Friday, July 31, 2009

Arguments against Religion

Hat tip to The Three Legged Stool

There is a line in the great literary work Brideshead Revisited. Charles has been listening to the dinner conversation at the Marchmain table. After Bridie finishes talking about religion, Charlies replies: "You know, Bridie, if ever I were thinking of becoming a Catholic, one conversation with you would end that."

It's sad, but like Bridie, one of the best arguments against religion is Peter Jensen.

I could add Phillip Jensen and the many others in control of the Diocese of Sydney. Throw in Cardinal Pell as well and you can understand why Sydney is known as a godless city.

I have been uncomfortable with Father Dave's Boxing groups and he and I have discussed that at Caliban's Dream. However I guess there are many ways to assist young people. I congratulate him heartily on his recent attempts to provide a forum to at least listen to gay people.

The Jensen's only listen to hate mongerers like Akinola.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Darwin Cathedral

Our Patronal festival was an inspiring service. I even enjoyed the choir singing Mozart.

The church was packed for the service which took about 2 hours and the front was draped with huge red banners and red ribbons on many of the pews.
The preacher was the Dean of Darwin Cathedral, the Very Reverend Jeremy Greaves.
He was very easy to watch (mea culpa) and also to hear.

There was laughter as he told us he appreciated wearing the cope in Sydney but not always in Darwin. It is now mid-winter, minimum temperatures in Darwin falling to about 18'C (64'F) while average maximum are still in the low 30'sC (80'sF).
In Sydney on Sunday the temperature struggled to 15'c (59'F).
He, however, also referred to the plight of homeless Aborigines who sleep in the grounds of the Darwin Cathedral and he had pitied the homeless sleeping in the porch of the courthouse next to St James.
He told us how, in his previous parish at Katherine, every night he had to deal with trouble in the Aborigine camps surrounding the church and one night, feeling rather grumpy after a long day, he had sent his wife to the door when the bell rang about 10.30pm. She called him and he found a man who had been living in the grounds for about 3 months wanting to present him with a bark painting as he was returning to his tribal grounds. Jeremy admitted he wept.

In referring to St James the Great he told a possibly apocryphal story of a church in England dedicated to St James the Less. It was down a side street and, wanting to advertise its presence, mounted a neon sign on the roof. Unfortunately what was seen from the main street was 'St James the Less Anglican". His comment that he did not want that to be taken as a reference to our diocese had us in stitches.
On a more serious note he lamented that liberal churches were not always passionate in expounding our beliefs in the same way as the conservatives are.

Searching for his photo (more mea culpa), I learnt about the history of the cathedral and the diocese.
Darwin was once part of the Diocese of Carpentaria, at that time the largest (in area) Anglican Diocese in the world. The Diocese of Northern Territory was inaugurated in 1968 and the first bishop was Bishop Ken Mason.
Bishop Ken Mason usually sits a few pews in front of me each Sunday. I have heard him preach once and I was introduced once at Morning Coffee. He is now rather frail and was on our prayer list recently. I had not realised he was the first.

I googled Darwin Cathedral and was please to see:
At Christ Church Cathedral we seek to share God’s unconditional love of all people regardless of age, race, sex, marital or family status, sexual orientation, ability or wealth. Every endeavour is made to make Christ Church a safe place for all. We discourage being judgemental, but seek to affirm one another as equally loved by God.

The cathedral/church has had a chequered history.

In the severe air raid of 19 February 1942, the church was hit by a bomb that landed at the back of the vestry, blasting out the windows and riddling the roof and walls with shrapnel. Fortunately records and valuables had been trucked inland.

However on Christmas Eve, Cyclone Tracy bore down on Darwin.

About an hour after the midnight service, the church-along with much of the City of Darwin-was rubble. Only the porch was left standing and the church hall was gone. So was the new rectory, built in 1970, and the old rectory, dating from 1917, then the home of the curate and his wife of a few weeks.

This was in the time of Bishop Ken Mason.

A new cathedral has now been built.

My only visit to Darwin was in 1968. I am not fond of visiting hot places but I would like to see the cathedral.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

St James the Great

Today is the Festival for St James the Great so tomorrow is our Patronal Festival.
Growing up in Evangelical Churches there was not much, if any, attention paid to this. Most of my childhood and as a teenager, I went to Holy Trinity so I guess that should have been Trinity Sunday. I also worshipped regularly at churches named St Phillip, St Thomas, Emmanuel and St Alban but can never remember a patronal festival.
Last year St James Day was on Friday and we had an Evening service of Eucharist but this year it is being kept up tomorrow, Sunday.
The 9am Sung Eucharist and the 11am Choral Eucharist will be combined at 10am for a Choral Eucharist with lunch aftwerwards.

The stained glass window for St James was moved in 1980's when a new Chapel of the Holy Spirit was built. It is now on the stairway to the Bell Tower which is kept locked for safety reasons. I have never seen it and can only find a black and white photo.

From tomorrow's pew sheet

The Patronal Festival is the occasion on which our parish
church celebrates the patron saint after whom we are named and,
at the same time, celebrates the life, character and calling of this
Christian community.
James was the son of Zebedee and the elder brother of John; like his
brother, he was a fisherman in Galilee with Zebedee, in partnership
with Andrew and Peter. At the call of Jesus he left everything and
followed him.
James, the first of the Apostles to die, was martyred in Jerusalem in
AD 43. According to legend, James had preached in Spain before his
martyrdom and his body was taken to Compostela, a city in northwestern
Spain. He became the patron saint of Spain. His shrine was
the most popular place of pilgrimage in Christendom after Rome
and Jerusalem.
The mosaic in the chancel floor depicts the insignia of St James. The
emblems are the scallop shell of St James’ shrine at Compostela, the
palm of martyrdom, together with the pilgrim’s insignia of the staff,
bag and broad-brimmed hat.
On this Patronal Festival we celebrate our ongoing pilgrimage as
God’s people in this place.
‘‘… of all the ancient Spanish cities, the one that seems to be immobilised in a granite dream, immutable and eternal, is Santiago de Compostela… It does not seem ancient but more eternal... But Compostela, immobilized in the Ecstasis of the pilgrims, joins all her stones in one unique prayer, and the chain of centuries had always, in its echoes, the same resonance. There, the hours are the same hour, eternally repeated under a weeping sky.” — Ramón del Valle-Inclán: La Lámpara Maravillosa

The Collect
O gracious God, whose apostle James left his father and all that he
had, and without delay obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ: pour
out upon the leaders of your Church the same spirit of self-denying
service by which alone they may have true authority among your
people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

The preacher will be The Very Reverend Jeremy Greaves,
Dean of Darwin

The Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei will be sung by the choir from SPATZENMESSE by WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART

But the Processional Hymn is to be: 'For all the Saints who from their labours rest'.
I know as the choir process in, led by the Censer then the Cross and the candles followed by the banners of all the church organisations, the wardens with their rods, the choir and the deacons and priests in red and finally the President in a glorious red cope singing this wonderful hymn I will be rapt.
Where is the young evangelical man who was taught to sneer at this? If I had not been gay I might be with those drab men in suits and ties leading other churches in this diocese.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Closer to Dunedin?

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake last week has moved the south of New Zealand closer to Australia, scientists said Wednesday.

With the countries separated by the 2,250-kilometre-wide (1,400-mile-wide) Tasman Sea, the 30 centimetre (12 inch) closing of the gap in New Zealand's southwest won't make much difference.

At the rate I am progressing in preparing my house for sale, this is the only way I will move.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great comments

Two items today I have found most moving.

From KJ on Madpriest, please read the whole comment if you have not done so already.

You see, Tim, I once followed the "accurate" advice you prescribe here. This is what I was told was right and the will of God for me. There was just one problem, this advice nearly led to the end of my existence on earth as it led to despair. I wanted it to be true -- I wanted to be like every other evangelical boy, I assumed, a heterosexual. I wanted to marry a lovely girl and "settle down." I wanted to not be me. I clung so tightly to what I wanted to be true of me, and what others said needed to be true to me, that what God would have me to be was nearly lost. Yet, to those on the "outside," I was a fine example of a good evangelical boy, busy with the work of the "gospel," while dying in need of relationship on the inside.

And there's the spiritual rub, of course. How does the Spirit use one when that one is consumed with attempting to be what he or she is not? How is it good news to tell others to pretend to be someone else? To others like me, I had nothing to offer. This is not good, and it certainly is not news.

And from Rev Susan Russell at An Inch at a Time reporting from TEC convention.

The woman who stopped me in the worship hall to thank Integrity for our work and then to share that she had attended the Integrity Eucharist with her 14 year old son -- and that afterwards in their hotel room he had come out to her.

"I've known he was gay since he was about 4," she said, her eyes welling up. "And have been waiting for him to figure it out. The fact that he came to himself in the context of a celebration of the Eucharist -- that he's never going to have to wonder if his church or his family will love and accept him as he is -- I just can't thank you enough."

"He's a really great kid," she said, wiping her eyes. "And he's going to be FABULOUS gay man! "

I pray for the day when it will not be necessary for so many young GLBT Christians to wrestle with a perceived conflict between their faith and their sexuality but instead discover it as part of their unique God created being.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Prayers and Thanksgiving

I have just had an email from my sister.

Yesterday I caught my foot on a jutting up footpath tile and fell flat on my face (just outside our building). Luckily didn't break anything but quite a few bruises on chin, hands and knees.
Thanks be to God no breaks and prayers for healing

However today she volunteered as usual at the courts. My sister is a Justice of the Peace and in Australia many legal documents must be signed in front of a JP.

Left North Sydney court, bought a couple of things at supermarket then sat down on station (a very busy station) to wait for train. Caught train and approaching Chatswood (about 15 minute journey) realised I did not have my handbag!!! I raced across to platform 1 where a city train was departing but missed it. Then spoke to rail chap in office on platform. He immediately phoned North Sydney station - waited on phone while the guy at the other end went to check and would you believe, my handbag was still on the seat. I think having a couple of extra bags with sore hands didn't help.
More Thanksgiving
And the reason for my email to her was to ask the time of her cataract eye operation tomorrow. This will be the second eye. The first had some problems with infection but surgeon is not concerned. Prayers please.

Diary - Moon Walk

It seems to be the in thing at the moment to reminisce about where one was 40 years ago. I have kept a diary since 1962. Most of it is very uninteresting but occasionally helpful.
Last Saturday says: Washing, Vacuumed bedroom
Yesterday said: Ironing but I will soon add: to Katoomba and saw 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'.
Reading my activities in the 60's I wonder how I had the energy.
July 21st 1969 I wrote:
To School, portable Tvs used to watch Man's first walk on the Moon Went shopping - To Jones's

I was a 25 year old teacher in my 4th year of teaching so had just gained my 1st list which meant I could begin to apply for more supervisor positions and in 2 years would go for 2nd list and then be able to apply for promotional positions (actually took another 4 years).

I have no idea what I purchased while shopping. I was still living at home with my parents so did not need to shop for food, perhaps clothes.
The Jones were a family whose son was in the group I took camping in NZ at the end of that year so it was probably about fund raising activities.

There were not lot of TVs in schools at the time so students were sent home to collect portables for nearly every room and classes were suspended for most of the day while we watched the Moon landing. We have always been proud that the images came through the Radio Disk at Parkes in Central NSW (about 250km from me now). This was because of the position of the Moon over the earth at that time.
I remember a new teacher from India had only started that day and she thought Australian schools were crazy.

Reading around that date, I had assisted with the Christian Fellowship at school the previous Friday and attended Evening Prayer the night before. Most of the weekend had been spent collecting bottles to raise money for the NZ trip.

However Saturday night I had driven, wearing biker clothes, to places where I might fall in with gangs. This was my pathetic attempt in those days to explore my sexual urges. These lives were kept completely separate, even my diary is cryptic. Fortunately I never came to grief in those dangerous activities.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The News

Sometimes I think it would be better if I did not watch the news. It has been so depressing lately.

First there was the hotel bombings in Jakarta last Friday. Three Australians, 2 business men and one trade official were killed and one New Zealand business man. I am not sure of the nationality of the other 5 killed, I presume they were Indonesian and one was the suicide bomber. I think about 60 were injured. I cannot understand any religion which seems to believe in a God of hate and this includes some well-known Christian even if they do not resort to actual physical violence.
Prayers for the families of the deceased and the nation of Indonesia which is trying with a great deal of recent success to be a democracy.

Second our news was of the 11th Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan, a young man of 22. I know this is not many by US standards but still bad enough. At least there were comments by the Chief of the Defence Forces, the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister. On past performance they are all likely to attend any funeral service. Sadly that would be impossible in the USA. I am becoming increasingly disenchanted with the war in Afghanistan. It seemed worthwhile immediately after 9/11 but unfortunately the effort was diverted to Iraq and now experts seem to think it is unwinnable and we are only remaining to 'save face'. A poor reason for sending young men to their deaths. Prayers needed for the family and all the forces of many countries fighting in Afghanistan.

Finally our news is full of the death of a family in a quiet suburb of Sydney.Two young boys aged 9 & 12, their mother, father and aunt were found bludgeoned to death in their home on Sunday morning. They owned the local newsagency. As yet no reasons are known. Prayers especially are needed for the 15 year old daughter of the family who was on holiday overseas. Her grief must be unimaginable.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Babble of Baptisms

I met my sister outside church this morning and, having read the daily notices online, said "Guess what, another baptism"

St James, King Street is the oldest church in Sydney and was consecrated in 1824 (not old by world standards but Sydney was first settled by the English in 1788).
Consequently it is seen by many as the place to have your child 'done'.
In the 4 weeks after Easter we had six baptisms over 3 Sundays. I guess there was a backlog from Lent. We have had 2 or 3 since and there are also baptisms at the later service.
On any other Sunday the majority of worshippers are well past child bearing. Our Sunday School, known as Kids@Church, process out after a blessing which follows the Collect for the Day and usually return in time for communion. We are pleasantly surprised if the number of children reaches 2 figures. Where are all those who were baptised 4 or more years ago?

Even if I did not read the pew sheet, a baptism is announced by a large number of strangers sitting at the front of the church who are so obviously lost in the liturgy. This is most obvious during the Gospel procession when they all begin to realise that they should have turned around to face the centre of the church.
I was pleased today to see that many of them, including the Godparents, did go up to take communion. Quite often only 1 or 2 do so.
The problem today was the large number of babies among the group. The sermon could hardly be heard and there was a titter through the congregation as about the 4th parent took a child out of the church. My sister whose hearing is declining told me she just gave up.
The Guest of Honour today was very good and our Assistant Priest Fr John has a real way with kids and always processes around the church to display the child after the baptism. There was a lot of crying during the baptism and I, not having a good view, thought it was the child. It is winter and I am not sure if the water is warmed. However I was told the crying came from some of the others, not the child of the day.

I do like singing Laudate Dominum as they process from the sanctuary to the font.
We leave out the Creed which, of course, is covered by the liturgy of baptism but also the Prayers of the Faithful which I feel is a shame.

A few weeks ago I met a person who used to be a parishioner at St James. She told me at least she restated her baptismal vows on a regular basis while attending St James.

I am not sure if I am being a curmudgeon. Perhaps we should rejoice that parents still want their child baptised. I have no idea what preparation is provided by the priests.
At least it helps the offertories.

On this topic, last year offertories were down and we have had several pleas to increase them. I was glad to read in our July Newsletter that offerings for the half year are 9% over the first 6 months of 2008 and 4% above the budget. I do not know if this is due to increased giving or increased attendance but certainly this 'liberal' parish is not declining.

However to cheer me up, we had one of my favourite hymns for the Offertory.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind.
When the organ leads the congregation to belt out "Speak through the earthquake wind and fire" and then quieten for "Oh still small voice of calm"
the tears stream down my face.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thank God British Backpacker safe

I am amazed and thankful.
A 19 year old British backpacker went walking in the Mountains not far from my home 12 days ago. He only had a light jacket and did not take his mobile phone (not always much use in this type of country). While some people do go hiking alone, I think it is very foolish as you never know if you might slip and be injured. He was in Australia alone and reported missing when he did not show for a tour he had booked a few days later.
His father flew out from England but this country is so thickly timbered with steep cliffs.

"I was told there were 50 guys with yellow jackets out there looking for him - I saw one of them,'' Mr Cass said.

"So I can understand how difficult it is to see a stupid kid in a dark blue jacket walking under the trees.

"It's so dense.''

I know it well and might be able to orientate myself by recognising landmarks but for a stranger it would be so easy to get lost.
This afternoon his father was at the airport about to fly home, having conducted a little private ceremony and given up all hope, when he received a message that his son had been found by walkers and was just dehydrated having lived on seeds and leaves. It is mid-Winter and temperatures would be about zero or below. As I said amazing.

Last weekend some recent British migrants, two families with young children, went for a walk in the bush at 4.30pm (sunset 5pm at the moment). They were found the next morning after a very cold night. The Australian bush is no walk in the park.

The photo below, which I took 18 months ago, shows the area in which he was lost. The small hill in the centre is know as the Ruined Castle and is where he was last seen by some other walkers 12 days ago. He was headed for Mount Solitary on the left. In front is Narrow Neck and news reports say he was found below it on this side.
Newspaper article

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bishop Robinson meets with Archbishop Aspinall

I was pleased to read on the blog of Bishop Gene Robinson
Another amazing day yesterday. At noon, I had lunch with three primates, thanks to the Chicago Consultation. Along with Bishop Tom Ely, of Vermont, I broke bread with the Primates of Korea (and his translator), Scotland and Australia.

+Gene comments on some things said by the Primate of Korea but nothing from Archbishop Aspinall, Primate of Australia.

Oh dear, won't that upset the Sydney types.

They met when +Gene was on holidays in Australia last year and some of the local idiots accused ++Aspinall of hearing one side only. He would have to be stone deaf not to know the other point of view and I presume in his normal activities he would have met ++Jensen and the other Sydney bishops often.

++Aspinall is very cautious in declaring his views. I found this:
Dr Aspinall said that he had not declared his personal position on the issue of the ordination of gay clergy because he believed it was his responsibility as Primate in the current climate to “try to find ways to enable the Church to engage in the debate in a constructive way and move forwards towards a solution”. If he were to express a strong personal view, it would add to the polarisation in the current climate, which would not be helpful. He said that he felt sympathy for the hurt that gay people experienced. “Quite a number of homosexual people have said that they are people of faith, that they are committed to Jesus Christ, and believe they are faithful members of the Church and they want to have a home in the Church and they want their contributions to be received and valued and welcomed.

He is speaking at Christ Church St Laurence in Sydney on September 15 and I plan to be present.
His topic will be:
'Gracious Restraint: Hastening Slowly in the Anglican Communion'
which is not as hopeful as I would like. I feel there has been too much restraint on our side and very little on the other. Graciousness is not a virtue held by the Jensenites. I can imagine what they will say when they hear of the lunch meeting yesterday.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Blogging time!!!!!!

I am finding it hard to cope with the blog roll on the right of my page. I like to keep up but find that, as last weekend, when I go out several days in a row the list just gets longer. There is a lot of good stuff but my time is spent in front of the computer. I just threw out over a month's worth of daily papers from my dining table. I read the first few pages then leave them for later unless I take them with me on the nearly 2 hour train trip to the city. The pile got higher and I was trying to eat off the top of the pile. Finally had to throw them all.
I went to 2 social meetings last week with people my age. They all said they check their email every 3 or 4 days (some do not have the internet) and looked amazed that I check my computer, if at home, every hour. I did not tell them I spend 3 or 4 hours a day (when home) reading blogs.
I am adding friends when requested to Facebook, they are all from my blogroll anyway, but have no intention of posting there. The whole idea of asking a person to be my friend I find creepy. How would I feel if they refused? I sometimes get requests from people I do not know, how strange. I only go to Facebook when I receive an email.
Oh well back to reading, although I have a pile of housework and, if it was not raining, a heap of gardening to do.
I want to post about the seminar last weekend but when will I find the time?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Missed Opportunity

This morning at Sung Eucharist, it was not until I was leaving that I realised the couple sitting across the aisle from me were the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd and his wife. They are off to Italy tomorrow and will be meeting yet again with world leaders including President Obama and this time the Pope.

I am not one to wander around the church at the sign of peace, I just exchange with those closest to me so I missed my opportunity to shake hands with the Prime Minister especially when he will be shaking so many important hands next week.

I could have asked him about same-sex marriages but that would be rude when he is there to worship. There were no TV cameras at the door when we left (before him) so perhaps even the newshounds did not know his plans for today. His Commonwealth car with Aussie Flag was outside but not when we went in so they must have arrived after us.
The security personnel were less obvious than on Christmas day perhaps due to the smaller numbers in church.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of Mum's death, 3 years ago, and her name was on the service sheet so I have a good feeling that the Prime Minister prayed for her during the prayers of the faithful even if he did not actually read down the names.

Yesterday I attended an all-day seminar on "Is Scripture Enough?" It was organised by our church but the speakers came from Trinity College, Melbourne. However Rev Michael Jensen (son of our Archbishop) was there and took part in a panel discussion. Very interesting but I will need to blog in more detail in a few days (am going hiking as usual tomorrow).

Friday, July 03, 2009

Farewell Mollie Sugden

I have had hours of fun watching "Are you being served"
Back in 2007 we lost John Inman (Mr Humphries) and early this year Wendy Richard (Miss Brahms) and now we learn that Mollie Sugden (Mrs Slocombe) has died.
I have discovered a touching tribute starting with her most famous line
I will not be as coy as the news on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission - our national broadcaster) last night which referred to her many double entendres including "comments about her pet cat". This report alone had me in stitches, no vulgarity allowed on the ABC News.


Two items in our local newspaper.

On a recent trip through a two-church town the church billboards left one man confused. He writes: "The first said ' Jesus died for YOU' while further down the street I was confronted by the news that 'Jesus lives!' "

A regional newspaper reported the Catholic bishop of Bathurst will " according to custom... prostate himself during a prayer".