Nearly There

Last Sunday the crozier, ring and pectoral cross I am going to use were blessed and laid on the altar of our Cathedral, waiting for Saturday. And I too, have been trying to lay myself on the altar: a living sacrifice

The last few days have been a time of reflection. Rather than go off on retreat, I decided to stay at home in order that Clemency could have some part in my preparation, so I had a sort of a retreat in situ. Apart from yesterday when the phone and doorbell didn't stop ringing, it's worked out pretty well. I managed to fit some lengthy meditations in around the daily offices and every day I went to the beach and did a walking meditation. I also read large chunks of two very good books: Anthony De Mello's Walking on Water and Stephen Cottrell's Hit The Ground Kneeling. The latter is a very wise take on leadership and maybe should be required reading for ordinands. But it is the late Father De Mello who has spoken to me most profoundly. Walking On Water is another of those posthumously published collections of De Mello's retreat addresses. Each piece has the unpolished style of an informal address transcribed from a tape recording, which gives them a certain charm and a great deal of directness. Together they make a single, persuasive, surprising case for the inner life. He has a wonderful ability to produce a metaphors or stories which make complex theological concepts accessible; for example in talking of the intricate question of transcendence and immanence he says, " In the East we say 'God created the world. God dances in the world.' Can you think of dance without seeing the dancer? Are they a single thing? No. They're two, and God is in the creation like the voice of a singer in a song."

So, in the times when I am not working at silence, I have allowed his words to rattle around in my head and lead me a little closer to the truth.

A couple of weeks ago, the Oamaru sculptor Hugh Prebble gave me the pastoral staff he had carved out of a long piece of kauri. It is an extraordinary object, quite unlike any other crozier I have ever seen. It is complex and intricate and, in a way, imposing. Everything carved on it is there for a purpose. From the base, there is a flow, up from a foundation in scripture, through the water of baptism, into the fire of the holy spirit and into the curve which symbolises the episcopal ministry. The centre of the staff is a three stranded cord, which speaks of the Trinity and a large Celtic Trinitarian knot is wound around the curve, and seems to be organically fused with it. All over the staff there are little surprises to find: symbols and icons which speak of the Gospel and of this part of the world. To further emphasise the unique character of our diocese, the carving draws on Maori and Celtic styles.

Today my sister Valerie arrived, with the cope and mitre she has made for me. The cope is made from light coloured silk and the hood has been constructed in rich colours by Margie- Jean Malcolm to a design by Audrey Bascand. The design is similar to that of the St. John's parish banner and is based on the first chapter of John's Gospel. Val has tailored the cope to fit me and she has done an extraordinary job.

So all the bits and pieces are gathered. The preparations are nearly complete. And I am ready.


Elaine Dent said…
God's gracious blessing as you walk on water.
Katherine said…
It sounds like Father De Mello uses Jesus's old tried and true method of parable. I think it's the best way of getting a message across, no matter the audience. And judging from your own talking, you're pretty good at that informal story-style too. It's as if the story is laid there like a sweetcorn with little burrs, and there is great ease in consuming it, yet it's still a voluntary thing, so access to the message is maximised. And the learning becomes their own. And the burrs keep it attached and remembered.
VenDr said…
You're right Katherine. Some of De Mello's books, such as "The Song of The Bird" and "Wellsprings" are simply collections of stories; the sort of puzzling little story that acts as a Koan if you allow it to, or can be taken at face value and enjoyed simply for its entertainment value if you don't want to dive deeper. My doctoral dissertation was on the power of story. I have ben fascinated by stories since I don't know when: why do they have such an effect on people, when the same information told as propositions or lists of facts or in a sermon or lecture sails blithely in one ear and out the other? There are stories I tell which I can guarantee will have a quarter of the audience dabbing their eyes by the end of them or leaping out of their seats with fright. I could give an answer as to why, but it took me almost 100,000 words once to explain it, so a blog comment probably won't allow space. But roughly speaking, you have it summed up quite nicely.
Katherine said…
I'll have a look for those books next time I'm in the library. I expect you've read "The Way of the Sufi"? Another storyteller.

I think an important meta-element of story-telling is the ........ well-timed ...........pause.
Verna said…
And what a tremendous privilege to be part of your ordination and installation. As you physically robed in the garments and accoutrements of Episcopacy so the mantle of the spirituality of being Christ's Vicar of this Diocese covered you as well. I'm not sure how to put this in words but it is probably enough to say that God was very present and you grew in stature and holiness as we watched. May God be always with you, guiding, encouraging and strengthening you throughout your episcopacy.