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Showing posts from February, 2016

Hamilton South

Today started cold. There was a southerly and clouds stacking themselves up in great, untidy, unfolded heaps above the beige hills, and after the morning quiet and breakfast I had enough time to walk up the dirt road towards where the town of Hamilton used to be. If it had lasted, I guess it would now be Hamilton South, but it has long gone. Once there were 4000 people, 40 shops and 23 different places to buy liquor. It was a goldmining town and the diggings are still there, about a mile away, like a great purplish white burn scar on the bare flank of the hill. At the top of a hill there is a gate, a sign board and a small cemetery set behind a neatly made stone wall. That's all there is of Hamilton. I went and looked at the old Graves and the neat new plaque someone erected when the cemetery was restored just a few years ago. It records everyone who is buried there. Since the first person was interred in 1865 it was 23 years before there was a burial of someone over 60.  Chil

Getting Settled

On a retreat like this one there are as many motivations to be here as there are retreatants, but there is a commonality about what happens in the first few days. One aspect of this is that when people stop and become silent their body lets go of all the little subterfuges it was using to prevent them knowing just how tired they were. So people arrive full of eagerness to enter the silence and start making headway on their inner development and find themselves falling asleep all the time. They would apologise if they were allowed to talk  but they just make oops sorry faces instead. My spiritual director back in the day taught me to welcome this snoozing. The Holy Doze she called it. And so I pass her wisdom on to those who are coming to me on a day by day basis for direction. These first days will be about letting go and that includes letting go of the plans they have for how they will grow their souls over this coming week. It's only been 24 hours. I know what is likely to h

En Hakkore

In the hills up behind Ranfurly there used to be a town, Hamilton, which at one stage was home to 5,000 people. All that remains of it now is a graveyard, fenced off and baking in the lonely brown hills. Near it, in the 1930s a large Sanitorium was built for the treatment of tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments. It was a substantial complex of buildings with wards, a nurses hostel, impressive houses for the manager and superintendent and all the utility buildings needed for such a large operation. The treatment offered consisted of isolation, views and weather. Patients were exposed to the air, the tons of it which whistled past, often at great speed, the warmth of the sun and the cold. They were housed in small cubicles opening onto huge glassed verandas where they cooked in the summer and froze in the winter and often, what with the wholesome food and the exercise, got better. When advances in antibiotics rendered the Sanitorium obsolete it was turned into a Borstal and the

I'll see what I can do

I'm leaving at 8 am tomorrow for Waipiata to help lead a six day silent retreat. I won't actually be on retreat myself, so I will be able to keep up my Lenten discipline of posting daily, but there might be a problem. I have no idea whether or not I will have internet access, or even enough cellphone access to set up a mobile hotspot. So, maybe I'll be in touch tomorrow. Or maybe it'll be at the end of next week.

The End of Love. 2

A sweet little love song.  And this really is a love song, unlike most of the others which are actually infatuation songs.  One of my favourite books, John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman is set in Victorian England and is about a successful and established young man, Charles Smithson. Charles is engaged to Ernestina but becomes curious about a woman named Sarah Woodruff, reputedly the abandoned lover of a French naval officer. Charles has some contact with Sarah and soon realises he is in love with her. On a trip to settle some private business, Charles decides to visit Sarah. At this point the author intervenes in the story and offers the reader the first of three possible endings.  1. Charles decides not to visit Sarah after all, returns to his home in Lyme Regis, marries his fiancee and lives a dull and unsettled life.   The reader is invited to read on and an alternative story develops. Charles visits Sarah and they have an impetuous sexual encounter. Ch

The End of Love. 1

In my early thirties I performed the funeral for a lovely woman in her early 40s. After the service I walked away from the grave with her grieving husband. "You know, Kelvin", he said, "one day half the married people in the world will bury the other half." That moment has stayed with me since then; I can remember the green grass and clear sky and his particular stride and his eternal statement. All relationships end. All of them. So what is the end of love? And by that I mean two things: what is the way a love finishes, which is what I want to talk about tomorrow, and what is the meaning of love, which I want to talk about today. Years later, Clemency and I sat,  the two of us, and looked back into our past  watching two gauche kids, her and me, blunder their way into a life together. We said sorry once again for things that were forgiven and forgotten decades ago. We recalled names and deeds and places long past. We laughed like drains. We talked of those

My Dunedin. 4

 So what's a city without its people? Here are a few of my fellow citizens, human or otherwise.  My daughters, both students of Otago University when this was taken  St. John's parish fair  Mary  Taking in the sights from the top of Mt. Cargill  Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world. (to be perfectly frank I know of a steeper one in Dunedin, but this is more accessible for the tourists)  Baldwin Street  We have a long proud history of education. Our university was the first in the country. We had the first woman graduate in the contry and the first woman doctor. This is prizegiving at Otago Girl's High School, the first state run school for girls in Australasia, and one of the first in the world. It is constantly ranked amongst the highest achieving schools in the country and I'm pretty proud that my daughters went there. (Catherine's friend Helen is just getting a prize)    Evening worship, St. John's Roslyn Th

Motion 30

A wedding at the end of the Earth. Nosa Senora da Barca (Our lady of the boat. nb. The name is Galician, not Spanish.), Muxia, Comunidade Autonoma de Galicia, Spain. At the General Synod which met in Waitangi in 2014 a great deal of prayer, care and time was put into the debate around matters of sexuality. We recognised that, as a church, we  had people who held views that were theologically based and honestly held, but which were mutually incompatible and that the church would not be able to resolve the differences between them. Energy was directed, therefore at investigating ways in which we could, with integrity, continue to hold our diverse views but still remain in one church.  After days of some of the most honest, considered and mutually respectful discussion I have ever been privileged to be part of, a statement was crafted and a commission was formed and charged with bringing to the next synod (ie the one that will happen in Napier in May) a plan for continuing to live

A crappy day. In the best possible way.

I got a photo of Noah today, eating MacDonalds and wearing the accompanying Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hat which came with the 'food'. Not that he knows what  a teenager, a mutant, or a ninja is, though he has a pretty good grasp on the meaning of turtles. He's being toilet trained and he has a sticker chart: the deal was struck with his mum for 1 (one) sticker for every result in his potty (of both or either variety, verified by inspection of either parent) and when the chart is filled he gets to eat MacDonalds, which, though he has very little prior experience of it, the kids at preschool assure him is way cool. So he figured a) lots of small efforts are more lucrative than 1 major effort and b) if he eats and drinks a lot his productivity will rise.  The chart was set up on Friday and he got the ninjaburger on Sunday afternoon. I expect he is going to become a lawyer like his mum, who is, even as we speak, negotiating a revised contract. **** My day off was today


We had a late start so there was time to watch Attitude. This wonderful program runs on Sunday morning at a time when no one much will be watching it. I don't get to see it very often but it never fails to deliver.  Production values are superb and the interviewing and scripting is amongst the best you will see on New Zealand Television. And the stories! So moving! Today's was about a very high achieving young man with Down's Syndrome and his astonishingly whole and wise parents. TVNZ buries this on Sunday mornings and at prime time programs endless cooking contests or dating shows or people fixing houses . Go figure. ***** We left at 11 am to drive to Omakau: there via the Pig Root, home via the Ida Valley and Middlemarch. We stopped for a picnic lunch somewhere by a river under a deep blue sky and that still warm clear light which is the signature of Central Otago. We made it to St. Mary's church in plenty of time for the service at 2 pm. This was the las

An Inconvenient Question

I drove to Balclutha just after breakfast. The weather was good and the roads clear, so it was a brisk trip. I was going south for a gathering of ecumenical parishes. The attendees were mostly Presbyterians and Methodists, but I had been asked to talk to them and be inspirational. No pressure or anything. I talked about Elijah, and then later about my own experience in Co-operating Parishes. I'm not sure whether it was inspirational, but, as often happens when I talk to people, it had a truckload of lessons for me.  Seems that lately, my past keeps coming back. Like my life passing before my eyes, but  not so much in a flash as in a slow dawdling conflagration. **** I  can watch cricket live on my phone. I refrained from watching but did, as a noble act of ministry to others who wanted to know, occasionally peek at the score. I knew that Brendon McCullum was doing something pretty extraordinary at the Hagley Oval but didn't look until I got home. I think I did about 25+ d

Phone Pix

People sometimes ask my advice on buying cameras. Often they want to improve their photos and think that a new camera will be a big help in doing that. Well, it might. A new camera will help your photography in much the same way that buying a new pen will help your writing. But mostly, if you're taking crap now, the new camera will help you take better exposed and more sharply focused crap. And anyway, these days most people have a pretty good camera built into their phones. Phone cameras have excellent processing software (actually the most important bit of a digital camera), fine lenses and a good range of options for controlling the shot if that's what you want (and know how) to do. The best way to take better pictures is to take more of them, and look at pictures other people have taken. Look at the ones that you like, and ask yourself why you like them. Try and copy them. When you find a little frustration that there are some things  your phone camera wont let you do, t

My Dunedin 3

 First Church. I took this photo and the next one with my phone and was quite pleased with them  Interior, First Church  Knox Church  Altar Frontal, St. Paul's Cathedral  Botanical Gardens  The botanical gardens cover a hillside and a large section of the floor of the Leith Valley. They are perfect for weekend family strolls.  St, Paul's Cathedral  Otago Boys' High School  St. Paul's Cathedral  The old Church of Christ building  Dunedin Railway Station. Built in the days when we were the wealthiest city in the country and when railways were state of the art technical marvels that had to be celebrated and boasted about. An inner city lane

Giving Death a Helping Hand

In 1930 Carl Panzram was hanged. The account of his life makes dismal reading. When he went to the noose he confessed to 21 murders and 1,000 rapes. He lived by theft and his hatred of humankind was shown in random acts of cruelty and vandalism. Given the danger he posed to society, the non existent hopes of rehabilitating him, and his ingenuity at escaping from prison, it is hard to argue against the eventual imposition of the death penalty on him. For those who argue in favour of the death penalty cases like Carl Panzram are trotted out as evidence: there are some people, it is argued, who are so irredeemably evil that the world is better off without them. There are some acts of wickedness so monstrous that death seems a just punishment for them. Last year, standing in Auschwitz I could sympathise with that view. But of course, when the death penalty is legalised  it is never quite so cut and dried. No matter how thorough the legal system there are always people who are wrongly

Love letters

A sketch of Clemency from a letter I wrote to her in 1973 My niece Tania started it. She said, on Facebook,  she would love to see what was in that note that I passed to Clemency all those years ago. So I asked Clemency if she still had it and she disappeared into the garage and emerged a few minutes later with a couple of boxes containing everything I had ever written to her. And there it was. Written on a page torn from the cheap newsprint pad I used for notes, with the red pencil I was using to underline things (hilighters hadn't been invented yet, remember) were the first 51 words that ever passed between Clemency and me. And no, Tania, you can't see them. Ask Bridget after Clemency and I have departed for wider shores. So we read the note. And remembered. And then sat down together to read through the rest of the contents of the boxes. There were envelopes that hadn't been opened in 42 or 43 years. There were letters that had, back in the day, been read and r

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins was an ineffectual parish priest and a hardworking but unappreciated teacher who, during his lifetime, wrote a small body of obscure and ignored poetry. After his death his work was edited and published by Robert Bridges and is now regarded as some of the most important poetry of the Victorian era; indeed it is some of the most important religious poetry of all time. His work was technically revolutionary. He devised a new form of metre which he called sprung rhythm. Instead of lines constructed of words with a set number of variously stressed syllables, as was customary in English poetry, he constructed his lines of a number of feet - each with a varying number of syllables - but with the stress always falling on the first syllable of the foot. In this way he pioneered a freer rhythmic structure and paved the way for the later development of free verse. But his great innovation was religious, or philosophical or cosmological. He was fascinated by Being.

Valentines Day

It's Valentine's Day. It's also Clemency's 64th birthday, so I got up early, cooked her the breakfast she wanted, and had the appropriate Beatles' song playing when she sat down at the table. She opened her presents and we skyped to allow Noah to help her blow out the candles on her birthday scone. Later this year we will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, which means that we have been together for 44 years. She was in my English 3 class at Canterbury University in 1972. I had noticed her, of course; she was so beautiful how could I not? But I was navigating other waters for most of the year, as was she. Around September/October exams loomed and most students stopped whatever it was they were occupying themselves with and began to study in earnest. We all spent the  most part of most days sitting at two seater desks in little cubicles dotted around the creaking three floors of the old townsite library. We arrived early and stayed all day and it so