Search
  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • 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.
Pages
Social networking

Entries in Chaplain (3)

Friday
Jul042014

St Martin of Tours and Chaplaincy, 4 years later

Today is the 4th of July 2014 - it has been 4 years since I first wrote my short reflection on the ministry of a chaplain and St Martin of Tours.  Today is the feast day of St Martin of Tours.  My life has changed somewhat since I wrote that.  I am sitting in Holland at the moment, working towards the completion of my second PhD atRadboud University in Nijmegen.  I am no longer a workplace chaplain.  Since January 2015 I am a full time academic - teaching Systematic Theology, Ethics and Public Theology at the University of Stellenbosch.  It is a wonderful privilege to serve the Church and the world in this way.

This year I had an article published in the academic journal, Koers, on ministry and faith in the world of work, and I am working on another article with my friend Dr Johan Oosterbrink for the journal 'In die skriflig' (a Festschrift for Prof Koos Lotter).  This article also focusses on faith and work.

My prayer is that we will see many more people awaken to the high calling of work, and like St Martin of Tours, that they would follow the call of Christ and serve Him and the world with their talents, time and treasure so that God's Kingdom of justice, mercy and peace may be established for all.

Today's 'Common Prayer' has a focus on St Martin.  The two quotes below were a great encouragement and blessing to me in devotions today.

Martin of Tours (d. 397)

Martin of Tours saw Christ in the face of the poor and in the commitment to nonviolence. He was born in what is now Hungary and as a young man was involuntarily enlisted in the Roman Army. Martin’s conversion to Christianity occurred after he met a beggar seeking alms. Without money to offer the man, Martin tore his own coat in half and gave one part to the beggar. The following night, Martin dreamed of Christ wearing half of his coat. Once Martin was baptized he resolved to leave the army because Christ called him to nonviolence. His superiors mistakenly saw his request as one of cowardice until Martin offered to face the front lines without weapons as a sign of Christian pacifism. Denied this offer, Martin spent time in prison. Afterward he joined the monastery at Solesmes and eventually served for ten years as bishop of Tours.

 

Here is the other quote from the end of the devotion:

Martin of Tours said, “I am a soldier of Christ; it is not lawful for me to fight.”

Prayers for Others

Almighty God, you are King of all creation. You created order out of chaos, and you call us to strive for the peace that is not like the peace empires bring. Teach us to drop the weapons we carry in our hands, in our hearts, and on our tongues. Enable us to be soldiers of yours who destroy the weapons of our oppressors with your grace. Amen.

With rich blessing in your work and ministry!

Saturday
Sep032011

We cannot divorce service of God from the service of humanity - some changes ahead

Last month I read Eric Metaxas' great biography of Dietric Bonhoeffer 'Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy'.

It has served as a wonderful reminder to me that my calling is to be a servant of God first and foremost.  And, that my service of God is to find expression in service to humanity.  Bonhoeffer was carefuly to understand what he could do, and then to do his best to apply himself to those tasks faithfully and with courage.  There is a lesson for all of us in his life - try to spend your life doing the things that God has created and called you to do.  Life is too short to waste on other things!

The quote below expresses Bonhoeffer's understanding of this notion so succintly:

The Incarnation is the ultimate reason why the service of God cannot be divorced from the service of man.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

To be human is to be 'incarnate' in the world where God has placed you.  There is work to be done in the community where you live, among the people that you see each day, and with the skills, ability and gifts that God has given you.

I will admit that I have been a little quiet on my blog for the last month or so.  

In part that is because I have been busy (every blogger's excuse!) However, that does not mean that I have not been posting! If you look to the left of this blog (at least the form it is in now, in September 2011, you will see my Tumblr feed listed in the first colum of your browser window).  I have simply found it much easier to post in the short and medium format that Tumblr allows and so I have shared brief thoughts, quotes, photographs and ideas there. So, look in on http://digitaldion.tumblr.com from time to time.

Yet, in part I have also been a little slower in posting to my blog since I have been taking time to pray and discern the way forward in my ministry and life.

I have had three fairly 'distinct' phases to my ministry.

  • I was a minister who pastored various Methodist Churches for almost 15 years.
  • I was an academic who held posts at both Seminaries and Universities for some years.
  • Most recently I have held a corporate chaplaincy and spent a great deal of my time working among business people in the world of work.  Of course while doing this I have remained a minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and continued to hold a post at two South African Universities.

I am about to move into another phase of my ministry.  Not everything is in place, but I have permission from my Bishop, the blessing of my friends that I am currently serving, and some opportunities taking shape.

The last (almost) 4 years have been absolutely amazing! I have discovered a side to ministry that has been such a blessing to me, while I hope it has brought some joy to those among whom I have ministered. I have had the opportunity to travel the world, meet many wonderful people and experience so many new things as I have sought to faithfully serve Christ 'in the marketplace'.

This will not end.  I will continue to serve as the Chaplain to the Power Group of Companies, the Global Day of Prayer and Unashamedly Ethical campaigns.  Although I shall give about 50% of my time to this wonderful work.

From January 2012 I shall be returning to a greater measure of Academic work.  

I have been invited to take up a post at the University of Stellenbosch in Ekklesia, a Unit of the Faculty of Theology at the University.  I cannot tell you how blessed I am to be able to transition into this new role of service and responsibility! To start with I will have responsibility for the Master of Theology courses that are run within the Unit, as well as some research output.

Together with this wonderful opportunity I was offered a scholarship to do a second PhD.  I have been working on a Doctorate in New Testament at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Holland, for part of this year.  Radboud is a distinguished research University - Edward Schillebeeckx was a Professor there, and Henri Nouwen did some of his studies there as well. From January I will devote a little more time and attention to this great opportunity.  It truly is a gift of a lifetime!  I am working under Professor Jan van der Watt, reading in the area of narratology in John's Gospel.  I shall apply some of the insights I developed in my first PhD in approaching the text - bringing an interdisciplinary perspective to reading the text of John (from integrative studies, neuroscience and African relational ontology).

Lastly, I shall do some consulting work - over the last few years I have found that I am approached more and more frequently to speak at conferences and gatherings on various subjects (most recently it has been on my book 'Transform your work life' (Amazon copy and Kindle Edition) which deals with developing spirituality, ministry and faith in the world of work).  

But I have also developed quite a strong base of friends and clients with whom I do spiritual guidance, counselling, life coaching and strategic development.  So I will continue to help individuals and teams (companies, churches, communities) to navigate complex challenges by drawing on my experience in ministry, spiritual direction and of course my studies in cognitive neuroscience and integrative theory.

So, I would appreciate your prayers as I move towards this change.  Please offer thanks with me that this space has been created by Graham Power and my friends in the Power Group.  They have been generous and gracious in allowing me to structure my time in this way. I am also grateful that my Bishop has so kindly supported this shift in ministry.  Also give thanks for these new opportunities that are arising at the Universities and with various friends and clients.  Please could I also ask that you pray for the practical matters that we shall need to manage, such as generating sufficient income and managing my time and resources wisely?

Indeed, these are exciting times ahead! My greatest desire is to serve God through service to humanity!

Do remember that if you are looking for someone to come and do something creative with a group at work or Church just drop me a line. Or if you are looking for someone to journey with you to solve a particular challenge you're facing, or simply for support, guidance and encouragement, please consider making use of my time.

Monday
Feb072011

The ministry of a chaplain in the contemporary missional Church

For the past 3 years I have been seconded by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to serve as a Chaplain.  My chaplaincy has been to a number of organisations (which are all connected with the work and ministry of Graham Power, a prominent Christian Businessman and member of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa).

I have served as the Chaplain to the Global Day of Prayer, the Unashamedly Ethical movement, to two of the teams that helped to arrange the Third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town, and to the 2000 employees of the Power Group of Companies.

I often get asked what a Chaplain is, and of course what a Chaplain does!  In particular people seem to find the concept of 'corporate', 'industrial' or 'business' Chaplaincy quite interesting.  Most people are familiar with military Chaplains, prison Chaplains, and hospital Chaplains.

What is a Chaplain?  A little bit of theology and history.

Before I talk about what I do let me give a little bit of background to the concept of Chaplaincy.  Most scholars trace this history of Chaplaincy to St Martin of Tours, a 4th century Roman soldier who was convereted to Christianity.  He was stationed in the North of France and tradition tells of how he encountered a destitute man at the gate of the city of Amiens one day.  He was filled with compassion for the poor, naked, man and so took his sword and cut his Roman cloak (capella) in half and gave one half to the shivering man.  The legend further suggests that the poor man that he helpded later revealed himself as Jesus (similar to what we read in Matthew 24:34-36).  St Martin was later ordained and allowed to minister outside of the 'gathered Church' in places of great need.  He became known as the keeper of the bisected cloak (the capellanus) - from which we derive the name 'Chaplain'.

It is interesting to note that Martin and his cohorts spread throughout the country meeting the needs of people and establishing places of worship (which where known as Chapels, after those who birthed and nurtured them, the Chaplains).  The Chapel this came out of the ministry of the Chaplain, and not the other way around as it is commonly assumed.

Robert Jones writes in the Journal, Epworth Review:

Here then is the initial feature of chaplaincy, that it first addresses the acute need with practical care. Secondly, it goes to where people are without wating for them to come where we are....  Finally, this story says something to us about status, for at the moment of the inception of [St Martin's] ministry, Martin was still a lay person. He was later ordained... Chaplaincy has had the potential from the beginning to be a ministry of the whole people of God.

I have found this image very helpful in my own ministry.  I am one who is called to meet people at their point of need.  The 'world of work' is often a place of great struggle, hardship, and drudgery.  I have had wonderful opportunities to offer practical and spiritual care in the workplace. Second, I constantly strive to facilitate instances of worship (Chapels if you will).  Sometimes these are places (like the prayer room we have at our offices).  And at other times they are short momemnts either with groups of individuals - for example when I go out onto our building and construction sites to meet with our staff.  Most importantly I have attempted to 'extend' the office of Chaplain to numerous people in our company and in other companies and contexts.  We have numerous 'lay people' who are ministers in their own right, offering pastoral care, teaching, and mobilizing ministry.

What do I do as a 'corporate' or 'business' Chaplain?

My Chaplaincy is primarily characterised by service.  I'm sure that each Chaplaincy is unique in its character and form, attempted to meet the needs of the context in Christian love.

However, since I serve a Christian man, and serve in a Christian organisation, I have many wonderful opportunities for ministry.  Among other things I do the following:

 

  • Offer counselling and care to our staff and their families.
  • Lead prayer meetings and Bible study groups in and around the workplace.
  • I develop and share materials on spirituality in daily life (prayer guides, daily reflections, ideas for ministry and service etc.)
  • I oversee and assist in the ministry of The Global Day of Prayer internationally and perform the same function with the team in our Unashamedly Ethical Office.
  • I oversee the management of our company's Corporate Social Investment and Charitable giving (we have a Charitable Trust for this purpose).
  • I do executive coaching for some of our senior leadership (with a particular emphasis on work life balance, spirituality, personal calling etc.)
  • I sit on numerous committees in the company that have an input into the wellbeing of our employees, that look after aspects of our decisions (particularly in regard to ethics and social responsibility).
  • I travel to lead workshops and retreats on the book that Graham Power and I wrote together called 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling'
  • I consult to individuals and companies who are serious about finding God's direction, guidance, and will for their lives and their resources.  I help to reshape both individuals and structures for greater significance in God's Kingdom.

 

Of course I perform a myriad of more mundane tasks that relate to budgest, meetings, planning, strategy, correspondance etc.

What is central to everything that I do as a Chaplain is the understanding that 'work can be worship' (Col 3.23).  And the little phrase I often use which says:

While some are called to pastor congregations, everyone is called to ministry.

I'd love to hear your ideas, feedback!  Do you do something similar?  Do you long to do something similar?  Have you got any creative ideas or inputs that could shape and form such a ministry?