Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The virus hits NZ

FEELING LOST IN A NEW ENVIRONMENT
This week it feels like all of New Zealand has had to take seriously the Covid 19 virus. Suddenly it impacts our life.
Chaplaincy - a mission or a business?
Last year a new CEO took up the reigns of Workplace Support in Dunedin. (Inter-Church Trade and Industry Mission.) A new CEO brings changes. I know this because I have worked through four CEO's now. For 26 years I have worked as a chaplain, as well as Church ministry. My longest spell has been in the Fire Service, and also a year less in the local brewery. (I am contracted for four hours with fire fighters a week, and one hour at the brewery.... I often do more at each place.) I have had a few other shorter term positions. I do a voluntary chaplaincy with St John Ambulance. When I started you gave I think your first four hours free, it was mostly clergy doing it and they paid whatever I earned into the Church. There was a "Director" who had part time office help and about 20 chaplains in the Dunedin area. These days there are very few "staff supporters" (what we are mean't to call ourselves,) a big office with counsellors, a manager and a CEO. We are now not so much a "mission" but a business, and the board and new CEO have been working to make us more viable as a business. When I started one of the phrases used was that we as chaplains were available "24/7" but now as staff supporters all phone calls go through the office phone system and it is business hours only. We are not to give out our own telephone numbers, and we tick boxes reporting to the client managers the general topics of conversations we have. I see chaplaincy as travelling in life alongside the workers we visit. For me confidentiality is at the heart of chaplaincy. I get the feel that the management see it more as finding problems, fixing people and referring people for counselling. I like the philosophy in this short paragraph;
 When someone is broken, don’t try to fix them – (you can’t).
When someone is hurting, don’t attempt to take away their pain – (you can’t).
Instead, love them by walking beside them in the hurt – (you can).
Because sometimes what people need is simply to know they aren’t alone.
I see the low key contact and listening, sometimes referring, sometimes suggesting as being the heart of what I do. I think people value normal interest in their everyday lives, humour and friendship. (with some boundaries of course) All that to say that I squirm a lot in recent years as the organisation has become more "professional".... (I think I am "professional") So in this last week I have sat through two days of being "re-chipped", learning the new policies and protocols. I will try to live within them but will continue to do what I see as normal. A part of the two day sessions was talking about how we offer staff support if we are not able to visit the workplaces. We are facing the corona virus and workplaces are reluctant to have extra's visiting, in case they are contaminated. During the day I had a phone call from the brewery. They had been directed by their corporate superiors that only vital staff were allowed in. There was all sorts of extra pressure on the brewery because of course, people are not drinking in pubs as much. So I was told I should take a break from visiting. I passed on my phone number and email so that people could contact me if they needed to. I checked with the fire station boss to see if I was allowed to go there. It is extra important that fire fighters not get the virus. The boss replied "Yes please continue" with careful Covid 19 protocols.  Then over the weekend Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister announced that people 70 years old and older should self isolate. I am over 70, so I guess I need to contact the fire station and St John and say I will not be in. It is hard. For twenty six years I have been visiting the fire station twice a week, apart from holidays. For twenty five years I have visited the brewery, these people are important to me, and now I cannot see them! I feel like I am letting them down. I will actually miss them as people. I love being "Father Ted" "Padre" "Sky pilot" "the minister" and having the privilege of sharing in their life.  Now because of this virus, I can't. It is, of course the responsible thing to do for the community, if we are going to slow the spread of this virus at all.  
The Church
We help out at the local Presbyterian Church, a small elderly congregation. I lead services twice a month and we run a couple of community type things, making contact with and hosting families in our Church facilities. I had been preparing a service for today, Sunday. Then I got a phone call from the Session Clerk. Public gatherings had been discouraged. Most of the congregation is over 70 and some were thinking that they should not attend. (The virus has a bad impact on us older people - possibly fatal.) So the Session Clerk, in her 80's was wondering if we should cancel church worship. I was a bit annoyed. My wife and I had come off parish council, and there had been a council meeting on Monday, surely they should have discussed that then? Anyway we got drawn into helping the clerk to make a decision. We decided to cancel services, then a day later a notice came through from the Church hierarchy advising the cancelation of services. I have offered to do things to somehow keep us in touch with every one. That will be tomorrow's job.

It is a strange feeling. We are going through uncertain times, and inside all you want to do is draw together with the people who are important in your life to give and receive support. But in this instance with both chaplaincy and the church, we are being prevented from doing that. It is hard, I like being by myself and often want to avoid people, but this event tells me that I am not the hermit I thought I was. I want to be with fire fighters, brewery workers and church people as they cope with all the uncertainty the virus brings.  Something of the meaning and purpose in my life has been taken off me. I am going to figure ways I can still be there without being there, but psychologically it is an interesting experience. 
I purchased this bike in 1966. It was a fancy ten speed, quite rare then. Over the weekend I have been "restoring it" - cleaning it up and getting it going again. I enjoyed it.


My father was a plumber. This is his old pipe vice. It used to have three screw in pipe legs. They have been lost but I have kept this, using it occasionally. Today I cleaned it up. I LOVE old tools.

Last Sunday evening I climbed Mt Cargill, "my mountain". I have not done it for a long time, and it was slow going compared to old times. I loved doing it though.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Back to basics

We have a foster daughter named Pania.  Pania came to our family when she was nine years old. She is now 40+.  Pania copes with very significant handicaps. She is a Rett Syndrome girl, unable to speak, uncoordinated and with severe difficulties, both with processing stuff and physical challenges. She is in care but we are her "managers" or guardians. She does various activities during the week, and one of them is painting - a sort of finger or hand painting onto old sheets or pillowcases. We spend time with her at our house at least once a month, and my wife spends time keeping an eye on her needs. This can involve taking her to various appointments, advocating for her care or comfort or just ensuring she has sufficient pocket money. 

Today we skipped Church. This was partly for our own mental health, but also we wanted to spend time with Pania. At 11 a.m. we went and picked her up at the house where she is cared for, and drove into the centre of Dunedin. The centre of Dunedin is an Octagon shaped area, which recently has been closed to vehicles. It is a place people can relax in. We wandered through watching games of basket ball (or a mini version of it) and people just enjoying the atmosphere.  There was a food truck, some music and lots of happy people.  Right near the Octagon was an art gallery where some of Pania's painting was on display. We went in there to have a look and then she and I relaxed on a seat nearby. 

From there, we picked up pizza and went to the Botanical gardens for a picnic lunch. Our daughter and husband walked from their place to spend time with us. We wandered around part of the gardens, looked at the aviary and then took her home, stopping for an ice cream. We dropped her at her house around 4 p.m. It was a hot beautiful sunny day. 

I loved - when my wife brought Pania down the drive of her house and she saw I was waiting in the car, she beamed all over. Her smile is beautiful.
I loved - when we sat together in the main street of town she reached over and held my hand. I sang gently to her and she gave me her sideways delighted look, grinning from ear to ear. 
I loved - sitting with her in front of the aviary looking at the birds, and again she reached for my hand as I talked to her about stuff about us.

Life can get busy. You can philosophise, theologise, argue, covet more money, read the news, opinion-ate, criticise, be criticised or whatever, but when you are walking hand in hand with a 40 year old woman, who cant speak, who has to concentrate to walk and stay upright, who has to wear nappies because she can't take herself to the toilet, but who still smiles, and giggles and soaks in your love and presence - life is GOOD.  It was a good day. Pania is special, and makes you appreciate life. Because she has so many difficulties, you find yourself pointing out things around that are of interest, and talking to her about them. It makes you notice life and appreciate life. 

She has been hard work, especially for my wife, but we never ever regret having her as part of our family. Without speaking, she has taught us so much about life.

Left to right; My wife, Pania and our daughter, in the Botanical gardens. Our daughter is great with Pania, she is a true caring older sister.

Me and Pania resting in the sun - chatting.

One of Pania's paintings - she chooses the colours and makes the pattern. One of Pania's carers sews her smaller ones on cloth bags - they look very colourful - these are sold. They also turn her paintings into cards at Christmas time.  Once when she was a teenager we put her clothing on the bed for her to choose what she wanted to wear. She touched each one as my wife dressed her. To our surprise it was all colour coordinated, and looked quite smart. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

To stir or not to stir... that is the question.

Harvest celebration
Tonight I am cooking dinner. Most of the meal will come from our garden. I think because we have had a good mixture of heat and moisture, and because with our big trees down our garden has had more sunshine, it has prospered. Broad beans are just finished, runner beans are coming to fruition, peas are developing, potatoes ready to harvest, big cabbages, silver beet, turnips, carrots, courgettes, tomatoes going red and apples on the trees. Plums have been preserved, or turned into jelly or chutney. The garden was planted late because we were dealing with felled trees, but it has produced in abundance. I love being at least a bit self-sufficient.





Employment agreement
I have been given a new employment agreement to sign for my chaplaincy work. There are somethings I am cautious about. But the other thing I get a tad annoyed about is the pay rate. Chaplaincy involves a lot of unknowns. Sometimes you do a way above your contracted hours. There is paper work to do. The average hourly rate for salary and wage earners in NZ is just over $32. The median rate is just over $25. I have six years tertiary education. I have 26 years experience in chaplaincy and 40+ years in Church and community ministry. This employment agreement is for an hourly rate of $24:00. By the time I pay for petrol to go into Dunedin to do my 5 hours a week it is not a money making activity ... but then I LOVE the people and feel alive when I am doing it? Will I stir, or will I stay quiet? Is it time to really retire?
Church frustrations.
We are fairly active in the local Presbyterian Church. It is an old traditional Church, run primarily by elderly women who do not like to get out of their comfort zones. There are about three of us "younger" couples - we try to do things that connect the Church with the community. Some time back at an AGM we presented an idea for flexible seating in the chapel. It was to go to the parish council to explore costs and report back. My wife sounded out quotes and possible funding streams and reported to the Parish Council. It has been conveniently "swept under the carpet" by the Parish Council, with no reporting back. It has been handled undemocratically. We began to tidy up stuff in the hall, because we want to run some parenting courses and other things later in the year. I got feedback that some of the rubbish had to come back to the hall. Essentially they want new people to be involved, but they do not want to change. They want to just keep doing things the way they always have done them.  I had already written a letter expressing my frustration with the flexible seating situation. It was on my computer and I had been reviewing it, softening it and debating with myself about sending it.  Should I stir, or shouldn't I? Then I had a phone call from a lovely lady who helped with the clean up. She had received a phone call from one of the leadership objecting to what we had done.  (They had an extension ladder stored in this hall, which had borer riddled rungs that just broke if you stood on them.) That was when I decided to add to this letter and send it! My point was that if you want others to be involved, you need to allow change. You cannot just say, "Please get involved, but keep doing it our way."  I have had an apologetic reply. But how much do you stir? And when do you just settle back and say "It's not my issue." and go elsewhere?

BUT "Jesus keeps calling" even in old age. Sometimes he annoys me!


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Holiday reflections...

The staff at the Night Shelter gave us this wall hanging thanking us for our support in 2019. With a Maori theme (two of our staff are Maori) the fish hook represents strength, loyalty and consistency. 

Switching off.

My wife and I have been on holiday. Actually since leading a service on Christmas Eve I have only done fire service chaplaincy, with just one visit to the Brewery. We have not even attended the local Church and have not led any Church services. We are currently at a camp ground on the outskirts of the city of Christchurch enjoying a holiday, visiting a son and his kids here. We go back home later this week.
Generosity
Shortly after New Year I had a phone call from the fire station and was told of a heap of duvets that I could offer to the Night Shelter. Fire fighters helped me to load them and I delivered them to the Shelter. The shelter has duvets for their beds, but hands out bedding to people setting up homes in boarding houses, houses or flats. The local firefighters' social club are running a raffle to raise money for Australian fire fighters who are impacted by the massive fires there. They were looking for donations of various prizes, and I re-posted a request on face book. One of the women at the brewery I visit, read my post and went around the various departments asking the leaders if they would donate. I visited the brewery and came up with probably more than a thousand dollars worth of prizes which I handed on to the social club at the fire station.  I love it that people see me as a conduit for their generosity and they want to support the causes I support.
Funeral
Before we left for our holiday, I had a phone call from an officer at the fire station telling me that a couple of the firefighters had suffered the loss of a parent. One of them I knew was about to happen, but the other was a surprise to me. A woman firefighter's dad had died. I touched base with her, and pretty soon after she rang again, and asked if I would lead the funeral. I met with the family and loved the experience of suddenly meeting new people and the privilege of being let into their family history and their life. On the Saturday that we were to leave on our holiday, at midday, I led the funeral where there was a good turn out of off duty and on duty fire fighters who came to support their colleague. For a number of reasons it was not an easy funeral to lead but I managed to do it. There was a free flowing open time and a reflection time when people wrote on the casket. I was getting worried about the length of time it took but wanted a relaxed atmosphere. I ended up ad libbing the last part of the ceremony, to make it suit the atmosphere that had been created. We loaded the casket into the hearse and two Maori women, friends of the family, stepped forward and shared a Waiata.  (funeral song/addressing the deceased - involving expressive actions.) I didn't know it was going to happen and I don't think the family did, but it was a great way to conclude the ceremony.  I received very good feedback from people. I breathed a sigh of relief and wandered toward a group of fire fighters. "How do you do that?!" they asked. "It was so well done! How do you hold it together?" Handshakes and even hugs followed.  I left feeling I had ministered not just to the family, but everyone. "God" really didn't get much of a mention, but there was none the less a sacred presence, a sense of solidarity and depth to the event. I am often tempted to finish chaplaincy and truly retire, but then this deep sense of connection happens, and I say to myself, "While I can still make a difference for good, should I really stop?"
But....
I have enjoyed taking a step back from taking Church services though. I consider myself a progressive Christian... hanging very loosely to Traditional Christian doctrine by a very thin thread, but still in love with Jesus. I find it hard leading in a traditional Church. There are keen evangelical and old traditional people there. I try to push the limits without causing harm, but I find the exercise very taxing when I take my two services a month. It has been good to switch off, and I must admit once again ask, "Maybe it is time to stop?"  I am reading a big book by author Karen Armstrong called "The lost art of Scripture." It really gives a run down on the history, experience and scriptures of various religions from India, China, Arabia, Jerusalem and Christianity. It is very detailed and one of the reasons I brought the book with me on holiday, is that I have found it hard to concentrate on it during normal life. It doesn't suit just short blocks of reading. It has raised for me the question of the whole place of religion in life. It seems to be the record of humankind's search for the sacred and important essence in life. There are similarities in the search and experiences of the religions. While it instructs me in detail about the various religions' development, it is prompting me to ask, "What form should the ongoing spiritual search and journey take in this the 21st century?"  The current Church life is no longer real in western society. What could improve it? It is prompting lots of thinking, even though I am finding it difficult to read. That thinking prompts the urge to continue to do something about it. 
I received an email asking if I would lead our local Church worship on February 2nd. I have agreed and I looked up the set scripture readings for the day. It is Micah 6. 
 "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God."          
A very powerful passage from the Old Testament.  The gospel reading is from Matthew 5 ... the beatitudes ... 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. etc" 

Another very powerful, yet challenging passage. Already my mind is at work on how to structure the service....

So I guess for 2020 I'll still be leading worship services in Church... 

But just now I am enjoying a break from Church.
I enjoyed a mountain bike ride through the forrest near the camp site.

Lyttelton harbour near Christchurch. Damaged in the earthquakes but delightful to visit now.

This bus stop nearby the campground has significance. 52 years ago late at night my girlfriend and I sat in it around New Years day. We were attending a Church youth camp. She asked me, "Do you love me?" I asked her, "What is love?" and proceeded to rubbish any definition she came up with. She ended up nearly in tears, but we have survived and celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in 2019. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year.

"Happy" New Year?
I am never sure of this greeting. "Happy" seems somehow flippant. Does "New Year" refer to just New Year's Eve celebrations or the whole new year - 2020? 
As we enter 2020 there is much uncertainty. We in NZ will havre an election later in the year. I think there has been progress as a country in a lot of areas with the present coalition Government, but they have also made mistakes. I fear there might be a change and would be discouraged if the National Party came in with more right wing policies. In the USA of course there is the continuing saga with Donald Trump. What will happen in the Senate? What uncertainties/dramas will face the country there and indeed the world? What will happen in their election? We are facing continuing climate change issues with many in leadership denying human contribution. Today in Dunedin NZ we had an orange hue that is the result of massive fires all over our neighbouring country, Australia. (We are quite a distance away) This is happening now and has started earlier than their usual "fire season". Some say it and the droughts they battle are the result of climate change. So as we enter the New Year, 2020 we can say with the hymn writer "change and decay in all around I see". 

So dear reader, whoever you are, where ever you are, I wish you a wholesome, healthy, love filled 2020. May we all recognise we belong together in this journey in life. May we be free to "live fullylove wastefully, and dare to be all that each of us has the capacity to be.” Bishop Spong.

"God's" future?
Today, New Years Day, we were invited to have lunch with friends from our local wee (Scottish for "little" - Dunedin was founded by Scots.) Church. It was a warm friendly event. We belong to a mostly elderly fragile congregation, and the three families at lunch were the younger members.  Conversation and discussion got on to how we best build up the Church and work to "be the Church".  Amongst the three families represented there was diversity of opinion and perspective. One big issue that faces our societies is the place and nature of "religion" or "God" in life? What an interesting journey life is. I hope your journey in 2020 is fulfilling and meaningful.


Saturday, December 7, 2019

A bad weekend..... with some good.

The old man falls out of a tree
On the first Saturday afternoon of December we went down to the Church to help one of the younger guys. He had decided to put a star on top of a tree that grows right by the Church, a star that will light up at night to celebrate Christmas. I found myself up a ladder against the tree, a high folding step ladder type that opens out. Suddenly the ladder gave away under me and I desperately grabbed hold of the greenery to slow my fall to the ground. I slid sideways down the tree and rolled onto the ground, glancing off my wife and letting out an expletive as I went. I was bruised and embarrassed but OK. The younger couple treated me as if I was an old man. This was emphasised when I was at the fire station a few days later telling the story. A woman fire officer laughed. "What were you doing up a ladder at your age?" she exclaimed. "Who do you think you are - a teenager?" she continued. She then pointed out that I had 6 fire trucks, ladders and crews at my disposal and I ought to have called upon them to help. I HATE being told I am old! 

Wagging Church...
Then on the Sunday we decided not to go to Church. We find the minister who was to lead the service that day really turns us off. His style, the way he presents his services and what seems to us, "laziness" or indifference has me sitting there trying to look supportive (he's a colleague after all) but inside getting angry. (At one service the lady sitting behind me could read my frustration that I thought I was hiding, and reached forward to rub my shoulder sympathetically.) So we "wagged" church last Sunday. We headed off for a short ride to a small country settlement north of Dunedin for lunch at a little craft brewery there. On the Friday I had noticed my van running hot so had fixed a problem with the radiator cap on the Saturday. After enjoying our lunch in the country setting, we left the brewery to go back into Dunedin to shop at the supermarket. This involved driving over a hilly area, with two steep climbs to traverse. Negotiating the hills, I noticed the temperature gauge signalling a very hot motor, but on the downhill it seemed to cool. We shopped and then headed for home, about a 12k drive on a relatively flat road. After just a couple of kilometres the motor lost power and stopped. It had overheated. We phoned the Automobile Association emergency number and a truck came, picked up our van and delivered it and us home. Stripping the driver's seat out, I investigated the motor, and found a hose with a hole in it which had been leaking coolant. On Monday I repaired it, but upon starting the motor found that it was in a bad way - I had terminally damaged it - the motor was running irregularly and oil was pouring out of the front end.  Only a rebuild or a new motor would make it good again - both would be expensive. We ended up purchasing another vehicle to replace the van. My van, which I have so enjoyed, which has been so reliable and handy, waits in our drive to be disposed of.  I feel sad and sorry. If I had been more attentive, more responsive and not so careless, it would not have happen. An otherwise still useful vehicle will probably go to the wreckers because of my neglect! We have lost money (which we do not have an in abundance anyway) but there is also the sense that it was avoidable and a waste. I have not been able to really appreciate our purchased vehicle, because I deeply wish we did not have to buy it in the first place. 

Not all was bad...
On the Saturday morning I was invited to attend the Dunedin area St John Ambulance Cadet prize giving. As St John chaplain I had a ceremonial role to play in accepting the flag as it was paraded in by the flag party. I am encouraged by St John Cadet events. It is a growing youth movement and it was delightful seeing these young people receiving their awards. As we waited for proceedings to begin a family arrived. They live not far from the Sawyers Bay Church, have quite a number of children, a sort of blended family. The parents have taken extra's into their family. We have had contact with them through our a couple of community-building activities we have at Church. A week before I had spent quite some time playing pool with a boy from the family at our Friday night "Rumpus Room". Four of the girls attended the prize giving all dressed in their St John uniform and as part of the official party I watched them receiving their awards. It was delightful afterward when they raced up to me and showed me their awards, and talked with me as if I was a kindly old uncle. I enjoyed chatting to their dad also. I felt it was all worth it, that I was, in some way, an encouragement in people's lives. That is a privilege for this old man.  


Our new vehicle. 
The poor old neglected van.
Some views from my walk around the block.




   

Friday, November 15, 2019

United Fire Brigades Association Medal.

"A presentation."
I had a phone call a month or so ago from the chief at the Dunedin Fire station. I have been Workplace Support Chaplain there for 25, nearly 26 years. The chief asked if I had a few moments to talk and then proceeded to tell me they wanted to give me a presentation, because I "had been such a nice guy and all." He had phoned to settle on a date for this. Well we made a date and told me to invite the family. I was nervous about this and learned that it was to be a medal. Fire fighters get a gold star medal if they have served 25 years, but my few hours every week should not amount to the same sort of thing. Then I learned it was to be the "Honorary Chaplains medal", and upon checking it out on line, realised that there had only ever been 6 of them given.
In 2003 I had received a significant honour from the Governor General of NZ, the "Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit" medal. It was strange that with this one I was more nervous than that one leading up to the event. It was to be an afternoon tea, I could invite family and friends and fire fighters and retired fire fighters (Gold Watch) would be there. What would I wear? How many would be interested in coming? I was expected to give some sort of speech, what would I say? NZ is a very secular country and chaplains in fire stations are generally a thing of the past. Do I deserve this honour? So my mind went. I invited my daughter and husband; two of my brothers and their wives were keen to come and the CEO and office manager from "Workplace Support" of the Inter-Church Trade and Industry Mission. (The agency that I work for)
The ceremony
We arrived and we as a family were escorted to the "Mess" (the dining room area of the station) and had to wait for final preparations to be made upstairs in the social hall. I could see retired fire fighters arriving. In time we were led upstairs and as I entered the crowded social hall the room erupted into applause. I did not know where to look. Afternoon tea took place first then we were called to order and the "ceremony" was to start. The chief talked about the honour and spoke of why I was receiving it. He told of how before he came his experience of chaplaincy was not positive so that when he arrived seven years ago, he thought he would get rid of the chaplain. Then he met me and saw me operating and decided against it. He talked of my ability to listen and help and how he discovered that the fire fighters actually enjoyed talking with this chaplain. I was invited forward, my wife was invited forward and given a bunch of flowers then the medal was pinned to my chest. Others were invited to speak. One a retired officer, a hard, straight talking came up first. He said "David Brown is the genuine article!" He went on that everyone knows of hypocritical Christians, "there's a heap of them out there" but Dave is a "real Christian, straight up". He had known me for nearly 26 years, he was not religious, but he praised me for who I was and how I worked. There were others and then I had to respond.
It was all very embarrassing. I thanked them for the friendship, support and growth I had experienced and affirmed their commitment to serve the public and their support of each other.  I finished with Dr Albert Schweitzer quote, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve." I thanked them deeply for the honour.
Really warm conversations
Then I mixed and mingled and was completely blown away by the one-on-one comments people made as they warmly shook my hands. It was a very special time for me. The retired guys enjoyed catching up with me and said some nice things. Some wanted me to join the group they have which restores old fire engines. I'd love to but you cannot do everything. Chaplaincy is a hard role because you give yourself, and it stands or falls on your openness, your character and approach to people. Your personality, genuineness and being are always on the line. I am basically shy and wonder why people could "like" me? This was a very affirming experience.
Receiving the medal

Ben says, "Dave's a genuine Christian - no BS."

The deputy reckons "We have the best chaplain."

Me responding - I warned them about the dangers of letting a preacher speak.
With my NZ Order of Merit medal added.
The family members out for dinner after. It was a double celebration. My son-in-law had received quite a prestigious national prize for "Excellence in teaching". He teaches chemistry at Otago University. My daughter took the photos.


A photo the local paper took of fire fighters and me.

Looking old and awkward about the whole thing.