Saturday, February 21, 2015

Make up your minds, parliamentarians!

Just back from the Auckland lecture by Dr Rob Jonquiere on the legalised regime for voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands. What a breath of fresh air!
Quietly spoken but passionate, clear but deeply knowledgeable, he led us through the different cultural and legal contexts and explained the essential elements in the Dutch law and practice.
Euthanasia is still a crime on the statute books. But there is a specific exemption around a set of key criteria:  patient request in relation to "unbearable pain", and physician cooperation in the light of a "hopeless" condition. The process is enshrined in careful consultations and enjoys a thorough review mechanism.
In particular, Dr Rob drew attention to their emphasis on "ending suffering" rather than "ending life because of terminal illness" as was recently proposed for New Zealand.
So far, no Parliamentarian has agreed to hold up the flag for even this very basic proposal. The government of the day is clearly too conservative. The opposition prefers to concentrate on "the economy" rather than the plight of those suffering in terminal illness.
The stance on both sides of the House is profoundly ironic: my local hospice is canvassing for donations to pay up to $1000 a treatment for patients with unbearable pain. They have to beg in this way because this drug is not funded by Pharmac.
Make up your minds, parliamentarians:  either authorise additional funding to ease the suffering of those who are trapped in pain because of your misplaced sense of priorities or get a re-drafted End of Life Choice Bill into discussion with some urgency.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pop-up Theology

We spent quite a lot of time waiting for this photo. This owlet nightjar was completely hidden in a hole beneath a split tree stump several metres off the ground. He popped up when photographer Lindell knocked on the trunk. This was the most we saw of him over a period of about half an hour.

I am whimsically reminded of some of my progressive Christian friends who, in conventional congregations, have pretty much kept out of theological trouble by keeping their views to themselves. But every now and then they pop their heads above the parapet and others are surprised.

Would that the surprise would always be as rewarding and pleasant as ours yesterday.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Small is just great!

For someone who has a passion about small congregations, seeing this tiny bird at its nest yesterday was a magical moment.

At 9cm, the weebill is the smallest of the Australian thornbirds. This pair has crafted the most beautiful little nest under the low-hanging leaves. The two birds flew to and fro several times as we stood off and watched them at work. Lindell's huge lens produced another stunning photo for us.

The completeness of detail reminds me that the small congregation also has all that it needs for a home. It finds the resources and it builds and works on a scale that is appropriate for its situation.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pass the word

This male Satin Bower Bird (left) is introducing his lady love to the bower he has laboriously constructed and now is furnishing with scavenged items of blue.  What a picture for Valentine's Day!

We didn't see this display but we did see a bower exactly like this yesterday because Lindell knew exactly where to look for it. She had been told by Roger, another bird enthusiast. And how did he know where it was? Someone told him.

We would have missed the fascinating sight if interested individuals had not passed along the exciting word to others. I think it was D.T. Niles who said that evangelism was one beggar telling another beggar where to find food. So let's pass the Word along.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Taking life quietly

We're staying for a few days in suburban Canberra and I have already taken a walk in neighbouring bushland.  In less than an hour my sister Marion and I identified more than a dozen bird species. And she told me stories of many more. The place is a "twitcher's" paradise.
Star feature in Canberra's bird population at the moment is a Powerful Owl. It has taken up residence next to the local bowling green in Turner. An immense bird, it's been there for three or so months and there's often a small knot of people clustered beneath the trees to catch a glimpse of it. 
The owl seems completely unimpressed by this attention. It's just getting on with its solitary life and seems quite at home minding its own business.
Perhaps things are a little different when the sun goes down.  But for the moment, "P.O." speaks to me of calm within a world of turmoil. Perhaps I am being reminded to slow down.... 
(Thanks to Lindell Emerton for photo)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

An easy "out"?

I normally seek out a small church when looking for a place of worship. But staying last weekend with our son and daughter-in-law in Sydney we went with them to their usual place of worship - the large congregation of Wahroonga Seventh Day Adventist Church.

The preacher of the day commenced with some statistics about church growth and decline. Leaving out the percentages and other details, the memorable one was:  "Almost every member who leaves us says that the reason was 'relationships'".

For a congregation that has a strong sense of "family" and prides itself on its effectiveness with relationships, this was no doubt something of a shock. It certainly got attention among the large crowd of people of all ages who comfortably filled the very large church. It made for a smooth entry into a sermon on compassion.

Later, I reflected that most small churches also value the quality of their relationships. And people leave small congregations as well as larger ones. And they would probably also say they left because of something to do with relationships (especially if their former church or denomination were asking the question!).

Relationships within and among a group cannot be taken for granted. They need to be nurtured, and some members will always do this better than others. At a personal level, individual relationships have to be related to the good of the whole fellowship. Conversely, the declared wishes of the whole group have to be achieved within the context of the relationships between the individuals in it.

When individual relationships fail the group has not necessarily failed. On very rare occasions it may be appropriate for people to withdraw. But this is usually because they no longer feel the overall sense of belonging that is strong enough to balance any sense of unease with one or more individuals. Probably they no longer wish to make the necessary effort to include themselves.

But I wouldn't be at all surprised if they said "relationships" was the reason for leaving.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A bit of a "blue", Diamond Princess!

We've just disembarked from a twelve day cruise around our own country and to three ports in Australia. Diamond Princess and her people did us proud, with special fares and upgrades, spending money to burn, great service and entertainment.

We enjoyed seeing so much of the country that we know well but could now approach from the perspective of the sea. We especially appreciated the good sea conditions that enabled us to tour through five of the sounds of Fiordland National Park. This World Heritage Area provided a spectacular view from our immense ship.

And the ship herself was a wonderful example of human achievement in her seemingly easy negotiation of the very restricted waterways. Altogether, it was a time for awe and wonder.

But in this pristine environment, the cloud of blue exhaust trapped for some time under the low cloud was a jarring spectacle.