Friday, January 22, 2010

Gunsight texts and Christianity

We watched the news tonight and heard that the NZ Army will have the biblical texts removed from their Trijicon gunsights. And a little later I learned that the manufacturers will stop inscribing them.

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

As I take off the “Enabler” cap I have been wearing at team meetings for the last twelve months I have been reflecting on some things that help the monthly team meeting to be effective. Over the years we have developed a few simple rules of thumb and some have served very well. Having a year to work with them myself has been a satisfying but also salutary experience.

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.

If you’re not a blogger, feel free to email me:

A minor inconvenience…

In an unusually early dry spell Paihia’s summer visitors are showering all our water away and the Council has totally forbidden all use of hoses. Gardens and lawns are just dying all over town.

Our shower is over the bathtub so we are able to bucket out our used water to a hastily-purchased drum outside. From there we can run it to our little vege patch and so far everything is holding up pretty well.
But on the bank below the house we’ve discovered one of our big rhododendrons is badly stressed and wilting. Years ago I installed a large drum underneath the house to divert grey water from the shower to the newer shrubs down the bank. The system hasn’t been used for ten years so yesterday I reinstated it.

There’s a light scotch mist this morning, so with a bit of help from the buckets the veges will probably survive the current dry spell with less inconvenience than most. Of course, this untreated grey water must be only a very temporary solution. And where would we be if the water supply that we still enjoy for showers and washing and cooking were to fail completely?

Like all of life, everything is temporary. It shouldn’t take a bit of a water shortage, never mind a Haiti earthquake, to remind us of that…

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Time for a New Freezer?

Our freezer is nearly thirty years old. It still works well but we have been made to feel anxious by claims that modern freezers are so much more economical.

Yesterday I saw exactly what we needed in Farmers' sale. It would fit in the same space and do the same job. It boasted the usual coloured sticker on the front indicating what its power usage would be in a year. Now that was interesting…

Some time ago I blew $25 on a power meter. I’ve had it hooked up to the old freezer for a few days and I’ve found that it actually uses much less electricity than the same size new model.

I expect the difference is because the new one will be frost-free and is more environmentally sympathetic. But on grounds of just doing the job and power usage, the old one will probably stay there for a bit longer.

That’s what Local Shared Ministry is all about in a small congregation - achieving what needs to be done in mission and ministry for an affordable cost in talents and available resources.

Where are the words

Looking at Marco Dormino's dramatic rescue photo I am reminded that I haven't put up a post on the Haiti disaster. I suppose that the enormity of this level of human suffering is impossible to respond to adequately with just words.

Certainly the tragedy has been on our minds. Helen drew us into it in some well-chosen words in the intercession on Sunday morning.

From our plenty, we will try to give generously and sacrificially to the needy and those who are making supreme efforts to support them. It may be enough or it may not. But we and many from the whole human family will do what we can.
And we who live in the "shaky isles" may perhaps say to ourselves, "There, but for the grace of God, go I". It's not good theology, of course, but perhaps it's a reminder of our frailty in the face of nature.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's agapanthus time again in our part of the world.

In every direction these vigorous plants hold up unstable clay banks and are an easy fill for large blank spaces. They provide a solid mass of lush green all year. And just now they are a mass of great blue or white displays everywhere you look. They make the heart leap with joy, I tell you.

Ah, yes, but in the north, agapanthus are not so popular with officialdom. They grow so fast and so rank that they smother most of our tiny indigenous plants in the margins of our native bush. Their seeds are spread by birds and grow anywhere at all. They haven't been damned as "noxious" yet but they are definitely on the Dept of Conservation's "not wanted" list. Please, DOC say, don't encourage them in our district.

Sad, isn't it, that something so lovely to look actually doesn't make a totally positive contribution to our community. Appearances don't count for everything, in flowers. I wonder if that's true also for congregations...?

PS: We have agapanthus on our bank but we will "head" the flowers as soon as they start to droop, to stop the birds getting at the seeds..

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Godwits and LSM

I received a wonderful book for Christmas.

“Godwits” is the full story that was inspired by Godwit E-7 who in 2007 was satellite tracked on the longest migratory flight of any bird. Flying non-stop for over a week, she came from Alaska straight down through the Pacific to New Zealand. Phenomenal.

Newly raised youngsters take off from the tundra first, in groups of up to a few dozen. They make the trip on their own and their parents follow a few weeks later.

Now, wait a moment. How do the youngsters know where to go? How, in fact, does any migratory species know where to go? A fascinating experiment half a century ago showed that two factors are at work in migration navigation. Migrants are apparently guided by a simple sense of direction as if by a compass. But they are also guided by experience of “landmarks” remembered from previous journeys. Older birds will amend the “compass” route according to their previous experience and knowledge of conditions.

The young godwits out of Alaska don’t have this advantage. They make their first incredibly long flight with not much more than a sense of direction. Yet they wind up on the same beaches their parents left half a year earlier.

Congregations that are charting revolutionary journeys in Local Shared Ministry have to make their own maps. The traditional guidance of conventional congregations is no longer appropriate for them. They know their journey will occasionally be a bit scary. Sometimes they will wonder why they travel on this route. They often wonder where they will end up.

But there is a confidence that comes with experience and a conviction that drives them forward.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ships tall - and small

This morning we watched the annual tall ships "race". We caught the 11.30am ferry to Russell and cruised right through the middle of the assembling fleet. We stayed on board for the return trip at noon just as the race began.
Some race! You couldn't see the start line for the mass of craft. Two of the four square-riggers didn’t start with the other hundred or so cheerful participants, most of whom didn’t qualify as “tall” by any normal standard. But when "Spirit of New Zealand" and "Soren Larsen" got started they soon left the smaller craft behind – something to do with waterline length I think…
Who cared? If you couldn’t tell serious participants from fun-loving spectator craft it didn’t matter in the slightest. The day was brilliant and the little family ships had as much fun as any of the bigger corporates. It seemed like everyone who could put together a boat and a crew was out there for the trip.
And, about now, even the very smallest and the slowest of them is getting to the finish line back at Russell.
It’s not how big your craft is or how many were on it but just that you did the distance. A bit like congregations, eh?