A number of friends have been responsible for helping to finance my three-year stint at the Student Y on the UCT campus, and now more recently my work at George Whitefield College. I was in the habit of sending newsletters to these kind people, but I have not done so for a while (for a few uninteresting reasons). So what follows is the first experiment with a newsletter-blog crossover, because perhaps even some of those who don’t know me might like to hear about the college. It’s a little college with a big job for Africa, so you might be interested…
Not only a Thanksgiving bird
The handful of students that we had not managed to entirely kill with overwork during the year decided to club together and go on a short mission to a partner church in Turkey. Turkey is fairly hostile towards Christianity, so I’m certain it will be an eye-opening visit when compared with complacent South Africa. We trust they’ll return safely and write their story for us. It’ll be on the GWC site in the new year, I’m sure.
One of my major tasks at college is to study up and become less of an idiot. Seeing as the former part of that is measurable, I’ll tell you how that is going. The short answer is ‘not well’, but allow me to elaborate. I’m busy with a Masters degree in Old Testament Biblical Studies at Stellenbosch University, and officially I’ve been at it for two years. I completed some the necessary course work and reading reviews last year, and this year I was meant to get down to the thesis itself. The first semester was devoted to writing a 300-page course on introduction to the Old Testament for GWC, which left no time for other things. When that was done, I rushed my research proposal through to meet the July deadline, without having done the kind of work it needed, and since then I have been discovering exactly how many rookie mistakes I make and how little I know. I managed to write two chapters, both of which have been entirely rewritten three times, and the second needs to go back to the drawing board again.
When the whole thing is finished, I will hopefully have written something interesting about how the OT understands prosperity and how we should carry it forward into Church life.
There have been other distractions from my studies, including:
A New Website
The GWC website had always looked like it was for a low-cost 1990s Mozambican short-sea shipping company, and after I had moaned incessantly about how long it was taking to have it redesigned, Sigrid and I somehow inherited the job of getting it up to code. The proposed new look that had been languishing in the development phase was not well liked or functioning ideally, so we chose a new template and managed to relaunch fairly quickly. After discovering some inoperable problems with that template, we chose a newer, shinier one, which is now working well and growing.
Another thing that’s kept me busy has been remedial classes for some of our students. It’s become increasingly clear that we demand things from our students that we expect they will have learned at school (rhetorical and essay-writing skills, for example), but we have little or no plan for those students who have not developed these skills. Many of our students, especially the non-English students, have been struggling with high-level courses as a result. One successful fix was to begin the year with mandatory English testing for the first time, and we then streamed some students into an English course taught by a professional ESL teacher. I volunteered to offer some tutorials for doctrine courses with a focus upon the skills necessary to process doctrinal information, rather than merely reteaching the content. It was very clear that this kind of help is urgently needed, and as early in the curriculum as possible, so I hope to get a skills-based remedial course into the 1st Year programme next year, but I haven’t worked out how to sneak it in yet.
Next year’s classes
With some of our senior faculty on sabbatical in the 2nd semester next year, I have picked up the responsibility for 1st Year Greek (84 lectures!) and 2nd Year OT Exegesis in addition to my usual courses. I’m looking forward to more teaching, but it will mean stricter discipline in my thesis work. Right now I’m giving exactly no thought to thesis or lecture load, and paying more attention to doing nothing (or—during office hours—reworking an old writing project that’s been on my personal to-do list for 2 years).
We’ve been at St James for 12 good years, and it really has been a life-changing experience being there. I went there on my first Sunday after moving to Cape Town to humour a friend from back home who said I should visit. Having come from a tiny family church of baptist leanings, I had wandered into an Anglican church of 2,000 members that used a prayer book and happened to be having a thing that involved children wandering down the aisles waving flags to loud music. They may have even baptised some babies that day, although to be fair I’m certain I would have run off if they had. I hated it a lot until the sermon, which made me quickly realise that I needed to give them another chance. I never looked back.
The teaching and encouragement that I have received at St James has been directly responsible for draining my taste for graphic design and getting me excited about teaching the Bible. In the early years, I was bringing my housemate to services, because she said she’d lift me, and she got converted under St James teaching too. As a result of that day 12 years or so ago, I’m now teaching at the denomination’s training College and married to my housemate with two small daughters. I wonder what I’d be doing now if I had run off that Sunday?
Thanks to all those who are supporting me at the college, or even just supporting the college in general. I think GWC is a great investment, and I’m happy that you’re sharing in what we’re doing. Have a great Christmas.