Sunday, 21 December 2014

Rangihoua Heritage Park

Today was the day the Rangihoua Heritage Park was being opened and the ceremony began at 10:00 am. The new park comprises Oihi Bay and the hill above it. It has a track and very beautifully conceived and executed series of signs, spaced around the park, telling the story of the first missionary settlement in New Zealand. 

We gathered in the foyer of the Copthorne at 8:00 am to pool cars, then set off in convoy 15 minutes later for Oihi Bay. It was longer than I remembered it to be, but after about 50 minutes driving on narrow roads, sometimes sealed and sometimes not, we found a paddock on a hillside to park and a bus to take us the last kilometre up to the new interpretive centre.

There were already a couple of hundred people there, and I realised how badly prepared I was. They had camp chairs and bottles of water and umbrellas. I had a pilgrim's staff, though I had remembered to bring a sunhat. The new interpretive centre, basically a great sweeping roof with three walls set on a hillside and with a wide opening looking down to the valley below it, is called Rore Kahu - Soaring Eagle. Over the next hour or so more people arrived, until, by the time the Governor General and official party were called on just after the official starting time, somewhere around two thousand had gathered.

Clemency, Catherine and I found seats amongst the manuhere. There were a dozen or so speakers all told, none of whom were brief. The sky was slightly overcast and the air heavy and hot. I was glad to be under the marquee. A Pentecostal pastor began the korero, and he set a good tone. Maggie Barrie, minister of conservation and heritage spoke wittily and cleverly and managed a 15 minute talk commemorating the arrival of the first missionaries without once mentioning the church. Quite an achievement. Chris Finlayson, Attorney General and a convinced Catholic gave the best speech of the day by far. He spoke of the various important world events that had occurred in 1814, setting the events of Christmas Day in their global context. He spoke of the positive role of the church in the development of New Zealand's culture and challenged us to be more confident, more assured in what we proclaim. The archbishops (three of ours and one Australian) lead a brief liturgy of blessing, then The Governor General cut the ribbon and we all filed through the interpretive centre, tramping the house in true Maori style.

Then we walked the kilometre or so of track down to the bay. There were a dozen of so yachts moored under the shadow of the pa. A speaker system had been set up and there was a varied program of entertainment: a young kapa haka group, and a young woman with extraordinary guitar skills. I walked up the hillside and stood again on the places where those three little houses had once stood. The sun was by now relentless and the way back up the hill steep. We walked back to the top of the hill, caught the bus to our car, then drove to an excellent lunch at a cafe called The Rusty Tractor in Kerikeri.

So now Oihi Bay is a heritage park, perhaps it will stop being the most important unknown site in our brief history as a nation and take the place it deserves in our national consciousness. It is a truly holy place; a fitting destination for pilgrimage.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Road to Oihi - Waitangi

It's about three hours drive from Orewa to Waitangi. The road is winds up and down and around a series of small hills, through rural service towns and a lot of forests. Us Otago people play spot the kauri, getting points for every one seen, the way other people might do for Christmas trees or garden gnomes. Cloud cover was low, so on some of the higher hills we were driving through it, dark green native bush hazy in the fog. The rain was falling quite heavily when we arrived here around 2:00pm.

A number of Anglicans have gathered for the service tomorrow. Our three archbishops are here, as are a few of our diocesan bishops as well as Archbishop Philip Freier from Melbourne representing the Australian church. I noticed a fairly good contingent of Baptist clergy, and there will be representation from most of the other major denominations. As I write this the sound of rain on the roof is loud and constant. I understand the locals have laid on umbrellas for us.

I could have got to London more quickly than it took to get to Waitangi. Never before have I travelled so far to come to church but I sat at dinner tonight talking to Joy Freier, wife of Archbishop Philip, who has actually come further. The conversation was about the declining strength of the Anglican church in parts of Australia and New Zealand, about the ceaseless interest in and depth of experience of spiritual things in the general community and about the disconnect between these phenomena. At Oihi Bay our nation first began to form itself and that formation had its base in the Christian Gospel. I thought of the struggle of those three little families perched in their tiny white cottages above the swamp, struggling daily to reconcile their own assumed culture, Tikanga Maori, and the faith which had led (or driven?) them across the globe. I thought of how they had succeeded and of how they had so spectacularly failed. With all the vast changes wrought by two centuries, still the issues remain, and responsibility for them, at least in one tiny corner of the vineyard, has been passed to me. Perhaps that's why I'm here, where it all began.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Road to Oihi - Orewa.

I have nothing much to write about today. No great thoughts. No particular insights.

The Arahura was running late this morning. Someone left the lights on and they had to push start it. But we got underway at about 7:00, only half an hour late, and with Cook Strait absolutely dead flat the captain had managed to make up almost all of the lost time by the time we got to Wellington.

Bridget and Scott travelled with us as far as Wellington. We settled into a group of seats conveniently near the play area but Noah saw the stairs, and knew they must lead to somewhere and that the somewhere was no doubt pretty awesome. "Stairs, stairs" he repeated until I carried him up them. So he and I stood alone in the fresh Southerly and took in all the spectacular excellence (Truck! Water! Birdie! Boat!) until the ship began to move and the scene became the most astonishing thing he had seen in his life. His little head rested on mine, cheek to cheek, my eyes looking out beside his and for a few minutes I saw as he was seeing.  This apparently solid enormity on which we stood was gliding away from the trucks and boats and birdies.  Amazing! Jesus told us to become like little children, by which he meant, I think,  doing what Noah taught me to do this morning: let go of all accustomed ways of seeing things and interpreting them in order that we might see them as they actually are. Was it us moving, or was it the land? Good question, Mr. Einstein.

It was a busy trip. Then, at Wellington, Clemency and I drove off alone into a drizzly Horowhenua. We crawled along the clogged two lane road which is the main egress from our capital city til we  cruised ever faster over the hills and through the valleys. I had forgotten how pretty Hunterville is, and Taihape. We stopped at a rural cafe somewhere and then Clemency did a little shopping in Taupo while I sweltered. Jeans? A shirt AND a T shirt? What was I thinking?  A few years in Dunedin and we had forgotten just how much warmer is the climate in the North of the country. We took the shortcut across the Hauraki Plains, avoiding Hamilton, picked up Catherine from Central Auckland and arrived here in Orewa just before 9; about 15 hours after we left last night's stopping place.

We've driven all these roads before but apart from the section through the Waikato none of it is so redolent with memory as yesterday's drive up the South Island. But although it might not always look like Otago, it does look like home. Driving slowly, pulling over sometimes to allow the accumulated queue of traffic behind us to overtake, stopping to look at craft shops or to buy coffee, it all looked new, fresh, green and indescribably beautiful. To see it all again and see it as if for the first time. This was Noah's gift to me' a gift which lasted far after I had reluctantly waved him goodbye; a gift which transformed my whole day.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Road to Oihi - Picton

We got away a little later than planned, 8:45 am instead of 6:00 but there was a lot to do. Packing for instance. Parking the cats. That sort of thing. This week had been pretty busy, what with one thing and another and most of yesterday afternoon was occupied with our annual Christmas party for clergy and families. Clemency, Bridget, Scott Noah and I spent the afternoon in company with these lovely people and got home very late in the afternoon. We were tired. We had plenty of time in the morning. We went to bed.

So this morning we hooked up the caravan, packed a toothbrush and a change of shorts and headed North. It started to rain when we were on the Kilmog, and was sunny again by Timaru. So it alternated, wet and dry all day long. We stopped for coffee in Oamaru and for lunch in Rakaia. We got fuel in Amberley and had a lovely dinner at a quaint restaurant on the Kaikoura coast before arriving here in Picton about 7:45. We'll park up here for the night before boarding the ferry at 6:30 am tomorrow.

This whole journey is along roads so familiar to both of us and so laden with memory that it is a kind of temporal pilgrimage through the shadows and memories of many decades. We travelled through my diocese and then through my first parish, past the house where our children were babies. Then northwards through the town I was born in, and across the Canterbury plains which I have traversed by car and foot and bicycle and train and motorcycle on trips with a thousand intentions. Skirting Christchurch we followed the coast road. It's been a very long time since either of us has driven North along the Kaikoura road, but tracing our route through the familiar little towns, up through the Hunderlees and into the tawny hummocks of Marlborough there were memories at every turn. There was a time when we made that drive many times a year to visit families and to visit each other and to return to work or study. There was the spot where Rob Lepper and I used to fish for paua, sleeping rough in the back of Rob's Hillman van. There was the patch of winding hilly road where I once raced a car on my Suzuki Titan, badly misjudging a corner and careening precariously around it with a comet of sparks showering from the downhill foot peg (The car conceded at that point). There was the little church where Clemency and her friend Sue sheltered from rain when they made their grand tour of the country by motor scooter. There was the rocky coastline and the mountains and the tunnels and the seagulls and the seals. Awesome. Yes, really. And tomorrow the ferry. Last time I was on the ferry was December 1998 when I was driving South to become Vicar of Roslyn.

It is all so rich and deep and lovely, this land and the life God has gifted me. I am so grateful for it all.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Last Leg

Bay of Islands. Shot taken from the same boat that will transport us to Oihi Bay

On Thursday at 6 am we'll be leaving for the Bay of Islands. We're crossing with the caravan on the 6:30 am Ferry from Picton to Wellington on Friday and, on Friday night, we should be in Auckland  where we'll meet Catherine, newly arrived from England. We'll be in Waitangi on Saturday and take part in the service at Oihi Bay on Sunday morning. Then there is the most leisurely lead up to Christmas I will have experienced since 1979, before we are part of the huge gathering at the Marsden Cross on Christmas Day.

This is the last leg of our Diocesan Pilgrimage. In this last fortnightof Advent we will complete by car the journey we made by foot and bicycle way back in Lent. It's important for me to carry Te Harinui to Waitangi and to Oihi Bay.

I am so looking forward to being on the open road with the whole length of the country before me; to see my lovely girl again; to be in the Bay of Islands and to see old and dear friends. More so, I want to be there and carry my diocese to this once in a lifetime celebration; to acknowledge Marsden and Ruatara and the three vulnerable little families, the Kendals, Halls and Kings, who, 200 years ago,  made such an extraordinary act of courage and faith.

But before then there is so much to be done. There is the family Christmas stuff - presents and cards and letters - which I haven't even begun to think about yet. There are some pressing diocesan matters; I'll be spending most of the day at my computer. There is the rest of the years work to be shoehorned into the next five days as well as preparing the house for those who will be here and packing the caravan and planning for an as yet undecided route home.

 We'll meander from Waitangi to Wellington visiting various friends and relatives, cross Cook Straight on New Years Eve, spend some time in Nelson where my sister has lent us her lovely house and then home via the West Coast (?) a week or so into January, to be ready for my first diocesan appointment of the year, in Lawrence on the 11th.

 Stewart Island, March 13 2014

Marsden Cross, our destination for Christmas Day

Friday, 12 December 2014


My phone is linked to my car stereo by bluetooth. When I get in and start the car my stored music and podcasts play in a randomly selected private programme which is sort of of a combination National Radio, Concert Radio, AndHow FM, and Classic Hits FM. I'm amazed at how often this seemingly random mix comes up with exactly the right track at exactly the right time. Over the last couple of days, for example it has twice played me David Whyte reading his poem The House of Belonging, which sums up SO exactly where I find myself.

"this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

I lie in my bed and listen to the house creaking into life. Down the steep stairs my grandson is calling. Papa? Papa?  I look at him and my own eyes look back. He laughs; this is what we do, he and I. My daughter is cooking an egg for him. I make tea and ask about her day. There is no house like the house of belonging.

The House of Belonging

David Whyte

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
like any other.

veil had gone
from my darkened heart
I thought

it must have been the quiet
that filled my room,

it must have been the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been the prayer
I said speaking to the otherness
of the night.

I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.