Sunday, January 30, 2011

We were blessed indeed...

When we were thinking about our last worship roster, we found that one of our regulars had obtained work involving weekends and another was taking a few months’ “time out”, There was some panic for a moment. Then Heather held up her hand.
Heather is one of our “godwits” – a retiree who visits us for about half of each year from Scotland where she’s a long-time member and elder in her local church but never led worship. Today she took her first service. She shared a little of her distinctive church tradition with us, she gave us some strong hymns of worship – and, of course, a metrical psalm – and she confided her delight that the lectionary for today led her into some meditation on three of the Beatitudes.
These were, she said, not so much challenges for our future life as expressions of our present life in Christ. We were invited to relate them to our experience and simply embrace them. Trusting in God, sorrowing over the world’s shortcomings and producing right relationships were all relevant themes for us.
It was a thoughtful and worshipful service. Of course, Heather brings a lifetime of experience of worship under other leaders. She has a sense of what is or is not appropriate. But more than that, her relaxed and confident style was a comfort to those of us who were having butterflies on her behalf - we didn’t need to bother. A good congregation of locals and a couple of visitors lingered for an hour after she left for Russell. All commented favourably on what her first service had left us.
This is what Local Shared Ministry is all about. Members of the congregation take responsibility for the work. It’s not a matter of “helping the minister” as one of our UK visitors seemed to describe it to me this morning. The issue is that if there is to be a congregation here it will be because we who turn up on Sundays will see to it. Nobody owes us a service; nobody has to create theology for us; nobody needs to daily check that we haven’t gone off the rails; certainly nobody has to send us some funds to keep the show going.
The mission is ours, and we will do it.

He mahi na Uetahi, e hokia - The work is Uetahi's and he will do it (he can be relied on to complete it).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Yellow Sea and the Mangroves

There was a sea of yellow mud between us and Russell yesterday. Flash floods in the hills always bring down some mud but in twenty hours we had 250mm of rain and the run-off fouled the whole of the inner Bay. I have never seen it as extensive as that.

Even if it weren’t for all the discharge from septic tanks and farmland around the Bay there would always be some colouring of the sea after such a deluge. In time past, the mangroves would have filtered and greatly reduced the run-off and gently separated the contending forces of sea and land. These days, the mangroves are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the problem.

I have suggested that the church in the north is rather like the mangroves – standing between two different spheres and trying to moderate their interaction. Sometimes, it, too, gets overwhelmed by circumstances or the sheer size of the task.

Well, I know that the view outside my window will turn from yellow-brown to blue over the coming hours and days. The winds will bring brighter days and the tides will eventually flush the suspended mud from the sea. I have to believe that the same cleansing actions of the Spirit will be active in regularly refreshing the life of the church.

"Freedom" Camping?

I’m on both sides of the mobile home park debate.

As an on and of
f caravanner of half a century I have many times wanted to find a cheap, secure overnight site for a few hours. It is expensive and frustrating to have to pay $40 for a parking place for an overnight sleep-stop of just a few hours. But as a ratepayer in a tourist centre, I am well aware of the problem for local communities and businesses when choice public land on our beaches and forests is turned into private campgrounds.

Given the horrific mess created by some “freedom” campers I am now deciding that it should be banned. I suggest that the Department of Conservation, in cooperation with District Councils and the camping industry should be given a mandate to devise a complete chain of minimal facilities on enclosed sites involving -
• Overnight stops available from not before 8pm and to be vacated by 10am
• Cold water showers, toilets and dump stations but no other facilities.
• Security camera coverage, where possible.
• A country-wide standard fee of about $8 for two people, only available by self-booking.
• A consistent marketing image throughout the country.

Such sites could be adjacent to existing holiday parks and camp sites or created on completely separate premises. There should be no requirement for residential supervision. Some existing operators might find this concept a useful extension to their present service. Access to fully equipped facilities, where available, should be only by way of additional entry fees.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On Teamwork

I am just about the shut down the computer. In ten minutes we leave for Whangarei Base Hospital where am to have a “half-knee” replacement.

Last time I was impressed by the sense of teamwork in the theatre block, from receptionist through to the last nurse who counted the bits and pieces afterwards. Each person had a specific job to do yet they worked together to complement and support each other.

Apparently, though, there has been an exception. A survey last year reported that one in ten operations in this country hosts some kind of mistake, many involving the wrong operation or the wrong part of the body.

The solution, it was suggested, was for more of the theatre team members to take responsibility for the whole drama and to challenge the surgeons if a mistake seemed to be likely to be made.

Since I’ve already had one knee done, I guess I run no risk of coming out with the wrong knee operation today: “Hullo, the saw has jammed on a piece of titanium; what’s that doing in here?”

But it gives me confidence that my overall welfare in the next three or so days is in many hands and, generally, they are taking responsibility to work together towards a common goal.

That’s how Local Shared Ministry works in the small church.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More on leaders

Some time ago I reported the loss, in a storm, of the central stem in our young kauri tree. I made the point that the tree’s chances of growing normally were greatly reduced.

I also wondered if the tree would compensate by allowing one or more of the adjacent stems to take the central place. So it might have been a metaphor for Local Shared Ministry, where a small team of lay volunteers give a lead instead of an ordained and stipended minister.

Today I checked the tree again and found that a bright green single stem is reclaiming the central position. The surrounding stems from the season before last are still in position but the new stem is already sprouting new sub stems.

All of which may be great news for our little Kauri which seems likely to resume its normal shape. But is not a good metaphor for Local Shared Ministry. It is a reminder that there are always some members of a Local Shared Ministry congregation who would like the single central paid expert to return and prevail over the efforts of a team of volunteers.

It’s not easy being a young Kauri in a challenging storm. Nor a Lay Ministry Team.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Dining Room and the Small Church

We stopped at a small country hotel for our meal a few weeks ago. The meal wasn’t bad but the service was. We waited half an hour for the only waitress, who was also managing the bar and attending to a few other dinner orders. Then we waited rather more than another hour for our meal although the place was not exceptionally busy.

Raised voices from the vicinity of the kitchen hinted at some kind of communication problem. Then some shouting was followed by the dramatic departure of the person who was apparently in charge. With warm apologies the waitress confirmed that there were some relationships difficulties. But our meal still took some time to turn up.

In a small establishment where only three or four people are doing everything there’s not much room for the luxury of storming off into the night if you get upset. Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride and hang in there.

It’s the same in the small church, especially where leadership is diffused among a team of equals instead of residing in a paid professional. We all have people we warm to instinctively and others about whom we feel less comfortable. But in the team setting of the Local Shared Ministry congregation, personal feelings and even antagonisms are a luxury that we cannot afford to indulge in if the work is to be done.

That’s how it is in the real world. That’s how it has to be in the small church.


This morning, before anything else, I uploaded my submission on the so-called Alcohol Reform Bill.

But not before the parliamentary website told me that the document I was trying up upload was entitled Hon Simon Power and authored by Doug Sellman, the ultimate protagonist for serious reform of our liquor legislation.

I went off-line smartly and prospected around in the “properties” for my document. Sure enough, those details were there. So my submission would have had written all over it that I had borrowed something from Doug – or even been led by the nose to state his particular views. As if the 202 minutes I spent writing it weren’t enough evidence of my own efforts.

Well, we learn something new every day. You can write and edit a document, but it apparently isn’t yours until you have dug around in Properties and written in your own name as its author.

Or, perhaps, you could put in someone else’s. Is there a moral there, someplace?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reform the Reform Bill!

One of the last-minute priorities before I go into surgery in a couple of weeks is finalising a submission to the Parlimentary Select Committee on the Alcohol Reform Bill.

I think they should change the name. This Bill will reform nothing, certainly not the unreformed drinking habits of our people. I am urging ten or so changes that are urgently needed if the Bill is to make much difference. You can see my submission on my home pages. But the important thing is, write your own. The government will have to listen to the voice of the people if it is loud enough. At the end of the day it is people who elect Parliament.

Here’s how you can make your contribution. Send a letter or postcard with wording something like this:

I support an end to -
 Ultra cheap alcohol, beginning with a standard price for a standard drink
 Highly visible alcohol, by restoring supermarkets to alcohol-free
 All alcohol advertising and sponsorship except objective product information
 Legal drunk driving, by reducing the adult blood alcohol level to at least .05

Send your submission post-free to:
Select Committee on Alcohol Reform,
Private Bag 18888, Parliament Buildings, Wellington