Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years day wedding.

I was privileged to attend the new years day morning wedding of Mike and Christine, the owners of the latest Habitat for Humanity house. They had been together 25 years, had 10 children and one grandchild and decided it was time to get married. It was held at their new house and was delightful. A great way to start the New Year. We spent some time there after the ceremony, eating hangi food, talking and relaxing (getting sun burnt) When we came to leave the bride and two of her friends escorted us to our car singing a wiata. There were warm hugs all around. I felt like an honoured guest.


  • The bride arrives with her father... who surprised her by walking into her lounge after flying from Wellington on New Years eve.
  • The happy couple make heartfelt vows.
  • People chatting around the house after the ceremony.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A book for me?

I am reading a book entitled "Saving Jesus from the Church" by Robin Meyers. I have only got about a quarter of the way through and I am thinking, "This guy knows me!" Here are some bits.

  • Sub-title - "How to stop worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus"
  • Dedication- "I dedicate this book to all the men and women who have chosen the parish ministry as their life's work, and yet do not wish to be considered harmless artifacts from another age. May all those who labor in the most misunderstood, dangerous, and sublime of all professions be encouraged and inspired by the possibility that one's head and one's heart can be equal partners in faith. Lest the church end up a museum piece whose clergy are affable but laughable cartoons, we must once again dedicate ourselves to this wild calling - one that led us away from more comfortable lives and into the only profession where radical truth-telling is part of the job description. ..."
  • Hey he has a Sunday nap too! - "I came home one cold January afternoon after serving communion to mt beloved flock and took a nap, which is my Sunday ritual. Parish ministry is tiring in ways most people do not understand, and a Sunday afternoon nap is as sacred to a middle-aged clergyman as the Psalms. Rising before dawn and still fooling with the sermon (or finishing it), many of us preachers are obsessive-compulsive types who believe that no matter how many times we have done this before, this time we will get it right. Preaching is after all, an audacious and dangerous act."
  • Describing his church - "... we are doing our best to avoid the worship of Christ and trying to get back to something much more fulfilling and transformative: following Jesus."
I could go on giving quotations I identify with. It is encouraging to find people thinking the same sorts of thoughts, asking the same questions and having the same struggles. It is good to to have such clever people put into words your own jumbled thinking. Reading such writers helps you to identify your own journey.... I find myself saying, "That's what I would say if I could have thought of it that way! Amen to that!" Reading such books feeds the inner being. Thank you Robin Meyers.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday pics


(1) Cattle on my mountain track. Tonight there were cattle on the track up my mountain! Without my permission. It was all a bit tricky... there were people coming down the track behind them and I wanted to go up the track. The cattle didn't know where to go. We sorted it.

(2-4) Pics of our foster daughter's 32nd birthday last Sunday. Pania is a Rett syndrome sufferer, but I delight in her. She's "my special girlfriend", the only person in the world who appreciates my singing.  She can light up a room with her smile and giggle.  Though she cannot speak a word her beautiful brown eyes speak to your heart. She looks at you with such intensity.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

No gifts at Christmas!

The only gifts I received over this Christmas weekend were a DVD ("The Good Life" series) from my wife and a $1 scratchy thingy (I won $3) which is a bit of a tradition from my son. Both people, however, broke a family rule. Without consulting me, we as a family decided that there would be no gift giving this Christmas. The decision was reported to me a few days before Christmas. We have two weddings in 2010, one near Nelson in February and one in Poland in July. Therefore the combined wisdom of everybody but me, decided that we need all the money we can get to attend and do justice to these two events. So on Christmas evening, my son from Wellington and his partner (soon to be wife) and my daughter and her husband, along with our foster daughter (who has a severe intellectual handicap - Rett syndrome) and my wife and I gathered for a Christmas meal, but no gifts were exchanged. Did you know that I never missed the gifts? It wasn't until I read the news on the Internet this morning that people were selling their unwanted gifts on "Trade me" that I remembered that our Christmas was different. Christmas without gifts? It sounds like a "pub with no beer". Yet the truth is we had just as good a time without the expense!

What did you get for Christmas ?

This is the question often asked at this time of the year. Here is a list of the things I received. On Christmas day I received heaps of gratitude because I fronted the Community Christmas Day dinner at our Church. People, helpers as well as guests, came up to me and thanked me for making their day. As I thanked a volunteer on Sunday, the man replied, "I got several times more out of it than I ever I gave." Being the front man I received the gratitude that a lot of other people deserved. I received texts from friends and family. I got to sit and listen to my children, now adults, converse about life and stuff. I learned more about them and their partners and I got to enjoy their company. I received two special phone calls from children who were not there. On Saturday I got to walk and talk and sometimes just enjoy companionable silence with my oldest son for five hours. On Sunday I drove home from Church alone with my foster daughter. I took a more scenic route and meandered home singing to her all the way. When it was safe we held hands. I sang, she giggled with glee and rocked in time to my singing. No material gift could top that. In the afternoon as we talked as a family she sat on my knee and we gently rocked as we listened to the conversation. Two people connecting and together without words. I have received love, connection and relationship and in the midst of that forgot altogether that my Christmas lacked gifts, at least of the material kind. 

Photos: Two cruise ships heading out of Otago Harbour. I photographed these while on a bike ride to Aromoana tonight. Another gift to myself. 


Saturday, December 26, 2009

I made it... with a little help from my friends.

I have had a busy couple of weeks. Here are some things that I have been involved in.

  • I have started a new chaplaincy position, adding another 4 hours of chaplaincy a week.... though I have not been there often yet, it is a scary process.
  • I have been one of two people sorting out a job description, advertising and selecting a new night time supervisor for the local night shelter.
  • I have been busy with others trying to make sure the Habitat for Humanity house was ready for occupation before Christmas. We held the opening last Sunday afternoon.
  • I have conducted the funeral for the dad of a paramedic at my St John Ambulance chaplaincy.
  • I have been organising and leading the community Christmas Day dinner for poor or lonely in Dunedin.
  • I have had normal services to conduct and of course my family who wants to share Christmas with us.

I made it!

Many years ago I went climbing the Mungatuas near Dunedin. It was winter time and at one stage the track ran out and we had to push our way through bracken that was waste high to get to the tussock country and snow at the top. It was tough going, but we could see the clearer land that we were headed for, and just kept pushing on, aching, sweating and getting scratched and tangled. Eventually we got through it and I remember my dog at the time pushing out of the bracken and breaking loose with a mad circular run of freedom and glee in the open space. Its been a bit like that for me. I have felt that I have not had enough hours in the day to get what I needed to get done. I have been getting up early and working late to get things done. Because of the physical work at the house and preparing for Christmas dinner, I have had aching muscles for weeks it seems. But I knew that now, Sunday evening 27th December would come and I could ease up. I have made it and in all modesty, I believe I have done well. I have been pleased with what has happened. This afternoon in a relaxed mood I snoozed in my lazy boy chair. (only to wake to find my family taking a photo of me)

I have friends!

One thing I have learned is that in spite of the fact that I have often said that I have few friends, I do have friends. Let me list some. Richard has been a great working mate in Habitat. They say that "when the going gets tough the tough get going." Well Richard has been like that. He has set himself the target of opening the house and worked hard to get it done. I appreciated that sense of collegiality, partnership and friendship. Kevin has led the Night shelter work and being more familiar with the employment processes has patiently guided me through it. Paul has been a quiet partner at the funeral, (driving the vintage fire truck), and transporting tables for the Christmas dinner. Alex cooked the veges in his "Little India" restaurant and passed on a bottle of wine to us. Shona and kids, Kiri, Raewyn, Josie, Ian, Margaret, Muthia, Malini, Noel, Cristina, Maureen, Colin and other mates all were volunteers working to make the Christmas day a success. Ken dropped in and gave a substantial donation. The firemen expressed their friendship in heaps of ways. I had one come to me and shake my hand warmly, "Thank you for your friendship during the year!" Others expressed the same sort of sentiment and appreciation. They turned up in numbers at the Christmas day dinner and threw themselves into it with enthusiasm.  The firemen took over the meat. "Don't worry about the meat Dave, we'll look after it!" Then of course there is my own family who have been in there with me. I made it because of the many friends I have. I have felt very humble because of the support I have received. I have a friend who suggests that I don't let people be friends with me, I don't let them "in". That's true, but in spite of my aloofness, people reach out in support and partnership and I am deeply grateful for that.

The lion that roared...

At the Habitat house opening a reporter came to me looking for "Dave?.... I have been told to go talk to Dave?" I said I was "Dave". He asked questions about the house and Habitat for Humanity and I was reported in the paper. (In spite of the fact that I tried to put him on to someone in an official position.) Then on Friday at the Christmas day dinner the same reporter turned up and said, "You again? You are a pretty high profile guy around here aren't you?" "No" I replied, "I just try to do stuff." Once again I was reported in the paper. Winston Churchill said of his roll in the war years something like this. "The people of Britain and the Commonwealth were the lion that roared! I was just the mouth that made the noise." That's the way I have felt. I have been lucky to have had friends and colleagues who have partnered with me enabled so much stuff to get done. I feel so grateful.

A tired tramp...

My son from Wellington visited us for Christmas, staying just three days in the city. He had suggested that he and I should go for a tramp, so on Boxing day we went into the Silver Peaks. I loved it. I was tired, my legs were tired, my whole body was tired from Christmas day, but there was no way I was going to pass up this opportunity. Now I have a delightfully sore knee and hamstring, but a great memory of a companionable five hours with my son. 

Photos: Some pics from Christmas Day Dinner.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A special gift this year....

I have just been talking to a man I see about once a year, sometimes twice. He is the father of an acquaintance of mine and he likes the sort of things we do at this church. He belongs to a different denomination, or at least grew up in a different one, I am not sure of his connections now. He comes to me every Christmas and gives me a substantial cheque for "the stuff you do in your Church" e.g. our Christmas day dinner, drop-in centre etc.

He visited just now with a very substantial cheque. I was away driving a guy to soccer when he arrived but met him in the car park as I drove in. He was getting back to his car after knocking on my office door and sliding an envelope through. Upon questioning him he told me his wife of 55 years was expected to die in the next day or so. I talked with him for some time. But here is this man, in the midst of his grief and going through the ultimate separation from the one you have shared life with, and he takes time out to give money to us to help us make peoples' Christmas special. My heart went out to him and his family as they gather for a very different and sad Christmas.

There certainly are some genuinely nice people in this old world. Appreciate and enjoy the ones you have in your life while you have them.

It's that time again...

It is late at night. I was up very early this morning. Tonight a whole bunch of volunteers, many I did not know at all, got stuck in and transformed our chapel area into a Christmas dinner venue. They worked so fast I could not keep up with them and what they were doing. I think they were surprised with the transformation. It will happen, we will enjoy the day, but just now I am dead on my feet.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My day "off"

Monday is normally my day off. I spent a fair bit of Sunday night preparing for a funeral I had to take on Monday morning. I went into my office early and did the final preparations. The funeral was for the father of one of the paramedics at St John. The family were heavily involved in their local volunteer fire brigade.

There was a great contingent of fire service people at the service. As well as this there was a whole group of people, work colleagues, from St John Ambulance. As people gathered and greeted me I felt both privileged and also a big sense of responsibility.

I recall a fire fighter once describing my chaplaincy people as ".. your flock from out side of the church." That's what I felt like as people came in. They saw me and many said, "Oh you're leading the service, that's good." I felt like here was my "flock" from two different emergency services and felt really privileged to be their representative ministering to one of their families. As I led the pallbearers and casket out through the honour guard made up of firefighters and ambulance officers it seemed like I was among friends, a valid part of their circle, seen as an accepted useful team member. I was invited to ride the vintage fire engine out to the crematorium and loved it. Being allowed into the emergency service culture and comradeship can never be taken for granted. It is a real privilege to be treasured.

At the same time it is a challenge. When they think of "God" or "church" or "Jesus" they think of me .... and what do they see? Am I the true expression of Jesus' Spirit amongst them? Did I do justice to the "Eternal Spirit/God" as I conducted the funeral ceremony? Did they switch off at the religious bits or did I as a true shepherd, couch them in such a way that they could identify with the deeper things? It's a massive responsibility, to help encourage and facilitate the spiritual dimension of people's experience and understanding of life. Am I up to it?

I finished the funeral, put in my December time sheets to Workplace Support, picked up a ham being donated to our Christmas day dinner and finally went home to have a late lunch and the rest of the day off. After lunch I felt absolutely exhausted! I have seldom felt so weak. It was the end of a very very full on week or so, with a whole lot of extras thrown in. I think you run on adrenalin and when the pressure comes off you wilt. I had an early afternoon nap. Then got up and spent hours unpacking and sorting out the stuff in and on my van from the Habitat site.

Today is Tuesday. We have our big community Christmas day dinner on Friday so I am focusing on all the stuff to get ready for that, as well as doing other chaplaincy and church stuff. My life is never dull... but I really do like it that way.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Like... wow???

I have spent a bit of time on the Habitat for Humanity site this week, we wanted to get the house finished so that the family could move in before Christmas. On Thursday night I went up and worked on a shed we built for them. We finished around 10 p.m. On Saturday I started on site at about 8:45 a.m. and finished again at 10 p.m. I had drawn up a list of jobs that needed to be done and we crossed them off one by one. We added a few we also did, just so we could have the satisfaction of crossing them off. At 10 I drove home with my little van filled and the roof rack stacked with "stuff" from the site. It is not unpacked yet. I had a wee snigger to myself at the house dedication today. A fellow volunteer said to me, "When you told us we wanted the family in the house by Christmas, most of us thought you were dreaming! .... but it happened!" 

Opening Surprise

I went to the dedication/opening today. I had to take a prayer to bless the house. I arrived, took my hammer and took the last bit of boxing out of some concrete we laid last night. After some Maori protocol we all moved inside and the chairman of Habitat made a speech and officially handed over the key to Mike and Christine. Mike replied. He was of course very thankful for the house, didn't want to name names, but thankful for Habitat for Humanity as an organisation  and all the people who contributed. I was busy lining up to take his photo when he went on with something like the following. "You have to always be open and learn in life and its good to learn from others. There are people you can see as a role model in life and learn from them. There has been such a man as this for me on site. He has been there every Saturday. Sometimes even when he has not been well or things have been tough, but he has remained as cheerful as usual and kept working and turning up." I was watching and listening and immediately thought of my friend Martin. Then Mike went on... "He has sung his little songs and carried on." "Well that's not Martin" I thought, "Who could it be?" Mike then said, "The person I am talking about is Dave. He is just awesome!" Me a role model? Me awesome? Grumpy, expletive using parson, me? The guy who got so mad he said, "F***" and walked off? The guy who often got up on a Saturday morning saying, "Oh I wish I didn't have to go!" But Mike and everybody else in the room was looking at me! All I could do was wink and say, "You better be quiet or I'll sing you one of my songs!"

It has blown me away. During the time of the build I have grown to respect and love Mike as a great guy. He is a proud Maori who is really making a contribution to our community and to his people. He is softly spoken, has a beautiful smile and is so so lovely, affirming and loving to his ten children. Yet he sees me as a role model? I just turned up and did what I thought had to be done. I didn't even go out of my way to relate, I tended to be nose down task orientated.... friendly but focused on getting through the jobs.  

My thoughts are that none of us ever knows the impact we may have. We are called to continue being faithful and loving, and in spite of our feet of clay, our ballsups, our own inadequate feelings, the loving Spirit at the heart of the universe can use us and work through us in ways we can never imagine. You and your efforts could be making a big difference to someone you rub shoulders with. If "He" can use me, he can use anyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What a privilege!

I had a phone call from one of the guys in one of my chaplaincies. His dad died and would I take the funeral. Of course I said "Yes" but with the Christmas dinner looming, a new chaplaincy just started, stuff to do for the Night Shelter and the Habitat house to finish, I need a funeral like a hole in the head.

Tonight I met with the family. His two children, his sister and their partners. We had a cup of tea and sat around the dining table and I asked questions about the deceased. ... and they talked, told stories, laughed, choked up, laughed some more. Two hours later I then said, "What about the funeral? What will we do?" ... and we planned the next stages.

Ministers who are reading this (if any do) will know that feeling of a real sense of privilege as this family has let you into their inner circle and shared themselves with you. You have been an honorary friend of the family and allowed in to the story of their life. You have had the joy of making connections with people.... and there is something deep, sacred and fulfilling about that. 

I hate my job sometimes and wonder why I do it and how I can get out of it....  I get stressed to the max... but I would not miss a session like tonight, there was warmth and love engendered and exposed. And I was part of that!.... I love my job. Weird???

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vegetable gardening...

We have an acre of ground where we live. There is a back paddock where two goats eat the grass. They are named Joseph and Mary because they were purchased on Christmas eve a few years ago. We used to run some milking goats which was fun, but these days there is no time for that. We have a hen house with currently three old hens still laying.

Then we have about five areas of vege garden fenced off, 5.5 metres long, varying in width. (3 at 3 metres with wider ones) These areas lie among long grass and weeds on the pathways. In the days before Habitat for Humanity started it was all very neat and the garden area a lot bigger. We had rabbits in cages that we moved around the pathways to keep the pathways short. The whole back paddock, including the area where our garden is was gorse, broom with a couple of little patches of marijuana by the creek, when we moved in 22 years ago. (But that's another story). Today I enjoyed rotary hoeing (The ancient machine is a threat to my Christianity!) and planting out one of the areas of garden. (2 rows of potatoes, a row of cabbage plants, a row of broccoli, a row of swedes, a row with spring onions with six silverbeet plants in it and a row of two different varieties of turnip seeds. I still have space for at least one more row of veges in that patch. I enjoyed the day even though there were periods of rain. There is something therapeutic about working the soil, feeding it with manure (horse poo) and lovingly planting plants. And fresh produce is so much nicer than store bought stuff. For lunch we had bread rolls with vegemite on them, with leaves from two different varieties of lettuce.... fresh, crisp, two-minutes-out of the garden leaves... beautiful! (No chemical spray etc. etc.)

My dad valiantly attempted vegetable gardening when we were kids. His health was often not all it should be, but four boisterous boys, their mates and backyard cricket pitches meant the veges never stood a chance. I got my love of vege gardening after my father died. I was around 14 years of age and we were as poor as church mice and "Uncle" Harry (Married to a cousin of my fathers) came to us with an offer. He had almost an acre of ground just up the hill from where we lived and he said that if we boys came and worked with him in his vege garden we could have produce from it as a family. I tended to be the boy that did it most frequently. Throughout my teens a part of my Saturday (All of it if there was no sport I was involved in) was spent working with Uncle Harry in his garden up North East Valley. It was my way of helping to feed the family. I learned a lot about gardening from Uncle Harry. His voice still runs through my mind as I garden today.  We produced some fine crops. I learned a lot about life from Uncle Harry. He would stop work from time to time, light up a cigarette, pat the bank next to him and say, "Sit down mee boy, have a rest." He would tell me stories about his life, his war experiences, his friendship with my father and their adventures and in the process teach me about life. I will always remember on the Saturday before I was to marry I went up to help him. We had cut a lot of grass and shrubbery and we were standing around a fire burning it and chatting. In an embarrassed way, he stammered something like, "This getting married and all that, what do you know about it? Is there anything you want to ask?" I assured him we had been to an engaged couple's course and were prepared. (As if???) I appreciated his very nervous attempt to broach the subject.

I get annoyed these days because my vege gardening is often a hurried attempt to get something in or catch up. Today I enjoyed working away at a consistent but steady pace, just enjoying the silence, the feel of the soil and the surroundings. I feel rejuvenated, though physically tired. 


(1) My wife's runner bean wigwam... her wigwam produces heaps of beans each year.

(2) Some lovely big fresh cabbages almost ready for the table.

(3) Today garden patch all planted out. We have a total of 7 rows of spuds growing now.


A Sunday evening walk I nearly missed out on.

On Sunday afternoons I often have an after-lunch nap. After that I usually go for a run/walk with my friend Jane. This last Sunday my wife and I lunched at the airport, took the scenic route back to town and checked out the Habitat house. My nap was a little later than usual and my exercise friend is in Australia, so I was sorely tempted not to do any exercise. At about 5p.m. I got dressed in walking gear, packed up a backpack with raincoat, drink (for both me and the old dog... I should devise a way for him to carry his own drink?) and headed up to the Mt Cargill Organ pipe track. While driving there the rain started. I asked myself, "Why am I doing this? I should just blob out in front of the car racing on TV?" ... but I decided to don my raincoat and carry on up the track.

I am so glad I did! The experience never disappoints me! Every time I walk the track something delights or surprises me. I share some photos of rainbow, flowers (what are they) and scene from the top. Coming down the hill at around 7 p.m. (the dog walks slow) the sun shining through the bush and glistening on the newly washed leaves made every turn in the track a delight.  

While I was on the top the latest cruise ship sailed out the heads of Otago Harbour. I am always amused by the passengers on these ships. Hordes of them hit the city streets and wander around looking disgruntled and bored out of their brain. They do not look like happy holiday makers to me. Jean (my wife) and I were talking and we thought I should start a business escorting them for walks up Mount Cargill.  Oh well, each to their own, I guess.

I was going to take some time off this week, but already my diary is full of things to do.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friends run away to Australia.

I have a few friends. One visits me for coffee every Friday morning and we catch up. The last two Fridays we have not been able to do that and we seem like strangers. We are Habitat for Humanity mates and it was strange starting on site today without first sorting out what we were doing with Martin. Martin heads away during the week to spend Christmas with his daughter in Sydney. 

Another friend, who I also met at Habitat, I run with on Sundays, when we can actually run. Sometimes its a walk, other times a walk/run. But again we tell each other stories about our lives during the week and generally catch up. Jane leaves tomorrow morning to go to Perth with her family for Christmas with family there. Already I am realising that I won't have my weekly "report in/story telling" time. 

My friends are running away to Australia? What have I done wrong? :-) It must be a nice place, millions of flies can't be wrong! 

We often take friendships for granted without realising how much our idle chatting means to us. I hope all my friends have a great Christmas.

Photo: On my knees again. I had a good time today working with two new young friends, Blaze and Patience. They loved the nail gun and even gave floating off concrete a go. Great kids.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Scary privilege...

I have just started a new chaplaincy. I am now chaplain for Allied Press in Dunedin. It's a long time since I started a chaplaincy. It is a scary process. You go into a room full of people working on computers and you have to meet them without "hovering". I walked up some stairs onto the next floor and stepped into this big "editorial" room. Upon entering through the door I saw everyone had looked up from their screen and was staring at me... "Who is this?" you can see them ask. "Oh its the new chaplain... don't catch his eye!" It is scary. Will they accept me? Will I make a fool of myself? How can I break the ice? What do you say after "Hello"? So I have been talking with a few who seemed to catch my eye, but not hovering.

Then again I have found it a privilege. People have told me about their work, and it's so interesting. This afternoon I saw the inner workings of a plate maker. I have followed a newspaper in its production and seen it being put together bit by bit on the computers and sent around the building. It is just so interesting meeting new people and learning about their expertise and work. Such a privilege.... but still scary for this insecure old man.

The building is an old building. I have got lost several times. When I said goodbye to one guy I could not find my way out! Other workers had knocked off for the night. I hope I make it... I generally try to just tread slowly and one by one meet staff as the time seems right. I hope they are patient enough for my style.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What is "Church"?

Lately in our Church we have involved people and groups from the community in different ways. A woman contracted to the local City Council has been running sustainability workshops from out of our building. I declared that there would be no charge for the use of the rooms, because I thought the cause consistent with the Christian Gospel. I have encouraged PACT, (Patients Aid Community Trust) who work with mental health or handicapped patients to use our Drop-in facilities each Tuesday morning. We have open Settlers Resource@Space2B and new immigrants and others are using our building. I love it! It is my dream for the church to be a hub, a centre which is a catalyst, a base where people connect with each other and fuller more whole lives are encouraged.

We have been talking about extending this to another group, and forming a community group to meet needs of particular people to further use our resources this way. I was talking to one of my much loved elders about this. He is one who has been supportive, helpful and involved, but it would be fair to say is older and has an earlier concept of what is "church". He agreed with the directions I was outlining but then said, "It's like we are subsidising these groups though. We are paying part of the costs for their activity. That's a concern." I said something I believe to be true. I said that I think one way or another, if the groups are valid we would find money to cover the costs. I find that generally people see the value, and money can be attracted if you earn your credibility. But I did not want to knock the guy, and would love to have said, "Isn't this a valid part of the mission of the church? Is not this sort of thing the reason for the church's existence? We will devote all sorts of money to running Sunday morning church for ourselves. Surely the Church as 'salt' and 'light' in the community should see devoting money into such community ministry is a valid part of its essence and calling? It should not be a grudging 'subsidising' of those groups out there, but a joyful sharing and participation in the movement of God in the community. We should be excited that they want to be a part of us. " Jesus was not wrapped up in "church-for-the-sake-of-church", he was let loose in the community, involved with all sorts of people. His "body" should also be doing that.

Oh well.... change is slow.

Some of us on the "outreach" ministry of our church have invented a slogan for where we want the church to be headed. It goes like this;

Connecting people
Celebrating Diversity
Engaging Communities.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Another week of "grace". .

"Grace" = undeserved favour... in this case "special good experiences".

Christmas Dinner miracles happening 

We are of course planning for our twenty first Community Christmas Day dinner. One would think I would be getting used to it all by now, but it never ceases to amaze me the way people support our efforts. This week I have had an offer of a musician for the day. A lady from a business near the church gave a $50 donation. I replied to a lawyer's phone message and immediately he said, "Now Dave you want some money? Who do I make the cheque out to?" Guests ring up to book in and tell us how much it has meant to them. As I have said before, I feel like I am on a surf board riding a wave of love and friendship that I am lucky enough to be part of the connecting point for.

International Pot-luck pleasure. 

On Wednesday lunch time we had a potluck lunch. There was Japanese sushi, Indian rice, NZ "cheerios", and other international dishes and desserts. What was special were three singers. Maureen from Ireland played a couple of numbers on two different Irish woodwind instruments. Then she sang a song which she later told me represented her faith. It rang bells with me. Rosie sang two lovely Indian songs, with distinctly Indian tones and style of music; then Cristina sang an American Christmas song. The mixture was beautiful.

Following discussion...

Some of us carried on after the dishes were washed to discuss "spirituality" and our dreams for the Space2B area in the church. We shared our thoughts and dreamed of possibilities for the future. If these dreams come to fruition it is beginning to evolve as I hoped it would. Watch this space... a new form of "church" could be happening in little old Dunedin. It was good having people on a similar wave length thinking of possibilities and getting excited.

Warm relationships...

Again I was moved on Thursday and Friday by the feeling of warmth that I received from my Chaplaincy visits. I hope my presence helps them, but I often come away feeling affirmed. On Friday I was at the main fire station when we got a call to a vehicle accident. We arrived and found the ambulance crew there. Of course I received cheek then from people from both services. They warned bystanders that there was a "... silver headed priest on the loose!" The warmth and friendship was affirming.

Great team effort and "feel" on the Habitat site.

On Saturday I was privileged to be part of a great day on site. The weather was perfect and every body seemed keen to work. There was hard physical labour teamed with a sense of humour and friendship. You can read about it on the Dunedin Habitat blog.

"Church" is a verb...

As I was walking and talking with a friend tonight she came up with a great phrase that described my feelings about church. We were discussing various aspects of Church life and my frustrations etc. and she simply said something like, "We must remember 'Church' is a verb!" I love that! 

Anyway... I have had a very busy and tiring week, but these experiences of "grace" and friendship energise me.

Photo: Habitat friendship.. 3 of the team - Left to right.. middle aged Maori; young American; old Pakeha Kiwi. (me) Nearly finished a fence project for the day.