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Showing posts from June, 2011

Te Kotahitanga Forum

For most of this week I spent my nights in one of those  travel hotels in the industrial park near Auckland airport and my days on Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa Marae. The days were better. Of course this was in part becaue of the contrast in venues. On the one hand there was soulless straight edged built to a budget mediocrity and on the other the fluid graceful power of carvings, the delicate flowing of paint  and the striking, deceptively simple geometric counterpoints of woven flax, together  hinting the whakapapa of every tribe in New Zealand. As soon as I walked onto the marae, I was struck by the rich ruby red of the house, deeper, more bloody than the more customary ochre and particularly powerful when backed by a flannel gray Auckland winter sky. I didn't bring a camera, darn it, but  managed  a few shots with my iPhone. As we sat during the day I could fill in the (I hasten to assure you very rare) dull bits in the proceedings by admiring the extraordinary workmanship of the c

Turn Sideways Into The Light

David Whyte speaks in his audio series What To Remember When Waking of the myth of the Tuatha De Danann. They were a mythical race from Ireland's past who were tall, magical, mystical people devoted to beauty and artistry. When another more brutal people, the Milesians invaded Ireland the Tuatha De Danann fought them off in two battles, but were faced with a third, decisive battle against overwhelming odds. So, lined up in battle formation and facing almost certain defeat, the Tuatha De Danann turned sideways into the light and disappeared. Whyte's retelling is, to put it mildly, a gloss, but I am quite taken with the phrase and with the phenomenon it describes. Turning sideways into the light is the realisation that there are some encounters that are damaging to all involved in them: no one wins a war. Faced with such an exchange, to turn sideways into the light is to seek another, more whole form of relationship. It is to reject the ground rules of the conversation as they


Over the past couple of weeks I have been taking pictures of old churches. Not the usual scenic, picturesque shots of lovely old buildings with quaint towers and pretty churchyards, but of dead churches: buildings that once were home to vibrant congregations, but which are now used for other purposes. Some have become lovely little homes; some are restaurants or bars or shops; some are sitting derelict and vandalised. There are a lot of them. Some of them are small, wooden chapels built to a budget; others are large and ornate and expensive; all of them represent the end of  end of a particular dream. Once there was a fundraising campaign and pledges and cake stalls and a large billboard with a thermometer drawn on it. Once there were people who gave sacrificially to erect the building and others who spent countless hours tending and decorating it. Once there was the murmur of prayers and the sound of massed voices singing along to an organ or a harmonium. Once there was a youth group

Old Churches

 These are pictures for which I pretend no great artistic merit. They are pictures of buildings in Otago and Southland which once served as the spiritual homes of various congregations, but which are now used for other purposes or no purpose at all.

Week of Guided Prayer

I am in Southland this week with John Franklin, my chaplain. We are conducting a Week of Guided Prayer, which is also known in some circles as a Retreat In Daily Life. The WGP is a process I have used for many year now. It derives, ultimately, from the Ignatian spiritual exercises, and is, in essence a fairly simple thing. Participants gathered yesterday at Holy Trinity Gore and together we used a fairly simple prayer exercise . Then, after an initial conversation, each of the retreatants has covenanted to spend half an hour a day in prayer, and another half hour a day in conversation with a prayer guide, ie John or me. I recognise that for most people, the prospect of half an hour in prayer is a bit daunting, so every day I will suggest a way of prayer, and if necessary provide the resources that are needed for it. Next Saturday morning we will gather again for eucharist and a final group exercise and the process will have ended. I know that someone as experienced in Spiritual Direc

Mary's Room

 Lately I have been thinking about Frank Jackson's thought experiment, variously called Mary the super-scientist or Mary's Room . I have even preached about it a couple of times, and a recording of the last time, at St. Matthew's Dunedin, is here . The thought experiment goes something like this: Mary is the world's most brilliant neurophysiologist. her specialty is the perception of colour. She knows absolutely everything there is to know about colour: how the retina is affected by light, how the brain processes the information etc. When it comes to colour perception,  there is not one fact that it is possible to know that she does not know. By a huge irony, however, Mary is herself only able to see monochromatically. That is, though she knows all it is possible to know about colour, she has never experienced colour vision herself. One day, due to some freak happenstance,  her monochromatism is ended, and she is able to see colours. The question is: does she know a


Generally speaking, sunsets and seagulls and so forth don't need to be asked before you photograph them. They do their momentary aurora impersonation or flap idly by unaware (I assume) of any concept of photography or of beauty for that matter. People are another issue entirely. For me photography is, as I have said on another occasion , about awareness. I go out with a camera and immediately I am disciplined to be aware; to leave self behind and try to be present to what is around me. It is a personal thing, and a spiritual exercise. As soon as you take a photograph of another person, however,  there are at least two people involved: the one in front of the camera and the one behind it, and both have an investment in whatever results from pushing the shutter. My interest in taking photographs is to try and capture what I see. The interest of most of the people being photographed most of the time is not what I see, but how they wish other people to see them. Sometimes these inte