Friday, December 31, 2010

Back Home

Had a good flight back across the ditch (Tasman Sea) yesterday. Flight was in early and passed quickly through customs so was outside waiting for shuttle 30 mins early. Shuttle driver said he did not want me waiting 40 minutes for other booked passenger on another flight so drove me home alone.  Doubt you would get that service in Sydney.
Biggest problem was I needed to go shopping. I had hidden my car keys from any possible burglary and spent over half an hour turning house upside down before I finally found them. It was clever spot possibly too clever so I will not reveal it here.
You may have seen this video, too true as we get older.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Meri Kirihimete

That is Merry Christmas in Maori.

Actually I am back in Australia for 10 days and I felt the humidity yesterday. Thankfully today, Christmas Eve, is milder.
This is essentially the Christmas message I sent to friends either by email or snail mail and now being sent to anyone else who may read my blog.
Merry Christmas from Dunedin.

It has been a very eventful year for me.

On January 22nd I migrated to New Zealand and within a month I owned a house in Dunedin.  Moving in took another month as my furniture came by slow boat.
I continue to be amazed and thankful that such a big step in my life has worked out so well.  I love Dunedin, have made lots of friends, am kept busy with walks, lunches and musical performances and am financially much better off.  The house is basically sound with a view over parts of the city and the ocean as seen in the photo.

I have had a lot of work done on it to make it more comfortable but the difference in price from my Woodford home has easily covered the costs.  I am now starting to landscape the garden. People talk about the heat if it goes over 25’C but we had a mild winter with only a few light snowfalls (unfortunately while I was away).  However scraping away the frost from my car windscreen was a new experience. (I bought a new Ford Fiesta when I arrived.)

I was able to travel for 3 months from August to October.  I blogged about that journey.
 First I went back to Sydney for 12 days and then on to Europe where the highlights were a 10 day cruise up the coast of Norway,  you can decide which is me and which is the Troll.

Over to the UK and the Prom concerts in London including the Last Night in Hyde Park, walking in the Lakes District and  attending the Oberammergau Passion Play.

I flew to Chicago and New York and then travelled by train up through New England with the Fall colours. I met a number of internet friends while there. It was great to meet up. Then it was on to Canada with a flight from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia and by train from there to Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara .

Finally a stopover in San Francisco before the flight back to Dunedin. It seems a bit of a dream now that I have been home 7 weeks.

I am now planning to visit Spain, Portugal, UK and Ireland in May-June next year after spending Easter/Anzac in Sydney. 
I am flying to Sydney next week for 10 days over Christmas. Bev and Russell are coming  here in February and we have planned a trip to Wanaka, Milford Sound, Stewart Island and the Catlins.  Bev was here for a few weeks to help me move in over Easter. We spent much of the time in Mitre 10 but did manage a few days in Queenstown and Christchurch.

I am glad I did not choose to live in Christchurch, the earthquake was only felt as a gentle rocking here in Dunedin.  However I was in Norway at the time.

The final photo was taken in July and shows Harbour Cone which I climbed two weeks ago as well as the entrance to Otago Harbour.

I hope 2011 is happy and prosperous for you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Worshipping in 2010

Due to my move and travel, I have attended a number of different churches this year.

On the first two Sundays in January I was still at St James, King Street.
Leaving St James was the hardest part of my move.  I loved going there, it was such a breath of fresh air after years of struggling in the average Anglican parishes in Sydney.  I had always avoided the more fundamentalist examples but even when I attended those who had Holy Communion every week and still used the prayer book for their services, I knew that I was not really welcome as a gay man. Or rather I could attend but, like women, I should know my place and not even read the lesson during services.

At St James I knew I was welcome and did not have to hide my sexuality. The services were beautiful, the preaching excellent and there was a great variety due to the many visiting preachers, including women priests from other dioceses. Of course they had to suffer the indignity of being relegated to role of deacon while in Sydney, even Bishop Barbara Darling.  The St James Institute provided a variety of courses which informed my Christian life.

However the 2 hour travel each way was difficult and because the parishioners come from all over Sydney (mainly fleeing the surrounding swamp of evangelicalism) it was hard to develop friendships. I know they are trying to remedy the problem this year. And always there was the dead hand of the Diocese and Jensenism overhead.  I returned for two Sundays in August and will be back there on Christmas Day. We will not have the Prime Minister in the congregation this year as Kevin Rudd no longer holds that position and I presume will attend church back in Brisbane.  Julia Gillard does not attend church.

Then I moved to Dunedin and began attending the parish of St John the Evangelist, Roslyn.

Under the previous Vicar, Kelvin Wright, this parish has developed into probably the most vibrant parish in the diocese. I have formed a number of friendships although I only registered as a parishioner after my return from travels in November. There is a good choir but they do not attempt anything too complicated, the services are not as Anglo-catholic as St James, however there are candles, a processional cross and the altar is acknowledged. These things are nowhere to be seen in the average Sydney parish.  They use the variety of liturgies available in the NZ prayer book which I feel are a bit confusing, coming from Australia where there are really only 2 liturgies available. Of course many Sydney parishes ignore set liturgies all together.

The liturgy and hymns are projected on a screen. I now use the screen for hymns but prefer to use the book for the liturgy. The parishioners include a great variety.  In a conversation, one man told me he had been recently been born again and later expressed reservations about the formality of the cathedral services.  Most, however, are middle of the road Anglicans found throughout the world and only seen as "high church" in dioceses like Sydney. They seem oblivious to the dangers of Jensenism, have heard that Sydney does not allow women priests but surprised when I tell them some parishes do not allow women to even speak and have services not remotely resembling Anglican.  Kelvin often preached in support of homosexuals, including my first service there this year, however he is more reticent now that he has become the bishop.  He appears to be unwilling to create divisions. I am rather concerned that his last published sermon was in July at St Matthews, the leading evangelical parish in the city.

This, of course, is the greatest change at St John's.  Kelvin was consecrated bishop of Dunedin at the end of February. It is great to have such a man in that position and also to have a bishop who knows me by name. Last week I attended the service in the Cathedral for the Pike River Miners. Let's face it, I would not have attended such a service in Sydney if one of the bishops was preaching. Kelvin's sermon was, as usual, excellent and thoughtful, speaking of Christian hope without laying it on thick as the Sydney types are wont to do, seeing such an occasion as just another opportunity to evangelise.

St John's is therefore without a vicar. We had 9 months with Roger who was also excellent and his sermons were great fun as well as instructive, though different from Kelvin.  He had retired last year and has just this month left to resume his retirement.  I will leave any judgment of the new acting vicar until I have experienced more than one service with her.

The new vicar is migrating from England and will not be here until next August. He is Reverend Eric Kyte, Priest-in-Charge of the Parishes of Gisburn and Hellifield in the Diocese of Bradford, England.  As I plan to stay with a friend who lives in Bradford next year, I may take a peek. 

St John's has a variety of ages, which is good to see. There are the old codgers like me and many babies and small children. Being an old codger who has no experience of children, grandchildren or even nephews and nieces, I am sometimes (often) irritated by the noise of children during services. The third Sunday is a family service and the children do not go out to Sunday school and the sermon is geared to them. 

I have therefore taken the opportunity to attend Choral Eucharist at the Cathedral of St Paul's on that Sunday. This month there was a children's pageant at St John's on the 2nd Sunday so my routine varied and I went to the cathedral then. The choir and organist are both excellent and the service is more formal, more like St James. The congregation are older and smaller though this is more noticeable due to the size of the cathedral.  Sadly, I hear, there are ructions within the congregation.  Both the Dean and the Bishop have referred to this in their blogs. I do not know the details but it is a matter for prayer. I know there are financial problems due to the recession. They were not unwise, like Sydney, just too careful so income from assets is low. I do wish they would update their webpage.  Of course, the great attraction to me is the presence of Rev Juan Kinnear, a partnered gay man, as Associate Priest. To have him occasionally preaching or presiding and often present is wonderful.

Besides the monthly attendance on Sunday Morning, I have attended for other services such as the Pike River memorial, the Aids memorial, Advent carols two weeks ago and hopefully festival of Nine Lessons and Carols tonight. 

This year I also visited several churches while on my travels. I researched the details of the Anglican churches in Copenhagen and Oslo but when the days came, I decided to spend my time sightseeing rather than trying to find my way through a strange city. Two other Sundays were spent on board ship in Norway and travelling by train from Mainz to Oberammergau. 

However in London I attended Choral Eucharist at Southwark Cathedral. I had heard Dean Slee preach at St James on April 19, 2009 and been impressed. Sadly he was absent when I visited and, as is well known, has since died. The sermon by Dean Jeffrey John at the funeral tell what a great loss that has been to the Anglican church not only in England but throughout the world.  Even without the Dean, it was an uplifting service at the cathedral. 
I went to Evensong at the other cathedral in London the following Thursday.

In New York I attended Choral Eucharist at  Trinity, Wall Street. 
I was travelling the following Sunday from Burlington, Vermont but attended Mother Amelia's parish church of St Andrew, Newcastle, Maine. The new rector is a partnered lesbian. It was very different from the big city churches I otherwise attended on my trip.

In Montreal I went to Christ Church Cathedral. The president was the Priest in charge Rev Canon Joyce Sanchez and the preacher was the Associate priest Rev Karla Holmes. The new Dean has since been announced. Canon Joyce announced that she had just taken up the right to perform marriages again. Apparently she had relinquished the licence in protest at not being able to perform blessings for same-sex couples.That has now changed in the Diocese of Montreal. In researching her online, I discover she is chaplain to Integrity. 
If I had been a week later I would have found all the bishops of Canada at the service as the Canada synod was held there. I probably would not have got in.

My final Sunday was in Ottawa and I discovered an Anglican church in the next block to my hotel.  The church of St John the Evangelist. I did a double take of the notice board until I read it more closely.  It said "Blessed are the fundamentalists for they shall inhibit the Earth" My initial thought to avoid the church completely was soon changed. 
Another notice was "The Lion shall lie down with the Lamb but the Lamb will not get much sleep"
More research discovered that the church has been a leading advocate of gay inclusion and the previous rector may have been gay himself. So I was glad to attend. 
Both Canadian services had innovative music and in Montreal there was a welcome and the first lesson was read in French and in Ottawa the Lord's Prayer was in French. 

So partly on purpose but also by accident I was able to worship in inclusive churches where GLBT people are valued.  So different from most of Sydney.

This item was in my mind while travelling and has been in development online for several weeks. I do not know how some very busy people are able to make several blog items per day. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Prayers please

My sister is to undergo Arthroscopic Knee Surgery tomorrow (Thursday) for a torn cartilege. While it is not serious surgery, I am worried about any general anaesthetic for a person in her mid 70's. She has been in a lot of pain over the last month so hopefully all will be well by Christmas. I am flying over to Sydney on Monday for 10 days anyway. She and her husband are coming over here in February for 3 weeks. We will be spending 8 days travelling and the rest of the time in Dunedin.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


After reading Alcibiades moving account of his father, I feel I should blog about my Dad.

We were never really close. When we were going through Mum's papers, my sister gave me a photo of him. She says I sniffed and put it aside. I cannot find it at the moment. She wrote me an email about how he was proud of me. She was very close to him.

When I was young, my parents went through a bad patch. Dad was running a failing business. He often came home in a foul mood after drinking. The arguments often ended when I burst into tears or had an asthma attack.  Rightly or wrongly I tended to take Mum's side.  My sister did not see much of this as she, although still living at home, was a young adult and often away.
Dad sold the business and went to work for a company and things between Mum and Dad improved but I think the damage had been done. Mum kept his photo by her bedside for the 32 years she lived as a widow.

We did not have much in common.  Dad spent the weekend tinkering with cars. I still know very little more about cars than how to drive. I have never lifted the bonnet of the new car I bought last February and am confused if a new light comes on the dashboard. I do not like driving.
Dad was not a keen sportsman and so he never encouraged me in that area. He had played cricket and was at school with Don Bradman.  I remember my grandfather trying to teach me to catch a ball (without success) but do not remember any games with my father, although we did go swimming at times.

My Grandfather was a staunch Methodist and drove his son away from the church. Dad was a bit bemused at having a son who spent all weekend at church. He did hear me preach and I am grateful that, after his first heart attack, he regularly attended for the last 6 months of his life.  Although my grandfather was a primary school principal, Dad left school at 15 and worked as a salesman. When I at first failed to gain a university scholarship, Mum talked him into allowing me to attend and paying the fees. However he was proud when I gained my degree.

I only once went to the hotel for a drink with him although in the later years of his life I was spending a lot of time drinking.  I was 30 when he died.  I had left on a 9 month world trip just 4 days earlier and had reached Bangkok.  I returned home immediately but, to be honest, that was more to be with Mum than because of any deep feelings for him. He was not cruel, Mum was more the disciplinarian. They were both fairly strict because they had been wild themselves in their younger days.

While I had told Mum I was gay, my father was never told and when I was being "treated" it had to be hidden from him. I have no idea what he would have thought.

Dad was a heavy smoker and I now believe that was a cause of my asthma as a child. Thankfully I grew out of it but I did hate his smoking near me. He only gave up after that first heart attack.

I suppose I now just feel sad that we did not have a close father-son relationship.
I am posting a photo of their wedding in 1930 when Dad was 23 and Mum 21

and at my graduation in 1966 when I was 22 and he was 59. My Sister and Aunt (Mum's much older sister) are also in the photo.
I have now this month reached the same age as he was when he died.