Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Monday, November 30, 2015

Grumpy about Presbyterianism.

First some positive things;

My two walks on Sunday; and my two Edinburgh grandsons - Leon and Xavier.
My wife and I joined a few thousand others in the Climate Change March held in Dunedin (though globally) on Sunday
The marchers arriving in the centre of town.
My first ever "selfie" on top of Mt Cargill.

Newly arrived Xavier. Cute!
Grandson Leon with his father Daniel. Lovely young men.
I am having a hard time again coping with "Church". I try to be supportive, chatting in a caring way, doing various chores around the place and attending. But I drove away from last Sunday's service vowing never to return. The people are lovely and I enjoy the "community".  It was not just that particular service but the total less-than-professional approach by the visiting clergy involved. Sometimes Jesus' worst enemies are his friends! Three negative pictures.

Super Religious funeral. 
I helped the locals clean up the partly restored Iona Church in Port Chalmers for the funeral of the lovely Church lady who died suddenly. The next day we attended the funeral. There were lots of people there, the organist was a fantastic organist, (and I generally do not appreciate organ music) the family (indeed the lady herself) had chosen three good hymns but the ceremony made me angry. Here is a service with many non-religious people attending, certainly the majority of those attending would fit this category.  The Presbyterian minister, the "Interim Moderator" of the local parish, used heaps of old style religious prayers, readings and cliches, all strung together with a detached sounding parsonic voice. I, a "religious" person, was put off, or switched off by it all, and I wondered how the secular people around me felt? It would to them reinforce their view of Christian spirituality as old fashioned, irrelevant and something to be basically ignored. This to me is akin to blasphemy on the part of the robed parson up front. He is so out of touch with the real thought forms of people in NZ in today's world he is harming the precious, important "way of Jesus".  He is in fact denying the faith he is waffling about! This is the sort of thing that happens every Sunday in our local Church.
The other Sunday I went to Church and the service began of course with prayers, a hymn and prayers of confession. I counted, just in the prayers before we had reached the second hymn, I had been told that I was "unworthy" no less than five times! That doesn't count the same message no doubt given in the hymns used. These were old Presbyterian prayers. I don't recall Jesus telling many people they were "unworthy", just pompous religious leaders who were laying heavy burdens on the people. The Church needs to have a warning label like cigarette packets, "Danger, enter at your own risk. Coming to Church can damage your mental and emotional health!" Its crap!
Mrs Brown's advice...
I have just read the biography "The Real Mrs Brown" the life story of Brendan O'Carroll. He plays Mrs Brown in the TV sitcom program, "Mrs Brown's Boys".  Brendan O'Carroll is reported as saying, 'To me comedy is like classical music. It has to be done with passion and, if it's not, the audience will spot it. It's got to look like you're up there giving it socks, or the audience will go, "They're not really enjoying themselves, so we shouldn't really be laughing." ...'   Well I would want to say the same about leading Church worship. These parsons read everything (often badly) with a detached parsonic air about them and you are left wondering, "Do they really care?" "Do they really value what they are talking about?" because it doesn't bloody well sound like it! 

I have promised to leave several times before, but have felt sorry for the folks and gone back to try to make a difference. So far I have not been allowed to do much that changes the ethos. Away back in 1970 I felt a "calling" to be a part of trying to help the Church communicate the way of Jesus in word and deed in more relevant ways. I have given well over forty years of my life for that cause with varying degrees of success. Now in retirement I am supporting a Church, perhaps a denomination, which is in practice denying all that I have lived for! It churns me up. Last Sunday I said,... no ... shouted to my wife as we drove home, "I'd be better to walk up my mountain on a Sunday morning!" 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Holiday generosity and death...

We did get to visit my friend's boat and I even steered it. He is keen for me to spend time with him on it.
My wife and my friend at an interesting maritime museum near Semaphore, in Adelaide..
On our last full day there we toured the harbour. 
My friend and I on top of Mt Lofty with Adelaide stretched out below us.
Australia sojourn
We have been on holiday out of the country for ten days. With the Night Shelter money raised and the buildings bought, we decided we could take time to visit friends in Adelaide, South Australia. We rang a friend there to check if it was OK to visit on the dates we planned. She said OK, but that she would pay our fare. So the cost to us of the flights was nothing. We arrived in Adelaide and found out some plans had been changed. We were to stay with our other friends, because the friend who had paid our fares was again being a generous hostess to a family needing accommodation. Then our plans were changed again, because my wife became ill with a chest infection, which later hit me also. Plans for me to spend a few days with my friend on his boat never eventuated. We stayed at his place and did different things. But again he was immensely generous, paying for meals out, for trips etc. and refusing to allow me to empty my wallet. We did low key things basically just catching up on each other. His daily saying was, "Its time to have a glass of afternoon tea." as he handed me a beer.  It was a laid back visit.
In spite of sickness hitting my wife and nudging me, we enjoyed our stay. Australia is different. There is a different culture even though we are often seen as being the same. The nature of the climate gives different vegetation, different scenery and there are many more native "wild animals".  Twice my friend took me for a walk up "his mountain", Mount Lofty on the edge of Adelaide. I had a close encounter with a Kangaroo and her young one. I saw a Koala up a tree. On our second trip down the mountain we were on a more isolated track and from the TV news I had been made aware that the snakes were getting more active in the warm weather. I walked very much aware that I might have a close encounter with a snake. I didn't see a snake, but on my New Zealand mountain all I see are birds, and once I encountered  a goat. We don't have snakes or anything really that could harm you. Australia is very different. I am happy and proud to have lived in New Zealand. Lifestyle wise, it is for me with my values, perhaps the best country in the world to live in. But I always appreciate the land across the Tasman sea. In the 1970's I spent four very formative years in Australia doing my theological training and in the process establishing life long friendships. It was good to visit. 
Death.... the last goodbye. 
On the Sunday before we left for Australia I had led the service at our local Church. After the service I packed up all our things and loaded them into the van, locking the Church door behind me. My wife then informed me that our Church key was still inside the Church with her all important handbag. We went to a lady on the parish council who lived nearby to borrow her key. She was already home from church and dabbling in her garden. She was very warm toward us, and we made arrangements to drop the key back in her letterbox. We waved goodbye as we drove away, then at the end of the week we went for our ten day visit to Australia. We arrived home on Tuesday this week, and yesterday, Friday, at breakfast I read our morning newspaper. I was absolutely shocked to see a death notice for this lovely lady. She was ten years older than I am, but still very active and involved in the Church and the community. She had died suddenly on Thursday! Little did we know that our friendly wave goodbye was the last time we would see her.  It is sad and salutary. 

The lesson from both of these experiences - You can plan but ultimately you are not necessarily in control of your life.       

Friday, November 20, 2015

Expanding family...

Woo Hoo the whanau is expanding. I'm a grandfather again. Absolutely thrilled for Dan & Magda and of course Leon. Welcome Xavier! Don't know what sort of world you are coming into, but one hopes that sanity, love and harmony will overcome.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Long hours

Today after preparing the frame work, we lined the room in what we call gibboard (Sheetrock)  

I was talking with a young firefighter about his conditions of work yesterday. They have a fairly good lifestyle, working two day shifts, and two night shifts and then having essentially 4 days off. There is always plenty of call backs on offer so lots of opportunity to earn overtime rates of pay. This young firefighter was pointing out the difficulties and said, "I bet you have never had to work a 14 hour day?" - which they do when they work night shift. I smiled and told him that when I was in ministry/chaplaincy I once counted up my hours of work over three weeks and averaged it out for each week... I worked, .. (really worked not slept like they do when on night shift or watched TV late in the afternoon)  - 66 hours a week. I also told him that my remuneration was a lot lower than his was if he worked that many hours. "Yeah but that's what you guys are expected to do!" said another older firefighter, "It is your calling." "Well maybe you are right." I said.
As I drove home after my activities of the day, I was thinking about this conversation and I realised that even in retirement I had "worked" fourteen hours that day, with just 2 of them being paid for. I did emails and phone calls for the night shelter first thing in the morning. Then I prepared power points for a talk which I gave to a Probus group. that talk led to conversations. I spent my normal lunch time at my voluntary chaplaincy at the ambulance station, then picked up bread for the night shelter and delivered it. While there I checked emails and did a couple of odd jobs, then went to my rounds of fire stations as chaplain, staying half an hour longer than the hours I am paid for. After a quick evening meal I went into town and had two meetings related to the night shelter.  It was equivalent to a fourteen hour day. I guess I choose to do it and I enjoy doing it. 
Today I did my brewery chaplaincy in the morning and apart from a few contacts for night shelter business, I spent the afternoon and evening working on the room my daughter and son-in-law are doing up with my son-in-law. We get on very well which is great. He is a very patient man with his old father in law. I am tired but once again I enjoyed the physical work involved and being able to assist. They have been working on their house, including a rebuild of a part of it, for twelve years now. Today a visitor asked them how long it will take to finish all they want to do. I suggested another twelve years, teasing them. My son-in-law shot back, "Oh no" he said, "In twelve years time you will be in no fit state to help! We will have to get it finished before then!" 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Varied Skills

The area of the floor framework rebuild.
Preparing the wall frames for new cladding.
Lots of nails into hard old timber.

I am totally exhausted tonight. I was up late last night, and out of bed early this morning working, doing sermon/service preparation. This afternoon while weary, I am valuing the things I can do well.
Assisting with Renovations
Last weekend through to this weekend my wife and I spent the equivalent of four days in town helping our daughter and son-in-law renovate one of the rooms in their house. They have an old house and have done a heap of renovations over the years, and we have helped in all of them. They are very clever with these things.  The four of us work very well together, the women sort out a project, while my son-in-law do the heavier construction type things. We synchronise very well. The first day we were stripping sarking off the internal walls, and then took the skirting board off. We discovered that in one little area the floor was rotten. We stripped some floor boards off and found the frame underneath also rotten. The young couple thought about it for a night, thinking perhaps that we might need an expert carpenter.  I had told them how I would go about fixing it but I knew they had to make any decision. The next day they asked if I was prepared to help them fix it. So last Monday we rebuilt the frame work, and replaced a solid floor. We have been continuing with the progress ever since. Yesterday I calculated that I hammered in around 220 nails. I LOVE this work and am enjoying the sheer physical effort involved and I love the fact that I can do it.  I look at the finished task and feel good about it. I am being helpful. I am making a difference.
Transport and Tools.
 I am pleased with my van. Today we went to the hardware store and loaded 15 sheets of Gib (sheet rock) into the back and transported them to the project. We have carried long lengths of timber and heaps of tools. I am pleased too with the variety of tools I have. When working on this renovation I have hand tools and electric tools for the job. It is a great feeling having this independence and variety which enables us to get the job done. Tools are an investment!
Today I led the service at the local Church. I put a huge effort into preparation, and it went very well. I could see people during the service smiling, nodding in agreement and obviously enjoying what was on offer. When I had a dialogue session, there was free, spontaneous sharing of ideas. I have also noticed that on the days that I am down to lead the service there is a extra good attendance at church. I received very warm feedback after the service and I came away saying to myself, "Yes! I am good at this, perhaps getting better!" 

So here I am, tired, exhausted but deeply pleased at the variety of my skills, the abilities my tools and van let me have and the impact I can have in different ways. I am, howeverlooking forward to a brief holiday in a few days time.
Proud to be a New Zealander
The New Zealand Rugby Football team (the All Blacks) have won the World Cup, the Webb Ellis Trophy. They played the final against Australia in a stadium in England early this morning our time.  They beat them 34 to 17, and even the Australians admitted that they well deserved to be world champions. But the thing that made me even more proud is that they behaved themselves with humility, grace and dignity. 
On the same weekend the New Zealand Women's netball team beat the Australian team 58 to 47. This little country, of 4 million people, with limited funds is competitive on the world stage. I was doing computer work this morning in preparation for the service, while my wife was looking at the rugby on TV in the lounge. I would quickly skip to the on line updates, and at one stage the scores got quite close. I ended up going into the lounge and watched the final minutes of the game, enjoying them because in them New Zealand were successful in putting the game beyond reach. As our captain, coach and some players were interviewed I choked up with pride. There are lots of problems in our country, but I love its ethos and the egalitarian atmosphere. I am a proud New Zealander.