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Showing posts from December, 2014

Christmas Day

Called South contingent at Oihi, Christmas day. Nothing if not colourful. On Christmas day our family goes to church. Then we retire home for a lunch of everybody's favourites; a sort of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Kiwi antipasto. Then we open presents before cooking an evening Christmas Dinner. So the routine today went exactly according to schedule except the context was a little unusual. To go to church we returned to Oihi, travelling across the hills of Northland to arrive around 10 for the 11 am service. We walked down the now familiar path to join the few hundred people who had already gathered. The forecast for the day was rain but the day was mercifully overcast and dry. Behind us a long queue of people walked in a snaking line down the hillside, carrying camp chairs and umbrellas and picnics in bags and boxes and baskets. I joined the other bishops, changed into the convocation robes which had been lent to me by Ross Bay (Mine being the one thing I had forgotten


Lately, as I wander round the birthplace of our nation, and look at the sites once inhabited by those who first bought the Christian Gospel to these shores I have been reading a book by a Buddhist nun. Tenzin Palmo is an Englishwoman, one of the first Western women to be ordained as a Buddhist nun, who spent 12 years in seclusion, living in a cave in the Himalayas. She has authored many books, and Reflections on a Mountain Lake is a collection of her retreat addresses. It is a wise and profound book aimed at giving practical advice on living a Buddhist life in the circumstances in which one might find oneself. As long term readers of this blog know, I have a longstanding interest in Buddhism, fostered by the various members of my family who have chosen that particular spiritual path; but the value of Reflections on a Mountain Lake has been the light it casts on my own Christian walk. I was greatly helped by Tenzin Palmo's explanation of the doctrine of karma. I hope I'm

Rangihoua Heritage Park

Today was the day the Rangihoua Heritage Park was being opened and the ceremony began at 10:00 am. The new park comprises Oihi Bay and the hill above it. It has a track and very beautifully conceived and executed series of signs, spaced around the park, telling the story of the first missionary settlement in New Zealand.  We gathered in the foyer of the Copthorne at 8:00 am to pool cars, then set off in convoy 15 minutes later for Oihi Bay. It was longer than I remembered it to be, but after about 50 minutes driving on narrow roads, sometimes sealed and sometimes not, we found a paddock on a hillside to park and a bus to take us the last kilometre up to the new interpretive centre. There were already a couple of hundred people there, and I realised how badly prepared I was. They had camp chairs and bottles of water and umbrellas. I had a pilgrim's staff, though I had remembered to bring a sunhat. The new interpretive centre, basically a great sweeping roof with three walls s

The Road to Oihi - Waitangi

It's about three hours drive from Orewa to Waitangi. The road is winds up and down and around a series of small hills, through rural service towns and a lot of forests. Us Otago people play spot the kauri, getting points for every one seen, the way other people might do for Christmas trees or garden gnomes. Cloud cover was low, so on some of the higher hills we were driving through it, dark green native bush hazy in the fog. The rain was falling quite heavily when we arrived here around 2:00pm. A number of Anglicans have gathered for the service tomorrow. Our three archbishops are here, as are a few of our diocesan bishops as well as Archbishop Philip Freier from Melbourne representing the Australian church. I noticed a fairly good contingent of Baptist clergy, and there will be representation from most of the other major denominations. As I write this the sound of rain on the roof is loud and constant. I understand the locals have laid on umbrellas for us. I could have got to

The Road to Oihi - Orewa.

I have nothing much to write about today. No great thoughts. No particular insights. The Arahura was running late this morning. Someone left the lights on and they had to push start it. But we got underway at about 7:00, only half an hour late, and with Cook Strait absolutely dead flat the captain had managed to make up almost all of the lost time by the time we got to Wellington. Bridget and Scott travelled with us as far as Wellington. We settled into a group of seats conveniently near the play area but Noah saw the stairs, and knew they must lead to somewhere and that the somewhere was no doubt pretty awesome. "Stairs, stairs" he repeated until I carried him up them. So he and I stood alone in the fresh Southerly and took in all the spectacular excellence (Truck! Water! Birdie! Boat!) until the ship began to move and the scene became the most astonishing thing he had seen in his life. His little head rested on mine, cheek to cheek, my eyes looking out beside his and

The Road to Oihi - Picton

We got away a little later than planned, 8:45 am instead of 6:00 but there was a lot to do. Packing for instance. Parking the cats. That sort of thing. This week had been pretty busy, what with one thing and another and most of yesterday afternoon was occupied with our annual Christmas party for clergy and families. Clemency, Bridget, Scott Noah and I spent the afternoon in company with these lovely people and got home very late in the afternoon. We were tired. We had plenty of time in the morning. We went to bed. So this morning we hooked up the caravan, packed a toothbrush and a change of shorts and headed North. It started to rain when we were on the Kilmog, and was sunny again by Timaru. So it alternated, wet and dry all day long. We stopped for coffee in Oamaru and for lunch in Rakaia. We got fuel in Amberley and had a lovely dinner at a quaint restaurant on the Kaikoura coast before arriving here in Picton about 7:45. We'll park up here for the night before boarding the fe

The Last Leg

Bay of Islands. Shot taken from the same boat that will transport us to Oihi Bay On Thursday at 6 am we'll be leaving for the Bay of Islands. We're crossing with the caravan on the 6:30 am Ferry from Picton to Wellington on Friday and, on Friday night, we should be in Auckland  where we'll meet Catherine, newly arrived from England. We'll be in Waitangi on Saturday and take part in the service at Oihi Bay on Sunday morning. Then there is the most leisurely lead up to Christmas I will have experienced since 1979, before we are part of the huge gathering at the Marsden Cross on Christmas Day. This is the last leg of our Diocesan Pilgrimage. In this last fortnightof Advent we will complete by car the journey we made by foot and bicycle way back in Lent. It's important for me to carry Te Harinui to Waitangi and to Oihi Bay. I am so looking forward to being on the open road with the whole length of the country before me; to see my lovely girl again; to be in


My phone is linked to my car stereo by bluetooth. When I get in and start the car my stored music and podcasts play in a randomly selected private programme which is sort of of a combination National Radio, Concert Radio, AndHow FM, and Classic Hits FM. I'm amazed at how often this seemingly random mix comes up with exactly the right track at exactly the right time. Over the last couple of days, for example it has twice played me David Whyte reading his poem The House of Belonging , which sums up SO exactly where I find myself. " this is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love. " I lie in my bed and listen to the house creaking into life. Down the steep stairs my grandson is calling. Papa? Papa?  I look at him and see my own eyes looking back. He laughs and I laugh back; this is what we do, he and I. My daughter is cooking an egg for him. I make tea and ask about her day. There is no house like the house of belonging.

The House of Belonging

David Whyte I awoke this morning in the gold light turning this way and that thinking for a moment it was one day like any other. But the veil had gone from my darkened heart and I thought it must have been the quiet candlelight that filled my room, it must have been the first easy rhythm with which I breathed myself to sleep, it must have been the prayer I said speaking to the otherness of the night. And I thought this is the good day you could meet your love, this is the black day someone close to you could die. This is the day you realize how easily the thread is broken between this world and the next and I found myself sitting up in the quiet pathway of light, the tawny close grained cedar burning round me like fire and all the angels of this housely heaven ascending through the first roof of light the sun has made. This is the bright home in which I live, this is where I ask my friends to come, this is where I


The prayer of silence, whatever specific form it might take and whatever tradition it is practised in always works from a particular premise: that the truest part of ourselves is found within; and encompassed within that deep part of ourselves is something wiser and older and deeper and better than we are. So I sit in silence. I withdraw from all those things which occupy my everyday life. I try to be as still as possible beside this great well of life and meaning which opens up in the parts of me I am never able to directly observe. When I first started doing this, many, many years ago, I would be engulfed, every time I tried it,  in a sense of peace and wellbeing as I sat beside this deep inner pool; but I have learned to see this experience, attractiveas it is, as a distraction, drawing me away from the pure depths which are my heart's true focus. Sitting in that place of silence isn't easy. My personality is a complicated web of attitudes and habits and predispositions

Sitting Zen

Why do this? Why sit still and watch the thoughts and feelings drift past like the boats on the surface of a stream? It's not easy to find words to explain; to answer the question requires that you do it. But David Whyte has caught something of it; he speaks from another tradition but his words ring true. SITTING ZEN  - By David Whyte After three days of sitting hard by the window following grief through the breath like a hunter who has tracked for days the blood spots of his injured prey I came to a lake where the deer had run exhausted refusing to save its life in the dark water and there it fell to ground in our mutual and respectful quiet pierced by the pale diamond edge of the breath's listening presence

A Fading Voice

I spent the weekend in Central Otago. My caravan was nicely parked in the churchyard of St Andrew's Cromwell, a convenient central point for the various things I had to do. I had a meeting in Queenstown and a lunch in Arrowtown to attend on Friday, and a dinner and service in Cromwell to mark the 140th anniversary of St. Andrew's church. I also had an informal meeting in Ophir, which I'll talk about in a minute. The dinner at St. Andrews and the service the next day were a lot of fun. Upper Clutha Parish is in good heart right now, with an exceptionally capable vicar, an exciting project (the Wanaka Community House) well on the way, and a great sense of optimism and growth. The Cromwell congregation is filled with interesting people doing unusual things and boy, do they know how to cook. The little stone church might be deemed an earthquake risk, but it sits as robustly on its footings under the trees as it has done for 1.4 centuries and if it feels threatened it doesn