Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What's the use?

Late yesterday afternoon I got a phone call from a town in the North Island, followed up with a further call from a friend from there this morning. A retired Church of Christ minister died yesterday morning. He was 84 but lead a fairly active life right up until a few weeks before he died. (Apparently three weeks ago he led his grand daughter's wedding.) He had lung cancer that was undetected until it was too late to treat in any way. He had hobbies which included walking and tramping. He was a very ecumenically minded minister with quite an intellect, so able to articulate his theology and beliefs very well. He had also worked in a school social worker/counselor capacity so was out of active 'GP' pastoral ministry for a long time, though continued to work and help in his local Church. Since his retirement he moved back to the city of his childhood and has been very active in ministry because the local church did not have a minister so he helped fulfill the role. He was once the editor of our denomination's national magazine and had completed journalism studies to enable himself to do a professional job. 
His death hits me because of his legacy. He lived his life promoting a broad, ecumenical, world centred and scholarly view of Christianity. He raised issues of justice and of the Church's interface with the issues facing the world. For I guess 60 years this outlook was what he gave his energies promoting. Now he has died but he lived long enough to see the Church in general and our denomination in particular regress into a less scholarly, more sectarian, "religious", right wing style of Christianity. The Church has moved in the opposite direction to his understandings of the faith. My guess is that our denominational leaders will ignore his passing perhaps seeing little value in his years of service. It must have been disappointing for him to have seen the things he lived for dissipating and being lost.
My guess is that the same will happen to me, though I have some differences in my approach. We live, we die, we are forgotten, I know that, but you do like to think you have made a difference? From a big picture point of view this guy's perspectives have been largely ignored. Mine too have also been largely ignored. Maybe I should have stayed a plumber and just coasted through life after all?
A story that seems relevant - In a hospital for the mentally ill there was a man who kept banging his head against the wall. They asked him, "Doesn't that hurt?" "Yes it does." he replied. "Well why do you do it?" they continued. "Because" he said, "It is so nice when I stop." Well my minister friend has stopped... I say "Well done good and faithful servant." I hope it is nice when you stop.

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