Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our small church and the big disaster

Of all the terrible images that have been appearing on TV while I have been trying to put together our parish newsletter this week, this one has made a huge impression on me. I know this Christchurch city landscape well, both viewed like this from the Port Hills and from the many times I flew myself over it in the 1970s.
The rising cloud of dust almost completely obscures the business centre of our country's second largest city, with its fascinating blend of buildings Victorian and modern, utilitarian and graceful, sacred and secular. All kinds of structures have suffered indiscriminate damage in the moments before this photo was taken.
And while this awful cloud was rising over the dying CBD, all kinds of people died: young and old, white collar and blue collar, wonderful and ordinary. Some were snuffed out in a moment; others lingered for hours and perhaps even days before rescue or merciful death relieved them.
In view of the immense losses of life and property it seems obscene to be preoccupied with news about the bits and pieces of life in our little parish. But the people of Christchurch know they have to pick themselves up out of the rubble and move on. And we in the Bay, who are more vulnerable to tsunami, landslips and fire than we care to admit, also have to get on with the everyday stuff.

So the newsletter went out last night. Even in appalling death and disaster, life goes on.
Live yours well, friends.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Earthquake in Christchurch

The disaster in Christchurch beggars belief.

All New Zealand has known that there would be a Big One one day. If we were trying to predict which major city in NZ would get it we wouldn’t have put Christchurch far up on the list. Until last September.

Then, we told ourselves, well, it was a once in a hundred years event so perhaps that was the one we have waiting for since Napier in 1931. And we gave thanks that the losses in Christchurch were almost only of property and possessions. A devastating blow to the city, but at least no major loss of life.

Now, Christchurch has been hit again. At the worst possible time of day and with a ferocity out of all proportion to the technical size of the shake. And it will probably be weeks before around 200 worldwide families hear the worst possible news.

Such are the ways of inscrutable Nature. We all live under the shadow of the end. Right now I am rejoicing in a report indicating my prostate cancer has been unmeasurable for another three months. That’s very encouraging - but it's kind of temporary. Another three months it may be different.

However, my life could also be changed in an instant by a tsunami, a hillside slip or a bushfire on our lovely hills. After this week, I am again reminded that I am a temporary citizen on this fragile planet.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ah, Nostalgia!

After church on Sunday we celebrated Tui’s 80th birthday and viewed a set of slides she’d put together on her life.

One shot was of her and two of her family on their favourite rock at a remote waterfall. She told us that she went back after 50 years to re-live that moment. The access was much more difficult than she remembered and, while the waterfall was still there, it wasn’t as impressive as it had seemed in memory. Worst of all, the sunny slope where three teens used to meet and share their intimacies was completely covered by a huge overgrown log that had jammed itself in the rocks.

People in small congregations know well that once the decision is made for Local Shared Ministry instead of the luxury of a paid minister, nothing will be exactly the same again. To try to revisit or recapture the past can be a discouraging and pointless exercise.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Variety Bash 2011

Variety – the fun way to help Kiwi kids – is coming to Northland. A whole bunch of madcap crews will drive an assortment of old vehicles from Bay of Plenty to Bay of Islands in seven days. There will be competitive driving – of a sort!, a lot of waterfighting, and plenty of shaking of cans for donations. Along their uproarious route, Bashers will present cheques to children and children’s organisations.

For their dinner/overnight stop at Omapere on 9th March, 160 Bashers are going to participate in our new Murder Mystery Death in the Bay. This will be the largest show we’ve ever managed. And they’ll probably sit down to dinner in a different mood than most of the rather sedate church groups who’ve enjoyed Death by Cooperation.

Some Bash “characters” are lined up as suspects and the show promises to be a riotous event for all concerned. After half a century leading public worship and other rather formal affairs, I’m finding there’s a totally different feel about taking up the role of entertainer as Det Chief Supt Holmes and making people cudgel their brains or laugh their heads off.

It’s going to be a fun way for Bev and me to say Thank You to the Bashers who do so much to help Kiwi kids.

NOTE: Since 1989 Variety Club has distributed $12 million to children’s charities in New Zealand.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Goodbye, Iris Gray

We've just heard that Iris has died in Melbourne in her 90th year. Respected and loved by our Paihia congregation for ten years, she was recently persuaded that she should return to Australia to be closer to her family. It wasn't an easy move, but she settled in quickly and didn't look back.

A private person, she neverthless held very firm views on many matters but never gave offence in offering them. She played a full role in our church's life, as she had in other congregations. She left at least one church because she disagreed strongly with their beliefs but, somehow, our diverse viewpoints were not as powerful as the warmth of our fellowship and she just stayed.

She declined to play our organ or to sing a solo but she loved our congregational singing. Some of us discovered that, while having three small children in the mid-1950s, she was professional organist and soloist with Auckland's Civic Theatre and later head-hunted to go to the State Theatre in Melbourne. Here she performed for the movies eighteen times a week until TV brought about the end of that cinema. She was one of only two women in the world who performed in this way. The family remained in Australia and she came back to NZ only for her last years.
Iris gave pleasure to countless thousands during her professional life at the great Wurlitzers. And in her later years among us she brought charm and inspiration to our little congregation in an insignificant corner of the world. Under the spotlight or in the pew, you were true to yourself and to your faith. We salute you.
Iris's own interesting account of her professional life is on