I missed the last session of Tuesday's program. An old friend had an issue to discuss and, seeing as I was in the neighborhood, I spent late Tuesday afternoon sitting in a bar drinking Speights and talking about life, the universe and everything instead of in the Kinder library discussing Augustine, life, the universe and everything. I would have got away with my wagging except that when I arrived back in school on Wednesday morning I discovered I had been appointed, in my absence, to a panel and my place was there, third to the left and we start in 5 minutes.
It was OK. The panel was comprised of people representative of various ministries, lay and ordained, who all spoke eloquently and powerfully about issues of power in the church. People spoke from contexts in which the power of the church to speak the Gospel was severely restricted, in the places where they lived, by governmental and social pressure. Some were students preparing for a future of full time service to the church. One was a newish bishop. There were many contributions from the floor, and the time rolled past too quickly as people sought to coalesce the historical and theological reflections of the past two days into the areas where they worked to make real the Gospel. After all, talking, thinking and reading stuff is only worthwhile if it affects the way we do stuff. I thought briefly about the mountain of books in my garage. We ended with a powerful and moving description from Hone Kaa about the work of his congregation with abused children in South Auckland. He told us that at the end of many decades of Christian ministry and very public leadership, this last chapter of his life has been the most rewarding.
Then it was kai. Then, because the hui had been hosted by Tikanga Maori, there were carefully constructed words of farewell to release us and enable us to return next year. Then it was back to the airport in the lugubrious Nissan and a flight down the whole length of the country. It was a fine clear day and we flew over the Abel Tasman national park, over my sisters house in Kaiteriteri and my mother's house in Motueka. Looking down at the bush and the golden sand I wondered if my tramping boots were in the garage and if I would have the books cleared sufficiently away to find a tent by January.
Then it was circling over the green paddocks of the Taieri and the crisp southern air and this widely scattered people needing new ways to hear the Gospel for which Perpetua died; and with which Augustine wrestled; and by which Constantine sought to rule.
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