Sundays. I look forward to them. They usually start with a lengthy drive in the dark, followed by putting on my impressive clobber in a tiny vestry which somehow missed the last three of the church's restoration projects, and a service or two, then a pot luck lunch and a chat with some very nice people. Yesterday it was Oamaru. The various parishes of North Otago met in St. Mary's for a combined service. Although I have been to St. Mary's a few times I still managed to drive past it; it is not a building which dominates its surroundings in the way St. Luke's does at the other end of town and I was obviously daydreaming as I sailed right on by. Still, I arrived, changed, preached and celebrated, ate and talked. The church was full, and I think the congregation was fairly representative of our diocese. There were some children and some young adults, but mostly the congregation was of about my age, or perhaps, dare I say it, even slightly older. There was a great sense of community and optimism and there can be no doubt that the present of the diocese is very secure. It's the future we will have to work on. The new vicar of St. Luke's Tim Hurd has started extremely well, and Sue McCafferty, at St. Mary's, has brought a great deal of energy and imagination to her parish, so our leadership resources are excellent; but we will have to think carefully as a diocese about how we are to open the Gospel and make it accessible to a new generation.
I left Oamaru at about 1:00 pm and drove to Christchurch where I had to meet one of those commitments which get made, rashly, months in advance; this time, to speak at a confirmation retreat for St. Margaret's College and Christ's College. There was a lot of traffic on State Highway 1, and the Christchurch City Council, without asking my permission, has completely revamped the roading system in the garden city in the time since I lived here. You wouldn't know the place. Nevertheless, I managed to drive straight to the retreat venue, the Community of the Sacred Name, and walk into the middle of a talk by Bishop Victoria with only a modest amount of disruption. There was a circle of about 20 young men and women, year 12 and 13 students at Christchurch's Anglican secondary schools. There was the bishop, the dean and the resident theologian of Christchurch Cathedral. There was the chaplain of St. Margarets. And there were these young people, completely blase about their exalted company, expressing the most astonishingly articulate and erudite opinions on questions of faith. Wow.
It's now Monday morning. I got up very early (20 teenagers. 2 showers. Go figure). In a couple of hours I will talk to these bright young people about God. I have three sessions of about an hour and a half each, and I think I know what I am going to say. It's daunting and exciting, but being here is also a timely and providential answer to the questions about the church's future which I carried from Oamaru yesterday. Or at least, it is the knowledge that an answer is possible.