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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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Entries in travel (56)

Saturday
Sep132014

A wonderful day in São Paulo - heading home from Brazil

We spent a beautiful day visiting sights in São Paulo with our friend Elaine from UCT and Roberta her school friend from here in Brazil.

We went to Páteo do Collegio (where the first Jesuits arrived and the city of São Paulo began in the 1600's), then to the São Paulo Cathedral, and ended the day at the modern art museum Icentário Pinacoteca. Now, Starbucks!

Tomorrow I head home to my precious family! This has been an amazing trip. I am so grateful to have visited, but I am very happy to be going home!

Wednesday
Sep102014

South South partnership - Brazil and South Africa / Public Theology

This week I have been in Sao Leopoldo in Brazil at Faculdades EST for the bi-annual conference (this year focussing on religion and the media).  It forms part of the South South partnership that exists between Faculdades EST and some Universities in South Africa (these include the University where I teach, Stellenbosch University, as well as UNISA, UKZN and even a colleauge from the University of Cape Town).

South Africa and Brazil share a number of similar aspects in our social, political and economic history and current reality.  Both have suffered under oppressive regimes.  In both instances the Church and religious organisations played a significant role in helping to end the oppression.  Liberation theologies, public theologies and post colonial theologies are common discourses in both settings.  Of course they are not the same - there are many obvious, and some less obvious, differences in the two contexts.  However, there are great opportunities for mutual enrichment and support.

Thus far the partnership has involved the exchange of academic staff, exchange of Masters and PhD students, and projects which have resulted in publications (such as the book that will be launched tomorrow evening, and the set of publications in English that will go into the Journal of Theology for South Africa JTSA).  Language is something of a barrier, since we only have one colleague from South Africa who speaks Portuguese, and only a few colleagues from Brazil that speak English.  I have committed to try and learn Portuguese in the years ahead so that we can serve the partnership better from our side.

It has been wonderful to hear the debates and inputs on public theology, liberation theologies, and a variety of contextual and post-collonial theologies.

On Thursday evening for fly back to Sao Paulo to have a meeting with the Vice Rector of International Affairs at USP.  USP and Stellenbosch have an institutional agreement that is now being developed into a South South partnership between the two Universities.  USP is one of the largest, and most prestigious, Universities in South America.

This post contains a few photographs taken on the trip.  One is of me and one of my former students, Ndikho Mtshiselwa.  It was great to see him here.  Among the other colleauges were Prof Nico Koopman, Prof Rothney Tshaka, Prof Rudolf von Sinner, Prof Reggie Nel, Dr Pieter Grove, and Dr Elaine Nogueira-Godsey.

Thursday
Jul102014

A Brompton cycle from Nijmegen (Holland) to Kleve in Germany

I may have gotten a little lost on this afternoon's cycle from Nijmegen. I went out for a short ride (supposedly!) after a hard day of writing on my dissertation - it has been a productive week!

Alas, I ended up crossing the Rhine River deep into Germany! Past Kranenburg (with its beautiful Cathedral) and Kleve (with its Medieval old city center) to Emmerich am Rhein.

Because I was in Germany I had no cell reception with my Dutch SIM card (completely forgot about that). So, no google maps to get me home.

My rusty German, mixed with Afrikaans and a bit of English saved the day! Ha ha! It was awesome! 71km on my Doris my Brompton - such an awesome little bicycle!

Saturday
Dec142013

Departing from Holland - back home!

As I write this I am standing in front of the Huygensgebouw in Nijmegen waiting for the Number 14 bus that will take me to Nijmegen Station, from where I catch a train to Schipol and then fly to Dubai, and arrive in Cape Town a day and a half later. The weather at home is different - that I can believe! It is cold and wet here in Holland this morning!

This last week has been very fruitful and productive. I spent a great deal if time developing to Practice Oriented Research strategy I will be using with my focus groups. I also did a lot of reading and discussing on affective neuroscience and the disruptive mind. But my joy was spending days buried deep in the Greek text of Matthew 28.1-35 (in fact Matthew, the Synoptics and the ancient sources of the time). I learned a great deal about 'fictive kin', mimesis, ancient near eastern community structure, ancient Roman Law, and of course concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation in the Bible.

I also had to joy of speaking at a Public Lecture on Nelson Mandela (Soetebeeck reeks I think it was called). A real highlight for me.

Then I did two longer rides on Doris my Brompton - one along the Ooij Dijk and another out to Germany (Kleve) - just beautiful! Cold, but lovely. Having a bike here was invaluable for bit commuting and fitness and sight seeing. I'm glad I brought Doris to England and Holland!

Now, I turn my head towards home! My beautiful family! I can't wait to be with them tomorrow!

Monday
Dec092013

Reflections on my first week in Nijmegen, Holland December 2013

I arrived in Holland last week on Sunday 1 December - I flew with Doris my Brompton all packed up from Heathrow Terminal 5 (British Airways) to Schipol in Amsterdam. I was a little worried since when Doris is packed in the B Bag with all of my clothes and toiletries she weighs in at around 27kg's and the BA baggage allowance is only 20kg's (a maximum of 23kg). Normally the extra weight is no problem because I am a Voyager (Star alliance) member with a 'few' airmiles - so I get to travel with 30kg.  But BA is not part of Star Alliance.

I said a little prayer, packed as well as I could, and headed to the airport at 5am (thanks Craig and Kath! You guys are AWESOME!) Thankfully my prayers were answered - the check in staff didn't even bat an eyelid.  I put Doris on the conveyer belt and off she went! Sadly because it was so early in the morning the bag wrapping service was not yet operating - so for the first time my Bromtpon B Bag went into the hold without any plastic wrapping.  However, it was a short flight (and very empty as well).  When I collected Doris at Schipol she was perfect! No damage, no problems.  So, I put the B Bag onto my luggage trolley (I take this with since it is easier to wheel than the wheels on the B Bag) and went to Schipol station for the 2 hour train ride through to beautiful Nijmegen.

The train ride was relaxing - with only one changeover at Utrecht where I literally walked from one side of the platform to the other.  On the first part of the trip I sat with an elderly Dutch couple who had just returned from a few weeks of holiday in Southern Africa - Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Victoria falls (and they did it all by train!) amazing. They spoke very enthusiastically about the beauty of South Africa.

When I arrived in Nijmegen I fired up my 9292 app on my iPhone and saw which bus would take me to Platolaan near the Erasmusgebou of the University.  The guesthouse (gastehuis) is right across the road.  While it is called a guesthouse it is actually just a large block of flats.  I have stayed here before.  It is very comfortable and such beautiful views.  Last year I overlooked the Brakenstein woods, this year my view was of the Astro turf hockey fields and the main University building.

By the way, it snowed here on Friday! I couldn't believe it! It wasn't very heavy snow, but it left a beautiful white covering on the ground for a few hours.  It was absolutely FREEZING!

I was very pleased to be in my flat in Nijmegen - I unpacked my clothes and Doris, pumped up her wheels and then headed to the Coop shop in the town center which is open later on a Sunday for some supplies. It was wonderful to be on the beautiful cycle paths, quite a change from London where every ride is like taking your life in your hands! Here cyclists seem to have more rights than motorists - special cycle lanes, special traffic signals, and of course thousands of fellow cyclists! It makes a real difference!

When I got back home I set up my laptop and connected to the VERY fast broadband connection (wired via ethernet - thankful there was an ethernet cable in the room since I forgot mine at home!) And then set up internet sharing on my Mac so that I could use my iPhone and iPad for Facetime.  I immediately called Megie, Courts and Liam - by this time it was already dark. I miss them so much, I can't tell you.  There is an emptiness in my heart, a dull ache all day. I can't wait to get home next week! We had a great chat. It is such a blessing to be able to 'call home' for free and just chat to them for as long as we want with crisp, clear, video.

On Sunday evening I had a wonderful dinner with Professor Jan van der Watt and his wife Shireen and a fellow PhD student Alexander from St Petersburg in Russia (Alexander's wife and son were also with us - it was great to have a little guy around the place. It made me thing of Liam).

On Monday my work began big time! Sadly this year has been so busy with EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption and Unashamedly Ethical work and travel that I have done very little on my second PhD. I have done some reading, but had not had much time to convert my thoughts and ideas into text.  So, with my first deadline looming on Monday afternoon I worked from late Sunday evening, early Monday morning until I met with Prof Chris Hermans - my co-supervisor who is helping me with Practice Oriented Research methodology (since I am doing some qualitative empirical work in my current study). I managed to send him something worthwhile, and then I started working towards my deadline for Professor van der Watt - I am working on the text of forgiveness with him.

I had BibleWorks 9 fired up on my Mac (in Parallels of course) and was digging deeply into the Greek text to do a thorough Exegesis.

On Tuesday I had to spend the afternoon on a conference call with the other directors of TEE College, for which I am a director.  We did our final business for the year, of which a part was to receive the final results for the 2013 examinations. So the students should be getting their results very soon!

Then, I had two further deadlines, a Wednesday and Thursday meeting with Prof Chris, and a Friday meeting with Prof Jan.  So, every moment was spent behind my keyboard, reading and writing.

I also had a wonderful opportunity to meet with a friend Johan who lives in Holland - he connected with me via the internet.  He follows my blog and saw that I was in Holland.  It was great to spend some time with him talking about his work, ministry and research.  He used to be a community health worker here in Nijmegen (actually he taught health care at the University - he has a PhD in epidemiology).  Now he is studying theology and serving an international Church in his city. I was so inspired by his commitment and service!

On Saturday I took a few hours for exercise - other than walking to the main University building and cycling a few km a day for supplies, I have not been as active as I am back home.  So, I set out in WET and COLD weather for a 30km ride along the Waaldijk.  It ended up being 43km because I got a little lost on the way back (road works meant that I couldnt' get back along the road that I knew). It was awesome to be out! The scenery is beautiful, and it felt great to stretch my legs, open my lungs and just be quiet and reflective.

There were lots of other cyclists out - the group which seemed to be part of a cycling team were excited to see a guy on a Brompton! ha ha! I say if you can't fold it you shouldn't ride it!

By the time I took this photo I was rather soaked and a little hungry.  Ha ha. Still, lots of fun.

On Saturday and Sunday I spent the 'off time' working on some editing I am doing for the Sentinel Group on Transformation materials. It was a nice change of pace and I found it inspiring and also very encouraging to be able to 'tick off' a few projects.  Achievement is an important part of the human psyche - to be able to work hard during the week, cycle well on Saturday, and do good work over the weekend left me feeling content and blessed. I am very thankful for all of the opportunities that I have.

It was also wonderful to spend some time on Facetime during the week, and a few hours over the weekend, chatting with Megie, Courtney and Liam.  I cannot tell you how much I love them!! I look forward to being home in a week's time! Family, sunshine, and mountainbiking!

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!

Wednesday
Nov202013

Multimodal transport and the Brompton bicycle

I am very fortunate to be on the faculty of one of the most amazing Universities in the world - Stellenbosch University in the wine lands around Cape Town.

The University is situated in a most beautiful setting, surrounded by magnificent mountains and vineyards. The town of Stellenbosch has experienced a property boom in recent years. Partly it is because of the University, but also because of the beauty and climate of the region. I live 20km from Stellenbosch in the equally beautiful city of Somerset West which is on the slopes of the Helderberg mountains overlooking the ocean. However while we share the Cape's beauty with Stellenbosch we don't benefit from the great weather - Somerset West is cooler, windier and the weather is less predictable (like most coastal towns).

The result of the growth in residence of Stellenbosch is quite severe congestion during term times. The 20km drive from home to University to teach can take 25 minutes during vacation times and over an hour during term times! Another nightmare is parking on Campus. As with many Universities, parking on campus is scarce and restricted. Frequently I find it easier to park off campus and walk or bike in.

This is where the Brompton works perfectly! I can load it into the boot (trunk) of my car and drive to Stellenbosch. Then I can either park at my office and leave my car for the day and only battle the traffic in and out of town at the start and end of the day. The Brompton then gets me on campus, to meetings, to the library and even into town if I need to buy anything. At times I have even opted to park my car outside of the congested area (at a shopping mall just outside of town, or at the station) and then cycle in and out of town. That is often quicker than getting through the narrow streets and traffic lights to get to and from the office.

Of course another benefit of the Brompton is that it fits neatly under my desk at the office, and can even be covered and taken into the Library or a lecture theatre without a rousing any interest or suspicion. I simply fold the Brompton and pull the cover over it, pick it up and go!

A final thing I love about the Brompton is it's carrying capacity. With the T Bag or C Bag I can carry my laptop, some books, my camera, and at times have even carried at data projector in the bag.

In this post is a picture of Doris in front of the Faculty of Theology building, and folded and covered in the journal section of the main campus library.

I'll be heading to the UK and Holland at the end of this week and Doris my trusty M3L Brompton (which is lighter than Darth my black M6L) will be packed into the B bag, checked onto the flight and taken along!

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!

Sunday
Sep292013

Heading home from Malaysia 

Megan and I have had a wonderful week together in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Tonight we head home to Cape Town via KL, Doha and Johannesburg.

We were brought here by our wonderful friends from Alpha Malaysia. This week we had a wonderful conference encouraging Christians to discover and live out their faith life in the world of work. In part this was based on my book 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling'. We also have a strong partnership between Alpha Malaysia and Unashamedly Ethical http://www.unashamedlyethical.com and 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' http://www.exposed2013.com

This was a wonderful week. We had many chances to engage with Christians in the world of work and ministers / pastors about developing a public theology and living out their faith for the sake of transformation and renewal of society so that justice and grace may prevail.

We have many wonderful friends here, so it is always a joy to visit! I was so thankful that Megie could join me on this trip. It was such a blessing to have this precious time with her! The punishing travel and work schedule of the last two years does take its toll. It is so wonderful to be together and experience new and wonderful people and places as a couple.

Of course we cannot wait to get back home to our children who have been with their aunt and my mom! We've missed them so much!

There is a busy time ahead with EXPOSED reaching its climax from 14-20 October across the world. We already have 137 countries involved and millions of Christians.

Here is how you can get involved:

1. Please watch this short video (2 minutes) about the EXPOSED Vigils http://t.co/i9EK7QqqjK
2. Simply invite a few friends, set a venue, and download prayers, scripture readings and the video from here http://www.exposed2013.com/act/10-action-tools/33-organise-a-vigil
3. Please register your Global Vigil on the map here, so that others can see it (shine a light!) or join you if it is an open meeting or service! http://www.exposed2013.com/act/10-action-tools/78-register-your-vigil
4. Post some pictures, video, or a short report on your website, facebook and twitter. Please use the hashtag #ShineALight
5. At your Vigil, and during the week, please get as many people as you can to sign the Global Call to end corruption. Simply go here on your computer, cellphone or tablet http://bit.ly/signGC or visit the website and sign up there, or download and print a sign up sheet to gather signatures automatically http://www.exposed2013.com

Thanks so much for your prayers and solidarity in this work! Rich blessing, Dion

 

Thursday
Sep192013

On our way to Malaysia!

What a blessing it was to board our flight to Malaysia (via Johannesburg and Doha) in a very wet Cape Town this evening!

What makes it such a blessing is that Megan is traveling with me to beautiful Malaysia. I am so thankful! I will be speaking at the Alpha Workplace conference in Penang and have some meetings for Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED in Kuala Lumpur.

I love this beautiful nation a great deal! It is a very special place and such wonderful people. I look forward to introducing Megan to Durien fruit and the warm hospitality and weather!

I will also have the joy of preaching at my friend Alvin Tan's Church this Sunday.

So keep an eye on this blog and my tumblr feed (on the left of this page or at http://digitaldion.tumblr.com for the site). I will post updates in both places.

We would appreciate your prayers for our service here! Please pray that Christ's love encounters us and our friends, that we are humble and receptive to God's leading and that our work here brings wholeness and transformation for the sake of God's Kingdom.

Wednesday
Aug212013

Reflecting on London and Oxford - so thankful!

As I write this I am on a coach (bus for us South Africans!) from Oxford to Heathrow.  I will be visiting with Craig and Kath, my brother and sister in law, before flying home this evening. I am looking forward to having some time with them! I am so aware of the blessing that it is to see them so frequently when Megie would love to have these opportunities to visit with her brother and sister in law.

I arrived in London just over a week ago.  It seems like a lifetime ago! Shortly after my arrival I began a series of meetings that classify the various aspects of my ministry / working life. First I met with the team from 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption'. That very important project is coming to an end fairly soon - the end of October. We still have many things that we wish to do in order to mobilise Christians and churches across the world to take a stand against global corruption for the sake of the poor.  From that meeting cycled back to Kensington where I met with Tricia Neill - the international director of the Alpha course.  I love those people, and that movement, so much. It was wonderful to meet with Tricia and talk about the priorities for Alpha on the African continent. Great things lie ahead!
Then, on Saturday I had one lunch meeting and then went cycling out to Richmond - that was just wonderful, even though I was struggling with a head and chest cold. I'm pleased to say that the cold has passed now! I did quite a few rides on Doris my Brompton during the week (some in the morning before breakfast, and some during the 2 hours of free time after lunch - I think I did about 5 x 30km to 40km).

On Sunday I was at Holy Trinity Brompton and then met my friend Dr Wessel Bentley who arrived from South Africa.  He rented a Boris bike and I had Doris my Brompton and we did a good 30km cycle through London seeing just about every sight a tourist could cover in half a day!

On Monday we moved across to Oxford where we spent the week at Oxford University (Christ Church) for the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological studies

I was honoured to be the co-chair, along with Dr Sergei Nicolaev, of the Theology and Ethics working group.  It was both an honour and a joy to be part of the planning of the institute, the selection of the members, and of course the task of chairing the presentations. I was also honoured to chair a plenary lecture given by Dr Rui Da Silva Josgrilberg.

In addition to the plenary sessions each of the working groups (of which we were one of five) presented their articles and engaged in discussion around the topic of the Institute. It was wonderful to be engaged in rigorous academic discussion and debate once again.  Our group was blessed with a number of senior scholars (Douglas Meeks, JC Park from Korea, Sondra Wheeler, Michael Nosner from Germany, and Rui from Brazil).  The group is making an exceptional contribution to scholarship across the world (Africa, Asia, the America's, Europe and the East). We also had some emerging scholars in our group - PhD students or recent PhD graduates.  I was deeply impressed by their fresh academic knowledge, the magnificent intellect and the capacity to engage on a relatively equal footing with some of the more senior scholars in the group.

I leave England looking forward to being home with Megie, Courtney and Liam who I miss so very much! I shall be home for just short of 4 weeks before departing for Malaysia (Megie is coming on that trip with me!)

The experience this week has reminded me that I do have a contribution to make in the academy. My teaching post at Stellenbosch University is important to me.  I also realise that I am a theologian for the Church.  My primary focus seems to revolve around a central Christology to which every is a missional response.

I am grateful for this week! In my younger life I could never have imagined the privilege that I am currently experiencing.  It is humbling, but it also comes with important responsibilities.