Monday, 24 May 2010

The Waiting Land


We drove south on Saturday to take part in the 125th anniversary of St. Saviour's Mataura. It's an easy drive down through Otago, across the Clutha at Balclutha, and then, at Clinton, taking the shortcut which wends through prosperous, green, well nurtured Southland farmland. After 40 km or so of gently rolling hills, relaxed bends, fat sheep and tight, evenly spaced hay bales there is a patch of broken roadway and the start of a collection of ragged houses. Mataura. It sits on a the banks of the river from which it draws its name: on one bank there is a massive freezing works, still functioning, and on the other, an even more massive paper mill, no longer functioning.

The paper mill used to function very well indeed, producing about 25,000 tons of paper a year, and employing around 250 people. Before its mothballing in 2000 it was the largest recycler of paper in the country, but rising costs, the problems of effluent disposal and, most significantly, competition from cheaper imported paper meant losses of around a million a year and inevitable closure. When the great machines ceased to turn, people moved on, shops closed down, services relocated and property prices plummeted. Now the once bustling Bridge St. is a row of tired looking shops, many of which are empty. There are some well kept houses but there are also many careworn and neglected ones. The magnet of very cheap housing has given rise to social problems of the type usually found in large cities. Nowadays we import our paper and export it again when it needs recycling. It's cheaper to do it that way, you see. But driving through Mataura, I couldn't help thinking that as a nation we haven't calculated the costs very well. Sure we pay a few cents less for a ream of photocopy paper, but the price we have paid is the loss of all that machinery and, more importantly, the people who know how to run it. For an immediate financial gain we have sold off our capacity for self reliance, flexibility and social responsibility. And we have jiggered a perfectly good little town.

And so, we arrived at St. Saviours, late in the afternoon to celebrate in the small church which has served the town in better days and worse. There was a small choir busily practising, the interior of the church was freshly renovated and just before the 5:00 pm starting time the pews filled with past and present members, there to sing evensong and gather round the celebratory dinner afterwards. I felt strangely at home. My first parish was Waihao Downs in South Canterbury and we lived at Morven, a town which had once been a major railway terminus for the loading of grain, but which was, when we arrived, a row of derelict shops, a couple of churches, and a rough scattering of very cheap houses. Our time there was full and rich, and so was this brief stop at Mataura. The service was warm and flowed well. The dinner was great. The company more so. The people who remain have deep roots into this community and a resilience which comes from adherence to values far deeper than globalisation.

There is a strength here which is the real hope of our diocese. And, when in a shorter time than many of us imagine, the global economy is seen to be merely a by product of the temporary phase in world economic history defined by an abundance of cheap oil, it will be the real hope of our nation.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

In The Beginning Was The Word

(c) Jo Fielding 2010
It's now about three months since I was ordained Bishop. We've moved house and even though the new study hasn't been built yet we're quite comfortable. I've put over 13,000 km on the car, been on an aeroplane about once every couple of weeks or so, taken up my membership of the Dunedin Club, got the guys from the ICT Gateway into the office to cast their eyes over our computer system, and have become very used to the wonderful luxury of an efficient and pleasant PA. I've been in quite a few parishes, though I really wish it could have been quite a few more. I've nearly got used to the deference I receive from folks, both inside and outside the church, and today, for the first time, I think I began to understand what being a bishop is actually about.

Most days I have a list of people who want to see me. Sometimes that means a latte in a secluded corner of some restaurant or other. Sometimes it means an hour in one of the surprisingly comfortable green faux leather seats I inherited with the office. Always it means a conversation about something important. In the parish, amongst the run of the mill domestic issues that cropped up on a daily basis, someone would turn up in my office with a major crisis of some sort once or maybe twice a month. Now the big, tangled, emotionally draining issues are laid out before me two or three times a day. After all, there is a lot of inertia to be overcome in order to ring Debbie and make an appointment, drive down to Green Island and then come and sit down with the scary guy in the purple shirt, so people generally don't do it unless there's something fairly significant happening for them. Of course, it's not all bad news. Yesterday, for example, there was a lovely woman, a priest from Auckland, wishing to introduce herself and be part of us for a while. And today, I was talking to someone about major life issues when he gave me a Word. Just like the old desert fathers and mothers who gave a Word to their disciples (that is, something significant to mull over and be getting along with for lets see now... oh, I don't know.... let's say the next 20 years) this wise man had been mulling over something I said, and in prayer had a eureka moment which he knew was for me, not him. i.e. he had a Word for me.

At my last meeting with him I had mentioned the phenomenon of organisations having a, for want of a better word, "soul". Organisations develop a character or persona of their own which is bigger than the sum of the people who belong to it. Perhaps every organisation has such a "soul". Parishes certainly do. This organisational "soul" persists for longer than the lifetime of the members, for generations, centuries, even. And it doesn't always reflect the character of the members; which explains why some corporations, some regiments, some companies and even some churches, acting as an entity, can behave so badly (not in our diocese, obviously), while each and every one of the individual members is actually a very pleasant person who would never dream of doing that stuff in their ordinary, personal lives. I think that the metaphor of the angels of the Churches, the stars in the hand of Jesus described in Revelations 2 & 3, describes this phenomenon of the ongoing, superhuman persona of churches.

In the fortnight since I talked about this, it had dawned on him that a bishop's job, like a vicar's job, is the cure of souls. But the bishop's job is the cure of the "souls" of churches. My task is spiritual direction, encouragement, healing, restoration, celebration, bringing to fullness the "souls" of the churches in the see entrusted to my oversight. It is a ministry to the stars in the hand of the one like a son of man. I know that the cure of the souls of churches will involve all the interpersonal and organisational and sociological skills I have, but before it is anything else, it is a spiritual task, and one therefore in which my own spirituality is the first (and only?) tool that actually counts for anything.

How all this works itself out in practical terms, I am not yet sure, but I feel a deep inner certainty about the direction I am moving in. I left the conversation sobered. Daunted. Excited and invigorated. Convicted. Challenged. Confident that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6)

Monday, 17 May 2010

Available Light




Lately I have been taking a few photos on my iPhone. It's always in my pocket and its very easy to use when my real camera is bulky and/or unavailable, but there's more to it than that. I find myself using the iPhone by choice. It has quite a sharp lens, and the contrast is very good, and images are comparatively free of noise and distortion. But, the camera is small (2 megapixels) and has no flash and no control over aperture, shutter speed or focus. There is no zoom. It is, in short, very limited as an optical instrument. And that's precisely why it is interesting.

Today I went to First Church. This historic Presbyterian landmark is not my favourite ecclesiastical building, but it is visually interesting, and to wander round it trying to capture its feel with a small unsophisticated camera was an intriguing challenge. Using the iPhone I find myself thinking about the pictures in a way I haven't done since I was using a Practika without an exposure meter and developing the black and white prints in a rubbish tin in my study. As I mentioned once before, limitation is a boon to the creative process; if you want to think laterally give yourself less rather than more. You can't rely on your fancy gear to deliver the goods, it's all down to you. And as for these shots, sure the focus is a bit off in some of them, but I like them. Here in the Diocese of Dunedin, where we don't have a lot of resources, I am expecing the wonderful benefits of limitation to be as true of churches as it is of photographs.

Friday, 14 May 2010

The Horse Boy


I had a quiet day today, popped into the office, pruned a hedge, did all that kind of thing. After dinner Clemency and I watched a DVD which I found almost unbearably moving. It is a documentary called The Horse Boy which records the story of Rupert Isaacson and Kristin Neff and their 4 year old autistic son, Rowan. Rupert is a journalist with an interest in the bushmen of the Kalahari and their shamanic traditions, and Kristin teaches psychology. Rowan is incontinent, prone to daily 4 hour tantrums and the other trials to which severely autistic people are subject, but he has an uncanny rapport with horses. Hoping against hope for some help from shamanic healers, his parents decide to take him to the place where there is a strong shamanic tradition and a strong horse culture: amongst the reindeer herders of Mongolia. The film is the story of their journey.

It traces a familiar inspirational arc for this sort of film, but does it with a good deal of sensitivity. It is a portrait of some absolutely wonderful parenting and a moving glimpse into autism and the burdens of those who live with it. But of course it is more than that. Kristin and Rupert finally reach their goal and a shamanistic ritual is performed and from that moment on an extraordinary transformation occurs in Rowan. His autism remains, but he becomes, almost instantly, continent and free of the terrible tantrums. His social isolation ends and he is able to relate to other children and to his parents.

Which all raises some interesting questions for a Christian. What on earth has happened here? I don't know a lot about shamanism, but had always assumed that when it worked it worked through the power of suggestion. The shaman becomes a focus, by agreement of the community in which the shaman lives, for spiritual values. The shaman performs his (usually) rituals, wears his symbolic garb and evokes the archetypes buried in the psyches of us all; healings are thus effected by the working of the unconscious mind on the body. Of course, all this can hardly have been happening for Rowan. And yet demonstrably, dramatically, he finds a measure of real healing.

This is one of those movies I am reluctant to speculate on. The experts gathered for the documentary seem, none of them, to understand the causes of autism or even what it is. The shamans diagnose it in terms of the spirit of a dead grandmother and of "dark energy". The shamans effect a cure. The experts do not. I am left with questions about consciousness and its relationship to our bodies. I am left also with questions about healings effected in the name of Jesus and the claims of many Christians to exclusivity in the area of healing. What was going on for Rupert, Kristin and Rowan? God knows. But watch it and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

When Cultures Meet


I went to St. John's College in 1977, a few weeks after Clemency and I married. The college gave us an allowance, a minuscule flat in Abraham Place, and I settled in to study for an Otago BD. The other students mostly pursued an LTh, so I did my degree alone, with participation in the occasional lecture which happened to fit the Otago syllabus. I attended the communal worship and meals. I acted in the plays and played on the sports teams, drank the coffee, did my share of tidying the grounds and played a daily (at least) game of snooker. For the first time in my life I was happy. I learned the value of learning for it's own sake and I met some inspirational teachers and leaders. I made friends and have continued those friendships for the the 30 something years since. St. John's College was one of the high points of my life and consequently it is a place very dear to me. But I'm a part of this church and receive the same scuttlebutt as everyone else. I know that the college has not been a happy place for some time now.

This has been one of the open secrets of the church; we have all known that the college has had its problems but because it is so dear to so many of us no one has wanted to ask why or set about the process of healing. Of course there have been other reasons not to question the performance of the college. The dependence of so many of us on funds emanating from the St. John's Trust is one. The mind boggling complexity of the governance and management systems surrounding the College is another. Mostly though, St. John's College and its three constituent colleges are the main area in our church's life where our three Tikanga system of government has a real, practical expression. To question the functioning of the College has seemed tantamount to questioning the very constitution of our church; a constitution which has, since 1992, brought new life, vigour and mana to all sections of our church.

Today the day arrived when the chickens were supposed to come home to roost. Buried in the order paper was a seemingly innocuous sentence: as part of Motion 3, the adoption of reports, was the adoption of a report by The Commission of Enquiry In Relation To The Structure of The College of St. John The Evangelist. Over te past year of so, a commission consisting of Sir Paul Reeves and Kathryn Beck had been looking into the way the college was organised. Amongst the recommendations flowing out of their findings was that a commissary be appointed to oversee the college for two years while essential changes to its organisational structure were made. In effect this would end, albeit temporarily, the management of the college by three heads of college. To adopt the report was to agree with it and its recommendations. With the college, its structure and its finances so important to so many this was bound to be controversial. In the event the debate on the report took all day, but while it was deeply and seriously considered, it was marked by two things: a willingness to listen and a strong desire on the part of all involved to do what was best for the whole church. Sir Paul launched the discussion with a masterful speech that was firm, honest, uncompromising, respectful and compassionate.

I lost count of the number of times we withdrew into Tikanga lobbies to caucus and consider our options. In the end the report was adopted, amended to ensure the safeguarding of Kaupapa Maori and with the proviso that Tikanga Pasifika be given enough time to process it according to their own administrative structure. The debate was robust but respectful and I for one ended the day with renewed hope in our church and its structures. This debate was, in many ways, a test of the three Tikanga constitution, and it held firm. No actually, more than that; it showed its unique ability to deliver a result that honoured the kaupapa of all Tikanga. Today we began a process of reform of the college whose end will be what all of us who participated in today's milestone discussion want: the preservation of the college that is dear to us all, to the very great benefit of another generation of Anglican leaders.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Shadows

The Anglican church is full of extraordinary people. I sat with some of them today, and ate with others and and dined with still others of them in the evening. I could mention them by name but the inspirational ones probably wouldn't speak to me afterwards and neither would the ones who for one reason or another I left off the list, so you'll just have to take my word for it. But all around me in the General Synod are intelligent, reflective people; people who have had amazing encounters with God; people who have lived out interesting and complicated life stories and who now give of themselves in Anglican parishes and chaplaincies and offices and commissions from one end of the country to the other. So it might be a reasonable thing to expect that when these extraordinary people gather together to pray and to act, extraordinary things would happen, right? Yeah, right.

Any organisation is more than the sum of its parts. All groupings, large and small, take on a sort of personality or character of their own which is bigger than the sum of the individuals which make them up, and who am I to think that the Church of Aotearoa/New Zealand should be any different? The wonderful people who surround me in the church are somehow muffled and domesticated once we convene together in the synod. The demands of the General Synod require that we act in certain ways, speak in certain ways, and avoid certain observations and topics of conversation. Of course, this is not always true. Some things happened on the floor of synod today which were wonderful. We heard, for instance, a chilling and professional presentation on the effects of alcohol in our society. We made some decisions about what the Anglican Church might do about that, politically: this certainly falls into the wonderful category. Even more wonderful, we all personally pledged to be aware of our own drinking patterns and those of the people we love, and to hold each other accountable until we meet again. Similarly, we talked, too briefly, about the environmental changes which are affecting all of us but particularly those of us who happen to live on Pacific islands.

During the day, I was also party to several informed, intelligent, honest, vulnerable conversations about key issues in our life together; conversations which moved me closer to solutions for the many problems my own diocese is facing. However, these conversations occurred as we stood drinking coffee or sat together to eat. When we gathered in the big room with the archbishops sitting up on a platform wearing purple cassocks we acted a little differently. Mostly we negotiated and caucused and tried to outguess one another. We are a large group and there are significant sums of money to be distributed, on which some members of the synod depend for their livelihood, and for which some members compete with others. Some things were said and some things were done on the floor of synod which seemed, to me, designed not so much to convey truth as to win advantage for one group or another.

In the end it was a sobering day and one in which some truly principled and inspirational decisions were made, because we have in our church, some truly principled and inspirational people. But it was a day in which we spoke and acted with a great deal of consideration for the political realities of the organisation which we form. We were often guarded and savvy, and we were, ultimately, the poorer for that. We have some difficult decisions ahead as an Anglican Church, and yet when we act together we seem to me to to be, all too often, acting not as we are capable of but rather as a thin, smoky shadow of ourselves.

PS: The more astute among you will note that I am posting this at 4:00 am. I came home from dinner, wrote up my account of the day, realised I couldn't possibly post it, slept a little, woke and rephrased it all in a more palatable (ie guarded and savvy) manner. The mitre weighs heavily, even when I'm not wearing it.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Fences

For a long time, I have used the role renegotiation model as a way of analysing relationships. This model acknowledges that all committed relationships - marriages, churches, tribes, families, clubs, whatever - have boundaries: there is a limited set of participants in the relationship and there are rules about who these participants are. If there are no boundaries then there is no relationship. People who participate in the relationship have expectations about how others in the relationship will behave and expectations about how they themselves will behave. In a sense, a relationship is an agreement -made formally or informally, consciously or unconsciously- about what these expectations are. Relationships break apart when expectations are not met, so it is important to know what the expectations are, and how breaches in expectations can be repaired.

Now I'm telling you all this because much of today's 14 hours of General Synod was spent dealing with issues of membership The day ended with a motion requesting the synod to define membership, and the matter wasn't taken terribly seriously. We Anglicans don't like defining our membership, and we don't like anything which might suggest we are excluding someone, which is a nonsense really, if the role renegotiation model has anything to tell us. The motion was dismissed fairly quickly, but the other matter which relates to membership was not quite so easily ignored. Much of the morning was taken up talking about The Covenant. Now I'm not going to spend a lot of time at this hour of the night talking about The Covenant but if you haven't heard of it, or don't know why we are talking about such a thing, as about 80% of Anglicans and about 99% of non Anglicans don't, you'll find an account of it here.

The Covenant is not something that individual Anglicans adhere to, or even individual dioceses; it is, rather, something that entire provinces of the Anglican communion are invited to sign up for en masse. Getting all of us in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa/New Zealand to agree is going to be quite a task, but necessary I suppose, if you think that the ultimate aim is to have The Covenant encompass all 80 million people from around the globe who identify themselves as Anglicans. The text of The Covenant has four sections. The first three define what it means to be an Anglican church with regard to practice and belief. In terms of the role renegotiation model they define expectations: what we might expect an Anglican province - ours or someone else's- to believe and how we might expect them to act. So far to good: we can more or less agree on these three. It's when we turn the page and start to read section 4 that our Anglican livers become all lilyish, because section 4 defines what will happen if we breach the expectations laid out in the first 3 sections. Not that the penalties are all that severe; we are Anglicans, after all. It seems that the ultimate threat will be exclusion from some committees and boards and commissions and so forth, which, after 14 hours of synod, holds less horror for me than it might have done at 7:00 this morning. But as the lawyer in The Castle said, it's the whole vibe of the thing that counts. It's the prospect of the world wide communion breaking up because we can't reach agreement on basic doctrinal and ethical issues which lies behind the covenant. This fear is the impetus for signing up, and, paradoxically, it's also one of the reasons we are so reluctant about committing ourselves. The other reason, for being nervous about The Covenant is, of course, a deep uncertainty about who we are. What is an Anglican? It seems we are a bit anxious about even asking the question.

So, faced with this uncertainty, we have taken a truly Anglican stance on The Covenant. After agreeing in principle to the first three sections, we have decided to talk about it for another two years before making a decision. Who knows? Perhaps in the time before the next General Synod we will come to some agreement on Anglican identity which will enable us to make a principled stand together, either for or against The Covenant and nobly bear whatever consequences may arise from that decision. Or perhaps we are secretly hoping that events will have overtaken us before we need to commit ourselves one way or the other.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Don't Die Like An Octopus


Today began with a synod opening service. Somehow I hadn't quite cottoned on to the fact that us bishops were expected to attend in drag, so I left my frock back at the hotel room. Lenore, the wife of Bishop Kito Pikaahu kindly ferried me back and forth between Holy Trinity and my hotel in a rather nice Ford SUV, and I managed to find a place in line and walk into the church on time, in a dignified fashion and decked out in the approved manner. Blake Ramage, the very young vicar of Holy Trinity led the service with panache and the right sort of charisma, but it was another young man who set up my day.

The preacher was the Rev Don Tamihere and he preached on a Maori proverb, Kaua e mate wheke, me mate ururoa (Don’t die like an octopus;Die like a hammerhead shark). The proverb means, approximately: don't give up. Take faith. Keep on going even if the odds look hopeless. It was one of the best sermons I have heard in a long while, and there is a good account of it here. It was well constructed. Coherent. Thought provoking. Funny. True. But for me the best bit was the way it was delivered. Don looked at his audience and connected with them. Beyond the words spoken he communicated his own faith and his own engagement with scripture. He did it far better than I could have managed myself. Just knowing that there is a man of his age who can handle the responsibility of preaching with such assurance and skill is encouraging.

The day started well and so it continued. There are several areas of dysfunction in our church's national life that we have been putting enormous effort, intelligence and ingenuity into ignoring for decades now. Not so much an elephant in the parlour as a whole herd complete with matriarchs, calves, rogue bulls and an elaborate camp following of poachers and game wardens. Today in discussion, some of them were named and identified with refreshing candour and the honesty which is the only precursor to real change; so, for the second time in the day I surprised by joy. Earlier, during the opening eucharist, the Gospel read in the church had been the story in John 5 of Jesus healing the man at the pool of Beth-zatha. In that story Jesus begins his healing by asking the one question without which healing is impossible: "Do you want to be healed?" This is the question we in the Anglican Church must hear and answer. Do we want to be healed? Or are we so happy in the comfort of our dysfunction that we will, albeit in slow motion, die like an octopus? To answer it, of course we must admit our need of healing.

We had a long day. Many people spoke about serious issues dear to them, and by the time we finished about an hour ago, I was seriously tired. On my way out of the debating chamber, joy ambushed me a third time. Bishop John Gray, my tikanga partner in episcopal leadership, discreetly sidled up to me and slipped me a small blue box. "A present", he said, "from Te Pihopatanga o Te Waipounamu." Inside was a simple, strong, beautiful pectoral cross made from pounamu. My flabber was well and truly gasted. I returned to my room encouraged and humbled. I laid the cross on my bed and looked at it. It seemed to sum up the hope of the day: the church is alive and well and although the graphs only look good if you hold them upside down, what we're not going to do is roll over and pretend that the end is inevitable. Do you want to be healed? You bet your kathedra we do. And we will struggle against whatever hinders that healing, thrashing about in the boat like an ururoa if we have to.

PS I realise that some of you will be unfamiliar with some of the terms I have used, so here is a glossary:
pounamu: Greenstone or jade
Te Waipounamu: The Greenstone Waters. The south Island
tikanga: culture, a set of customs, a world view, an paradigm
pihopatanga: bishopric
kathedra: the large well padded thing a bishop sits on

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Gisborne


I used to be a member of General Synod some years ago but not for long. The Church has to administer itself, and I was happy that somebody should spend a week every two years doing that, just so long as that somebody wasn't me. But now I have been admitted to the order of the purple shirt and attendance at General Synod comes with the job, so here I am, sitting in a hotel room in Gisborne having spent the day in Holy Trinity Church hall listening and, occasionally, talking. Today was the opening day of the interdiocesan conference. This is the gathering of the 7 Pakeha dioceses who meet together briefly before joining the Maori and Pasifika dioceses in the General Synod which begins tomorrow afternoon. The venue of the synod changes from year to year, and for 2010 it is in this laid back little East Coast city where I have not been since our family spent holidays on the beaches just north of here about 14 or 15 years ago.

Gisborne reminds me of Invercargill. The hotel here has a swimming pool and the streets have palm trees, neither of which are terribly common in Invercargill, but both cities are about the same size, both are flattish and there is something about the size and placement of buildings which makes the two places evoke one another. Both are at the end of their respective lines and have a feel of isolation about them. And both show signs of a recent and significant upswing in fortunes, with a consequent aura of self confidence and prosperity wafting about the downtown streets. I flew in on Friday in one of this little planes where you look out over the pilot's shoulder and see the view from the front. I dragged my oversized suitcase (episcopal robes, suit, clothes for a week, candles, large canvas map of the diocese - don't ask) into the Emerald hotel and was surprised to be given a share in a suite only slightly smaller than Mosgiel. I found my way to the opening service at Holy Trinity Church where they have a vicar with almost indecent levels of youth, confidence, competence and enthusiasm and prepared myself to spend the next 7 days fighting off sleep.

So far it has been fine. There are lots of old friends and many newly met people to catch up with. We had a welcome onto one of the local maraes, speeches and a number of good meals. We have listened to each of the dioceses present themselves to the others and discussed common concerns. Issues such as pay rates for youth workers have been dealt with swiftly and sensibly. Perhaps it won't be so difficult to stay awake after all. Brian Thomas has asked me to write a sort of daily log for Taonga magazine, so I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 3 May 2010

The Dawn Breaks On Another Day


I've had a great day. The best day I can remember for a long while. I spent it in a largish greyish room with a large data projector that took a worrying half hour to show any pictures and twenty or so young people sitting around on chairs and lying on the floor. Oh yes, and a half dozen or so clergy and adult lay leaders. I talked to them about God, and somehow the thoughts and intuitions I had gathered up over the previous 24 hours shaped themselves into a coherent conversation about the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit which ran all morning and into the early afternoon. These were an astonishing bunch of young people, and they had been well led as a group by Lynda Paterson and Peter Beck from Christchurch Cathedral, as well as the chaplains of Christ's and St. Margaret's colleges. As a group, they listened. They asked intelligent and perceptive questions. They made searching, and at times frank comments. They talked to each other with respect, enthusiasm and focus. They cracked jokes and clowned around. Three of them were the offspring of colleagues I have known and respected for years, and it was a bit uncanny how they resembled their parents in every possible way. One of them talked to me over lunch about how he listens to records instead of CDs and he likes to go to a second hand shop in Christchurch and buy English progressive rock from the 1970s - the very stuff I listened to when I was his age. Several asked about call and vocation. At the end of the day they made a speech thanking me for being there, but it was me who was grateful, and it was me that gained most from the day. It's been a while since I have led that sort of workshop and I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy it. Mostly though, being in the company of young people who are faithful and intelligent about what they believe is a very invigorating and reassuring experience. Who knows what shape the church will be in in 30 years time, but I got a small glimpse of it this afternoon and the news is all good.

A Day of Two Halves


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.