When I met Clemency in my English 3 class at the University of Canterbury I found that her father was the Dean of Christchurch, and didn't know what that meant; something to do with the University or some church or other, I assumed. Soon after I went to her home at 80 Bealey Avenue for the first time. I am a boy from the Eastern suburbs, where small, low, close together houses were built by the state. I had never, ever, in my life set foot in a house that large and couldn't quite imagine why one family would need all that space. It was a little overwhelming, and was not made any easier by Dean Underhill who hoped, for the first three or four years of my relationship with Clemency that I was a passing fad like the paisley shirt and would soon go away. Clemency's mother was another story. She and I found an instant rapport and established a very deep friendship that lasted until her death in 1985 and, I hope, lasts still. It was in this house that she shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with me. The Deanery was a gracious, welcoming house, always a little ragged around the edges but always full of people and music. It was a place for Christmas days and long, long evenings spent around a fire happily talking theology with Valerie and or/one of the many young people who temporarily found shelter there.
It was here we held our wedding reception in December 1976. It was on that day, giving my groom's speech underneath the enormous chestnut tree in the front garden, that many people, myself and Clemency included, discovered I had a gift for public speaking.
I could never pass that place, even after it was vandalised by developers without a pang of love and regret.
All that ended on Tuesday week ago.
Of course before the reception there had been a wedding.
Clemency and I were the thirteenth couple married in Christchurch cathedral in it's long history. We needed to be married because a month after the wedding we were headed for Auckland, to St. John's Theological College and living together without benefit of license wasn't going to be a good look. Some years previously I had gone into the cathedral to pick up Clemency's brother Jonathan from choir practice and happened upon an evensong, my first exposure to this beautiful but puzzling phenomenon. During the service some young men paraded in wearing cassocks: that year's crop of new ordinands. Watching them, I suddenly knew with depth and power that I wanted to be one of them. My call to priesthood. So, a few years, many interviews and a time as a youth worker in Avonside parish later, I was standing in the Cathedral getting married. Bishop Alan Pyatt, My Father in Law, Bob Lowe and John Barker all played a part, and I don't recall having much say in things like liturgy and music. Ever since, I have loved this old building and I must say that I was especially delighted with the enormous angels hanging from the roof last time I was there. Now angels, and for all I know the roof they hung from are no more.
Many years and much reading later I was Vicar of Sumner, a time of mixed blessing, but my very little daughter Catherine was very happy there. Every time we drove in or out of Sumner we passed Shag Rock
"Catherine! Where are you off to today?"
"I'm going to Grandpa's and then we're going to buy NEW SHOES!"
"What's wrong with your old ones?"
"They're too small. See."
"Oh. OK. Hurry back Catherine, I'll miss you."
"Bye, Shag Rock."
The rock was the last remnant of a headland that once made Sumner beach even more of the sheltered bay that it now is. During the earthquake, like so much else, it too fell to earth and is no more.
There are other landmarks all gone now. Other repositories of memory and signposts to the past gone, like I suppose the events they are associated with; leaving traces now only in the way they have shaped and formed the living who remain.
Bye Shag Rock.
Bye. See you around.
No. Not this time.