Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Ayes Have It

Our synod was short. After a Friday night start, we were all fnished by 3:30 pm on Saturday, and that included a presentation of my Strategic Plan, discussion of the same in small groups and a potentially divisive but in the end not so discussion on the ordination of folks in same gender relationships. We ended with a dinner hosted by the St Barnabas home at which Phil Clark of the Church Army spoke. Phil is the best public speaker I have heard in a very long while. He was thought provoking and eloquent and surprising and very funny - his table companions spent much of the meal fighting for composure as the liquid bits of their dinners ran out of their noses. He spoke of taking over the Church Army, an organisation which was formed a long time ago to evangelise the working classes. The methods and structures which proved so successful through the first half of the 20th Century have not proven durable however, and the Church Army has been in decline for a while. Phil Clark is not a man to be bound by either convention or expectations, so he is taking the organisation off in a whole new direction, basing its operations on an expression of urban community: same aims, different context, different methods.

Which was a providential thing for Phil to be saying, because I guess that is pretty much what I was trying to say in both my long sweated over charge * and the Strategic Plan. Bronwyn, our Diocesan Manager also said it when she delivered a brutally honest, very clear statement of our financial position. Now you might expect that being reminded that we were in significant decline and  that we were pretty much broke into the bargain might have had a depressing effect on people, but if you expect that, then you're obviously not from around here. This synod was calm, reflective, hopeful and even, at the end, excited. It was also, despite the differences between mutually exclusive viewpoints, deeply respectful and united. We are, like Phil Clark and the Church Army, embarking on a process of profound change in almost every aspect of our Diocesan life. We have an agreed pathway to do that and we have the energy, and more importantly, the will to take that path to wherever it is that the Spirit is leading us.

*the charge as it is printed here is the official version which will go into the yearbook. I didn't use this script, however but extemporised to cover the same ground. On Friday night I desperately needed to speak to my diocese, and you all know how rude it is to speak to someone and read at the same time.

Monday, 13 September 2010


I've taken better pictures than these, but I'm quite proud of this pair nonetheless. Today was my day off, the time when I rest and recuperate and get myself all charged up for the week ahead; which is not a bad choice of words, for this week I have to deliver a charge and today was the only clear space in my timetable in which to write it.

Pistols have charges. So do courts and batteries and schoolteachers and the Light Brigade. So do bishops. We have to give a long and interminable speech at the beginning of synod, it's all part of the tradition, you know, and these valiant attacks on insomnia are known as charges. Because it has to be printed out I had to write a full script, something I haven't done since I talked on the radio in 1992, and the time before that must have been one of the sermons I preached before Bob Lowe got on my case in about 1982. For me, scripting a sermon is like scripting a conversation; as I labour over the keyboard there is a little voice deep in the inner recesses of my inner recesses which whispers, speaks, shouts then screams that this is not the way it should be done. But I did it. Or most of it. In the bits of the day when I should have been writing the rest I procrastinated.

Procrastination is revelatory in terms of the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory. J personalities procrastinate by not starting things. P personalities proacrastinate by not finishing, and today I found a hundred excuses not to finish.... well.... two, anyway. My newly built study now has books on the shelf, but they (of course) need sorting. And more importantly, the wireless  internet  took the scenic route on the journey from the kitchen wall, where the router lives, to the new space under my old desk where my computer skulks, and although it no doubt enjoyed itself, the signal was all tuckered out when it got to my place. Of the two issues, the internet was the one to which my procrastination genes bonded. I looked on ebay (ipad, another room) and found a brand of parabolic dish antenna which might solve the problem - a good hour wasted there - but they were expensive and the post is slow, and who knows if it would live up to its hype when it got here? Then it occured to me that any hemispherical metal object should act as a dish antenna, and so I held my usb wifi  thingummy in front of the the family colander and got an immediate jump in reception. So, it was off to The Warehouse to buy a shiny new colander ($9.95), and another happy couple of hours fitting it to a wall in the garage, drilling a hole between the study and the garage, running an extension lead from the computer and dangling the usb thingummy in various positions in front of the holey object.  It worked! Woohoo! Speed jumped from 11 Mbps to 108 Mbps. Signal strength went from 12% to 68%. I was chuffed and immediately used my new found connectedness to google and see if anyone else had come up with this idea. They had. Of course they had. In their thousands. There is a whole subculture of using kitchen utensils as wifi aerials. They're called woktennas or wokfi or wifry. Well I never! There was another happy half hour reading all about this, and looking at the ingenious pictures of aerials made from chip scoops, pringles tins, soup ladles and sieves. And I found another wonderful timewaster.

Somebody had invented a thing called the Windsurfer signal booster, which is really just another little parabolic aerial. Basically, you download a pattern, print it on card, cut the thing out, glue tinfoil on the back surface, and  fit it on the antennae of your wireless router. It took less than half an hour go to whoa to make two, put 'em on and boost the signal up to 80% and speed to 121.5 Mbps. Fantastic! Another boost in the figures, but of course, the increase was practicably unnoticeable. And then, oh happy day, it was time to cook dinner.

The charge is 3/4 written. Only a quarter to go, and I have the whole evening, unless I find some other atractive diversion, such as writing a blog post.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Home Again

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.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad