Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thank you

Jørn Utzon, AC (9 April 1918 – 29 November 2008)
A son of Denmark , honoured by Australia

"Joern Utzon was a visionary architect whose legacy includes one of the world's most spectacular and inspiring buildings, the Sydney Opera House.

Standing proudly on the edge of Sydney Harbour the opera house is one of the most internationally recognised symbols of our nation.

Today I honour him and his creation and know that all Australians will join me in celebrating his legacy."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

New Zealand Part 2 -Manapouri & Doubtful Sound

After 4 nights in Dunedin, we drove south towards Fiordland and the little town of Manapouri. To the left is a photo looking over Lake Manapouri from our Motel.
However it commenced to rain so after lunch in the tavern next to the Motel we went to the wharf to book a tour of Doubtful Sound. The only way to reach Doubtful Sound is to take a tour which is very expensive. I had 2 possible days and, with the weather forecast being poor for the Wednesday, I chose Thursday which proved to be one of the best decisions I have made. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading before driving the 20 km to the bigger town of Te Anau for dinner and the supermarket. It continued to rain.
Wednesday morning I looked out the window and saw a few patches of white and told my sister it was snow. She replied, no it is frost, but then the snow came pouring down. We drove back to Te Anau and walked beside the lake in the snow then decided to drive towards Milford Sound. I have been there 4 times and stayed overnight after driving in 2 years ago but my sister has never been in this area of NZ. The warnings were for snow chains but we decided to take the risk .
Although the photo indicates otherwise, we actually drank our coffee sitting in the car.

We continued to the Cascades and the Divide but as it began to snow quite heavily, I thought it would be best to turn back after looking at the view down into the Holyford valley. Here we met some Keas. I had an altercation with Keas on my previous trip when I stopped to wait for the lights at the Homer Tunnel (one way) and foolishly left my door open. The Keas attacked the rubber on the brand new Avis car. This time I was more careful and kept the door closed. They have no fear.

As the snow kept falling, we returned to Te Anau for lunch and then back to Manapouri and our hotel for an afternoon watching the US Presidential results on TV.
At 5.30pm the station stopped coverage in the middle of McCain's concession speech, much to my sister's disgust. We saw Obama's acceptance speech during the evening news.
Disappointing my sister did not see Milford Sound but hopefully I can drive her there in my own car when she visits me after I have relocated. I was glad to see on TV that snow was covering the suburbs in Dunedin where I hope to live. This was the heaviest snowfall of the year and the heaviest November fall for 30 years.

However Thursday dawned bright and sunny and we had glorious weather to travel to Doubtful Sound. This begins with a launch trip across Lake Manapouri on the right.

Then you transfer to coaches to drive over the Divide. We had a wonderful trip as although the skies were largely blue, the snow from the day before was covering the trees. Finally there is a cruise on Doubtful Sound and we went right to the entrance but did not go out as there was quite a swell running.

A short movie shows the Sound and some of the commentary.

We toured the underground power station on the way back. The road we had travelled was really built for the power station not the tourists that now take advantage of it. It is the most expensive to build piece of road in New Zealand.

On the Friday we drove back to Dunedin but first went south to the city of Invercargill and even further to the port of Bluff. Here I was able to stand at the most southerly point of the South Island (Smaller Stewart Island lies further south) I have a photo of my standing at the most northerly point of the North Island back in 2004.

This is the furthest south that I have ever been. Just last May I reached the furthest north I have ever been at the Arctic Circle in Finland.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New Zealand Part 1 - To Dunedin

I have been home from my visit to New Zealand for nearly 3 weeks but I did promise to post some of my photos. My main reason for going was to show my sister the city where I want to live. I think she now agrees it is a nice city but is still not happy at my moving so far away. I was, however, very sad to leave and am getting very frustrated at all the delays in preparing my house for sale.
We flew from Sydney to Dunedin (about 3 hours) on October 31 which is Halloween. This is almost ignored in Australia but quite important in New Zealand. As we had dinner that night at a pavement restaurant in the Octagon (the main centre of the city) we were passed by many dressed as ghosts, witches and ghoulies heading for parties. Dunedin has a population of 120,000 but has about 25,000 studying at the University of Otago so this would account for the rather lively night scene.

Saturday we visited the city centre again and The Anglican cathedral of St Paul plus the imposing Railway Station (on right) then drove up through the suburbs where I want to live. I can only make general surveys until I sell my home here in Australia.

Then after lunch we went to Baldwin Street which is the steepest street in the world. My sister was not willing to walk up it and I had done so before so we just drove which is scary enough. Then we drove out over the hills to the port.

On Sunday we attended Eucharist at St John's Roslyn which is the parish in which I hope to live. It was crowded but there was an adult baptism which may have increased numbers. I made myself known to the Vicar, Archdeacon Kelvin Wright whose blog I have been reading. Good to see many families but I did wish one mother would control her little girl who ran all around the altar during the consecration.
It was a beautiful day and we spent most of it at the Botanical gardens where the Rhododendron festival was in full swing

On Monday morning we went to Lanarch castle in the morning and on the afternoon we took a wildlife tour on the Otago Peninsula where we saw albatrosses flying overhead then down to a beach with sea lions, penguins and a headland with seals.

The Albatross video below is my first attempt at connecting 3 clips into one movie so please do not laugh at the amateur

Monday, November 24, 2008

Two Dioceses, Missouri and Sydney

I have been reading on the blogs that the Diocese of Missouri has passed resolutions to affirm same-sex-blessings, and to re-open the door to LBGT candidates to the episcopate. Apparently this is very unexpected for a Diocese like Missouri. However I note they have women priests and at least one is openly Lesbian.

They sound rather liberal to someone who must live in Sydney. I have just received the latest newsletter from Anglicans Together which is a very small organisation promoting inclusive Anglicanism within the Diocese of Sydney. Some of its members were at the recent Sydney Synod and have reported.
On the humorous side one Rector recommends appropriate preparation with intensive therapy, including grief counselling plus a balanced diet and lots of exercise. Meal breaks are terribly important: good food with a little wine for the stomach's sake, consumed in the company of friends is a wonderful remedy to the well known syndrome of post synod depression.

The whole Anglican world has heard that Synod found there were no legal barriers to Lay and Diaconal Administration and encouraged the Archbishop to include in the licences of deacons and suitable lay persons authorisation to assist the presbyter in administering the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. However the Archbishop is not minded to follow this request at this time. (He is not stupid and knows how it will be accepted by many of his GAFCON mates).

However the rest of the world would not be so aware of other motions and motions lost.
Rev Chris Albany presented a motion calling on the Archbishop to explore ways in which the different views on the ministry of women "could be creatively lived out in the life and practice of the diocese" The motion was well supported by a number of speakers and there was vigorous debate but sadly creative resolution of difference of opinion is not something the Sydney diocese is famous for and the motion was defeated. Despite the number of new members in the synod this year the mind of synod remains closed on the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood.

There was a report from the Doctine Commission on the Theology of Christian Assembly. This arose due to the number of prayer book-less services now being held in many parishes. The report was remarkable in that it managed to avoid all traditional liturgical language: words such as church, worship, sacrament, Holy Communion, Baptism, etc. are obviously no longer in favour.
Even 'praise and thanksgiving' had to wait for paragraph 53 in a document of 71 paragraphs before rating a mention. Paragraph 48 did make reference to 'the Lord's meal' but gave no recommendation as to how often or in what manner this was to be observed today.
The motion was to welcome the report. Bishop Glenn Davies rather courageously moved an amendment that it not be welcomed but received and pointed out its deficiencies particularly its failure to discuss the importance and place of sacraments in worship. The majority of synod voted in favour of the report.

The motion 'that Synod congratulates our Archbishop and Assistant Bishops on their attendance at Gafcon and their move to coninue our development as a truly Bible based Anglican Church' was passed. Not surprisingly Fr Gwilym Henry-Edwards amendment 'Notes with sadness their inability to attend the Lambeth Conference and encourages them in their support of the unity and diversity of the Anglican Communion' was resoundingly rejected.

From what I read the Diocese of Missouri is in a conservative part of the USA so the resolutions passed are surprising.

The city of Sydney is very progressive socially but its Anglican Diocese is hardly representative of the city.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Flags of New Zealand and Australia

In a previous post, I commented that many of my readers would not know the difference between the flags of Australia and New Zealand. As an educator I am now going to enlighten you.

New Zealand
The New Zealand Flag features, on a royal blue background, a Union Jack in the first quarter and four five-pointed red stars of the Southern Cross on the fly. The stars have white borders. It has been the National flag since 1902.
The New Zealand Flag is the symbol of the realm, government and people of New Zealand. Its royal blue background is reminiscent of the blue sea and clear sky surrounding the country. The stars of the Southern Cross emphasise the country's location in the South Pacific Ocean. The Union Flag gives recognition to the historical foundations and the fact that New Zealand was once a British colony and dominion.

The Australian Flag came into being after the federation of the Australian States into the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January, 1901. Although selected in 1901 and gazetted in 1903, it was not given Royal assent and adopted as the definitive Australian flag until 1954.

The present Australian flag can be considered to consist of three main elements:

The Union Jack in the upper hoist quadrant or first quarter , denoting Australia's historical links with Great Britain.

The Southern Cross in the second and fourth quarters. It consists of five stars in a more or less kite-like pattern - Alpha Crucis (7-point), Beta Crucis (7-point), Gamma Crucis (7-point), Delta Crucis (7-point) and the smaller Epsilon Crucis (5-point). The constellation of the Southern Cross is a significant navigational feature of the southern hemisphere, strongly places Australia geographically and has been associated with the continent since its earliest days.

The Commonwealth Star or Star of Federation, central in the third quarter or lower hoist, has seven points to denote the six states and the combined territories of the Commonwealth of Australia. The seventh point was added in 1909.

So to sum up the main differences. The New Zealand Flag has 4 red stars (with white borders) to denote the Southern Cross while the Australian Flag has 5 white stars and also has the large white star under the Union Jack.

Finally I must also describe the Australian Aboriginal Flag which was adopted as the symbol of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people when it was first flown in 1971. It is a strident 3-colour flag composed of a large central yellow circle imposed on a background of a red lower half and a black upper half; the black represents the Aboriginal people, the yellow the sun as a life force, the red the earth and the blood of the Aboriginal people. It has no official government standing but is becoming widely recognized and acknowledged by the community and is perhaps the only symbol commonly accepted by the diversity of Aboriginal people.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Church and Politics

Yesterday I attended the first of 2 discussions on "God in Australia"
We were first asked which of the following four options we would choose in order for our church to take a more active public role in political life.
1. Identify certain principles and seek to have them incorporated into public life, that is become a lobby group.
2. Form a new Christian political party and seek to control the balance of power in the upper house.
3. Do nothing. Decide that politics and religion are two separate entities.
4. Train our people to identify important issues in public life and act in accordance with what they discover.

I came down definitely for option 4.

It was interesting to learn that Option 1 is the Roman Catholic view as seen in the pressure unsuccessfully applied to our State parliament last year over stem cell legislation ( and I would add abortion in the USA)

Option 2 is the Calvinist view as seen in the Family First party which currently hold the balance (along with the Greens and another 1 person party) in the Senate of our Commonwealth Parliament and was established by the Assemblies of God and also Fred Nile's Christian Democratic party which has long had members in our own NSW State parliament and is strongly anti-homosexual.
It was questioned why our own Calvinist Diocese has not done this (although probably many of its members do support the Christian Democratic party) and were told it is probably due to the pre-millenial views of the diocese which sees little to be gained by trying to improve society before the 2nd coming.

Option 3 I was surprised to learn is Lutheran and one of the reasons why the majority of the Lutheran church with some notable exceptions did not stand up to Hitler until it was too late.

Finally Option 4 is Anglican deriving from Archbishop Temple so I felt vindicated in my choice.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama Inauguration

Australia held an election on November 24th, 2007. By the end of the night it was clear Labor had won and that Kevin Rudd was the new Prime Minister. The next day he was making pronouncements and the previous Prime Minister handed over the keys to the residence in Canberra (The Lodge) on November 29th. The polls for the lower house were all declared by mid December. The Senate for which the voting is complicated took longer to finalise but it does not determine who governs. Rudd famously told his cabinet ministers they could have Christmas day off but had to be back at work on December 26 (also a public holiday). In Australia, Christmas of course falls in mid-summer and for many the holidays last well into January and schools do not return until after Australia Day (Jan 26). However the Labor Government and Rudd were clearly running the country.

New Zealand had an election on Nov 8 this year. The new Prime Minister asked the Governor General to allow the declaration of the polls to be speeded up so that he could attend APEC in Peru as Prime Minister this week. Apparently he got his wish.

All this leads to my inability to understand the US situation where the new President is elected on November 4 but does not take office until January 20.

Normally that would not interest me but the Global Financial Crisis has meant the World leaders of the G20 have met in Washington this week without the presence of the man who will be the most powerful person in the world in 2 months time. The meeting has been chaired by a person who is now almost irrelevant. Many of the world leaders would have naturally liked to meet with Obama but he has properly refused such meetings. Instead they have met with a go-between, Madeleine Albright.
I have just listened to Obama's speech on the financial situation delivered by Youtube and provided at Wounded Bird. As I have said, it is very confusing and frustrating.

There has been a stir here in Australia because apparently President Bush rang Kevin Rudd last week while Rudd was hosting a dinner. He is supposed to have taken the call in another room. However at the dinner was the editor of one of our newspapers who later reported that Bush asked Rudd "What is the G20?"
Both Bush and Rudd deny this now but who knows. Did the editor overhear? Was Rudd so exasperated he unwisely let his feelings slip?
Our Television services played over and over the rather muted welcome (compared to the warm greeting of other leaders and not the photo above) by Bush to Rudd when he arrived in Washington on Friday and the warmer greeting the next day.
I, of course, could not care less if Bush and Rudd are not the bosom buddies that Bush and Howard were. Rudd has met with Obama before his election and spoken by phone with him since. I hope they have a warm working relationship. But it goes to show further this strange situation of the transfer of power in the US.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Opera House, Sydney Symphony & Elgar

On Thursday I went with my sister to the last of our 2008 subscription to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. We subscribe each year but now go on Thursday afternoons rather than Friday nights as before when I use to stay the night with my mother. The Thursday afternoon series is a sea of grey hair.unhappy smileys The hall which seats over 2,500 was packed.
We have subscribed again for 2009 but do not know if I will still be living in Australia by the end.
This concert was one in a series on Elgar conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy who will be the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Orchestra for the 3 years commencing January 2009.
The first half was the Violin Concerto in B minor with the Canadian James Ehnes playing the violin. I am afraid the solo violin is not my favourite instrument by a long shot but it received lots of applause and good reviews.

The second half was more to my liking with Pomp and Circumstance Marches Nos 1 & 2 followed by the Enigma Variations. It was great to hear the organ being played. This is the world's largest known mechanical action organ but does not seem to be played very often. It seems to throb through the whole building. Now, the organ is my favourite instrument.

I have been able to find Daniel Barenboim with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing the 9th and I guess most popular of the 14 variations - the Nimrod. The organ is only played in the Finale of the Variations as well as in the first P&C March.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Litany of Reconciliation

Last Sunday I worshipped at the Cathedral of St Paul in Dunedin. Instead of Choral Eucharist there was a Special Service for Remembrance Sunday. This was also the case on my previous visit in 2006. This year saw a larger congregation and more participation by the military, I guess because it is now 90 years since the end of World War I. I was with my sister. We both have made it a custom to attend the Dawn Service in Sydney on Anzac Day but I have missed the last two years being in New York (with her) in 2007 before going onto the Somme, our Uncle's grave and the service at the Menin Gate in Ypres. This year I was in Austria.

Australia and New Zealand share a common war history (except for Iraq) as seen in the name ANZAC (Australia & New Zealand Army Corps).

I was especially moved to see the Litany of Reconcilation from Coventry Cathedral in the service sheet.

For the hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father forgive.

For the covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father forgive.

For the greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father forgive.

For our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father forgive.

For our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father forgive.

For the lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
Father forgive.

For the pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father forgive.

I visited Coventry Cathedral way back in 1974 and was deeply moved by the ruined cathedral next to the (then) very modern new cathedral.

In 2000 I visited the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin where at noon the litany is also read (in German)

Vater Vergib.

All these occasions have been very moving for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I am back

Flew back into Sydney last night. Have spent today trying to catch up with blogs. I did go shopping as I had emptied the refrigerator before leaving. Have still more to read.
Thanks for the messages, we did have a wonderful time.

Watched the American results in the motel room as snow was falling outside (this was in the last month of spring in NZ). They had the heaviest snow fall of the year and snow also fell in the suburbs where I intend to purchase my new home. I was, of course, ecstatic with Obama's election. Was disappointed to hear the result on Prop 8 in California.

Watched the NZ elections on Saturday night (well saw the newsbreaks) and was disappointed the conservatives won. Interesting that in a debate pre-election both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader (now Prime Minister elect) stated they were agnostic and did not believe in a God. That would not go down well in the USA.

Must do washing and housework tomorrow and the garden has run amok in just 10 days but hope to provide some more details and pics of my trip soon.