Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2011

Pilgrimage 1: Ruapuke and Rakiura

After a brief liturgy in the Cathedral, the twenty or so pilgrims from Dunedin drove to Bluff, arriving in time to be welcomed onto Te Rau Aroha marae at about 7:00 pm. We were joined there by another twenty or so from Southland and we spent the night in a building which is undoubtedly one of the great artistic treasures of New Zealand. Opened in 2003, Te Rau Aroha was designed by Cliff Whiting, who designed the marae at Te Papa. The wharenui is octagonal, evoking the shape of the small whare puni used by Maori in this part of the world as they pursued a semi nomadic hunter- gatherer life in pre European times. The traditional design motifs are worked in a variety of materials and are brightly coloured, intricate and complex. Although it was not possible to take photographs inside the wharenui, this detail from the wall of the wharekai (also beautifully ornamented, although not as lavishly as the wharenui) gives some idea of the style and type of  decoration. The most striking feature

The Truth Shall Set You Free.

When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate he was given a few brief minutes to explain himself to the man who had it within his power to inflict enormous pain and, eventually death. Jesus summed up his life and ministry in these words: "I have come to bear witness to the truth", which is a statement I have always thought significant for what it doesn't say. Pilate responds by asking "what is truth?" - a question steeped in, soaked, boiled and deep tissue injected with agnosticism. I don't think that Pilate saw anything beyond doubt. All claims to truth, he seems to be saying, were ephemeral and personal and tentative, including the claim being made by this odd Galilean whom he was being badgered into crucifying. What he couldn't quite get was that the truth he was doubting, but who knows? - quite genuinely and ardently seeking - was standing right in front of him. He didn't get it for the same reason we don't get things: growing in our grasp of the

Acts of God

I am told that in Christchurch a clergyman went into a shop and was asked by the shopkeeper why the clergyman's boss had sent the earthquake. The clergyman replied that earthquakes are of the earth, but that the acts of bravery and kindness apparent all over the city are the acts of God. It's an answer that got the reverend gentleman off the hook, temporarily at least, but I don't think it would have been a satisfactory answer for the shopkeeper, at least, not when he went home and thought about it later. I suppose my unknown colleague was defending his boss, not that his boss ever needs defending, and was falling for a trap common to us religious people; namely, thinking that God is only in the good bits of life, and therefore, that the not so good bits come from somewhere else: from Not God. We have an example of this thinking in our own much admired New Zealand Anglican Prayer Book. In our psalter, the committee which put the book together saw fit to go through a


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 Jes

Baxter Poem

A couple of times recently I have used this poem in a sermon, and some people have asked me for the text. So here it is: Song: My Love Came Through The City My love came through the city And they did not know him With his beard and his eyes and his gentle hands For he was a working man  My love stood on the lakeshore And spoke to the people there And the fish in the water forgot to swim And the birds were quiet in the air. ‘Truth’ - he said, and - ‘Love’ - he said, But his purest word was - ‘Mercy’ - And the fishermen left their boats and came To share his poverty. My love was taken before the judge And they nailed him on a tree With his strong face and his long brown hair And the whiteness of his body. ‘Truth’ - he said, and - ‘Love’ - he said, But his purest word was - ‘Mercy’ - And the blood ran down and the sun grew dark For the lack of his company. My love was only a working man And now he is God on high; I have left my books and m


I was in my office a week ago when the venetian blinds began to sway and the desk I was leaning on began to move in time with my heartbeat. By the time I walked through the door to say to Debbie, my PA, "Hey, we've just had an earthquake", David the accountant was fielding a phone call from his relatives in Christchurch, 350 km away and telling us that it was bigger than September and that the Cathedral had fallen over. So for the last week, news has been constant. An app on my iPhone tells me whenever there is an aftershock greater than 4 on the Richter scale and another one delivers the news from Against the habits of a lifetime, our TV is now turned on when we get up and stays on during dinner. I see the images of the city where I went to school and university. I look at the grey stone buildings where I first met Clemency and took her out for coffee a lifetime - well, three lifetimes, actually - ago. I see the familiar streets and the cathedral tower b