Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Come To The Quiet

St. Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin. Nikon D300 and a Nikkor 28-200 lens A minimal amount of post processing - levels tweaked, desaturation and a couple of small objects removed. Nothing to do with what follows but I quite like the picture.
I spent much of last week conducting a five day Centering Prayer retreat. I have taught meditation before, and I've led retreats but I've never done both at the same time. We held it at Holy Cross where the food is superb and the bedrooms adequate and the old chapel is lovely. There weren't a lot of people. I gave nine addresses over the 4 1/2 days, led worship and had some fairly significant conversations.

The development of spirituality is central to all we are trying to do here in the South. About a year ago, I wrote to the diocese telling them of the fragile state we are in. Since then, things have changed. It's not that there has been a radical revival of our fortunes but rather a growing determination to change and grow, and a strenghtening sense of purpose. Central to this shift in morale is the recognition that at the base of all our ministry is transformation: the gradual drawing of us all into the image of God.

This retreat was about me playing a small role in that. In the everyday routines of my daily life I seem to often play a small role in lots of lives. Over this past week I played, for a few days anyway, a larger role for a small number of folk, and I hope that what John Franklin and I shared will have lasting effects on at least some of them. In teaching small groups and talking one on one I revisited the things I like most about being a priest. In teaching Centering Prayer I helped myself to clarify the concepts I have been living with for a few years now. For my sake, probably more than anyone else's I hope I can run at least one other Centering Prayer retreats sometime in the new year.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Week's end

I've just got back from a meeting in Wellington where the best bit was the chance to catch up with friends. We met at the Sisters of Compassion in Island Bay and every morning I walked for an hour under a dull heavy Wellington sky through unfamiliar streets. I'm walking more and more now, as I get my body sorted for my walk through the Diocese early next year.

Over the weekend I had been in Invercargill. On Saturday, Richard Johnson and Richard Aitken had laid on a day for vestry members and I was invited to speak. We met at the Ascot Hotel, in an impressive room laid on for us by the Invercargill licensing trust, and ate a very good lunch also courtesy of the trust. I'm not sure why other towns in New Zealand don't have a licensing trust, but I guess they just don't know about the astonishing benefits it brings to Invercargill. On Sunday I preached at the patronal festival of All Saints Gladstone to a comfortably large congregation and in between events attended All Saints dinner, at which the irrepressible Frana Cardno spoke. Frana was the first woman Councillor in Southland and was mayor of Southland District for more than 20 years. 20 minutes listening to her and I could perfectly understand why any election with her in it tended to be a foregone conclusion.

And before driving to Invercargill I had spent 24 hours in retreat with our Diocesan Council. I had prepared an agenda, Alec Clark provided hospitality with his usual thoroughness and panache and John Franklin had organised worship. Eric Kyte presented some material in several sessions based loosely on the story of Mary and Martha. Things went to plan, more or less,  except that around mid-day on Friday the schedule was abandoned and we engaged in one of those big conversations  about Life, the Universe and Everything which draws people into sharing what is deepest and most important to them and which occupied us most of the afternoon. In all my years of serving on church committees, this was perhaps the best meeting I have experienced, where for once we stopped attending to the many things that distract us and instead sought the one thing necessary. Jesus was present, as of course he was all along, and we managed, in listening to each other, to listen to him.