Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Because we're local, we know that we don’t have to slow down to 50kph for another 400metres. But strangers coming down the hill in front of us see only the top part of the sign and slow down, holding up everyone behind them. It’s very frustrating.
But it’s a bit like life. We not only have to watch for the signs. We also need to be sure that the signs we see are complete and that we are not missing some important piece of information.
I guess part of the business of the church is to help people look for the signs and interpret them. And if we don’t see them very clearly ourselves, our capacity for helping others is greatly reduced. Keeping our eyes open and interpreting the signs,
Congregations using Local Shared Ministry may have to work particularly hard at this. It can be too easy for them to be Ok on the practical stuff but sometimes a little hard to work at the visionary and prophetic elements of ministry.
Friday, December 17, 2010
We found this Northland woodpigeon or Kukupa just outside our bedroom window one afternoon. I couldn’t have got the photo if he hadn’t been sleeping off a bit of a bender and oblivious to everything around him.
Local bird rescue people are now warning us to watch out for tui and kukupa that have become intoxicated with fermented nectar. I remember that workmates in the native bush in the 1950s used to tell me they could hit a wood pigeon over the head with a stick when it was really sozzled. Old-time Maori certainly put out nectar troughs to attract tui with the same intention.
It’s also the time of the year in which many people celebrate by overindulging in their own chosen nectars. Tonight Bev and I are taking the Community Patrol car out in support of the Aust-NZ all-night drink-driving blitz. It will go well tonight if revellers take a tip from our boozy pigeon and stay home and sleep it off!
I don’t think common dress does as much for international understanding as common language so I don’t care much for this sartorial trend.
And I have a quarrel with the suit anyway. Suits seem to be wedded to shirts that were made for ties. If you’re not wearing a tie, for the sake of being less formal – or because of the frequent hot flushes afflicting those of us on medications for prostate cancer – there’s no way you can make the shirt collar look tidy inside a smart suit jacket.
I’m all for a note of informality for the suit shirt. But, for goodness’ sake, can’t some of those fashion designers who produce so much unbelievable variety in women’s dress, produce some economical but stylish shirts that won’t choke suit-wearers to death before lunch time.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The grass is still green but another few days of really hot dry conditions will bring on a major water shortage in the district. This will impact all of us over the holiday season as holidaymakers flock into our camps and motels and shower themselves without thought. It will also impact, of course, on farming and the many horticultural enterprises of our region.
But it won’t impact on many of the wonderful giant tree ferns or Mamaku that we see most often. On roadsides in the North, hundreds have already died. Obscene stark trunks mark gullies and fringes where their luxuriant fronds once made a wonderful picture. Weeds are taking over the hot ground that was formerly sheltered by these majestic ferns.
As I've said before, nobody seems to have noticed this event right on the side of our roads. A desultory reply or two from the Dept of Conservation suggests that perhaps some kind of virus plus the droughts of the last two summers have caused the massive die-off…
But nobody seems to be tracking the scale of the disaster. I have read or heard nothing of it in the news media. I think that’s a little sad.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The remembrance service from the Grey District was brilliantly conceived and very well planned and carried out. If there were any glitches they didn’t show in the sympathetic presentation by TVNZ. The speeches were of a uniformly high order, the poetry more insightful than many a sermon. And the music, if one piece was not quite to my taste, would have seemed appropriate to just about everyone.
Anyone following my views of Anzac Day services will know I usually feel the church doesn’t do very well in these very public situations. But this afternoon I really appreciated the sensitivity, frankness and relevance of Tim Mora’s address. If the church’s contribution was, as it inevitably had to be, a sort of religious icing on the secular cake, it was well prepared icing and it did the cake proud.
It was a moving experience to eavesdrop on this wonderful occasion.
PS Zoladex and Bicalutamide are still doing their stuff - last week’s quarterly PSA test was fine.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
But we’ve also caught something of the resilience of the people and the imaginative ways in which they are reacting to this challenge. From the sensitive media management to the schoolgirls who tied yellow ribbons on poles in the streets, this event has touched us all. Our congregation has carried this concern in their hearts each time we have met.
For me, a high moment was when, on the day it became clear that all 29 must have died, the nightly vigil was to be conducted by two lay women. Thelma and Lyn have been acting in place of an ordained professional minister in the Union Parish in Greymouth for some years. And the night the awful news broke in the town they were the people who were rostered to minister to the shocked, distressed, hurting people of the region in the way that only the church can do.
That is the spirit of Local Shared Ministry.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Three Northland representatives have been appointed to attend Northern Presbytery meetings but these gatherings will be only twice a year. Those representatives will also contribute to work groups and committees. Our district’s two Presbyterian Parishes will link with the new grouping for governance matters and some other parishes may also elect to do this.
However, probably most of Northland’s parishes will continue to find their “district” affiliation with Northland rather than with the new Super-Presbytery. A careful analysis of the formal constitution of CTN suggests that very few significant changes will have to be made to accommodate the duplicate structure.
Of course, the devil may yet be in the detail, but the signs are that some of the best elements of CTN can continue. And some of the Presbyterians who have to work with the Super Presbytery have already indicated their interest in continuing fellowship links in Northland.
All in all, it seems possible that the meaningful "regional" body for Northland's scattered, small parishes may still be quite close to home. Let's hope so.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
All his arguments about communication, uniformity of stands and economies and so on were precisely the arguments I would use in reducing the numbers and the role of local government bodies around the country. We have far too much government, too much waste, and too much inconsistency from district to district.
Ban the lot, I say.
Monday, October 25, 2010
What’s good about this coverage is that there are no cries for Temperance or Prohibition or “Down with the Demon Drink”. These days it’s not the anti-drink fanatics but community leaders, scientists, medical and social workers who are telling our politicians that we have a problem that is causing immense damage to the fabric of our society.
And, of course, at the end of the day, you might think that our elected representatives would listen to what 68% of the population is saying. But what they seem likely to do with the most important of the proposed changes is to “kick for touch” until after the Rugby World Cup.
Kiwi readers are encouraged to send for free submission postcards to raise these four issues again with our parliamentarians. Order from: firstname.lastname@example.org
They are already printed with the urgent concerns:
1. Introduce minimum prices and progressive excise tax on alcohol
2. Restore supermarkets to alcohol-free status
3. Ban broadcast advertising and sport sponsorship - as for tobacco
4. Reduce blood alcohol level to .05 - as Aust, Canada, France, Germany etc
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Ph D students gave three-minute talks on their theses and were judged on the quality of their communication, comprehension and engagement. The audience was introduced to the most complex concepts with just one slide on the screen and a three minute talk. Clearly, many of the critics “got it” and many of the students found it constructive to distill their findings into a three minute presentation that would catch attention and convey real meaning.
It was exciting to be invited into the minds of these students. They reminded me of the voluntary worship leaders who weekly accept challenging roles in LSM congregations which do not have stipendiary ministers. They also lack some breadth of experience. They are also learners. But many of them show the same passion, the same enthusiasm, the same sincerity, the same belief in what they are doing.
This oldie salutes them all!
Friday, October 8, 2010
It was great that Dad got to cuddle his first great-great-grandchild a few days before he died. But I suppose the impression on his confused brain probably didn’t last. He had been increasingly falling into a world of his own reality and was less and less able to sustain a rational conversation. He couldn’t put his hearing aids in and that only made everything worse for him and those who tried to relate to him in the last couple of weeks.
Clearly, in his 102nd year, he was about ready to slip away three weeks ago. Whether we thought he would go “to be with his beloved Nell” or would simply release his atoms to a different form in creation didn’t make much difference: none of us wanted to prolong the distress and pain that daily living seemed to cause him.
If my sister’s much-loved little dog Toby in Canberra were suffering to that extent, she would have sought the vet’s hand in a mercy death. That kind of option was not available to us. Dad was not just an old dog and human life is valued highly in our society. As a general principle, that’s as it should be.
But the prolonged breakdown of ordinary bodily functions and his confusion, misery and pain got to the point where they merited some kind of intervention. With our blessing, his last few days were eased with regular doses of morphine. But of course the same drug also tended to depress the physiological drives that were stopping his tough old body from quietly giving up. So at last he was “managed” into a merciful unconsciousness and then quietly died.
Dad had been fiercely independent for over 100 years. But as he began to be unable to do everything for himself we became deeply grateful for the care and love given to him in the last failing months. We were doubly grateful that medical science and ethics helped him have a dignified and peaceful death at the last.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Miranda is often our last stop before returning home from a trip south. Here we soak in the hot springs before our final four-hour leg for home. Last evening, we had a group of travellers make our home bay their last stop before they returned to Miranda.
The bells of Christchurch Cathedral rang at midday to welcome the godwits back from Alaska after their 11,000 km nonstop flight. We saw it on the TV news, but, unbelievably, at almost the same time, a flock of about 100 circled and wheeled over our mudflats for half an hour. We've never seen them here before.
The tide was right for them to stop for a feed. Alas, some unthinking campers spooked them and they moved away to the south, probably for Miranda. But for a magic quarter of an hour we enjoyed the spectacle of their convoluted and exuberant flight in the last of the sun.
Every autumn the flocks fly right up to Alaska to breed and every spring they return to New Zealand. Each year there are new young ones coming down from the breeding grounds full of life and vigour. And each year some of the old ones just get tired or diseased and drop out of the flock. But the journeying community continues. . .
A bit like the human community, I guess…
(I wish I could say I took the Godwits photo: it's from Brian Chudleigh)
There was a great turnout of family and friends from around the North Island and Australia. After a slide sequence covering Dad's life, Warren Blundell, who'd been Dad’s personal pastor in recent years, led local minister John Howell in a short liturgy with a brief but comprehensive tribute. The service culminated in a dramatic committal as the casket was carried by the grandchildren through the side door into the bright daylight beyond. I found this particularly moving, especially in the context of the Irish blessing.
The hearse was gone by the time the congregation came out so there was no great delay in getting everyone into the adjacent hall where light refreshments were available. Then we settled down to a feast of memories of Dad. There was time for anyone who wanted to say something.
We were especially proud of the speakers from the younger generation. They were articulate and confident and contributed humour and passion. If we had invited them to speak in the more formal setting of the church it might have been different.
Later. In a local conference room 32 family members sat round for another three or so hours. Siblings and cousins of three generations re-forged family ties that have survived the decades and the distances. Then 18 of us adjourned to the “Pub and Grub” for a massive meal. Later again, a remnant dozen moved on to a Karaoke Bar where, to the delight of all, Craig danced with his widowed mother.
Thanks, Dad. At the end you gave your scattered family a rare gift of time together. We made the most of it.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne has prompted a few more thoughts: I think he’s so right and so wrong all at once.
Yes, “football club songs” may not always be appropriate. But celebrating the life of the deceased is a very important part of what we do at a funeral. The wishes of the family do need to be taken into account (They’re more important than the wishes of the deceased, actually).
Yes, the funeral should emphasise the “solemn nature of death”. I agree that many funerals treat the reality of death in a trivial fashion. However, I suspect that the Archbishop’s solution and mine would be considerably different.
Yes, for some people, the funeral should be “a sacred rite rather than a secular celebration”. Unfortunately, the Archbishop doesn’t seem to realise that his perceptions about the sacred and those of most people these days do not coincide.
Yes, there may be some situations in which political and romantic songs and nursery rhymes are not appropriate. But NOT because they might “intensify grief”. Grief, Archbishop, is a perfectly normal function of bereavement. So I feel any funeral should provide for grief to be expressed.
That’s why funerals I used to take always had two separate sections. In the first, we reflected on the reality of the death of this person whose life we celebrate. In the second, we looked to the gap that will now be in our lives as a result of this death and we attempted to establish a climate in which grief can be appropriately expressed and worked through.
I have the feeling that the Archbishop would prefer to do neither.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
It’s been suggested that the parish should “appoint” someone to join the team, attend team meetings, and look after this role. But this cuts across the fundamental principle that Team members are “called”, not “appointed”.
That may sound like a very small point. Well, take a look at our improvised satellite TV dish outside our bedroom. It’s not nailed down to the deck so it has been blown about in the wind a lot lately and we lose signal. It’s always blown to the same side. All we have to do is put a hand through the door and jiggle the stand and we’re back on air. Simple solution, eh?
But – what you don’t know is that the dish was originally a metre to the left. With the north-easterly winds nudging the stand to the left and our quick re-alignments kicking it back to the right, the entire outfit has crab-walked along the deck. In fact, it’s come so far that it now blocks the ranchslider door. We can’t use the door for its designed purpose any more. Sooner or later, the dish will have to go back to the place that was designated for it.
There are some principles in life and ministry teams that can't be re-aligned casually. They need to be thought through, planned carefully and changed cautiously. Otherwise something really important may be lost.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Any change in the law may not come quickly enough for him and me. But it is somewhat understandable that our lawmakers are reluctant to change a statute that honours the sanctity of human life – even to the point where it becomes damaging and abusive.
It would be one thing to change the law to permit shortening the pain of a dying person and the misery of his or her family. Dr Proctor and I would both like to have that privilege. And my father, failing now as he comes up to 102, says he wishes every day that his life was over.
But it would be something else if I and my sisters had been lawfully able to decide that it would have been a good thing for Dad to pop off ten years ago and were able to persuade a doctor to bring his life to an end.
The right of the individual to choose must be paramount. And, somehow, a way must be found for that right to be actioned at the point where the individual may no longer able to rationally make the decision.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Bev and I met Andre only once. We were at the School of Theology in Queenstown. We were to do our Murder Mystery Dinner and Andre was taking sessions on leadership. I don’t know that I made much of a contribution to the event. But to sense Andre’s vigorous, enthusiastic and spirited leadership was to be reminded of something of my own exciting first years in ministry in the 1960s.
I think we had only one private conversation at Queenstown but I know that my hopes for ongoing remission of my prostate cancer were discussed and found warm support.
Barely weeks later I heard that Andre had been diagnosed with terminal cancer himself and within a short time he had to retire from parish ministry. Now, suddenly, he, a young man with a young family and decades of life and ministry before him is gone and, I, feeling a little old if not quite decrepit at 75, am still here....
We watched “The Proposition” tonight and a closing speech was memorable:
“Although the paths of our lives may turn unexpectedly and end all too soon, I can only believe that the journey is never in vain, and perhaps it is this very journey which gives life hope and meaning.”
Andre, we salute your short journey. We, who, by a strange and mysterious providence, survive you, will try to live out our journeys in your spirit.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
In both sports, the role of the referee or umpire is critical. That’s to say, everyone is critical. The players don’t like your decisions. The crowd always have a better view than you. And FIFA itself will drum you out of the Brownies if you make a real idiot of yourself. It must be a thankless task to make instant judgments and award a penalty or hold up a yellow card. Especially since, if you didn’t see anything naughty then, apparently, it never happened.
I’m glad that there isn’t a ref looking over my shoulder moment by moment and day by day. I’m glad that my fumbles, stumbles and trip-ups are not under summary judgment the instant they happen.
But, hey, wait a minute. What am I saying? Of course everything I say and do is under judgment. All the time.
How well have I educated the ref that is in me?
So my specialist has returned me to the care of my local doctor until there’s some change in the reading. That usually happens when the expert says “There’s nothing more I can do for you,” so this is a much more hopeful situation.
I’m also doing pretty well on the half-knee replacement and thinking seriously about having the second done. With all those things going for me the sky will be the limit.
The sky? Well, it’s thirty years since I gave up my Private Pilot Licence. Perhaps I should enquire about taking it up again.
Experts opposed to the ready sale of both drugs have advocated price increases to try to limit the amount of damage they do. But evidently this present government believes that strategy will only work on smokers and not on drinkers. There’s a connecting piece of logic here that seems to have slipped past me.
It’s disappointing that the coming review of the Sale of Liquor Act may not take absolutely seriously the possibility that the cost of liquor may have some bearing on the amount of damage it does. And the need for more financial resources to mitigate the social cost of families affected by 700,000 heavy drinkers surely suggests that we must consider increasing taxes on something.
If drug damage is severe enough to make smokers pay, why not drinkers?
This is the year there will be changes. Let’s make sure they are the best we can do for everyone. Visit http://www.talklaw.co.nz/ http://www.lawcom.govt.nz/ http://ourturn2shout.blogspot.com/
Thursday, June 24, 2010
It’s Matariki, of course, the beginning of the Maori year. It’s time in which skills are celebrated and generous meals shared from the last of the autumn harvests. The Gen-I Summit here last weekend shared such a meal last weekend and, by all accounts, was a great demonstration of the people preparing and presenting it.
Matariki is also a time for consolidating experience, a kind of “retreat” from the everyday with time to reflect and learn. Retreats are a universal tradition and deeply rooted in the bible. We have heard recently of Elijah’s 40 days and we know how retreat times were important for Jesus.
We should take these examples into our own lives and make the most of this precious time of the year. Its different demands on our lives and energies are a gift in our busy times, a time for re-Creation and refreshment.
Make the most of it!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Suffice it to say that when the parish opted for Local Shared Ministry and sold the minister's house a fund was created which enabled the erection of a couple of two-bedroom holiday flats on the rear of the church property. The name would be Centre for Re-Creation. The vision was to provide free short breaks for people under stress.
To bring this about, we recognised a number of social service organisations; they send us their own clients for whom a few days' Time Out would be an advantage. These sponsors are asked to contribute a small fee as part of their commitment to the programme.
A modest number of paying guests provides the income stream that enables the programme to break even. But, in the last couple of years we have not enjoyed a good level of paid bookings. With that downturn and the cost of paid management, the losses are beginning to mount up.
So, like many a small congregation, whose financial commitments rise beyond their resources, we have to develop a new strategy. And, for the moment, that involves volunteers...
So that explains today's other post!
Visit the Centre
After some years of paid management, our parish's holiday flats are currently being managed by a group of volunteers. Our manager resigned to take up a full-time position and, to carry it over the "low" season, Parish Council has taken over the operation itself.
- Three or four of us are taking responsibility for specific aspects of day to day management
- Members of out congregation are having to identify their own sense of mission in trying to provide free short breaks for stressed people in need of Time Out...
- Members who have been standing back and leaving everything to the manager are coming forward and asking what they can do to help...
- The sense of teamwork that existed between the Manager and the small management committee is being extended to a much wider group...
- There's some controversy about exactly what to do in the changing economic circumstances but there's also lively and informed discussion as people get involved in the issues..
It's fascinating to see the parallels between this situation and that of a congregation exploring Local Shared Ministry as an alternative to paying a minister. In either case, there's an air of uncertainty about the future but, together, people put their energies and their faith to the test.
Monday, May 31, 2010
In the event she tackled the Trinity. She blew us away us with the depth of her research, yet without boring or confusing us. She introduced us to the issues that gave rise to the Nicene Creed – and then got us to recite it! She pointed out the difficulties for present-day Christians – and she did it all in the context of our own lives which themselves are full of mystery and need tolerance in relationships.
The liturgy was themed around names of God. Prayers and really apposite hymns helped us reflect on what we understood of God and two short discussion periods sharpened our involvement in the topic.
I am sure she had some help from Andre Le Roux’s brilliant on-line resource “Ten Minutes on a Tuesday” but she integrated his material into her own life experience. She infused the service – and her congregation - with that mystery that is God. It was a sacred hour. Thank you, Ann.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
It’s more than seven weeks since my “half-knee” replacement and I’m much more cheerful than I was a month ago.
The recovery process has been slow and quite uncomfortable sometimes. And it’s involved a lot of simple medication. But it’s been helped by a few days on Waiheke Island, a visit from our friend Joan Carter from Dunedin, and the last ten days with Bev’s sister Joyce in Upper Hutt. And we had a great time with our Murder Mystery Dinner in our old family church at Waiwhetu.
Back home this week, one of the first things I had better do is get in touch with the local Hospital Physio Dept and get a clearance to do some normal things including driving. Actually, over the two thousand kilometres, I’ve found that driving is more comfortable than most other things involving my right knee…
Even in the terrible weather of the last couple of days the trip back up-country has been a pleasure. We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful land. And especially to be back home in this part of it.
Now, tomorrow, back to work!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
But perhaps my enthusiasm for the idea is affected by my current drug-induced journey through post knee replacement surgery. The knee has been coming along but the brain is turning to mush. Television seems to have deteriorated, old videos look really worn, beautifully prepared food seems less interesting than usual. Even the physio nurse – who’s hardly seen me – said I’m probably pretty grumpy. And Bev didn’t deny it.
All that because a few days ago I became aware of some internal resistance to the ingenious little metal and plastic bits in my knee. It’s enough to make you want to pop down to the bread section in the supermarket and pick up a bottle or two of a Class B drug…
Friday, April 2, 2010
A response from the Department of Conservation suggests that the dying-off of Northland’s Mamaku tree ferns may be related to the disease that killed most of Northland’s mature Cabbage Trees about twenty years ago. Some people are researching reports on that event to see what can be learned.
Evidently both species are susceptible to some kind of deadly virus, especially when they are under stress. That’s why the great valleys of Mamaku are surviving but the small groups on the forest fringe and along the roads are dying off at a horrific rate in the current drought. You can see them everywhere.
It would seem that nothing can be done but it’s really sad to see these magnificent specimens reduced to bare trunks. I suppose what’s most interesting to me is that nobody seems to have noticed the wholesale change taking place along the roads we travel day by day.
I wonder if I also fail to see the death and dis-ease in the human presence among which I move daily? Has my own indisposition due to surgery made me more sensitive about the condition of others or has it merely concentrated my attention even more on myself? H’m…
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
For a couple of years I have become aware of tree ferns along the forest and road margins dying off in exactly the same way. Most had only a small head of green fronds to start with, and one by one these have died off. There are now hundreds of bare, dead trunks left standing like bizarre headstones throughout the north.
But the interesting thing is, nobody I speak to seems to have noticed the loss of these giant ferns. I have googled the problem and the only complainants seem to be people in the South Island who have garden specimens that are susceptible to frost.
Come on, DoC, what’s happening to our Northland Mamaku? What's happening to our world?
Monday, March 15, 2010
We completed the handing over of the Enabler hat yesterday.
A warm congregation attended at 4pm as District Superintendent Peter officiated at a special induction service to launch Rosalie Gwilliam as our parish’s Ministry Enabler. The liturgy was crisp and thoughtful, the singing robust and the sermon – longer than his usual, Peter admitted – directed our attention firmly to issues which we know require attention at present.
The questions asked of Rosalie and of us all helped us to re-think our own commitment as we move into a time of reduced income from giving and some uncertainty about the future. The finger food tea that followed was more than the entire congregation could polish off – perhaps an omen for the future!
Rosalie brings a huge amount of experience in the Methodist and Uniting traditions at district and national level as well as a lot of practical know-how in parish consultations and reviews. Her skills as a worship leader and parish administrator and pastor are going to be of great value to our ministry team as they coordinate the ministry of us all in this 19th year of Local Shared Ministry. Welcome aboard, Rosalie! Nobody can be as glad to see you in place as your predecessor!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
If the weather doesn’t co-operate, I will have to resort to the technique described in my book on how to do your own book publishing. But you will have to buy the book to discover what that is. Bind your own Book
So people who asked for copies during the Great Golden Wedding Tour should hear from me soon – unless it turns out that I have lost all their names and addresses. Anyone else interested is invited to email me. I’ll be doing a dozen at a time as required. No huge financial outlay and no unsold stocks lying around - that’s the beauty of my “Eccent” ultra short-run binding system.
Then I said, "Of course, I can't ask you the real question, can I?"
She said, "Yes, you can."
So I said, "How long do you think I can plan on?"
Immediately she replied, "Definitely from six months to ten years."
Don’t you just love a specialist with a sense of humour…
It’s just eight years since I was enduring the rather unpleasant extracting of biopsies from my prostate. Cancer cells were found in four out of the six. And they were Gleason Grade 7 which, out of ten, indicated fairly strong and lively activity. After the surgery which followed I remember researching the odds and giving myself 80% chance of surviving three years and 30% chance of eight years.
Within a year the cancer was active again and since then I have had another unmeasurable year on Zoladex injections before it resumed. And climbed steadily for three years. Now Bicalutamide on top of Zoladex has given me an unmeasurable PSA for nearly all of the eighth year.
But life is always uncertain. If we had buses around here I should be careful not to step under one. Meanwhile, I’m grateful that today is going to be a great day. And maybe tomorrow, too…
Monday, February 22, 2010
The intimate interview with Gareth was a most special moment in a special series. One whose ethics aspire to principles rather than rules; who wants to treat people, even in the rough and tumble of business and economics , as he would like them to treat him; who as a matter of principle distrusts the rulers and high priests of society; who, on receiving a huge windfall from the sale of Trademe, looked for ways of sharing what he didn’t need; who says we had better enjoy life’s journey to the full because we don’t know what’s at the end; such a person can only say he has no time for religion with a very specific definition of religion in mind.
Gareth, this Methodist salutes you. Chris, you and the team at Pacific Screen, are a gift to us all for your imaginative selection and sensitive handling of your guests. Thanks.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Up until MMP came in, I never cast a meaningful vote in my life. I was always in electorates where there was no way that my vote was going to change anything. In rural electorates my vote would never have got my candidate past the post and in urban electorates my vote would have contributed only to the overweening sense of importance that some high-majority partliamentarians displayed.
It was once such a nominal event that I took Paul, aged ten, into the voting booth with me, and let him vote. He’d studied the issues at school and knew what to do and did it thoughtfully. But his vote didn’t change anything more than mine would have.
In those days it only mattered to vote if you were in a marginal electorate. Those were the voters who swept governments in and out. Sometimes a swing of a handful of percentage points in key electorates across the country made a huge change in the balance of parliament. Often the parliament lost skilled and experienced politicians in the carnage.
In the 1970s I proposed on radio a reform which turned out to be almost exactly what we got in MMP a dozen years later. Mine didn't have the controversial threshold at all so it could have had practical problems. But then, as now, almost anything would have been better than FPP.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
But I am impressed to hear of the objective of getting Primary age children to target and achieve their homework around topics that are real for them. They are to choose objectives, and their parents are to sign that the work has been done. Then they may report to class: I built this boat; I got dinner last night; I’ve kept my room tidy for a month.
In the 1970s I devised the “Teenage Budgeting Programme” which invited parents and teenagers to contract together for a realistic monthly allowance – not nominal “pocket” money. The amount was based to be on the actual cost of clothing, entertainment, school needs and so on. The teenagers had to do all their own decision-making and spending. And they had to account for it, on paper, once a month.
But when we offered the concept to secondary schools they preferred to teach budgeting of adult things like rent, housekeeping, insurance, electricity, property maintenance, mortgages, investments and so on. These, they felt, were preparing their students for the “real world”.
I still say Nonsense. The best learning takes place in the context of the learner’s own world. The new approach to homework sounds like a huge step in the right direction to me.
It’s the same with ministry formation in Local Shared Ministry. People who dedicate a few hours a week to voluntary ministry don’t need three years of a broad classical theological education. They need to be helped to prepare a first sermon, to draft a rounded liturgy, to demonstrate caring in a pastoral context, to think theologically.
And to find needed information on the www!
But the weather which promised to be very hot has turned out very pleasant so far. There’s a grand beach just down the road. And we have books. Everything else can wait until we go home in a couple of days.
The moral is: at our stage of life, you take it all as it comes. Today hasn’t turned out as we thought. But it's here. And we will wring every bit of enjoyment out of it that we can.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
The other Big C for me is the church. Not the denomination whose lifeblood still flows, but more faintly these days, in my veins. Not the national organisation that is now flailing around trying to find to solution to the countless problems that it faces. My other Big C is the little congregation in Kings Rd.
Here I am counted among a couple of dozen who find that they cannot do without what we offer each other on Sunday mornings. Here we live out a corporate life of worship and service in a context that has never been sympathetic and supportive. Here we struggle with our different beliefs and ways of doing things. But here, week by week, we are stimulated and inspired by gifts of imagination, art, music and word.
In this little Big C there is also no guarantee for our future. We know it isn't forever. We live a Sunday at a time. And as we meet together, we are grateful for each other and a God-shaped dream that bears us up.
The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and the Great War in 1914 brought the end of a lot of that triumphalist view of human nature. But mission was more than ever on the agenda. There was work for the Church and it was in the new ecumenical context. Worldwide, denominations merged and united in new alliances and structures, often in the name of “mission”.
I think Northland deserves something better from them.
Friday, February 5, 2010
I’d been asked if our Residents’ and Ratepayers could be told about it the night before, so I dutifully sent off about a hundred emails.
I don’t stand around too well these days so I watched the show on TV at home and admired a great little set of vignettes about what’s going here. It was excellent promotion for our little town as we come up to what may be the biggest public turnout ever for Waitangi Day.
Afterwards a couple of people sent me congratulations on the show. I guess they thought I’d organised it all but all I did was flick off a few emails. Some other very enthusiastic people were behind the smooth presentations and we should all be grateful to them.
It’s always easy to confuse the medium with the message. Yet, of course, there’s a sense in which the small town is its own message. It speaks for itself. It doesn’t need a promoter or a PR person. It walks the talk. Rather like the small church.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Apparently these text references slipped through years ago without being found by those who supervise the specifications for contract armaments. One blogger said he didn’t care what was on the rifle as long as it created the pink mist. Another more sensitive contributor said that “even some Christians” must be offended by these texts. Well, I’m one. Count me in. I'm offended...
It is a little ironic that immediately after the news we watched the episode of “Christianity – a History” on the future of the church. The declining state of the western church is linked to the great wars in which “Christians” on each side called on God to help them. The future for the church in Europe, suggested the presenter, lay in not changing the faith but changing the structures, relating to our communities and building bridges to other faiths.
That’s a bit more revolutionary than just grinding offensive biblical texts off rifles, I suppose.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
What I’ve realised is that an LSM Team Meeting is not quite like anything else which we are used to in the church. It has to meet some very specific requirements and so it demands equally specific actions. The Enabler is mostly responsible, of course, but every person who is in a team also needs to be aware of the issues.
I’ve attempted to put some of these together in a short paper entitled Tips for Team Meetings which may be of interest to people who are making new journeys in Local Shared Ministry. And I’d welcome suggestions and comments from others.
Enablers and would-be enablers might be interested to check out my Enabler Matrix as well. I have had plans to reduce its size but that’s not easy; there are too many really important elements.
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