Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, June 29, 2009

"What Jesus really said."

I have a little book called "Wisdom and Wonderment" by Alla Renee Bozarth. In it is a little bit of prose entitled, "What Jesus really said." I like it because it rings bells with my reading of Jesus and emphasises the "freedom to live" aspect, rather than the stifling religion that has often been perpetuated in his name. Here it is;

What Jesus Really Said

Not much.

I am here
with you.

I see you,

I need to touch you.
I need you to touch me.

I need to be alone.
I will not leave you alone.

Respect all beings.
Be compassionate.
Take risks to help others
and to become your whole self.
Be present in every moment.
Love as fully as life allows.
Live as fully as love allows.
I love you.

Let yourself be loved.
Accept acceptance.

Remember me.

I reckon that's quite a good summary of the spirit of who Jesus is. I particularly love the words; Love as fully as life allows. Live as fully as love allows. A great motto for life! Just thought it was worth sharing with you.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Theological algebra...

In church this morning I did some theological algebra. If you have been reading my blog you will know three things about me.

  1. That I have a love/hate relationship with the church. I feel that it is a distortion of what it should be and that new priorities and new forms of Church community need to be explored.
  2. That I have a similar love/hate relationship with being a minister. I am essentially a shy guy and it is not easy for me to be up front and trying to do the religious stuff. I know I do it well but I only know the stresses involved in doing it. I find myself chaffing at many of the expectations of a minister, and have spent the last 30 years wanting and sometimes trying to get out of ministry.
  3. That my theological perspectives are (and I hate the term) liberal and that I do not always hold to traditional understandings of scripture, and church doctrines.

Given these three things, why do I stay in ministry?

I was talking with a colleague and asked her if she had her time again, would she be a minister? We both wondered if we would because we both struggle with the above three issues. "But" she asked, "where else would you be and do the sorts of things you do?" 

Last Sunday the sound system at the church was not functioning as it should, the music was not to my taste and I felt I was waffling about stuff my congregation was not willing to grapple with. At one point I was so frustrated that I felt like saying, "Stuff all of you!" and walking off the platform and going home. Again I asked myself, "Why am I doing this?"

I came up with a short algebraic theorem to explain what keeps me in there trying to do ministry... I shared it in church this morning.

In spite of all the distortions, the theological questions, the off track church systems and priorities, I still believe that;

1P + J = BP

(That is that one person, plus Jesus in their life makes one better person.)

or... that 1C + J = BC with "C" being "Community"

or... that 1W + J = BW with "W" being "World".

I believe that the way, the spirit, the flow and attitudes that Jesus showed can make a powerful difference in people's lives when they are built into their lifestyle.  I believe the world needs more of "Jesus' way" expressed and lived out. I remain a reluctant minister because I want to try to build a church community that expresses and lives out that sort of spirit and way.

Photo: My son and bride signing their life away at the wedding last week, with me doing my ministerial duties.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Running with myself as company.

Tonight was the second night in a row that I managed a run. I have not been running seriously for some weeks because of my hamstring, busyness and the nasty weather has not encouraged me to be out and about. But the last two evenings have been calm though cool and I have managed a run between 5 & 6 p.m. It is such a nice experience.

Tonight I headed out and crossing an intersection where cars were waiting for lights, I heard a voice yell, "Come on happy, get a move on!" One of "my" firemen on his way to work. Oh well, I may look funny at 60 still doing it, but I enjoy it. About three quarters of the way around I was jogging along in a world of my own and I heard feet coming up behind. A young woman went bursting past me at quite a pace. "Fancy that", I thought, "Being burned off by a woman!". Just then a voice from across the road yelled, "Speed up Dave, you're lagging behind!"  It was another fireman on the other side of the road walking home from work! Fancy being passed by a woman, and worse still a firefighter seeing it happen! I was quick to point out to him that she was about a third my age. I think she was just showing off. She diverted down another road and when we saw each other again we were about on a par, not much faster really. What will she be like at 60? 

At the kitchen at St John Ambulance on Tuesday the gathered mob were having me on about still trying to run. "You only have a certain amount of heart beats, why waste them running?" "Running is bad for you, it hurts your knees, your hips and your feet! You should be walking!" "You don't know how many runners we go to who have some sort of heart attack!" and so they went on rubbishing running and runners. Most of them, may I say, were overweight! 

I love my after work runs when I get them. Alone with my thoughts, plodding around the course I can unwind from the day, and think what I like. I can talk things through in my mind. I can reflect on the people I have shared with and our conversations. I often plan my next steps. I have insights as I dialogue with myself. I can switch off from my work mind set and get ready for the night. I love just the feeling of my heart working properly, my legs moving positively and my lungs breathing efficiently. In itself it is a great sensual experience. There is NOTHING wrong with running! I hope I can keep doing it for a long time yet.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


My mum kept in touch with a friend from the age 17 through to when she died. They worked together when they were 17. The intervening years saw all sorts of ups and downs in their on-again-off-again friendship. They were very different. Mum, conservative, non-dramatic, hard working, tea-total, nose to the grindstone. My "auntie" a drama queen, outgoing, talented in singing and drama, effusive, party going etc etc. Listening to telephone conversations was often interesting. Voices would get higher and higher, then, "I'm NOT talking!" and slam would go the receiver. Yet they remained "friends" for well over 60 years. She had a few other less dramatic friendships which lasted the same time span. She was a lucky lady but also perhaps, did things which deserved those friendships.

I am not good at making friends. I have a whole heap of acquaintances who I enjoy and chat with etc. but few close friends. There are a lot of reasons for that. I trust few with who I am... blogging is sort of anonymous and different. I think childhood experiences contributed to this. I think too my dad's death also contributed. Here I was just making friends with my dad. I loved the days I worked with him, we talked at depth. Then he up and dies on me! I think that made me not want to get too close to people, so I am friendly but "reserved" in any friendship.

I have had two friendships break up. Both really quite long term deep friendships where I had risked being close and open. Then on a difference of opinion over important matters both friendship soured and there were strong angry words spoken. I think one of my problems is that I try to be tolerant, and let things ride, not wanting to cause conflict. But if it all gets too much, then I let fly all the pent up thoughts I have had and have kept silent about. Small conflicts along the way, may have been better and more honest communication. When we talk now it is polite, "friendly" but "you keep your distance" conversation. One break up hurt me and damaged my confidence deeply, thus helping me to understand what a divorce must be like. I guess these confirmed my "don't trust people" instincts and made me more independent.

I have one or two friends with whom I have argued strongly over faith and life issues, but we have remained friends, perhaps even firmer because of the openness. They are the sort who though you may be distant and don't see each other, you just drop into a natural, open conversation whenever you do get to see each other. Sadly one of those friends died earlier this year.

I have had a lot of friends who are now acquaintances. Because we shared a class, a project or a hobby for a while we became thick for a time. Then as time passed the interests you once had have changed and you realise that as people, you have little in common. Most often it is gradual, the energy for keeping in touch dies and you lose any regular contact. When you see them there is warmth and fond memories, great "catching up" conversation, but no energy to keep the ties going. The change happens gradually, but sometimes it is an overnight recognition that you are just very different people, and its not worth the effort. There are few people who listen to who you are. There are many it seems, who when you express a half thought or tentative feeling, come up with a three point sermon to fix your problem. All you wanted was a listening ear! On the other hand, there are some, like me, who don't let you too near.

I have lots of acquaintances who I wish I could spend more time with. Through my activities I come into contact with some quality people in the likes of Habitat, Night Shelter and chaplaincy. We share when engaged in this work, but we all have busy lives and relaxed times of conversation and involvement in each other's lives just does not get to happen. There is, however, a deep sense of partnership, where you feel you have deep values and purposes you hold in common. I am lucky in that in my activities I enjoy a whole host of friendly, warm and affirming conversations, which help make up for my lack of close friendships. I guess I will continue to be a bit of a loner for the rest of my life. Not like my mum. We are all different.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wedding and weekend over.

On Saturday I conducted a wedding ceremony for my son. He married a Polish lady he met on his big OE. They are very happy together and make a great couple. The advice I gave them in the ceremony was that they should make sure they stay friends and keep on talking and listening to each other.  There were just eleven at the ceremony, all my children with partners and our handicapped daughter. It was a special weekend. 

We held the ceremony at the church. All eleven of us standing together on the platform, my daughter read a poem, another son looked after the rings and the oldest two were witnesses. There was a special moment when we gathered for a final prayer. We then (after obligatory photos) gathered at the back of the church for cake and champagne, seated in the couch and easy chairs there. My oldest daughter and my wife had planned all these fancy bits. After this we adjourned to our place for a brief sit in front of the fire, before going around the corner to the historic Carey's Bay hotel where the planning women had booked dinner served in a lounge attached to a suite that had been booked for the happy couple. 

On Sunday the newly weds took over our kitchen and cooked our midday meal together, before four went back to Christchurch and two went back to Wellington. What was special was just sitting listening to the conversation, laughter and sharing. My children (the youngest turns 30 next year) were relating positively, caring for each other, enjoying each other and sharing the costs and chores of the weekend. It was a delight to see, they were simply nice to be around, seemed happy to be together supporting the newly weds and being with us as their parents. It was a warm fuzzy time for me. We were like a group of close adult friends enjoying time together. The house seems quiet today, I am happy (because it was tiring) and sad about that.  There is to be a ceremony in Poland next year for her family over there and we all hope to attend and meet them. That will be yet another experience. I can't have been too bad a dad after all? Or maybe humans are really resilient?

Photo: Relaxing after the ceremony at the back of the church. (Church of Christ forbears would be spinning in their grave... alcohol in church!???) But it was nice, natural and OK.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Advice to son?

Tomorrow I am to lead my son's wedding ceremony and I am nervous. The decision to marry has been thought out and a long time coming, though the decision to wed tomorrow was a pretty spontaneous, short notice arrangement. One other son rang me on Monday asking, "What the hells going on? Is it definite?". He was arranging flights and time off to get here. He also wanted to make sure we were going to eat at a decent restaurant. I am very pleased, the whole family (at short notice and some cost) will be together with partners... it will be a special day of supportive love and friendship.

On Monday afternoon I sat in an armchair and had some afternoon tea and switched on the box. There was a kids' program on and in it one of the children in the story was going through the hassle of releasing a hawk he had raised since it was a chick. He was fearful for its future and was tempted not to release it, but take it to the zoo. I am a bit like that. My son is thirty something so he is not a kid. He has been through ups and downs and knows what life is about. But as I was preparing the ceremony I began to think, "This is a big step he's taking! I hope it will be all OK." I am aware of the potential for hurt. Don't get me wrong, I love his partner. I think she is a great woman with heaps of wisdom, courage and lots of personality. They are also good together and good for one another. He is a very lucky man, she has already shown great commitment, changing countries from the other side of the world and learning a new language to be with him. It is just that my little boy is taking a big step and I want it to be good for him. I am sure it will be but it is just a father's nervousness. Forty years ago I was a much more naive 20 year old taking the same step and it worked out.

What advice should I give? I got an email the other day, one of those with heaps of sentimental advice. Here are some relevant ones...
  • Marry a man/woman you love to talk to.. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other. (I would add "and keep talking and listening")
  • Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely.
  • In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.
  • The most important sex organ is the brain. (From another email)
  • Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
I guess this last one is the one this nervous father needs to listen to. If he is going to choose a life partner and marry, there will always be a risk. If he is going to find that depth of friendship, that partnership and "at homeness" that marriage can offer, he is going to have to risk. I need to support the risk-taking. The baby hawk learns to fly by first falling. Only by risking can my son find the joy and intimacy marriage can offer. Tomorrow I "push him further out of the nest" and encourage him to fly. (He would probably tell me he's been gone awhile.. silly sentimental old fool father!) Please pray for them joy, fulfillment, happiness and love... even if you don't know them... just for me. (Even if you don't know me) :-)

Monday, June 15, 2009


I just read a survey result that said that 9 out of 10 parents see smacking as not OK as a way of disciplining your kids. That is heartening.

Let me say I was smacked... with an army web belt, sticks, spatula and at school both cane and strap. One poor teacher saw I was still grinning after "six of the best" on my hand so lost her cool and strapped me viciously around the legs! (I was reminded of this once when I was leading a church service at an elderly person's home and she was sitting bolt upright in the front row, as a visitor rostered to make a cup of tea. I wondered if she was ever surprised at what that bad kid ended up doing.)

Let me say also that I smacked my children. I have to say too, that the smack was often not out of any "good parenting concern to discipline" but rather more an expression of my frustrations or the stresses I was under. It would have been better for me and the kids if there were clear messages sent that this is unacceptable.

If I am honest, I am not one who can say as many of my contemporaries say, "Well it did not hurt me!" I believe I was hurt by being smacked by people who I was meant to trust for safety and understanding. Often the "smacks" were unwarranted and I believe I was damaged as a child, even into adulthood by such smacks. Mind you I am also aware that just as much damage can be done by the tongue, and some of the things said to me as a child still hurt, long after bruises from smacks have disappeared. I believe also both with my smacks and my tongue, I hurt my children, though they received considerably fewer smacks than I ever did. I was made a lesser person by smacking my children, our relationship was hurt and they were hurt.

I believe the so called "Anti-smacking" legislation is a call for us as a society to grow up and learn better ways of disciplining our children. It is, in my view a movement of the Spirit, or the Kingdom of God to bring change, wholeness and well being.

But we have many sections of the "Christian" church militantly and ardently trying to reclaim their "right" to smack their children. They use "spare the rod and spoil the child" type text. If we willy-nilly take all sorts of texts in scripture literally we would be stoning people, not sitting on chairs where menstruating women have sat (imagine asking your guests "Is it that time of the month?") and not wearing all sorts of mixed fabric clothing that we wear... along with a lot of other "commandments" that the world has moved beyond. Once again the Spirit of God, or the Kingdom of God has to bypass the church to make progress. It is evil, blasphemous and extremely sad.

Once again we who love Jesus who is meant to be at the centre of the church's life, find ourselves embarrassed to be identified with the organisation built on his name.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Blobbing out on Sunday...

I began the week with a call to go to a workplace where there had been a suicide. The week included the normal chaplaincy hours at Fire Brigade, Ambulance and the brewery. Wednesday involved a walking group. On Friday I had to record a radio church service and on Saturday I had to talk at a men's breakfast about Habitat for Humanity, before going on site to work. Daughter Angela and husband were out of town so stuff they do fell to me... Newsletter, Power points, and setting up technical bits and pieces for the service as well as "pushing the buttons" during the service.  I kept a tally of the hours I worked this week... at least 59 - 60 hours for Church and chaplaincies and eight hours for Habitat for Humanity. A day of physical labour on Saturday when I am not used to it really made the muscles ache.

I coped! I coped reasonably well too! I did find that by Sunday morning I got tongue tied on some awkward sentences, I left the lap top at home and generally was not on top of my game. My son's polish partner Magda, had news that her mother had died in Poland. My wife has gone to Christchurch to support her. Tomorrow I visit the doctor and will try to make sure I have a day off. I wonder what my blood pressure will be?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I am "sad".

The other day a friend said to me, "I am sad today. ...Do you ever get sad like that?" My answer was, "I am permanently sad", but it was inappropriate and perhaps futile to explore my sadness.

What do I mean by sad? My father died when I was a young teenager. For some time after there was a man around the road whose car had a similar sound to dad's old Morris Oxford van. I would be in my bedroom and hear that sound and think, "Here's dad home!" and sometimes even get up to meet him. Then reality hit and I knew again that it would never be. Years later at my daughter's wedding I still felt keenly the absence of my father. There is a sadness you carry because you know that some longed for reality will never really happen. It is not necessarily a sadness that stops you enjoying life, just a part of your heart that is permanently grieving. I am permanently sad on five counts, I will share with you four of them.

1. Lack of confidence.
I am permanently sad because as a child I had a certain confidence in myself sqeezed out of me, and I have never regained that. I am shy and lack confidence in everything I do, even though I know I am good at some things. I have never been able to grow out of that. It does not stop me doing things, it just makes everything I do a lot harder. I forever fear failure and rejection. Teachers, leaders and parents have an awesome responsibility. I suspect I have not helped my children in this way also.

2. I am sad because I was not as good a father as I would want to be. Looking back I regret some of the things I did and didn't do as a father as my children grew, and I can't change that now.

3. I ache for hurting people. Jesus looked over Jerusalem and wept, saying he wished "they knew the ways of peace." In my encounters with people I ache because they so often look for happiness in things that can never satisfy. Jesus said, "If you lose your life, you will find it." I believe that to be part of the essence of life. At two levels I find people unwilling to live by this. (a) We try to operate successful relationships without "losing" ourselves. Often we end up hurting ourselves, the other and others. Often too I notice, a further hardening of heart results and life and love are limited by a greater fear of being hurt. I ache when I see people not finding "belonging", closeness and "a-place-to-be" in their partnerships. Instead they find competing power games, and loneliness. I see this so often and it makes me sad. (b) Secondly our consumer society and materialism fools us into thinking we can find happiness in grasping. I have discovered happiness comes whenever I risk a giving lifestyle. I had a man say to me when he learned of yet another voluntary project I was getting involved in, "You've got to look after yourself first Dave!". I find I have never been able to convince people that in a giving-lifestyle there is an inner unity, a sense of purpose and a feeling of being "connected to the essence of life" that cannot be found by "looking after yourself". I ache for a divided, hurting world where we are all "looking after ourselves" and missing out on life as it could be.(This sadness is a driving force in my life)

4. A church I will never see or experience. I am nearly at the end of my career as a church minister. A career I entered in a search to try to bridge the gap between the world I knew as a plumber and the church I shared in. I have not had the skills or the circumstances where I have been able to experience great success in that search. This post was prompted by listening to Bishop John Spong talking about the "Call of Jesus" on U tube. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJICIGQl0JU&feature=related ) He described a discipleship and a church atmosphere I long to see and be a part of. I am sad because I will never see the church get remotely close to that sort of ideal. In some ways I feel I have spent my life propping up a distortion of what I long for instead of being able to change it... and maybe I should have given up and moved on long ago.

As I say, these sadnesses do not stop me finding deep joy and pleasure in life. It is just that I live with a permanent sense of grief in the corner of my heart. They are part of what keeps me reaching for that "impossible dream" and to try to make this life better for people around me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Paradox of ministry

When I run a half-marathon it is never easy. (I hope I get to run another one?) I always seem to take about 2-3 kilometres to get into a rhythm, then about half way I start to feel a bit like saying "enough". Then I get a second wind and plod along happily. In this period I really enjoy the company of runners, the rhythmic plod of my feet, the air in my lungs and the strength I feel. About 3 k from the end it becomes just a matter of hanging in there, and I cross the line with both legs on the verge of cramping up. I sometimes say to myself, "... and I have paid for the privilege of putting myself through this pain??" But I lie on the grass in sheer ecstasy, feeling so pleased with myself. At that point all the pain is forgotten and I LOVED doing it. It is the weird paradox.

My work is like that.

I prepare for a service. I hate it. "Fancy having to get up and try to lead those people again?... I HATE this!" I try to shape and mould the service so it all fits together and makes sense, is meaningful and helpful, but while I am doing it I am asking, "What's the point?" On Saturday night I seldom get much sleep. The service is churning over in my mind, getting refined and still being shaped. After it I am absolutely shattered and go home and have an afternoon nap if I am allowed. But... and this is the weird thing... when I am doing it, often I find I am on top of the world. I have fire in my belly, there is truth I want to share and come what may those people are going to hear it. My hands are often shaking with the tension of it all, but I am switched on and I have a "this is what I was born for!" feeling. What a weird paradox

When I hear news of a death and a funeral I have to take, I groan. I know I will have three or four days of anxious nervous stewing and preparing.  Yet I visit the relatives, I listen to where they are at, I feel the service taking shape in my mind and heart. I feel ALIVE, sitting there listening with my whole being. I word each service for the family concerned, and shape the words I say to lead them toward healing and a sense of the sacred. I KNOW I am good at this. When I lead the ceremony I am sad with the mourners, but full of adrenalin and again a deep sense of fulfilment. I LOVE being able to help these people. I HATE it! It is stressful. It is an awesome responsibility.  It is anxiety producing. But I LOVE being able to do it. A weird paradox.

Today was my day off. I had lunch with my son who was visiting from Christchurch. As I sat there my cell phone rang. It was Workplace Support. There has been a sad critical incident at a workplace in town, would I visit there tomorrow and talk with the people? I said "Yes", checked arrangements, then hung up. I sat there semi-listening to my son talking. I was beginning to feel stressed about this already. How would I approach it? Do I know what to do? I then realised that I was being rude toward my son and dragged myself back to the conversation. But I have continued to stew. I know I am good at this. I know I am very experienced at critical incident work, but I still stress. I am sure that when I go there tomorrow I will be able to relate to the guys. I will listen and they will know they are being listened to. I know that even though I will be dealing with sadness and tragedy, I will be feeling really alive, focused and energised. I am fairly sure I will come away with the feeling of a job well done, even though I will be emotionally drained. But I hate this ball in my stomach of uncertainty and stress. What a weird paradox?

I once participated in a worship service where the leader sang a rewording of the "Fiddler on the Roof" song, "If I were a rich man." In the normal song the man asks God, "Would it spoil some vast eternal plan, if I were a wealthy man?" This man sang, "Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if I weren't a minister?" I often feel like singing that song. But then again I have been known to say, "I love this job! For this I was born!" What a weird paradox? What a weird guy. 

Photo: Another stressful upfront "privilege"... leading a groundbreaking ceremony for Habitat for Humanity.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Law of the Garbage Truck.

A leaflet arrived in our letterbox from the local real estate agent. His name is Hamish McDonald and the young thirty-ish year old man used to be in a school boy cricket team I coached. I loved this story that he put in his leaflet.... 

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and stated yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean he was really friendly. So I asked, "Why did you do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!" This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, "The Law of of Garbage Truck."  He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets.

Sometimes I try to live up to such ideals. I thought it was a story worth sharing.

Friday, June 5, 2009

People love people

We hear about all the bad news regularly but a number of experiences have encouraged me over the last week.

I saw a film called "Kicking It". It was about the homeless world cup. A movement has evolved where people gather together homeless people who are keen on soccer. They form teams and train and a selected team represents their country at a world cup event. (We are hoping to start a group in Dunedin) This film followed the experiences of various individuals from a number of countries as the prepared for and played the world cup. It was great to see what soccer did for these guys who had so little hope in their lives. What really impressed me was the love shown by the various coaches. They poured their hearts out to help their players. The Spanish team were mostly outclassed. They were made up of older street guys. But they won one game... their coach was so thrilled for them. As the team celebrated he sidled off away from the cameras crying tears of joy for these guys. It warms your heart to see such love for people.

I was at a fire station the other day and they were called to a nasty accident, and of course like a little boy, I went along for the ride. I watched as "my" firefighters and ambulance officers worked so well to extract a badly injured guy out of the mashed up vehicle. I was so impressed! They were totally focused and so totally caring. It was not just another job, they cared for the people at the scene, the people from both cars, trying their best to support and heal in a bad situation. They were simply loving... and again I was moved nearly to tears. (You don't cry around fire fighters!)

I watched as the father of the family in the other car arrived to check out his children and their mother. There was such love evident in the family that I could not help but be moved.

I stood near to the policeman who was ringing the parents of the injured young man and again he was so tactful, caring and gentle as he broke difficult news and guided them in their decisions.

There are rotten people, murderers, violent people and greedy thieves. But I think it is still true that most people are, when push comes to shove, loving, caring and supportive..... Alleluia!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Preaching for myself....

Banjo Paterson in his poem "The man from Iron Bark" has a line that I am often reminded of. It is describing some youths that sat along the wall in the barbershop. It says, "Their heads were flat, their eyes were dull, they had no brains at all." I am evil but sometimes this line comes to mind as I look out on my congregation on Sunday morning. It is of course an incorrect description but I sometimes get the feel that they front up every Sunday, with no expectation of wanting to learn or grow. They will, because it is their habit, sit through another church service and hope it is entertaining. I on the other hand, spend hours trying to mould a service into something interesting, something that will speak to this mob at their level, with the expectation that it will motivate them toward personal growth, action and christian discipleship. I get little sleep Saturday nights, I stew and scribble and read and read some more. Sunday morning is as tiring as running a half marathon and I am often disappointed in the music we can have. But at the end of it all I wonder if it is at all worth it? What does it achieve? I get the feeling again that I am out of step with everyone else.
  • They look on faith as a comfort, I see it as disturbing and a springboard to action.
  • Their expectation of Sunday morning is like a drink station, a resting place as they cope with life, I see it as a launching pad so that we can rocket into life.
  • They see the church as the place they meet God, I see God at work in the world and it's there that we catch up with him and find partnership.
I had the privilege recently of catching up with a ministry colleague who I "click" with. We were together for barely an hour, yet it was sooo good. I expressed my Sunday morning hassles. I enjoy chaplaincy, the community work that the church allows me to do and many people stuff connections etc. but the religious stuff on Sunday morning I can do without. I hate it, it seems a waste of time and emotional energy. A side issue to the real "Jesus stuff". "What are we doing on Sunday morning?" I said. "What difference does it make?" She empathised and we joked about our nasty feelings and the fact that we are always compromising so as not to offend "the saints". But then she said something really helpful. She said, "I see Sunday mornings as being for myself. I use it as the time I remind myself of what I am about and what is important to me. If others get anything from it is incidental. I have found that to be the best way to cope with the frustrations of it." I found that helpful. I still need to try to communicate and mould stuff for these people, but it is helpful to see that it is as much me preaching to myself, holding up for myself the ideals I aspire to, whether or not others want to listen and/or latch on.

It's not unlike blogging. :-)