Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Watching for the Signs

We’re used to it. We drive regularly across the Te Haumi bridge and know that, from the driver's seat, the bridge parapet covers part of the 50kph speed limit sign. The bit that's not visible says "In 400 m".

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

Sleep it off!

The tree ferns may be doing badly but around here the birds are loving the prolific natives flowering extravagantly in the early summer.

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!

Put your shirt on it!

The men's suit seems to be “IN”. As fast as many countries are adopting our most difficult language, their men are adopting the suit. Traditional national dress for men all over the world seems to convert to the “western” suit when they appear on international television.

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

Dry times for the ferns?

Already Northland is moving into conditions that we might expect towards the end of summer.
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

Tears for the Pike River 29

When you’re doped up on two hefty drugs that wipe out your testosterone, tears come easily. But it wasn’t the drugs in this last couple of hours…

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

Lay MInistry and Pike River Mine tragedy

Our hearts have gone out to people in the Grey District over recent days. We have caught just something of their frustration and pain over the terrible disaster at the Pike River Mine.

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.