Saturday, October 06, 2012

New York - Day 5

Central Park. And I had my hotdog there. Enough said. 1 Down on bucketlist. Still have to experience New Year's on Times Square. My business in NYC is not done!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Some African proverbs mentioned at our conference

Nobody is silent; people are deaf" - Prof. Oduyoye
"An army of sheep, led by a lion can defeat an army of lions, led by a sheep" - Prof Opoku
"Wisdom is like a baobab tree; it cannot be embraced by the arms of one person" - Prof Opoku
"Know who you are before they tell you" - Prof Opoku
"When the axe went into the woods, the trees said to it 'Your handle is one of us'" - Prof Opoku

New York - Day 4

Another lovely day in New York.

Natalie went to Madame Tussaud's and other amours shops.

After the conference today - by the way, my paper went very well - Natalie and I went to the Empire State Building. The sun was busy setting, so we went on the skyride and then to the 86th level. By this time it was dark and a cloud skimmed the top of the building. It was an awesome sight.

From there we walked to Times Square (a bit further than I thought) and had supper at Ruby Tuesday. Awesome food and amazing service!

It is now 11pm and we just arrived back at our guesthouse. our time is running short :-(.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

New York - Day 3

Conference started

Took me 20 mins from West 11th to Grand Central station...and I had breakfast on the run!

Conference is good so far. My question is just whether our contemplation has any real effect on the people at grassroots level. For instance, what do the miners of Marikana think about us contemplating Blackness? Does it really make a difference, or am I being too critical?

Natalie went shopping today, by herself, in Manhattan. Must say, I was a bit nervous the whole day, fearing that she might get lost, or mugged, or something. And then the following at the end of the day...

Coolest thing ever: Message on phone - "Meet you at Apple shop in Grand Central".

Nat and I had sushi at the sushi-bar around the corner on Hudson street. Then went for ice-cream. I still can't get used to seeing young girls and little old ladies walking alone in the middle of the city at 10pm. Blows my mind. A lot is always said about American arrogance. Honestly, I haven't seen it. Just thinking...until such time that little old ladies can walk alone outside in our cities back home, it is better that we keep our opinions subdued. There is something that works here which we could learn from. Respect.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

New York - Day 2

Rainy day, but awesome!

Went to Ground Zero and to the memorial. What an inspiring place.

Took Staten Island Ferry right past Statue of Liberty. Thanks Dion for the tip.

Had lunch on SI, best pizza I've ever had.

Body exhibition - pricey, but spectacular.

Going to Greenwich village for supper tonight close to Washington Square Park.

Tomorrow work starts. Feel so rejuvenated already. BTW, our bags arrived!!! Thanks SAA, I think...

See photos on Facebook.

New York - Day 1

Got off to a bumpy start. SAA lost both Natalie's and my bags.How do they manage that?

Well, got to Alma Mathews House, a Methodist guesthouse in New York (275 West 11th Street). It is absolutely fantastic and less than half the price of other places in Manhattan.

- Went shopping for clothes in Harlem
- Went to Grand Central Station
- Went to the Chrysler Building
- Went to Times Square, ToysRus and had supper at Applebees on TS.
- Caught subway home to find plenty people, especially women, walking around alone at night.
- Saw our fair share of strange today. When we boarded our first subway train, we were met with an Evangelist preaching funny theology. This was followed by a guy who believed he was a boxing champion, shadow-boxing.

See photos on my FB page

Friday, September 28, 2012

"I am a pacifist, because I'm a violent son of a bitch"

"I'm a pacifist because I'm a violent son of a bitch" - Stanley Hauerwas

I share Hauerwas' admission. I am a pacifist, I try to be. Why? Well, partly because I know my own violence. The Hulk made its appearance again, and I was reminded once more of how far I have to grow in order to walk the road of true peace. For this I apologise to my Maker and to humanity at large. I write this to get it out of my system. I do not want your opinion or judgement. I feel bad enough about it already.

Natalie and I went to the shops in two separate cars, having gone to look at a house for sale. I drove behind Natalie and got caught at a traffic light. She went on ahead. When I got to the shops, the traffic was backed up and I saw a large crowd gathering as spectators for something that happened near the entrance. I immediately thought that Natalie was involved in an accident. Matt and Nathan were in her car too. Was it them? Were they OK? Then, luckily I saw Natalie peering through the crowd. Thank goodness.

What happened was that a robber stole a bag from a car, jumped in his own car and sped off. In the rush of getting away, (having just driven past Natalie), he crashed his vehicle in the centre entrance. His accomplice jumped out and ran away. The bystanders plucked him from the car and tied his hands behind his back and escorted him to the buildings, sitting him down in a empty corner.They waited for the police who only arrived an hour later. He was surrounded.

I parked my car, met up with Natalie and the boys and joined the crowd. We started making our way to the shops, when my anger got the better of me. The flashbacks of all the robberies we've had, encounters with those who trespassed on our property, all came back in a flash. I turned back, holding Matthew's hand, wanting to show him what a robber looks like. "Remember his face! Remember what he looks like! This is the face of shame! This is the face of someone who does not respect or love". And then one of the security guards asked him to phone his accomplice. He didn't want to and the guard started to beat him on his back. The smacks soon resulted in pleas to stop. Part of me wanted to intervene and end this physical assault. My anger joined in, urging the guard quietly in my mind to "Bliksem hom!". We turned and walked away with the sound of smacks continuing behind us.

I am angry. I am angry that I have to unlock three locks before I can enter our house. I am angry that I sleep poorly, jumping at the slightest sound outside. I am angry that an elderly lady was attacked and raped in her house, a few blocks from our church. I am angry that I have to hide all our valuables each time we leave the house. I am angry that there are those who disrespect other people and their possessions, and even when they are caught, are out on the streets again in no time. I am angry that this idiot could have crashed into Natalie and the boys, or some other person, hurting others because of their crime. And, no, this was not a crime stemming from poverty. He had nice clothes, a nice watch and a nice car. I am angry because I could see the same anger in the eyes of the bystanders, black and white. I am angry that this episode is going to make me suspicious again of every passer-by. Perhaps it is better that I am a pacifist. I apologise for my violence.

Friday, September 21, 2012

"We have more rights than you"

Last week I watched a parliamentary debate whereby the President answered questions posed by the opposition parties. At one point he alluded to the fact that the ruling party has more rights, simply by virtue of the ANC being in the majority. He went on to explain that because the opposition parties were fewer in number, they by default have fewer rights.

This concerns me. I understand that in a democracy, "more" means that your point of view is exercised, but it does not mean that you have more rights than those who are fewer in number. In fact, Nelson Mandela spoke endlessly about "equal rights". Be that as it may, I concede that the President did not speak in his first language, and so may have used the word "right" in a wrong manner.

But then I thought, well, if more means more rights, if we were to paddle this boat a bit further, then it must also mean the following:

There are more poor people in SA than rich, therefore we should concern ourselves with the rights of the poor;
There are more children in SA than adults, which means their right to education should supersede the poor excuse for schooling offered by the State which we see in the country;
There are more ordinary citizens on the road than those needing blue-light brigades, hence the question "Who should actually have right of way?";
There are more victims of crime than criminals, so let's give the victims more rights...

I am sure you can add to the list.

Just thinking......

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I got my ticket to New York!

One of the privileges of being an academic is that we get to travel. Now I know that many people have grown tired of sitting at airports or travelling to foreign countries, but please understand, this will be the first time I cross an ocean.

I have been to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Botswana and Lesotho. That's it.

On the evening of Sunday the 30th, Natalie and I will be heading for NYC. I will be speaking at a conference named "Beyond the ivory towers" (making sense of academic theology), presenting a paper on redefining the church's prophetic witness. I am convinced that the church has become fixated on having a prophetic voice, but forgotten about prophetic action. A lot of my research to date has focussed on the role the church can play in building communities and standing for justice. A bit more about my paper later.

So, back to NYC. Natalie and I will be staying at a Methodist guesthouse called Alma Mathews House. I found this guesthouse per chance as we were first going to stay at a Catholic guesthouse. When they communicated that they were full (and for a moment I felt like Joseph at the, Natalie is not pregnant), I Googled "Methodist guesthouse Manhattan", and there you have it.

Obviously my paper is ready and I am all set to go, but I cannot help but plan our free time. How about, after we dropped off our bags we go to...Ground Zero, Ellis Island, Statue of day, up north to Central Park, Times Square, Empire State building....

What I want to do most is photograph the bridges in Central Park. Better get a bicycle...

If you have any other suggestions of places that are a "must experience", let me know.


Friday, August 17, 2012


"Pappa, when I grow up, how will I know how to get to Menlyn?", Matthew (8) asked with anxiety in his voice. We were driving home from school and I could see that tears will filling his eyes.

He was worrying that he would not know how to get to Menlyn to buy food and that he would starve to death as an adult. Now, you and I might find his question a bit illogical, immature, irrelevant or even amusing, but to Matthew it was a real worry.

The apple does not fall far from the tree. I can remember how I worried as a boy (about Matthew's age) about where I would get enough money to buy a washing maschine. I reasoned that I could buy fresh produce, and therefore did not need a fridge, eat salads, so I would not need a microwave, read books, so I would not need a TV, but washing my clothes...that was the real problem.

I listened empathetically to Matthew's concern. In my mind I wanted to tell him, "Matt, it is really not something to worry about. You'll easily find a shop near you where you could buy food". I could have told him that there would be more important things that will cross his path, which will be much more demanding than finding his way to Menlyn. Instead, we agreed that over the weekend, we will climb in the car and drive slowly from our house to Menlyn. He can then take notes as we go along, mapping the route until he is satisfied.

This led me to think, how many of my worries are real worries in God's eyes? They feel real enough to me, but I am so grateful that God does not respond by saying, "Ag, stop worrying, it's such a silly think to spend your time on!". I have experienced God taking my hand while I worry, and walk the path with me until I am satisfied that a situation is resolved. Everytime I worry now, I remind myself of God's commitment to us, to never leave us or forsake us. Does it take away the worry ? No, but it does help me realize that I am not alone. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Worship helps us stay calm

In the course "Manna and Mercy" (written by Daniel Erlander), we are reminded of what worship is.

Let us perhaps start with what worship is not:

  • It is not the slow songs we sing at church;
  • It is not the mere gathering of people for a church service.
According to Erlander (echoed by friend Allan Storey), worship consists of the following three steps:

  • Remembering
  • Retelling
  • Giving thanks
You see, the Israelites of old loved telling stories. Festivals and holy seasons were shaped around their stories. During special days, we are told, the young ones of the community would go to the elders and ask: "Why are we celebrating this day?". The elders would then tell the stories of God's faithfulness, of Israel's liberation from Egypt, etc. Remembering helps us grow in faith. It reminds us that if God was faithful back then, then God will be faithful now.

The second step is retelling. I think the point is covered partially in the previous point, but our retelling is not only of what happened in the distant past, our stories grow each day. Every day we can have something new to share. I think we fail to retell, because we miss the first step. We don't make time to remember. The third step is to give thanks. When we remember and retell, we find that we have reason to give thanks, acknowledging that God is part of our story...or perhaps we are part of God's story.

Do you struggle with worship? Well, try this. When you wake up, look at your diary. Pray for all the events that lie ahead, all the people whom you are planning to meet. Live the day fully. Before you go to bed, go back to your diary and think of how God was present in each moment. REMEMBER. Now, tell someone of at least one experience in the day where you felt God's presence. RETELL. Take a moment to GIVE THANKS.

The more we do this, the more we will notice that we are not the masters of our own destinies, but that we are part of a greater story of which God is the main character. When we don't do this, Allan tells us that FEAR + FORGETFULNESS = HIERARCHY (Power struggle). Don't go there today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Footnote to all prayers

I came across this poem by C.S. Lewis, which, I thought is absolutely astounding.

Footnote to all prayers by C.S. Lewis

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in the heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquite thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskilfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolators, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, oh Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in Thy great,
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

News from the Bentley's

Dear friends
Just to share some news (which may be of no interest to most - apologies for cluttering your inbox)...
It is now official that I have been granted secondment to work as a senior researcher at the Research Institute for Theology and Religion at the University of South Africa. The offer from the university came as quite a surpise in the middle of December and we had literally three days to respond.
The Research Institute is a very exciting part of the University. We do not have any undergraduate students, only Masters and Doctorates, and it is our function to publish, publish, publish. My areas of focus are twofold. First of all, I will be looking at the faith-science discourse. This is an area of tremendous growth and requires a lot of reflection in the fields of systematic theology and theological ethics. Second, I will continue my research focus on the relevance of church in society, particularly pertaining to the Wesleyan tradition. I keep myself anchored in the local church and will be assisting at the Glen Methodist Church until such time that another minister is stationed (and hopefully beyond, in accordance with the requirements and needs of this congregation).
Friends, I strive to serve God and the Church to the fullest of my abilities and ask for your prayers and guidance as we venture on this new path. Natalie, Matthew, Nathan and I are in agreement that this is where we believe God wants us to be (for now), knowing fully well that God sends and we follow.
Kind regards and lots of love.
Wessel Bentley
- Theology is grounded in the church, serving God.