Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thinking in the rain…

This morning our daughter Christine sent a text to say how thrilled they were that their roof-sourced water tank was completely full – a great boon for their summer peace of mind. However, in the local hot springs camp ground, we discovered that the very same overnight downpour that filled their huge tank resulted in a leak in our caravan. The ’van is a bit like us – it looks tidy enough but is a bit long in the tooth. A severe test like last night’s horizontal rain now and then reveals its inadequacies.

As we count off another year Bev and I are aware that there will be testing times ahead of us, too. But Christmas reminds us that we are “not alone – we live in God’s world.” Our inadequacies are still there; but a bright day is already shining after the storm.

That is the way of the creation of which we are a part.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Prostate Cancer Adventure

I have made no secret of the fact of a diagnosis of prostate cancer a few years ago nor my subsequent dependence on three-monthly implants of Zoladex to slow the cancer's growth. During these years there have been a few things that have greatly helped me along the way. To share them may be of some benefit to others.
  • I wrote a little book of limericks during my recuperation from two successive surgeries...

  • I discovered Christine Newman's lines about not "battling" cancer but "embracing" it; she said:

... To embrace my cancer
is to know that my days are numbered,
That I had better get on with things in life that matter...

  • I went on an exploration of Bob Neuhauser's “The Cosmic Deity”

They're all written up a little more fully here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Liturgy in Reverse?

At Paihia last Sunday the liturgy moved backwards. After we lit our third Advent candle, we were brought sharply up against the realities of people's pain in a harsh and unforgiving world by the the intercessory prayers and a short video highlighting the needs of women in Sri Lanka.

Using three agapanthus flowers in leaf and bud, Lesley reminded us of the two themes of Advent so far. The third stage, a full flower head, illustrated Sunday's theme and began to move us from a sense of doom and failure to feelings of joy.

We laughed as she confessed how she obtained the much-needed full head from a public garden on the way to church. We were inspired as she invited us to share experiences that bring us joy. And we were moved as she engaged us in guided meditation for confession. A robust declaration of forgiveness was a climax to the liturgy, then gladly and with spirit we sang "Joy to the World" before being dismissed.

The unaccustomed order of the litugry was a surprise but Lesley explained it specifically, presented it smoothly, developed it with skill and carried us along with her. For a relatively new worship leader in our LSM congregation, Lesley lifted us to the heights.

Note: Agapanthus = "Flower of Love"

Gannet Ecclesiology

On the way to a national church committee meeting we have stopped off at the gannet colony. The air is filled with noise.Young birds are squawking raucously for attention. Parents reunited after a day apart are greeting each other with cries of delight. Unpaired individuals are quieter, unsure, withdrawing. The gannet colony is a microcosm of the world, of life, in the late afternoon as we gaze on them from the cliff just above.
What are the parallels between gannets and members of today's church, I wonder... In the evening, at our motel, I think of a few Have a look at: Gannets

Monday, December 15, 2008

LSM in a nutshell

A simple introduction to Local Shared Ministry as it began in Bay of Islands Uniting Parish (NZ) in 1992 has been widely distributed. We have found this useful for people who haven't got time to wade through the lengthy explanations that are available from various sources. It's reasonably up to date.
Also, we are still finding a lot of use for a ten minute video documentary that was made the year after we commenced. We have distributed some 60 copies of this in five countries. It is now available on DVD together with three or four other short videos on small churches and LSM. We have often talked of bringing it up to date but actually there's nothing much that we would want to change. 
Our team is down to three in 2008 and we will be having another Calling shortly - probably the fifth or sixth we have had over the 16 years in our 40-family parish.

Personal News

Bev and I send out an annual letter each year. This year's is the 48th we have published – it was a new idea when we were married in 1959 so we missed a year or two at the beginning (well, we were pretty busy getting used to being married back then, too, actually).
These letters are a fascinating chronicle of our life together and proved invaluable when I commenced writing an account of my life.
A first draft of that story is being completed and anyone interested in reading and commenting on it is welcome to ask for it. It'll be a pdf of about 1.6mb. After publishing 100 books by other people, I’m a bit coy about publishing my own before I've died - and afterwards could be a bit of a problem - so this might be your only chance! Ask me at

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Cosmic Deity -- The Creator is the Creation; the Creation is the Creator

Retired scientist Bob Neuhauser and his Methodist minister wife Dorothy Killebrew were Servas guests of ours a few months ago and over the dinner table we got to talking about creation. I wasn’t to know that we were getting onto his favourite subject but it was a most stimulating conversation and he generously presented me with a copy of his self-published book The Cosmic Creator. I am not much of a reader but I devoured it.

Bob was a scientist – he worked on the Saticon colour TV tube in the 1960s – but has always been a “horseback theologian”. His book is analysis of creation and faith that goes beyond “California Cosmology”, and offers a fascinating new way of thinking. Not being any kind of a scientist myself, I warmed to his lucid and careful explanation of the technical aspects of exploring the universe. I found his illustrations apposite and helpful. And his personal affirmation of faith moved me deeply.

The book is readily available on the net but is quite costly and I am making up a handful of facsimile copies from Bob’s original disk. More.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An Enabler Training Matrix

For some years I have played around with a table that lists the various roles of the Ministry Enabler and tries to identify the primary knowledge, skills and personal characteristics that might be required for each role.
It has been an interesting exercise and has allowed me to focus more precisely on the wide range of resources that many clergy bring to the role and, in particular, the elements that are absolute requirements for it. I believe that it would be fairly easy to establish any individual’s strengths and weaknesses against such a set of criteria.
It is, of course, another question whether discerned deficiencies in an enabler candidate can then be made up with good training or should really disqualify one from being accepted. But until we have really established exactly what qualities of knowledge, skills and personal characteristics are basic to the role I think it may be premature to fill people’s minds with knowledge about enablers and enabling.

There is a lot more thinking to be done on this. The entries to the various cells in my matrix are very tentative at present and are indicative rather than comprehensive. The roles are not arranged in any particular order. Perhaps someone else might like to take this up or get into conversation. The matrix

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Can we really train Ministry Enablers?

The role of the Local Shared Ministry Enabler is largely an intuitive one, not highly correlated with the work of an regular parish minister. But it nevertheless depends on
a. intimate knowledge of the ecclesiastical institution and its beliefs
b. special and identifiable skills in relationships and group dynamics;
c. a distinctive profile of personal characteristics.

Synopsis: In this brief document I argue that we can quite easily identify what an enabler needs in each of these areas, develop a profile of a good enabler, conduct evaluation of enabler candidates against this profile and then target enabler formation on a personal basis in areas where strengths need to be built up. Half a dozen other specific issues relating to enabler education in remote settings are also considered.
See the full document

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Death by Co-operation - Murder Mystery Dinner

Eight groups have now enjoyed the fun and challenge of my Murder Mystery Dinner DEATH BY CO-OPERATION.

It is of special interest to Church groups and so far half a dozen of them have staged it in various parts of the country. However, a tentative event for the general public was sold out four weeks ahead and there were 60 names on a list for a second one! It was also over-booked and we expect to do a third in Paihia in March 2009.

We have produced a CD ROM with all the resources necessary for any group to do the show themselves. However, many people like to have the writer direct it so Bev and I are travelling several times next year and would welcome early enquiries for coordinated presentations in any part of the country. We are currently expecting to be in the South Island in the second half of April.

Get information suggesting the possibilities for your group from us at my home page


PS: If you've been to the show and enjoyed it, please add a post by clicking on comments below!

Thoughts on Enablers in the Methodist Church of NZ

No doubt I’m “over the hill” but I am dismayed at the descriptions of the work of enablers whose experience is being highlighted in our denomination's internet presence.
I have recently been given the opportunity of sharing my concerns with the Methodist Church's LSM Task Group. I’m not sure that my response was as gracious as their invitation but as the LSM proposal has developed I have felt very strongly that our denomination is modeling a very intensive style of Enabler minister.
As a result the proposed cost of the LSM strategy seems to be rising beyond the reasonable reach of very small congregations. I think we may be at risk of developing a new style of exclusive, specialist ministry which is inappropriate to our size and budget.

There's quite a bit more on this theme in a paper of the same name on my home page