Monday, September 28, 2009

Alcohol in our lives

Where is the church, I asked myself, as I sat among 70 people at a recent regional forum on proposed changes in the liquor laws.
There were representatives of all kinds of community agencies, liquor outlets and drinking establishments, but if the church was there it kept a low profile. There was a time when my church would have been there with bells on. But not, apparently, now.
Yet the upcoming revision of the law is a really significant opportunity for our country to attempt once more to create a more civilised climate around the sale, use and abuse of alcohol. The Law Commission has produced a wide-ranging and realistic discussion paper and invites submissions on issues that affect the lives of all of us in one way or another.
I sense that there is now wide dissatisfaction with the 1989 Act in communities in all parts of the country. There’s a great need for change and this is the chance to do something about. Let’s get in behind the Law Commission and help negotiate a better deal for everyone. Submissions are open until the end of October.
The Law Commission website has it all:

This old dog learns a new trick

We had a “brainstorm” at the Calling for our church’s Ministry Team recently. Participants called out suggestions to make up a big list of tasks needed to do our mission and ministry.
A few years ago, I would have laboriously scrawled them on a big sheet of newsprint. This time I typed them up in Power Point on a laptop, each idea in big letters on a separate page. The video projector put these up on a large bright screen and people could see their ideas (almost) as soon as they called them out. After a few frightening moments when the laptop wouldn’t talk to the printer, I printed them “9 up” and we cut them into little sheets which people could shuffle around on the tables as they talked about who might do what.
After the event, we wanted a list of the whole lot. Would that mean opening each slide, copying the text and pasting it into an ordinary text document? Well, I poked around in the computer program and found I could “save as” the slides as a “rich text format” file. In a few moments all 75 suggestions were condensed into one document which I edited down to a single page. No wonder they call it POWER point.
Now, even if you don’t understand all those technicalities, you can see how even an old dog like me can still learn a new trick or two to use technology to make life easier. It’s the same with faith. Even at 74, I am always being invited to step outside my comfort zone into new and challenging experiences. I am invited to recycle the newsprint of old ways and to open myself up to the possibility of seeing life on a bigger, brighter screen.
In the 1950s we used to sing with great gusto “The Lord has yet more life and truth to break forth from his word.” It's still true. Something like that is happening with our people right now as the new team takes up the challenge of supporting and shaping the mission and ministry of our people.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Team Called

A lot of water has gone under the bridge in a week but suffice it to say that our parish Calling was a very good occasion. District Supt Peter was able to report back that all four calls were accepted within 24 hours.

That's not quite a record but the event can be said to be very successful and people seemed to enjoy the experience. We did a few things a little differently this time.

Besides Helen who continues with Pastoral Care, We now have Ann and Michael, both of whom have had previous experience on the team, and Vanessa and Judy, both first timers. It's a very encouraging outcome.

There will be more to tell when Bev and I get over over the week we took away in the caravan to get over the busy-ness of the previous weeks. We had a great time for four days with some good visits with my Dad. Then one after the other we have gone down with some gastro trouble. At least we're saving on a lot of work getting meals. Eating seems very low priority right now!

Thanks for the Memory

Remember the caravan coupling that was getting shonky? (See "Running True" in July)

I took it to the local Engineer's and when we'd decided he would do the job he asked for my name, address and phone number. I gave them and then suggested, tactfully, perhaps he might like to write them down. "Oh, no," he said "I've got them." And he parrotted them all back to me perfectly.

Some days later I drove in to see how the job was going and he recognised me and recited my full details from memory. Isn't that fantastic? Wouldn't your pastoral heart like you to remember details like that?

Actually, several weeks later, he's forgotten to send me the account for the job.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Living with Prostate Cancer

Those who have been following my journey with prostate cancer will be pleased to hear that, for the third time, my PSA scores have become "unmeasurable".
My PSA first disappeared for a year after removal of my prostate before returning. It disappeared again for nearly three years after I went onto Zoladex implants. Now, after a couple of months on a daily Bicalutamide tablet as well as Zoladex, my PSA score is right down again.
Next time it creeps up there won't be another medication to throw at it - unless medical science has something secreted up its sleeve. But this is a very welcome reprieve.
And there's lots of living to do as we celebrate our Golden Wedding in October and November. We're having "drop in" events in Paihia, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Sydney.
If you'd like to spend an hour or two with us and family and friends, ask us for details of the event that is "Coming to a Centre Near You"...

Making a Loss

Bev and I have been operating a business partnership ever since I stopped receiving a full stipend in 1990. We did book publishing, video production and consultancy work for a few years to help along with her full-time earnings until we qualified for NZ Superannuation.
The Partnership is still in place but in these retirement days it makes some losses as our actual costs for the bit of work we continue to do tend to exceed the income we receive for it.
So why keep the partnership going, I asked myself and the IRD recently. Well, the losses are a legitimate deduction from our superannuation income so there’s some tax compensation for some of the more worthwhile things we do in retirement.
That’s nice, but what has real value for us is the quality of what we do for people, not whether or not the partnership finances are in the black at the end of the year.
Our small church is moving into a deficit budget for the first time in a dozen years and we are having to ask ourselves questions about our day by day life as a parish. Where are the priorities? What will produce the best results from the most modest input? How do we match our resources to the needs? It’s a bit like the end of the year balance. And the full story will never be told in just the financial bottom line.