Today is Local Preacher Sunday in the Methodist Church. Once a year Local Preachers, sometimes known as Lay Preachers, fill every Methodist pulpit throughout the land. The truth is that this is not far from the reality of every other Sunday. It is estimated that Local Preachers conduct around two-thirds of all Methodist worship services each week. This may be surprising for us at CMM for we are used to having ordained clergy present just about every week. Yet throughout the country the number of Methodist churches / worship services far outnumber the clergy available on any given Sunday. In most situations ordained clergy oversee multiple Methodist congregations – sometimes over 20 – especially in rural areas. In these situations, clergy may only connect with a congregation once every 2 or 3 months. Every other Sunday Local Preachers hold sacred space for the people called Methodists to gather in worship. Today it is privilege to have Marion Rhode at CMM. Marion is from the Bellville Circuit. Welcome!
Here is a little Wikipedia history regarding Local preachers in the Methodist tradition:
Local preachers have been a characteristic of Methodism from its beginnings as a revival movement in 18th-century England. John Wesley tried to avoid a schism with the Church of England, and encouraged those who attended his revival meetings to attend their parish churches, but they also attended Methodist preaching services which were held elsewhere and met in “classes” (small cell groups). It quickly became necessary to build “preaching houses” where the Methodist meetings could be held. These began to function as alternative churches, often depending on the attitude of the local Anglican clergy.
One such preaching house was The Foundery, which served as Wesley’s base in London. In about 1740, Wesley was away on business and had left a young man, Thomas Maxfield, in charge of The Foundery. Since no clergymen were available, Maxfield took it upon himself to preach to the congregation. Wesley was annoyed by this and returned to London in order to confront Maxfield. However, his mother, Susanna Wesley, persuaded him to hear Maxfield out, suggesting that he had as much right to preach as Wesley. Wesley was sufficiently impressed by Maxfield’s preaching to see it as God’s work and let the matter drop, with Maxfield becoming one of Methodism’s earliest lay preachers.
Methodism formally broke with the Anglican church as a result of Wesley’s 1784 ordination of ministers to serve in the United States. Before the schism, Wesley had as accredited preachers only a handful of fellow Anglican priests who shared his view of the need to take the gospel to the people where they were. Because of the limited number of ordained ministers he could call on, Wesley appointed local preachers who were not ordained but whom he examined, and whom he felt he could trust to lead worship and preach: though not to minister sacraments.
PREACHER PATRIARCHY: Women local preachers were at some point restricted to addressing women-only meetings. In 1804 even though the Wesleyan Conference was very short of male preachers, it would not sanction the use of women. Some women, such as Sarah Mallett, however, ignored this ban. From 1910 the blanket ban was repealed, and from 1918 on, Wesleyan Methodism recruited and deployed women local preachers on exactly the same basis as men.
Long live the spirits of Thomas Maxfield and Sarah Mallet – long live.
Is preaching your calling? Some people feel sure of their ‘call to preach’ at an early stage, but for others the first steps are very tentative, and it is not unusual to feel ill-equipped. But those exploring this call are not alone – it is a process of discernment that is shared by the Church, including theological and biblical studies as well as practical experience in leading worship and preaching. If you would like to find out more please do speak with me.
When I visited the Karoo in January this year it was 40 degrees. I fell in love with a windmill. The clunking sound followed by the swish of water surging up through the pipe. Strangely soothing. The windmill kept the reservoir dam replenished and dog and humans refreshed.
This time the Karoo was cold and wet. Very wet. Staying overnight in Laingsburg, not far from the river with bucketing rain. It was impossible not to remember the devastating floods of 1981 that are traumatised into historical memory. Rain didn’t quite stop play, but it did change the intended destination. Re-routing to Prince Albert. A very wet Prince Albert. Here I fell in love again. This time with “leiwater”. In English “lead water” just doesn’t get it. The Afrikaans sounds as if it is … flowing.
Each property with “leiwater rights” is allocated a turn – once or twice a week. Property owners have the responsibility to open and close their sluice gates accordingly – to let water into a property or to let the water pass onto a neighbour. Sometimes the allocated time is at 1 a.m. in the morning – which can’t be too much fun – but water is life. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine the number of “water wars” over the years, especially because Prince Albert tends to run out or come close to running out of water most Decembers. So, the temptation to run the leiwater a litter longer into one’s property must be devilishly difficult to resist. Furthermore, not taking one’s turn can lead to flooding for the people located at the bottom of town. So, all in all the town survives on sharing. A finely balanced neighbourliness. Which is actually true for all towns but not as easily evident. As they say: Love thy neighbourhood.
Here is a delightful story about leiwater in Prince Albert – perhaps even a parable for the role of the church.
Two farmers eye-balled each other over the water furrow running alongside the main street of the tiny Karoo town of Prince Albert. This was the 1960s and water to irrigate their small-holdings was scarce. It hadn’t rained for months and the constant trickle of “leiwater” from a spring in the Swartberg Mountains was all they could rely on to feed their crops.
“You are stealing my water,” accused one, brandishing a spade. “This is my water,” spat the other also raising a spade.
Defiantly the first man tried to close the furrow into his neighbour’s dam.
“Touch that water and I will stop you with this spade.” The second lunged at his neighbour threatening to knock his knees out from underneath him. A crowd was growing to watch the fight but after a few tense minutes the second farmer closed his furrow and allowed his neighbour to have water.
“Now it’s your turn,” he said looking at his watch.
The first farmer glared at him. “Your watch is slow,” he grumbled.
“No, your watch is fast.”
Squinting under the harsh light of the Karoo the two sun-browned old men examined each other’s watches. It was true – one was too fast and the other was too slow. Neither knew for sure when his “leiwater” turn started or ended. At that moment the church clock struck the hour.
“The church clock is never wrong,” said the representative from the town’s Irrigation Board who, relieved that the spades had finally been laid down, spoke up for the first time. “Why don’t you both set your watches by the church clock and then maybe next week you won’t fight.”
Reluctantly the men changed their watches. The following week, when it was once more time for them to take water, they suspiciously studied the church clock as the “leiwater” trickled into one small dam and then the other. For the first time in years both agreed on the other’s time for water.
This story, told by the chairman of Prince Albert’s Kweekvallei Irrigation Board, Sas de Kock, highlights the importance of proper management of water in an environment where regular rainfall in unpredictable.
From that day onwards the “leiwater” turns in Prince Albert have run strictly to the time on the church clock – it’s the only way ownership of this scarce resource in the remote semi-desert village hasn’t ended in murder.
Story from: TheWaterWheel November/December2003
Two Poems to Ponder and a Quote to Question.
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
– ©Naomi Shihab Nye. Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. 1995
The Patience of Ordinary Things
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
– Pat Schneider (Another River: New and Selected Poems (Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 2005).
“He asks of us only one thing: to move our gaze from seeing to beholding the world. He would call that Silver-Branch perception. And there the trouble begins. Because that beholding can instigate disintegration. The money-lenders flee the temple. We begin to understand the sacredness of defeat. There’s a world far bigger than our temporary ambitions. Rilke tells us it’s what we secretly long for, that defeat … that our hubris aches to kneel at immensity’s door.”
– Martin Shaw (A Hut at the Edge of the Village)
Ask yourself the following question: “What do you understand by the “sacredness of defeat”?
Christianity is a slow-opening flower for me. All at once and it would wipe me out. Too much reality. I have to chew on one breadcrumb at a time. There are announcements of the heart so prestigious I am floored, and then lots that feels nutty and restrictive. Then a year later that in turn feels like absolute wisdom. I’m learning not to make too many pronouncements too early. One simply doesn’t know till you’ve tried, and tried for a while at that.
– Martin Shaw (28 May 2023)
Today we celebrate Pentecost. Many speak of Pentecost as the birthday of the church. The date of this birth is 50 days after Easter. The date is more sign or symbol than number. It is a sign or symbol of Jubilee. (Leviticus 25)
Jubilee is the principle and policy of redistribution of wealth. It is the great reset button of the economy. As former slaves fearing the return to slavery more than anything else, the ancient Hebrews built into the structure of society a mechanism of correction. They were humble and honest enough to know that despite their best efforts every 50 years society would be unequally skewed. Therefore, they made sure that those who had much did not have too much and those who had little did not have too little. Limiting inequality extended social stability. It lowered the risk of falling into permanent debt which is the slippery slope to slavery.
Pentecost is the birth of the church because it was the beginning of a community daring to live out Jubilee. The church is birthed whenever a community dares to practice Jubilee. When it makes sure all have enough and that none are in need in society. (Acts 2:43-45) Until then we are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
In South Africa we desperately need Pentecost. Because we desperately need Jubilee. Because we desperately need to address inequality. Because the vast majority live in desperate need.