Where The Heart Is


When we first saw the St. John's Vicarage it was 4 degrees celsius outside the house and 4.5 degrees inside. We went home to the green, wet, warm Waikato with a memory of a large dark scruffy house with gray walls and a bizarrely patterned carpet. The opportunity to live at 373 Highgate wasn't high on the list of motivations for becoming the Vicar of Roslyn, but after 11 years of living here, we are very loathe to leave.

The house was built in 1925 and its first occupant described it as "well designed and well built, providing what is desirable without showiness or unnecessary luxury." It has 5 bedrooms, 4 living rooms and a couple of sunrooms. All the walls, interior and exterior are double brick and sit on immense concrete foundations, so that both stories and the basement all have the same floorplan. You can feel the solidity of the place as soon as you walk over the threshold. Doors and stairs are of thick, simply fashioned cedar which hasn't warped or cracked in the 80 years it has been sitting here. Ours is the 7th family to have lived here and our predecessors have all been good, prayerful people and somewhow that has soaked into the substance of the house. Modern houses, newly made of chipboard and aluminium are habitated appliances, often with no more soul than a toaster. This place feels somehow alive. It holds you; enfolds and guards and keeps you.

For a while now, I have thought that it was not a good use of parish resources to have the two of us living in such a large building, and I had been toying with the idea of developing a spirituality or teaching centre from the vicarage. When I tested response to these ideas by casually dropping them into conversation, they were greeted with lukewarm enthusiasm by parishioners and frosty indignation by family. After all, his house is not an institution, it's a place to live: the site of sleepovers and Christmas dinners and conversations. It is a place where there is always a quiet corner to read. It is a place which swallows up guests - even whole families full of them at a time - and allows plenty of space still for privacy. In short, it is home.

And now we are going and we are not quite sure where. There is a pleasant bishop's house in Mosgiel and there is our own smallish house in Anderson's Bay and sometime in the next month or so we will move into one of them. I guess once the requisite number of conversations and dinners and prayers have happened either one could feel like home, but not yet. One of the insights of Anglicanism is that spirituality is deepened when it has a geographic location. The spirituality of this parish finds a focus in the acre or so of land on the corner of Wright St. and Highgate and in the buildings set amongst the beeches which grow on it. In other words, the heart is where the home is. Our home is here, but soon it will be a more amorphous place: the stretch of the South Island between the Waitaki River and Stewart island. It will, of course, be a wrench but it will also be an opening of horizons: a stretching out of tent pegs. The new journey opens before us and we are almost ready to make it.

Comments

Brian R said…
I understand your feelings. While my house is only 35 years old, I have lived in it for 28 yrs. I am to move out by Jan 15 and have booked my flight to Dunedin on Jan 22. Just a motel booking for 10 days, need to find temporary accommodation until I can buy a home hopefully in the parish of St John's.
Hope I can be present for at least one service before you depart.
VenDr said…
We officially leave the parish on February 18, and my last service will be February 14. I too, hope you can be there for at least one of those Sundays.
Alden Smith said…
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Peter Carrell said…
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Peter Carrell said…
I know its a bit lightweight to ask this given the profound observations being offered on this page, but I was just wondering which Christmas Day you took that photo on?

:)
Elaine Dent said…
We are such homing creatures and start burrowing in, even if it is only for an short time. Yes, we quickly find our spirituality of place. And then there is a pilgrim spirituality, of leaving one place and heading out to another. Traveling lightly. Openness to see Christ in the stranger. Appreciation of new sounds and smells. Trusting One who leads when we can't see around the next bend. The loss of familiar making space for God (or, alas, anxiety). Abraham. Moses. Ruth. Blessings on this pilgrim part of the journey (and of course on burrowing into a new home).
VenDr said…
Now now Peter, Dunedin had a very good summer last year. Unfortunately I slept in and missed it.
VenDr said…
Your are very true and insightful Elaine. I guess most of my life I have been on the move. The 11 years spent in this house has been the longest I have lived anywhere by a very long margin. In the past I was a bit too much of a pilgrim: always ready to move on after a few years, but not so now. Partly it is the house. Mostly it is the community of St. John's Roslyn, which, if I hadn't ben catapaulted out of it, I would have been happy to serve for another 11 years.
Elaine Dent said…
I am struck by your love and gratitude for where you are: house and parish; and for the sense of knowing you would have stayed 11 more years. I learn from your love and appreciation and take it to heart. Blessings as God leads to the new burrowing place. You won't have much time to burrow since you will be bishop- pilgriming around. May this home welcome you quickly and deeply every time you walk through its doors.
Stuart Sinclair said…
I also can feel for you .
I lived in the one house for 45 years and when the time came to move for my mother and myself as we knew we had to and downsize to an apartment, We were Griefstricken. All the memories left behind, the fun , the conversations, The Beauty of the Garden all those things you miss.
So I can feel the sadness you have as you take your leave of that wonderful house.
However it is a time of new Beginnings just as Christmas is a time of New Birth.
May Christ the Babe Born at Bethlehem be with you as you prepare for new beginnings in the New Year.
Bev said…
Kelvin, whichever house you decide to move into will become home - due in no small part to the ability of you and your lovely wife to transform a house into a welcoming and warm place with fresh flowers in vases, food and abundant hospitality provided by both of you, and the surrounding warmth and love that pervades every room.
For me - home is where my stuff is...