Monday, 30 May 2011


 I have been taking some photographs of late and I'll share a few here.

 This is a detail of the Balclutha Presbyterian Church. I liked the way the red brick contrasted so strongly with the green of the shrub, and the way the little blue shapes in the window seemed, quite accidentally, to give a nice counterpoint to the rounded shrub.

 This is a detail from a boatshed near my home. The harbour was still and clear this morning, and I strolled along the shoreline looking for just this sort of shot.

 The sun was reflecting of the buildings on the other other side making these dramatic stripey lines
Last week I went to Doctor's Point, just North of Dunedin on another still clear Monday. This is a bit of a huckery old boat, but I liked the way thediagonals of the ropes interacted with the diagonal of the bow.
I was very taken with this little group of trees and took several shots
By and large, I prefer this one with its invitation to the wide open horizon.

These are quite typical of the shots I am coming home with lately, but I've been wondering why so few of my photographs contain people, and, whether or not I should do something about that.

Monday, 23 May 2011


A lamp on the Cluth River bridge, Balclutha. Photograph taken during the creative spirituality session led by Cushla McMillan, Ministry School 2011

I spent most of last week in Balclutha with some of our Diocese's leaders at our bienniel ministry school. Balclutha is a no nonsense little working town plonked down on the banks of the Clutha river. It's the sort of place where people come to live for a while and move on, so the St. Mark's Anglican church faces the constant problem of losing its leadership. Not the Vicar, you understand. Graham Langley has been priest of the parish of Balclutha since he arrived from South Africa in 1989, but the lay leadership displays a propensity to move on which is probably unparalleled in our diocese. Despite this, Graham and his wife Rose have built a vibrant, enthusiastic, energetic community of faith whose robustness is reflected in the St. Mark's parish buildings. The church and its adjoining hall is comfortably and tastefully furnished in a modern style. It is well fitted out with AV equipment which is well chosen, discretely placed and, unusual for this sort of stuff,  works. So, what with the nice carpet on the floor, and the pots of coffee and the comfy chairs, Balclutha was a great place for Ministry School. And it was a great ministry school.

The general theme was spirituality, and we began on the first evening with a presentation on journaling from Karlina Brock-Smith. Karlina is a young mother who has worked out her own system of spiritual journaling, so she had a fair bit of wisdom on the subject. But it wasn't what she said so much as how she said it that set the tone for the whole school. She spoke from a position of convinced faith, where she expected the Spirit to be moving and where she expected to be able to hear the Spirit's voice on a regular basis.

And so it continued. I spoke for most of the second day, on Christian meditation. John Franklin shared his deep insight into Centering Prayer. Cushla McMillan talked of the way her passion for botanical drawing has become for her a method of contemplation and a way of prayer. We had a visit from Chris Holmes of the theology department of the University of Otago who gave us a theology of the Holy Spirit, shared again from a position of unapologetic Christian conviction. We finished on Saturday with a presentation from Jan Clark on a method of intercession based on Leslie Weatherhead's A Private House of Prayer

As at the beginning, the ending was revelatory for me. I have known Jan well for almost 30 years, but never guessed at the depth and beauty of  her inner life. To listen as she described it was profoundly moving, and not just for what it revealed about an old friend. I was struck with force by the fact that all around me were people who were also, all of them, deep wells of  insight and grace. The pearl of great price is lying on the market tables all around us. The treasure is buried in every field.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Be Quiet For A Change

Today I started a new blog, about Christian meditation, and you can find it here


This picture doesnt have anything to do with what follows. Its an old one and I like it.
Last time I was in supervision, about a week or so ago, Paul gave me a metaphor that I have been carrying with me and thinking about ever since. He said that organisations - all of them, marriages, families, parishes, dioceses, companies, nations, whatever - were like giant jig saw puzzles, each member being a piece and each member fitting into the space that is most suited for it. Each member meshes with the pieces all around and makes a contribution to the whole pattern of the organisation. But the pieces are fluid; they are plastic; they are capable of taking on an infinite variety of shapes, like amoebas. So an organisation is like a giant jig saw puzzle made of amoebas. Change the shape of one amoeba piece and all the other pieces around it must change to accommodate the change, and the pieces that touch the newly changed pieces must in their turn change, with changes being transmitted right across the puzzle to the very edges. Of course influence goes both ways: the pieces shape and influence the puzzle and the puzzle shapes the pieces. And when a new piece is introduced there will be enormous pressure on that new piece to change to fit the space that is allocated to it. There will also be enormous pressure to resist the change of shape that a new piece must necessarily bring.

Of course the picture is made all the more complex when we realise that we, all of us, are simultaneously pieces in a large number of different, seemingly independent puzzles; so our family picture changes, we consequently change, and this brings a resulting change to our church or our classroom or our social club.

The astute amongst you, and I know that is all of you, will realise that this is a metaphor illustrating the basic tenets of family systems theory, and for many years the insights of  Edwin Friedman's Generation To Generation: Family Process In Church and Synagogue have been foundational in the way I have dealt with parishes. But Paul's metaphor simplified it for me and helped me understand some of the dynamics of our diocese and the way I have related to it over this first year or so of episcopacy.

There's nowhere I really want to go with this, other than to share it. I left Portobello, last week, to drive home through a Westerly gale and drenching sprays of salt water enlightened and reflective: the  expected result of all good supervision.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Pilgrimage 2: Gold rush

We have an uncanny power in our diocese. Wherever and whenever we hold our annual synod, it snows. And now, we have discovered, wherever and whenever we hold a leg of our pilgrimage, the weather is perfect. I am still investigating the obvious marketing opportunities this presents us, but until the deals with farmers, wedding planners, ski fields and umbrella manufacturers are finalised we put these powers to our own use. Such as this last weekend, when a few of us journeyed on pilgrimage from Milton to Lawrence, retracing the steps of those who in their quest for riches left such an imprint on the geography, architecture, culture and spirituality of New Zealand. There weren't a lot of us this time, as one of the Queen's grandsons had, apparently, chosen that Friday to get married and  there were a couple of important sporting fixtures that needed monitoring. But thirteen of us sat down to dinner in St. John's Milton and seventeen of us took a little yellow bus up the road the next day. 

This was a trip through territory I am very familiar with; I travel through it at least once a week, usually more, but to be driven, and have it described by those who live there was a revelation. As we traversed the back streets of Milton, I couldn't help noticing how often our guide used the phrase "this used to be". It was once a service centre for miners, and a place of employment for millers and sawyers and weavers and all the vast array of supporters they needed. Now it hosts a prison and a lot of shops looking for a new life, and it is therefore typical of many small towns in our diocese, and, indeed throughout rural New Zealand. It is served by a vicar whose energy, ability and indefatigable good humour have cemented her an essential place in the social structure and affections of the town. Vivienne seems to be near the centre of pretty much everything that is going on in the district, as far as social services and community development are concerned. She is also a deep well of information about the local area, and it was a privilige to listen to her describe it to us. 

Lawrence is pretty. The countryside around it is varied, and covered with the flora bought by the hordes who swarmed there in the 1860s in search of gold. Because they found so much of it, many of the houses and other buildings are ornately and expensively built. Being just the right distance from Dunedin, it is a natural place to stop en route to Wanaka or Queenstown, and thus there are a number of very good cafes. It is picturesque enough to attract people with an eye for beauty and a few shops are stocked with the wares of local artists and artisans. I was surprised however, when walking around town, to see how many houses and shops are for sale, some of them very attractive indeed. Lawrence seems to be poised on the cusp of something: waiting for that one new thing which will allow it to become once again, a centre of economic activity once again. Our Anglican church in Lawrence is small. Beautifully built. Steeped in history. Full of potential. Like the town. Like our diocese. Waiting to be called to new life once more.

About a kilometre out of town is Gabriel's Gully. It was here in 1860 that Gabriel Reid is credited with finding the lode which began the Otago goldrush. More gold was taken from Otago than was taken from California whose gold rush preceded ours by a couple of years. The landscape still bears the marks of men and women from every corner of the globe who worked individually but increasingly in co-operation to perform the most astonishing feats of amateur engineering. Water was carried for over 40km in an ingenious system of channels to sluice away a hill and turn it into a valley and a small lake. Where their tents were pitched and where their shacks were built are the remnants of their gardens: blackberry, apple and pears for food; California pines for lumber; rowan as a mark of their ancient spirituality. It is all quiet now, sitting in the golden Central Otago light, turning dry and brown in the summer and freezing solid in the winter. It holds the whisper of those thousands long gone and it waits for the few now who can recognise and be entranced by its beauty.

Gabriel's Gully

This is the place where the Otago goldrush started. There's still some gold there, but not enough to give up your day job for. Nowdays it's a secluded place at the end of a short track. There is a pond created by the frenzied search for instant riches, walking tracks and everywhere the descendants of the plants carried along as baggage by the miners for food, as raw materials and as reminders of home.