Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Friday, April 10, 2015


It must be my age but there seem to be lots of farewells lately. As you age you witness the passing of the previous generation. 
Lady Barnes - In the "births, deaths and marriages" there was the notice that Lady Barnes had died at the age of 100 years. Lady Barnes was the wife of Sir James Barnes, mayor of Dunedin when I was a teenager. He used to drive a Jaguar car and loved the horse racing scene. Her death brought back memories of earlier influential people in our city and of this couple's impact. Well lived Lady Barnes.
Lance Bardwell - There was also the notice of an acquaintance I have had a little to do with. Lance had been a police officer but was well retired. My first contact with him was an enquiry he made about our drop-in centre on behalf of a man he was assisting. My second was when he asked us at the Church if we would allow a Korean congregation to use our building. Lance was a Catholic, but had a very ecumenical and in some ways radical faith. The Korean congregation he assisted was a right wing Protestant, charismatic group, made up of mostly students, but he fathered them as if they were his children. For him the faith had to be expressed in care of others. One other contact was that he arrived at our Church on Christmas Eve one year, when we were setting up for hosting a Church full of people for our Community Christmas Day dinner. He came up to me and asked, "Would there be room for 30 more asian students?" He told how they were visiting the University and had nowhere to go to celebrate Christmas. Somehow it was hard to say "no" to Lance so I agreed, but suggested they may have to sit in the choir stalls. "Bless you." he replied. As it happened only a few turned up. When the Dalai Lama was visiting Dunedin there was a bunch of us clergy and church people lined up on the Cathedral steps waiting to meet the Dalai Lama.  I saw this elderly man, Lance, moving down the line looking at the gathered group repeating "Where is he? - Where is he?" Then he saw me, grinned all over and said, "There he is! David Brown." He followed that by, "What's this I hear about you retiring? Is it true?" I told him yes it was. "You can't retire! All these guys run Churches, but you make a difference. There is nobody like you in town. You can't retire!"  "I can still do things." I assured him. "We're here to meet the Dalai Lama, but we ought to be greeting you. I am a real fan of yours. You are a great example to us all." That was the last time I saw Lance. "Well lived Lance, you didn't do too bad yourself."
Richie Benaud died - Richie Benaud was an Australian cricketer. He captained Australia in the days when cricket was played in a relatively gentlemanly way. He went on to become a world famous TV cricket commentator. He died today at 84. I enjoyed his commentaries, he knew the game, was a great observer of people and his comments had insights. One of his famous comments was after the Australians played in a controversial way to beat New Zealand. The New Zealand team needed six runs to win from one bowl. The batsman would have to hit the ball over the boundary on the full. It was possible but still only an outside chance. The Australian bowler and captain conferred, and the bowler rolled down an underarm, ground hugging bowl which made it impossible for the batsman to hit a six. It was technically within the rules of the game, but not within the spirit of the game. Richie commented after the game. He finished his comments with, "The most disgusting thing I have ever seen on a cricket field." I used to be intrigued at how Richie talked of cricket as if the whole world depended on it. I loved his commentaries but sometimes I wanted to yell, "Its only a bloody game Richie!"  "Well lived Ritchie, you did it well and with so much dignity." 
Retirement "Do" - I just received an email inviting me to an evening celebrating the retirement of several firefighters. There are quite a number retiring this year. It is quite a change for me, these senior firefighters have welcomed me into their culture as their chaplain. For the last twenty odd years we have traveled together, and its like the passing on of a generation of firefighters. You have done well guys, served your community for years, well done!

A TV show I am enjoying watching is the show "Madam Secretary."  This week's one was very moving when the hero, a Whitehouse official, was distressed after experiencing a war zone. In one of the final scenes she is being interviewed by the media. She said something like, "Our main task in life is to leave this world a better place for our children." I like that. The people above have done their best in their way to do that.  I hope when I have to say my final farewells people can say that of me. I hope I use my talents and time well, toward leaving this place in better shape.

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