Sunday, 21 March 2010

Home Again


Here we are home again, and Hawaii is fading away into the background as I come to terms with exactly how much needs to be done in the Diocese and how little time there is to do it. Hawaii is a strange place, sitting between two worlds like nowhere else I've ever seen. It is very American, with freeways and Hershey bars and Macy's and light switches that work upside down and those odd, shallow, flat toilet pans which give you more information than you ever needed or wanted to know. It is also very Pacific with reefs and coconut palms and earth ovens and pois and a language whose relationship to Maori is obvious and intriguing. Of course we only saw a bit of it: Oahu, at one end of which sits the city of Honolulu. Honolulu is like Disneyland without the rides: a city built on vacations and therefore on escape and fantasy. At the other end of Oahu is a series of small towns with plain architecture and tiny, tired shopping centres and steep, stark, buttressed mountains and gorgeous, golden sand beaches. People move slowly in Hawaii: cars half heartedly aspire to the speed limit and people on the sidewalks saunter about their business, which seems to consist largely of shopping and eating and sipping and wearing loud shirts. There are churches everywhere and there are military vehicles everywhere. Bright little birds dot the sky as do fighter jets. It is all paradox. Which is why, despite myself, I find myself drawn to this tiny Pacific state and wanting, one day, to return There is, after all, a great power in paradox for change and renewal. Perhaps this, as much s the weather and the beaches is what makes Hawaii such a magnet for those seeking re-creation.

Arriving home I find myself faced with the problems which I always knew were present, but which I now KNOW are present. The inspiring service of ordination is now a few weeks in the past, the guests have gone home and the holiday is over. Now there are some huge tasks ahead, and the resources to do them are...well... not huge. I can see that I could become overwhelmed by the enormity of what needs to be done and wear myself to a frazzle trying to get stuff to happen.I don't think that would help anyone. There is paradox here also, between what we are called to as a diocese and where we are now. Of course, while we can, on some intellectual level, see its power, paradox is uncomfortable and there is a voice deep inside somewhere telling us to avoid it; to decide and act and for goodness sake just do something.

It would not be helpful to obey that voice. Ssomething else is required: to sit with the paradoxes and live with them for a while. Just as the power of a story derives from the tensions between irreconcileable opposites, so there is a power which comes from these seemingly intractable dilemmas. Perhaps in this place of tension and opposition Jesus is present as he was in the raging storms on Galilee so long ago. If we are floundering about trying to batten down hatches and strain at oars and prepare for the next storm which we just know will be happening along at any moment now, we will miss him quietly and calmly sleeping in our midst and perhaps miss the new thing he is trying to lead us into.

9 comments:

NIE said...

The paradoxes are always going to be there - you've said that before.

Jesus is always there.

The clergy and people of the diocese who gathered at your ordination heard and said some inspiring stuff. Let's not forget that as we move on. We are not going to stand still.

We must be constant in prayer and have before us those "Worship and Service" priorities. [I was trying to avoid 'must', but that seems to be the key. St John's just heard yesterday a story of the faith in prayer of the Habitat for Humanity organisers for whom things recently"happened" and "arrived" as they sought to complete tasks in the service of other people]

And, no, please don't do the frazzle bit. Remember the be-ing as well as the do-ing!

And may God be with you always as you lead us.

Peter Carrell said...

Many people are praying for you and Clemency!

Especially in the Christchurch Diocese on 22nd of each month.

Richard Johnson said...

I've noticed how loud and demanding and pushy is the voice of duty and obligation and even anxiety - and how small and whispery the voice of God. I have had to learn to listen for that 'small whisper' and it has always been right! I've wondered often whether we in the diocese need a year to dedicate to renewal of faith, a sort of Jubilee year when there is no tilling of fields and labouring and worry about what should and should not be done.

Joanne said...

When God calls God equips and the journey over the last two years that has led you to many quiet places of the heart and mind and beautiful places in God's amazing world has given you time and space to draw on the wellsprings of God's power and grace. Make he take you to those quiet places everyday and help you see the most important ways of being Christ's heart and hands and feet in his world. Peace and prayers-Jo Latham

Elaine Dent said...

I like Richard's description of Jesus' small, whispery voice. But this quiet, paradoxical voice always comes in his own time, not mine, and not the demands of the diocese or the congregation. Waiting quietly for that voice takes so much patience and so much courage. It is so simple, yet so difficult. How often I give up and take matters into my own hands. Sigh.

Alden Smith said...

When I was reading your description of the tension between living with paradox and resisting the temptation to make a decision I was reminded of the something else that can happen to us which is:

"It's easy to forget that you came to drain the swamp when you are up to your arse in alligators"

- sage advice I always thought.

Malcolm said...

I was trying to think of some equally wise and comforting words for Kelvin and Clemency as the other commentators but I'm not much cop at saying these things.

However, I am sure, Kelvin and Clemency, that you can rest assured in the knowledge that you will enjoy all the support and help you will require. Nicola always says to me(when I'm at a low myself) that "God never gives us more than we can bear with Him". These words are always a great comfort to me.

There is also a Chinese saying (Chinese have a saying for most things) that "the journey of a thousand miles begins but with one step".

Blessings and peace

Verna said...

Kelvin - you taught us about the paradox within each story and how to see them and live with them. Roger said on Sunday that God is doing a new thing - and that goes for you as our Bishop too. However, someone once told me that after a death we should not make hasty or great decisions. Maybe after such an inspiring Ordination to the Episcopacy, you too should not make great and/or hasty decisions but live with the here and now, listening for the voice of God. As others have said, it will come in his time, but it will come. "All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well." By the way, was Catherine's play at 7pm or 8 pm at Downstage?

Anonymous said...

As an outside observer from another Christian tradition, I am greatly encouraged for the Kingdom and for southern Anglicans by your election.
Paradoxes abound in life and are particularly abundant in the Christian faith, and I think the challenge is to live in them, not with them. Like living in the somewhat paradoxical circumstances of your election (as I understand what happened), perhaps. It's a grappling within, an engagement with them and their circumstances, not a comfortable co-existence.
One important trick is not to create them: for instance going to the beach to watch the tsunami come in relies on a created paradox that says one can be on the beach when a tsunami worth seeing comes, yet survive...
Blessings
Peter Ross