and ridicule persons who do not hold their supposed 'no faith' position.  This form of fundamentalism is as dangerous as that of the fundamentalist religious state.

Neither of the two approaches above are Biblical or in keeping with the values of God's Kingdom.

My chosen view is that we should have a secular democratic state - this would seem to make the most sense to me.  In this state the rights of all the citizens are considered and advanced.  There should be no persecution of any sensible religious movement, and at the same time no privileged status accorded to any faith movement.

What makes this even more appealing for me is that I believe it leaves room for the 'Church to be Church' - evangelism, religious education, discipleship, mission, moral formation and the like are all functions of a healthy and effective Church.  I believe that the nation requires a strong, healthy, Kingdom minded Church.

Well, do let me know your thoughts on the above! Once my paper has been delivered I will post a copy here (it has already been published and so I will just need to get permission to share it).

I would appreciate your prayers for me and my family as always!

Saturday
Jul272013

Back from Nigeria! Off to Johannesburg - FastForward leadership conference

The last two weeks have been another whirlwind! I arrived back form an amazing trip to Lagos in Nigeria where we had the most amazing opportunities to meet beautiful people doing truly wonderful work in the Church and the broader community! While there I had the change to speak at a number of events and meet with some wonderful Church leaders and Christians in business. There is a strong commitment to the societal transformation and there was great support for the Alpha Course - a most amazing tool for evangelism.  We also had great support for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' and the work of 'Unashamedly Ethical'.

This morning I flew to Johannesburg to speak at the FastForward leadership conference at the wonderful Gracepoint Church!  This is a most remarkable Christian community that holds personal holiness and social holiness in equal esteem.  Indeed, one can only honour God when one is right with God and in right standing with God's will in the world.  Gary and Jacqui Rivas are doing amazing work here.  I am thankful for them, their ministry and our friendship.  Truly amazing people in an amazing community of faith.

I promised to upload my slides from my talk at the conference today - however, my internet access is a little sketchy, so please do check back in a day or so when I get home I will upload my slides and the videos that I used at the conference. If you are interested in an earlier post I did on the subject of the Church and its growth and change please follow this link for some thoughts and ideas that I had back in 2009.

Tomorrow I will be speaking on justice and partnership at their morning services in a message entitled 'A partnership between the pavement and the pew'.  This morning I was inspired by this beautiful quote in my morning devotions.  Perhaps it will challenge, inspire and encourage you on your journey of loving service?

People may come to our communities because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered that they themselves are the poor.

Jean Vanier (founder of the L'Arche communities)

 

Thursday
Jul042013

Help required - Safari and Google search error

I am hoping that someone on the internets may be wise and benevolent enough to help with a problem I am having with Safari and Google Search.  I am currently using Mac OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.4) - every time that I try to do a search using google.com (or search using google in the address bar) I get an ERROR 403 (Forbidden)!!1 message.

Here is a screenshot (and below it is some of the technical data). Does anyone have an idea what the problem may be and how I could fix it?  By the way I have had this problem since upgrading to Lion some time ago, and each time that I 'restore' the contents of my Hard Drive onto a new computer it follows me...

Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks, Dion

Monday
Jul012013

On humility and humiliation

Humility is worthy of admiration....

Humble people impress me.

I long to be modest, restrained, dignified, gracious... Humble!

However, whenever God grants me the gift of growing in humility I am slow to accept it. The path is long and difficult, and I lack courage and perseverance. You see, often the path to humility comes through seeming (or real) humiliation. Giving up the 'self', my pride in achievements and recognition, in exchange for a gracious embrace of my failings and imperfections.

Still, I pray that God helps me along this path. I certainly have enough failures and faults to pave it!

This quote on humility and humiliation is a wonderful insight for me. Perhaps it may mean something to you?

Years ago, someone told me that humility is central to the spiritual life. That made sense to me: I was proud to think of myself as humble! But this person did not tell me that the path to humility, for some of us at least, goes through humiliation, where we are brought low, rendered powerless, stripped of pretenses and defenses, and left feeling fraudulent, empty, and useless—a humiliation that allows us to regrow our lives from the ground up...

- Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Monday
Jun242013

A prayer for Nelson Mandela, and ourselves

Last night a friend from the UK asked me if I could write a short prayer for Nelson Mandela that could be used by some Christians in the UK. After some prayer and thought I wrote the following:

Loving God, the world is yours. You have lovingly created each person, and by your grace you sustain and transform creation day by day. We praise you for every aspect of nature that displays your Glory.

Today we want to thank you for your son Nelson Rolihlala Mandela. In his life you have shown us the courage of standing for justice, the patience of suffering for peace, and the hope that forges forgiveness. We thank you for giving him the gift of wisdom to lead, the gift of mercy to forgive, and the gift of love to break down the walls that divide.

Today we pray that you will complete your perfect will in him. Offer him peace in his time of struggle. Surround him with love as he faces the unknown; and when the end of this life comes embrace him in your love and restore him to fullness of joy.

We pray that the courage of his conviction will continue beyond his earthly life. May the principles justice, reconciliation and peace that he suffered for be rooted more deeply within us. May his life inspire us to live more sacrificially for you and for the sake of all whom you love.

All this we pray in the name of Jesus, the great liberator, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen


There are the thoughts that informed this prayer.

In this prayer I tried to capture a few elements:

- A prayer of petition ask for God to bless and care for his son Nelson.


- A prayer of thanksgiving, thanking God for the many good things that we have been blessed to witness as a result of his courage and conviction for justice, and reconciliation.


- A prayer for strength, for him, his family, and for all of us, that we may continue in the work that God worked through him.

Please continue to pray for our precious nation, and for the freedom that Mr Mandela lived for. We are facing some challenging times at present.

With grace and peace in Christ,

Dion

Monday
Jun242013

A misquote that means a lot - contemplating courage and change

Two of yesterday's readings from the revised common lectionary (23 June 2013) offered me cause for reflection. Not that I don't reflect on every week's readings, but I am facing some changes in my life and so my thoughts are currently a little deeper than normal. The readings in question were Luke 8:26-39, 1 Kings 19:1-15.

Our minister, Yvette Moses, is a very good preacher. She took a very creative, and challenging, line in harmonizing the message of these two texts. With reference to Luke 8.33-35 she asked why it was the the town's people were not afraid of a demon possessed man. Yet, they were filled with fear when they saw the possessed man sitting calmly at the feet of Jesus - in his full mind. It made me wonder, how often have I preferred the madness of the world to the calm of Christ? How often have I feared the wrong things and wrong people, and in so doing missed the miracle of transformation that is taking place within me, and all around me, all the time.

In dealing with the second text (1 Kings 19.1-15), Yvette reminded us that just a week or two earlier in the lectionary reading we heard how the Prophet Elijah witnessed God performing a magnificent and powerful series of miracles (the burning of the water soaked altars and the destruction of the Baal priests on Mount Carmel). Yet, in this passage the the prophet is overcome with fear and dread because of the threat of Jezebel! The threat of the queen overshadows the miracle of God the King. So much so that Elijah wishes he were dead. Again, I wondered how often have I forgotten the faithfulness and power of God, and instead focussed on the few small challenges of my current circumstances, allowing my life to be overshadowed by what is only a momentary threat, a matter of such minor insignificance in the face of a mighty and everlasting God.

All of this reminds me of the following quote (which is wrongly attributed to F Scott Fitzgerald. Thanks invisibleforeigner for pointing this out):

For what it's worth: it's never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you're not, I hope you have the strength to start over again.

- NOT F Scott Fitzgerald.

Still, it is a challenging quote! It is never too late to become that person that God longs for you to be - just as a parent lovingly longs for their child to grow to their full potential in life so as to find blessing and be a blessing to others. God longs that for you, and I know God longs that for me. If you are not moving confidently and clearly towards that peaceful goal then I pray that you will have the courage to and the opportunity to change course. I am making a few small changes in the next months. I pray that they will honour God and bring blessing to those that I have the privilege to serve.

Sunday
Jun162013

A wonderful Father's Day!

I have travelled a little less this year than last year. It is just awesome to be home for Father's Day!

I got breakfast in bed. At Church they had a special focus on dads - Liam said he loves me because I take him to school on my Vespa sometimes! Ha ha!

After Church we came to the Strand beach for some lunch and enjoyed a rare day of perfect winter weather!

A perfect day! I am so thankful for my wonderful children. They are an immeasurable gift. I am equally thankful for my wonderful wife, Megan.

Friday
Jun072013

The Church and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's)

Yesterday I had a chance to do a presentation at the Stellenbosch University Winter school on the role of the Church in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's).  Here are the slides from that presentation.

The good news is that there has been some great progress towards achieving the 8 MDG's and addressing extreme poverty across the world.  However, it is critical that we finish well! It would seem that some early strides were made, and that now many governments have slowed their progress on more difficult issues.

The role of the Church is crucial in this process.  My reasoning was quite simple:

1.  The Christian faith is the largest faith on earth.

2.  Our scriptures are clear that we should work for justice for all people.  The earth is the Lords, we have stewardship of it and we need to do a better job of caring for one another and the plant.

3.  There are simple and practical things that we can do.  They begin with prayer but must move to action.

4.  I encouraged the listeners to move through the 4 stages of engagement (as mentioned by David Korten in his research), namely from A) Charity B) Projects C) Advocacy and Policy engagement to D) Social movements for change (e.g., like the suffigen movement in the last century).

I gave three examples:

- Micah Challenge Australia and the 'Finish the race' campaign at http://www.micahchallenge.org.au

- Unashamedly Ethical which is a global ethics advocacy community with support and encouragement http://www.unashamedlyethical.com

- Promising life, a South African project to work for the maternal health care and the reduction of infant mortality in South Africa (we have one of the best policy frameworks for basic health care, and great allocation of resources, yet delivery and implementation by the Department of Health in South Africa is dismal!) join them here http://www.micahchallenge.org.za

Of course I would encourage you please to sign up to EXPOSED and send a strong message to the leaders of the G20 that global corruption is not acceptable!  Go to the website or sing up below http://www.exposed2013.com

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