Saturday, April 30, 2011

Singing a new song? Oh, dear, no...

I’m taking a service tomorrow and we are going to read a hymn. The words are just right but the tune will be completely unknown and too difficult even for the music readers among us. The sense of the words will be lost in the struggle with the music.

It's a shame. Hymns are to be sung. Singing is one of the distinctive things about worship. If I made the decision to read this one tomorrow with a heavy heart, my frustration has been somewhat lifted by the memory of a service I attended in a sister church in Australia recently. There was not one thing I could sing in the entire 75 minutes. Everything was quite foreign to me.

I remember our Principal at Trinity College, in reflecting on the possibility that heaven and hell are what you make them yourself, once told us whimsically, “An angel would take something of heaven if she were sent to hell. And the worst reprobate would hate being transferred to heaven – he wouldn’t know the tunes!”

I think I can sympathise. I hope our worship tomorrow will match up some vigorous and tuneful singing with some thoughtful and inspiring words. We may not be quite good enough for heaven – or bad enough for hell, perhaps – but we will try to uplift each other in our singing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Head and Hands in the LSM congregation

Recent tensions in our small parish have highlighted for me the issue of the relationship between the Parish Council and the Local Shared Ministry Team. I've always argued for separation. It has seemed to me that the Council (the head) discusses policy and makes a decision; the Team (the hands) take the lead in carrying it out. Of course, one or two team members might be on the Council but, generally, the roles of the two bodies are separate and distinct. It's a good distinction. Our own difficulties were made worse some time ago when one Team passed a "resolution" opposing a management decision that was being made. They were seen by some to be intruding on others’ business. However, when the parish membership is very small, it is simply not practicable to have two or three separate bodies making decisions around the same mission and ministry. Perhaps the very small congregation could have a Calling for a team which would also exercise the powers of the Council. I wonder if this has been tried and found effective anywhere else in the LSM setting?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Misdirected enthusiasm

In Orewa recently we saw at least a thousand godwits flying south along the beach, presumably to assemble at Miranda prior to their autumn migration to the northern hemisphere. I am always filled with wonder that they know how to do it.
In the Australian National Botanic Garden last week I encountered some other birds who knew what they had to do and were diligently doing it. There was a galah industriously hollowing out a nest site in a tree; a red-browed firetail finch carrying a feather as big as himself; and an immature male bower bird dancing among blue bottle tops and little bunches of twigs in the makings of a bower.

They were all quite magical encounters.
All three birdswere doing what their instincts told them to do for courtship and mating, nesting and raising young. But they were all doing it at the wrong time. Somehow, their internal clocks told them that after long heavy rains, the bright sunshine must mean it was that time of the year when all thoughts turn to love. However, Spring is months away and there will be a hard Canberra winter to endure before it comes.
It’s just as well that the godwits have a more reliable sense of the day when they must head out on their long ocean migration. I suppose the lesson for me is that, for some things, there is a season that is right. It is important for me to be living in that moment and not in some other time, no matter how much I am enjoying what I’m doing.