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  • 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.
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Entries in London (17)

Friday
Aug102018

Starting my first academic sabbatical at Oxford University

Today I depart for Oxford. This is the first in a series of academic and research visits that I will undertake during my sabbatical. I am so very grateful for this opportunity!
 
I will be researching and working on a new book (on the politics of forgiveness and the complexity of social identity). I will also be finalising various chapters for other books, editing two books for which I am a co-editor, and finalising some long overdue research articles for publication in scholarly journals.
 
In-between I will be teaching and speaking at various Universities in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America. I am also presenting papers and lectures at a few conferences.
 
I don't take this opportunity for granted - it is a very rare privilege. What I do with this time, belongs to others. 
It belongs to my students and others who graciously and kindly read my work and engage my research. It belongs to colleagues who pick up my responsibilities so that I can have this time to read, reflect, write and grow - thank you! It belongs to the various communities of which I am a part (the church, our neighbourhood, and various organisations that I serve in society) who are giving me the freedom and support to be away. And of course it belongs to my precious family, Megie, Courtney and Liam, who I will miss immensely each time that I pack my bags!
The work that I do is not very important - it certainly is not more important than my family, the Church, my colleagues and students. However, it is the work that I am called to do, and so I will do my best! I will remain disciplined (while still having some fun!), be critical, creative and joyful as I go! And hopefully, I will get to see a few of you, my friends, along the way! So keep an eye on facebook, my twitter and instagram feeds (both are @digitaldion), any my youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/dionforster - I will post various forms of content to each of these platforms as I go.
First up is the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies at Pembroke College Oxford. For the first time, this year, I will be participating as a New Testament Scholar in the Biblical Studies group. In previous years I have always participated in the Systematic Theology and Ethics group.
I will be presenting a paper based on research from my last book on the 'politics of forgiveness' among South African readers of Matthew 18.15-35 at Pembroke College, Oxford. 
Then, I will also be presenting the Fernley Hartley Trust lecture in Oxford for the Methodist Church of Britain on Friday 17 August 2018 at Wesley Memorial Church in Oxford at 17.00. See details for that event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/216413309019437/
Sunday
Dec012013

62km 18 bridges in London on a Brompton - 1 awesome ride!

Here's a great video from Ben Lovejoy of our Bromtpon Night Ride (we rode 18 of London's bridges).  You'll see me on Doris my Yellow Brompton (wearing a sleeveless jacket over my high visibility jacket! It was COLD! Way to cold for an African boy!)  What an iconic ride.  I actually did about 21 bridges by the time I got home.

For an awesome ride report, written in iconic MI6 style, see Agent Orange (aka, Agent Red, White and Blue) great report - My Orange Brompton.

Thanks Ben, David, John, Andrew, Chris and the crew from the London Brompton Club.  That is a night to remember!

Here is my Endomondo GPS track from there ride.  The group split up at Richmond station where they caught the train home.  I rode the rest of the way to where I was staying. A respectable 62km.

 

Tuesday
Nov262013

Shopping in London with the Brompton and a T Bag.

I went shopping at the Tesco's near to where I am staying today. I wanted to pick up a few supplies and so I pedaled Doris my Brompton M3L to the shops with the Brompton T Bag (by far my favorite bag in the Brompton range... Well, my favorite out of the three that I own - the B bag doesn't count of course since that is a bag to put the Brompton into when I travel. I own the T Bag (it used to be known as the touring pannier) and the C Bag).

I overloaded it slightly with milk, bread, 2L of Pepsi, and other bits and bobs. Regardless of the extra load (so much that I couldn't close the bag), it still handled like a dream since the bag mounts to the luggage block on the front of the bikes this keeps the center of gravity very low.

It is so convenient having the Brompton with me in London. As on previous trips, I ride it between meetings and appointments. I use it for sightseeing expeditions. And of course I also use it to run errands!

Sunday
Nov242013

Arrived safely at London Gatwick

I arrived safe and sound at London Gatwick airport. Doris my Brompton bicycle seems to have survived the flights as well as I did!

We almost missed the connection in Dubai due to delays from Air Traffic Control. I am so glad to be here!

I can't wait to see Craig and Kath, Rich and Karen and the kids! I'm on a coach from Gatwick to Heathrow now where I will meet Craig and Kath.

Tomorrow I have a few meetings in Kensington with the Alpha International team - so Doris will join me on the tube into London!

Tuesday
Nov192013

A last trip for the year! England and Holland

On Friday this week I have the great honour and joy of speaking at the Median 25 conference in Cape Town at 'Church on Main'. It is a wonderful opportunity to hear Mike Pilavachi, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Dr Nadine Bowers du Toit, Dr Frederick Marais and Nicky Gumbel (via telecast).

I have been asked to speak on the state of the Church in South Africa and Africa. I will draw on some recent statistical information and research about Church shifts in the country, as well as some of the most recent and groundbreaking research on global and continental Church shifts in the Christian faith. Diana Butler Bass' book 'Christianity after religion' is particularly insightful, as is the classic 'The next Christendom' by Philip Jenkins. I will also draw on some insights from the sociologist Peter Berger, and of course the missiologist Andrew Walls.

In short I am advocating for the Christian Church to be good news rather than just proclaimers of good news. I am advocating for a Church that is primarily relational in character, rather than propositional in nature. I am advocating for a Church that creates space for the asking of 'big questions', without feeling the need to give definitive and absolute answers on every subject. I am advocating for a Church that is humble, just, and merciful. In short, I am hoping to present a picture of a Church that is active with the 'things' that God is doing in the world - a Church shaped by the 'missio Dei' (the work of God). This Church, the missional Church, is alive since God is alive. This Church is powerful in doing good, since God is powerful in doing good. This Church is less concerned about programs and projects than it is about a servant identity that brings healing and transformation in society and the world.

I'll give a few examples, tell some stories, share a few statistics and give some ideas for consideration from the research and current discourse on the Church, and of course from my own experience.

Unfortunately I will have to leave the conference early since I am catching a flight to England on Saturday afternoon. I will be in London for a week for some meetings (Alpha International, EXPOSED, Unashamedly Ethical and then some academic meetings). On the 1st of December I move across to Holland where I will be going to spend 2 weeks working on my post doctoral research at Radboud University, Nijmegen where I am doing a second PhD.

I am looking forward to the time to read, reflect, pray and of course reconnect with friends and discover new things. I would ask for your prayers for Megie, Courtney and Liam. I will miss them so much in the 3 weeks I am away from home! However, the great news is that I will do very little travel in 2014! I return home on the 15th of December and will then have a lovely holiday with my beautiful family. Such a blessing!

Saturday
Aug172013

A ride to Oakley and Worminghall on my Brompton

I took a lovely 40km cycle from Christ Church at Oxford University to Oakley and Worminghall today.

The countryside is just amazing!

I am so glad that I brought my Brompton with me to London and Oxford.

Doris has been a great means of transport and a super form or 'otium sanctum' (Holy leisure). As I have ridden this week I have relaxed, reflected, prayed and of course exercised!

Tomorrow I head back to Cape Town from - I will miss Oxford University. But I'll be back. I can't wait to be home with my family again!

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!

Monday
May062013

A glorious Spring day in London

I arrived in London from Cape Town (via Dubai) at 7am or so this morning. The transit in Dubai was super tight - less than an hour after our landing was delayed! So I was not sure if my luggage would arrive with me at Heathrow. It did! So I caught the tube from Heathrow Terminal 3 to South Kensington. As I was coming up the escalator I heard two Afrikaans voices behind me. When I looked around I saw Rassie Erasmus (ex Springbok Rugby player and Stormers / Western Province Rugby coach). He may not remember it but we were in the army together in Bloemfontein - for a while at least. We were both looking for directions and so I asked if I could have a picture with him.

After that I headed to the flat of some friends where I am staying - just beautiful! I had a quick shower, grabbed my note pad and computer and headed to my first meeting.

That meeting ended just after lunch so I rented a Boris Bike and cycled through Hyde Park on my way back to my accommodation! It was awesome! Spring is out in full force. The weather was perfect and since it is a bank holiday every Londoner (or just about) was out in the sun!

I've been awake since 2 AM when I transferred flights in Dubai, so I'll admit that I am feeling pretty zonked. I'll answer some emails and then unpack and get some sleep this afternoon!

Tomorrow the meetings with the Alpha Africa leaders and team begin! We'll be staying somewhere in Surrey (I think). And then back for Alpha Leadership Week! I am both excited and extremely nervous about speaking at the Leadership Week!

I would appreciate your prayers Megie, Liam and Courtney back home, and for me as I meet with wonderful people and seek to establish relationships and partnerships to benefit the work of God's Kingdom!

In my devotions this morning I read the following quote:

@digitaldion: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel prayed, “I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And You gave it to me.”

May this week be filled with God's wonder-full blessing in your life!

Friday
May032013

Leaving for London to speak at the Alpha Leadership Conference

On Sunday I will be flying from Cape Town the London (via Dubai) to speak at the Alpha Leadership Week and have a number of meetings.  In particular I shall be focussing on spending time with the Alpha Africa team, our EXPOSED team in London and signatories and friends of Unashamedly Ethical while I am there.

Of course I will also get to spend some time with friends and family and quite a number of friends from Cape Town and Somerset West and Cape Town who will also be at the Leadership Week at the Royal Albert Hall.

I am so excited! It is a magnificent opportunity and I am praying for some deep and significant friendships and partnerships to form for the transformation of our precious continent!

The talk I was asked to give was on leadership.  When I considered the topic I realised that a lot of Leadership talks focus on leadership as if it is something that one does from the 'top' or the 'front' of an organisation.  The reality is, however, that most us don't have the responsibility of privilege of leading from that position.  Most of us are called to lead from the 'middle' of groups or organisations.  That can be quite a challenging task that requires a special measure of courage and grace.

So, I will be talking around the topic of 'From a lone nut to a leader' (based in part on an idea from Derek Sivers' great talk at TED a few years ago).  Here is the little video they recorded as a promo at the Alpha offices in Kensington when I was there in December last year.

If you're in the area, or plan to be at the Leadership week please do hook up with me.  The easiest is probably to send me a tweet on @digitaldion

Please can I ask for your prayers for Megan, Courtney and Liam while I am away?  Liam is a little sick just at the moment.  However, we trust the Lord that he will be restored to full health very quickly! I arrive back in South Africa on the 18th of May (the day before my darling wife Megan's birthday, and of course the Saturday before Pentecost and the Global Day of Prayer).