Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Two important ministry events...

Tomorrow I go out to Lesley's place up a quiet valley where we will perhaps get to feed a wild pheasant and smell the countryside.

It's my first official team meeting as interim Enabler, a role that I haven't exercised since I retired from stipendiary ministry in 1996. And I am SO looking forward to it. We'll be working in "Beginnings in Local Shared Ministry" - perhaps more for my benefit than theirs, since they've been working together for some time. It'll be a time of visions and plans and strategising as the team of three continues to cover the work that might occupy five members if the team were up to strength. It's going to be fun.

Then Bev and I will immediately drive four hours to Auckland so we can attend the induction of the Trinity Theological College Principal in the evening. I'm keen to be there as a former staff member. But also because I was in the Synod from which David Bell came up as a candidate for ministry. He made quite an impression then and I think he will do that again in this position.

That service will be different from sitting in the sun at Lesley's.

But both events are to do with ministry and mission. And along the way we will get a couple of quiet days in the caravan right on the beachfront at Orewa.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Wasp Report

The cavalry duly rolled up - a couple of friendly fellows who thought they might be able to flood the wasps' nest. No, they didn't have any pesticides. They'd get Terry up the road to do something about it. But, of course, nothing was going to happen over the weekend.
Maybe the cavalry will return on Monday. Maybe not. So late last night, in a do-it-yourself mood, I got hold of a can of contact pesticide gas and sprayed it around the entrance and all over the nest. I am not in a hurry to open the cover and see what effect this had. The wasps could be quite cross. On the other hand, my amateur effort may be enough to do the job. Then I can get rid of the nest, turn the water off and fix the leaky tap.

It's all a bit like Local Shared Ministry. Small churches just get on with the job. They're not stuck with hierarchies of ministry, nor overwhelmed in profound theological reflection, nor confined by the "proper" ways of doing things. They have all they need for mission and ministry within their own resources and if they need specialised assistance they can access it. And they get things done.

See a leaflet on my book: Cavalry Won't be Coming

Friday, January 23, 2009

A leaky tap and a wasps' nest

I needed to turn off the water today but the in-ground meter box was full of a huge fluffy ball. With a wasp on it. It was a nest of Common Wasps. I briskly dropped the lid and called the Council Helpline.
"Sorry, we can't help you, it's not our responsibility. You have to attend to that yourself"
I suggested that I could call a plumber and have him by-pass the meter. I would get free water and the wasps could keep the meterbox. She said, helpfully, "Yes, you could do that." (Really? Well, she was just the person who takes the calls, wasn't she?).
I checked the Council website: yes, although I had to pay for it, it's their box, it's their meter and it's over the boundary on their property. I am only required to "give them access". OK, any time they want access to read it I'll show them where it is. Forget the wasp nest.
But an hour later a very pleasant girl calls up and says they're sending someone to look at it. Well done, the Council's contractor!
Haven't I heard somewhere a story of someone who was asked to do something and said, No I won't? And then went and did it anyway? Isn't life spiced up by the occasional serendipitous act of service when it seemed nothing was going to get done?
Can I respond to an observed need appropriately, even when I've initially turned it aside? What's my duty in the terrible situation in Gaza right now?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Looking more closely...

We had a quirky little bird as our symbol for the liturgy in church last Sunday. Nobody identified it from the first photo, although it is indigenous to NZ. It looks a lot like many other birds.
But you have to look at it from just the right angle to spot its distinctive feature. It is the only bird that has a beak which curves to the right. The Wrybill Plover circles around stones in a clockwise direction, extracting its food from underneath the edges of the stone and its bill is curved for that purpose.
The stories from Samuel and Nathaniel last Sunday also invited us to look a little deeper, at a different angle, to extract the fullness of their significance for us.
And we realised that our LSM congregations sometimes look pretty much like lots of other small churches. But there is something quite distinctive about them. And it is related to purpose, to our calling to mission, to our very being.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Life of an industry and an industrious life

I’ve just received a copy of Mark Webster’s history* of the motor vehicle assembly industry in New Zealand. My Dad, Bill Mullan, contributed quite a few comments to this as he was around when the industry was developed with government protection to create work in the post-depression years. He also saw the withdrawal of the tarriff protection and the closure of the entire industry by 1990.

I am looking forward to showing him this copy when we celebrate his centenary on 27 Feb. It won’t be a big event as he doesn’t cope easily with large crowds but there will be some special functions at the time.

The motor vehicle assembly industry and our human lives have a bit in common. We’re all here for a while and then we’re gone. It’s good when both create memories to treasure and a story to tell. We’ll all be doing some of both at Taupo in a few weeks.

*Assembly – NZ Car Production 1921-1928, Mark Webster, Reed Books, 2002

Dad's address: c/- St John's Wood, 135 Tamamutu St, Taupo, NZ 3330

Monday, January 12, 2009

Helen's first service

I invited another of our worship leaders, Beverley Deverell, to report on Helen's first service yesterday.

Who would have believed that it was the very first time Helen had led a full worship service! From the Genesis 1: 1-5, beginning of the world, that 'spectacular' event captured in a visualisation so ably led by Helen, through to the beginning of Christ's ministry at his baptism. All resonated with our own new beginnings and this great service less than four years after Helen's own baptism.
The hymns were strategically placed and well-chosen so as to add significantly to the flow of worship. Helen’s husband prepared the power-point with ‘spectacular’ images.We could not help but be captured as that key word, ‘spectacular’ and all its similes, gave us a sense of wonder and awe and led us into a fresh commitment to our Creator God and his loving Son, Jesus.
Thankyou, Helen.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

On sticking together

When the phone rang before I was out of bed this morning – not all that late, let it be said – our bedside handset was missing. Immediately I remembered that the study unit also wasn’t in its accustomed place. All three of our phones were clustered together in the lounge. This happens a lot. It’s as if they are gregarious. A common instinct seems to draw them together on a regular basis.
Our handsets are a double-sided metaphor for the small church. On the one hand, we need each other and we enjoy getting together because in our congregation we are known by and can know everyone at a reasonably personal level. This weekend we’re particularly looking forward to Helen’s first ever service.
But, on the other hand, the reason for our being together on Sunday is just not to be together. We can’t truly be the church until we separate and return to our personal places where the mission to which we are called is to be carried out.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What came out of my prostate surgery

We had a great visit with a couple of minister friends today, one with an enlarged prostate and the other, like me, with none at all, having had a radical prostatectomy.

We had a bit of what Muriel called an “organ recital” as we shared our experiences and then Alan remembered my little book of limericks. He’d loaned his copy to someone and not seen it again. So I gave them one each and we had a few laughs.

By definition, the genre is supposed to be a bit on the smutty side so it lent itself to writing about my experience. Limericks are also sometimes a bit subtle in the use of language, and this one pleased me in the context of making the decision to have surgery:

There’s no doubt about it, it’s Ca.
And surgery’s no easy Aa.
The growth’s not impressive
But fairly aggressive,
I guess that I just have to Cha.

I also got a bit of a buzz out of dreaming up the logo. Interesting what the mind does when you’re facing the ultimate realities…

Ask me for The Limerectomy A6 100p - colcom.press@clear.net.nz

Sunday, January 4, 2009

“You’re looking well”

It’s happened again. Someone who hasn’t seen me for a while said, “You’re looking well.” Happily, he corrected himself almost immediately: “Of course, that doesn’t mean much, does it?”
Yes, indeed. Zoladex therapy for prostate cancer has caused me to put on weight, my face has filled out and of course I look terrific. If I looked any better I’d be positively dangerous.

But, as we need to be reminded from time to time, looks aren’t everything and it is a sensitive person who knows enough to see past the looks and identify sympathetically with the person behind them. Thanks, Ron.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Another year's end....

Half an hour ago we stood on the front deck and watched a few thousand dollars’ worth of fireworks light up the Bay. When I commenced ministry in 1959 we usually saw in the New Year with a “Watchnight Service.”

That’s not all that’s changed in fifty years. I’ve been thinking about year endings and recalled the comprehensive annual statistics that our denomination used to demand. The very first item on the list was not the number of members, nor the number of communicants nor Sunday School “scholars”. It was – could you guess? – “Number of Churches”. And right after that: “Number of Other Preaching Places”.

Fifty years ago our denomination had over 720 places where worship was celebrated, one for every 40 or so members. So the great majority of them were very small congregations, intimate and resourceful.

Perhaps those kinds of congregations are what we need to rebuild in this very different age…?

Read more at Where are our Small Churches?