Sunday, September 25, 2005

Northern Ireland

I have been in Northern Ireland now for 4 days. It has been fascinating.

On Thursday my host, David Brown, the Church of Ireland (Anglican) Youth Director, took me for a wee tour of Belfast. Shankhill, Falls Road, along the "Peace lines" where there was rioting, shooting and protest last week. It feels hard and brutal. The murals are so sad. Republican areas fly the Irish flag (which includes the Protestant Orange) and the murals are largely of their glorious dead, and the IRA and Sinn Fein. Loyalist (Protestant) areas are bedecked in red white and blue, little pendants flying zig zagged down the street, like a party, only not. And Union Jacks on every pole. It was oppressive as an NZ republican. And so many of the murals are for the various Paramilitary groups, and depict armed masked men point an automatic weapon out at the viewer. Kids grow up seeing these. It is so sad. In the face of all that I can only say I found Belfast harrowing. The divisions are so deep. It is so hard to see any hope here at all. And the divisions are deepened by unemployment, poverty, drug abuse and alcoholism, and ignorance and fear, even where and perhaps mostly where the two communities meet. Sad.
On Friday I went to the Ulster Museum, and spent quite a while at an exhibition on conflict in Ireland. What I didn't appreciate is the long long almost (it seemed) constant history of conflict in this land. It is steeped in it. It almost seemed that without conflict the Irish wouldn’t know how to define themselves. That perhaps is too bleak, and yet there is a lot of truth in that.

The Guinness is however good.

On Friday I came to Corrymeela. This is a community which for 40 years has worked for peace and reconciliation. It is a safe place for communities to meet and to break down the fear and build relationships. I have sat in with a group using this place for their youth weekend. That has been surreal really. Open Doors has been speaking about persecuted Christians overseas. (Although even they conceded that the reasons they are persecuted are not so clear cut, and are tied in with tribal issues, land issues, and anger at America and the West.) What is surreal is that there is no suggestion on how to apply this back to here, where Catholics and Protestants are persecuted for being Christian by other Christians. The message is "get involved in helping Christians overseas!” But it just felt so weird when there is so so much Christians need to be doing here in Northern Ireland to end inter Christian persecution. How do we hold the tow together I wonder?
I was also left wondering about the wisdom of Open Doors. It does Amnesty International Work for Christians only. But what about non Christians? Should we not care for them? And as I say, too often the real reason for the persecution was too unclear. The danger is that we end up with this Christian ghetto mentality. And if that goes too far, well you can see the results of that here.

What I am left with though is a growing conviction that youth work in Aotearoa New Zealand has to include a large dollop of bridge building and reconciliation work among Pakeha, Maori and PI young people. Training at 3Tikanga youth events has to focus on that for the future of our land and our church. One of the workers who I am attached to talked to me about the need for each side to be strong in their identity. One of the problems here is that Catholics are clear about who they are and have over the last long time built up both a sense of community, and the structures within their communities to maintain those communities. The Protestants have much less idea of who they are apart from Not Catholic, and their communities are much less developed. They have relied on the State, which they can't any more. So they resent that, and the peace process, and everything that takes their identity away. I was struck by the similarities in NZ with Pakeha. The task is there both developing Pakeha identity, and building cross cultural relationships and corporate identity.

I look forward to getting home and talking more about that.

Tomorrow I head off to the south, the Republic.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More of Geneva:

More of Geneva:

Today did not quite happen as expected. Everything takes longer than I expect. I did bus to France to post my packages home. It seemed wrong to catch a bus into another country. But fun. I have sent all my Taizé stuff home and the WCC material as well. Nearly 2kg worth. Then Michael and I went for coffee, a harder thing than expected.
We bussed back to the Ecumenical Centre, where I visited the book shop, thinking the world day of Prayer for Peace service was happening. I thought it was at 12noon, but it was really 12.30. So I sat outside, began reading a book of memoirs by one of the Corrymeale founders, and ate the chocolate bar my family sent over with me in the sun. Lovely.
It was nice to be in a service again. This week is the first time I have not been in regular community prayer since I arrived nearly 4 weeks ago. But I would describe it as stilted liturgy. The kind I think Simon is talking about (see one of the comments down below) I had the same experience last time (12 years ago) after I left Taizé, finding the liturgy we do, ,so full of words such hard work, and longing for the simply chants instead of the lovely hymns, and silence. However, how often do you get to go to a service at the WCC, with the General Secretary, various ambassadors and UN dignitaries, and me? The theme was peace, particularly peace in the Sudan. The Anglican Bishop of Southern Sudan spoke, as well as the UN director of refugee in Sudan.
This afternoon I went to Red Cross / Red Crescent museum. My plan was to spend about an hour there and then go into Geneva and walk around the lake on this fine sunny day. But I ended up being there for about 2 ½ hours. It is a great imaginative display, and I learnt heaps. I did not realize that the founding of the Red Cross and the development of the Geneva Convention is intimately linked, and continues to be linked. Nor did I realise that the Red Cross/Red Crescent are all part of the same federation. I always thought it was separate. What as amazing was that it was formed because one man was appalled at the way the wounded were not cared for during a battle on the 1840’s. Henri Durant went to the battle scene at Soprino (?) organised locals to help care for the wounded on both sides, and then wrote a memoir on what he had experienced, which he sent to European governments, with a proposal to develop a convention to prevent this happening again. A group in Geneva took this on board, and organised this first conventions to help make this a reality. Although initially involved with this, Henri later went bankrupt and was removed from the committee. He disappeared into obscurity until about 1900 when he was found by a journalist, (they do do some good things, or at least they did then) and he was jointly awarded the first Nobel Peace prize. I just think it is a great story both of what a difference one man can make, but also of God’s timing, that at that time his book made such an impact, when at other times it would have been binned.
It was interesting to see how the work of the Red Cross has developed over the years, and the continued tie between The Red Cross/Red Crescent and the Geneva Convention.
So I missed my walk on the lake, and instead had to rush back to Julanne and Michael’s pack, and get ready for the next part of my adventure, Belfast.
13 days till Bonnie joins me.

Geneva

Geneva
I have now been in Geneva for two days, mostly doing study leave stuff and also being a tourist.
But first, Taize! Saturday and Sunday were very hard. It was really hard attending services for the last time. I have so enjoyed being here, worshipping in this way. And to know that this could be the last time I was attending each of the services, maybe ever was a very disturbing thing. And saying goodbye to people who had become friends and who I know I will never see again was sad. And finally, I was almost the last to leave. And that felt profoundly lonely. But also good. I appreciated the time in the afternoon in the church journaling and praying. It was a good way to finish.

So now Geneva. What a beautiful city, and so much here.
Monday I went to World Council of Churches. I discovered that the General Assembly next year has a youth focus, and that churches have been asked to nominate young people to come as delegates. The youth person is really struggling to get nominations, and asked if I had any. But we knew nothing about that, so nominated our people as stewards. I have to say I am annoyed at my church that has lost this information, and a great opportunity for young people has been lost.
But it was good meeting staff people, finding out what they do, and also getting linked in with them. I am hopeful that we can use that information in the future to get some Aotearoa-New Zealand young people involved in International things, for the benefit of them and for our church. This is something I want to pursue as I think there is a lot to be gained through this kind of exposure. To take young people out of their comfort zones and to allow them to find God in new situations and in new ways, and then to work with them on how to reintegrate that once they return home.
I remember a wise person once saying that 80% of our effort should go in to 20% of the people. I also remember hearing how a leading evangelical in England decided if they were to have any impact they needed to grow a whole generation of new leaders. So they concentrated their work in Cambridge and Oxford, and out of that came David Watson and Michael Green, and others. It is that kind of work I want to do with internship programmes and by taking young people to Israel and Taize. There could also be some money available for some of our programmes in the future as well. Well worth the visit.

Today I went to Franciscan International. I hope I have blogged about this earlier. This has grown out of the North American Catholic Franciscan Orders and their desire to work with the UN. Initially based in New York, they are now also established in Geneva. The Geneva headquarters is where all the human rights work is done, and FI here has become an advocate for human rights, eradication of poverty, peace and reconciliation work, and the integrity of creation. It is now a $1,000,000 a year operation, not only doing advocacy work, but trying to work with Franciscans on the ground to develop this work at the grass roots level. I went as a NZ Anglican Franciscan who is really interested in seeing us in New Zealand take ownership of this and get involved. I also went as someone wanting to us it to offer the Franciscan Charism to young people.
The good thing is that they are Franciscan, not Catholic, and we as Anglicans are part of this. I was really well received, and spent about an hour with the Director, Fr John Quigley OFM, and his PA, and the communications person. It was a great meeting, both talking about how FI could appear ecumenical rather than catholic. We also talked about how to get young people from NZ involved. I am again really excited about this, and hope next year to have one person do some short term stuff with them.
They fed me lunch, hooked my computer into the network, and just really really looked after me. It was just so nice and affirming to be there as a Franciscan. At Taize, I was introduced as a Franciscan Priest, once people knew that I was one. I have never really thought of myself in that way. It took me by surprise, and I almost tried to deny it. But that is who I am, and being at FI today helped cement that. I guess the question is how do I lived that out??

I also talked with my family, and that was really nice. And I did tourist stuff, including walking through the old city, and visiting the reformation museum, which was great. It only dawned on me that this is one of the birthplaces of the Reformation. It is a bit off in that the museum almost claims all Western advances have been due to Protestants, and plays up the Catholic repression, and doesn’t mention Luther’s repression of other reformers for example. But hey, still all good stuff. Even the Pents get a mention Simon!
Tomorrow I go to France to post some stuff home. It is cheaper there. Geneva is surrounded by France basically. I will also go the to Red Cross/Crescent museum (it too was founded here) and join a World Day Of Prayer For Peace service at WCC. Then maybe a trip on the lake, then dinner and time to catch the plane to Belfast. I am so looking forward to that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Thoughts about Taize

Here are some random and initial thoughts about my time in Taize

The sense of welcome and coming home I felt even as I arrived and saw Casa there, and the welcome signs. There was so much still uncertain, and yet, I felt welcome and at home. At peace I think I would call it. It was just so good to be here.
And then going to night prayer at 8.30, having rushed down some very welcome simple dinner, and first breathing in the sights and the sound of the singing, being embraced by that, and almost floating in that, and then looking up straight ahead to Brother Alois, the new Prior sitting only meters away, and realising that only 3 ½ weeks earlier, in this most sacred place, in this service of worship that is so soaked with the presence of God and the sense of God’s peace, Brother Roger was murdered, there, only meters in front of me, and in front of all these brothers, gathered peacefully, and in front of all those young people, gathered for prayer at the beginning of their week searching with God.
Everything took on new meaning for me then, Each song, the scripture reading, the response, the silence, each seemed a testimony to both Brother Rogers life, and the communities ongoing struggle to both celebrate that and grieve its ending.

My physical shift in the worship from sitting on the side, and facing across the church, to sitting on the floor, and facing not people, but the icons, the candles, the crucified one, there in front of me. That has been a profound shift, and one that I am glad to have been brave enough to make. I have sat around the church, facing different icons and being with different people. It has been amazing.
The night prayer has been most profound for me. It ends with the crucified Christ being brought out to the centre of the church, and young people (and others) coming to sit at his feet, and to be shaped, moved, whatever by that. I have been deeply affected by this. It has been great to meditate and contemplate in this way, from off to the side slightly. My hunch is that that music and that experience will keep haunting me and shaping me over the weeks and months ahead. But I will also need to attend to it, and be more deliberate with my prayer life, for that work to continue.

A theme if you like for me over recent times has been the story of Francis and the Leper. It has nagged at me and kept coming up. In Assisi I walked back from San Maria Maggiore so that I could be somewhere near where he encountered the leper for the first time, and discovered Christ in those he most feared and loathed. It is like I am being called to be and do likewise. Not an easy thing really. Easier to type here than to do or even want to do really. When the groups formed, I was part of a group that looked like it would be great fun. But one of our member decided we were too big, and negotiated we split with another group, and I felt obliged to go to make it work, because no-one else was moving. I almost immediately regretted it, but have learnt to love each of the people there, and to catch glimmers of Christ in them. Just glimmers. I am now glad I moved. It might have been more fun and easier in the other group, but this had been more enriching. I have a long way to go, but have made some little little strides.
What has intrigued me and what has irritated me and what has blessed me is the smallness of most of the others world view. Some always answer with a very nice story or answer that is about them and their church. I wish I could answer like that. My answers are always so big, about the whole church or denomination or church in that province, or the world or whatever. Bigger scale and therefore more troubled. But that is our different gifts. They see the small, particular, I see the macro. We need both, to hear both, to appreciate both. I have learnt to do that to some degree.
What I have enjoyed is the range of people, from retired couple from England, to retired occupational psychologist from Sweden, to teacher from Portugal (who is just over 30), to Christian Psychologist from Northern Germany, to OFM Cap brother from Portugal, who works in Angola, to a teacher from Italy and a volunteer worker from Romania.

I have greatly enjoyed Brother Wolfgang’s talks each day as he has led us gently in Acts. He speaks to us in English, French and German, which is either very difficult to follow, (I know I have missed bits when I realise he has finished in German and has been speaking in English with his German accent for awhile) but it has also been really nice ot have the break to write notes in and keep up. I have not always done well, (I fell asleep yesterday) but have enjoyed it. What I have really enjoyed is the way he has linked the story he is talking about with other stories in scripture, both the Ancient Testament (as he calls it) and the New Testament. In my own preaching I feel the need to do likewise. It is so helpful. And I do enjoy the gentle way the brothers introduce us to the God who so profoundly loves us in a way that those who are theologically trained grow, and those who have profound questions grow.
Yesterday and today he has talked about Cornelius and Peter. Several things have struck me in his talk.
· That the visions come in two. Cornelius and Peter. Both sides! That gives me hope in a world and in a church so divided, that on each side there are angles come to people and/or they are receiving visions that will put them offside with the rest of their ilk, but will move the situation to one of peace. Israel and Palestine, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Sudan, the Anglican Communion, Maori and Pakeha in New Zealand. I feel so much less despondent. God is at work.
· The link between Peter’s vision and Jesus’ request to wash Peter’s feet before the last supper. Both times Peter said “Never Lord” and both times Jesus replied that it needed to happen for Peter to be with Jesus. What really struck me was that the washing of the feet was not just an historical event. It is an ongoing event. Jesus not only asked the disciples to wash their feet, but he says to me “I must wash your feet”. Wow! What do I do with that, and what does that do to how I live my life? As Wolfgang said to me later, “…and then you are to go and wash others feet. That is how we live.” That is part of the reconciliation and peace that the angels/visions bring above. Maybe the Taize community are the angels of our world, in which people from all nations, denominations, theologies come and see a vision fro what might be, and are changed by that like Peter and Cornelius?

Lastly I must comment about the food. It is not a lot, but it is enough. I suspect and hope I have lost weight, but maybe not. Coffee has been a struggle, with hot water only being available once a day at brekky, but I have managed my way around that. I have enjoyed being hungry (except at the end of brekky and during midday prayer.) I wish I was better at eating like this at home.
Well that is enough. This has so far been a profound time and place. I do wish I could come here more than once very 12 years. Maybe I can. I would love to bring Kate and Michael here. I would love to bring NZ young people here. Maybe, maybe!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Phew

Phew
What an amazing few days.
Friday was an intense day with Francis. I went up to the Hermitage, where you can feel the presence of Francis and his early brothers. I walked the hour UP the road, and once I arrived I sat and prayed and wrote poetry there for a couple of hours.
After I came back I revisited the lower basilica of St Francis, and his tomb, which has five of his most faithful friends buried around the outside edge. It was an amazing experience to be in their presence twice in one day. I finished by praying before the crucifix, arms outstretched, as Francis encouraged his followers to do. An odd thing to do with hundreds of tourists around, but amazing. I mean, who knew me anyway!
Dorothy, Anne and I were going to try and have a Eucharist at the Franciscan Ecumenical Centre, but failed to raise anyone, so had an informal one at a local café. The quirky thing was when we got back from dinner we discovered an Anglican Eucharist nearly finished in the chapel at the guest house we were in. A group of American Episcopalians who were mostly Third Order were there on tour, they were amazed to discover their new Minster General, and sad like u s we had not been able to join them. Still, good to meet them.
Saturday was up early and off to Rome. St Johns Lateran, The Vatican and St,. Peters, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain were all explored. The only down side was loosing my kangaroo skin sun hat. I am sure I wore it all the way back to our room, but I could not find it this morning. Weird! I took about 100 photos for my daughter, Kate, who is very interested in Rome. It is an amazing city. At once historical with amazing building and history, and then dirty, difficult to find you way round the narrow little streets which are full of pot holes and rubbish, and quite rude Italians.
Today again up early, taxi to Campiano airport (I chickened out trying to get public transport to somewhere I didn’t know by 6.30am), excess baggage fee, and then off to Geneva. I have spent 4 hours wandering around, cruising, looking ofr and internet café. I eventually slumped into a Starbucks (God forgive me) to discover wireless. So off I went and got my lap top, and now this is being typed
In an hour I go to Taize for a week. I am pretty sure I will not be online again until I get back here in a week.
Till then
Ciao

Friday, September 09, 2005

Assisi Three

Today has been huge in so many ways.

We three set off down the hill after morning prayers to find San Damiano. It is about 1.5 km out of town down a steep hill, though olive groves. This wee church was where Francis heard the crucified Christ ask him “to rebuild my church” He took this literally, and rebuilt not only the run down San Damiano, but also several other churches in the Assisi region.

San Damiano became the place of residence for Clare and her followers, and so is significant for the second order as well. The Poor Clares as they are called moved to the new basilica when Clare died, and the OFM friars now fun the site. Unlike the basilicas up in the town proper, tourists don’t tend to go here. It is a simple little church, which a replica of the crucifix that hung there in Francis and Clare’s time. (The real one hangs in The Basilica of St. Clare) It was deeply moving to pray there, and in the various other rooms and chapels from Clare’s time. To be in the place where these astounding people of God lived and prayed, and in Clare’s case, died. We also saw where Francis wrote most of his Canticle to the Creatures.

As I sat in the small church before the crucifix, I became aware that my own calling is to rebuild Christ’s church. Certainly I do not claim any grand status like Francis, but by working among young people, I and others like me are called to rebuild the church with these young people. I had never quite considered my ministry like that before, and it was very humbling and weighty.

We then walked on down the hill and on for another 3 or so km, may be longer, to the Rivo Torto. Here a church has been built over the hut that Francis and his first followers tried to live in before being driven out by an angry farmer. As I sat out side this small hut I could imagine Francis and his brothers saying the office, reading scripture together, and singing praises to God, filled with the joy of the strange life they were embarking on together.

After a bite, we set out for another 5-6 km walk to St. Mary and all Angels, where the Portiuncula, or Little Portion is housed. This is the wee small church given to St, Francis by the Benedictines to live near and to pray in. Some traditions say this is the pace he heard the gospel on 24 Feb (my birthday), the feast of St. Matthias, which inspired him to follow lady poverty. If this is true it is the birth pace of the Order of Friars Minor and the Franciscan Family. It became his home. It became the place the General Chapters met. And it was the place Francis came back to to die.

The last time I was here 13 years ago, I hated both the church it is housed in (a very ugly Italian Basilica) and the frescoes painted all over it. It seemed to be counter the very simplicity that Francis lived for. This time I ignored the basilica. The frescoes I noted are not so ornate, and speak of Francis’ life. I was deeply moved to be able to go in and pray in this very holy site. To touch the walls that Francis rebuilt. To pray where he and his early brothers prayed. I was with my family as I knelt there. I then walked around, finding the place he died, the place of his cell where he lived and prayed when in Assisi, and other sites. It was a profoundly anchoring experience.

The other two bused back, and I then walked the road back to Assisi, looking for Via Francesco. This is not about Francis, but is about his nick name. It was the main road between Rome and France. It was here that Francis met the leper early on in his conversion. Up to this point he had turned his face away, usually riding on (as he would as the son of a wealthy merchant) although occasionally giving them alms. But on one occasion he got down from his horse, and not only gave money, but kissed the leper, embracing him and all his foulness, and all his own fear and loathing. At that moment it is said he saw the face of Christ in the leper’s face. This moment changed him completely, and is almost more important than the crucifix speaking to him, or hearing the gospel in Luke on St. Matthias day. He returned to the leper hospital regularly after that, loving those people as if they were Christ. He made all his early brothers under holy obedience do likewise, that they could learn to see Christ in the most despised and hosted in his society. As I walked down this road, I was very aware of how much I do not see the face of Christ in others, especially those I struggle with, and how much I have to learn. I had ignored the beggars at St. Mary’s, I had grumbled at the noisy tourist parties. I had not loved!

I continued up the steep hill back to Assisi, stopping at two other churches on the way that I had not visited before. I think I walked almost 20km all up today. I am very tired!!!
Tonight on the way to dinner I found a statue to Francis’s parents. His father who he so publicly broke with, even though he was lonely trying to look after his “mad” son. And his mother who broke her own heart and the heart of her husband freeing Francis from the cell in their home, releasing him to his outrageous calling. She knew they could not save him, and had to let him go be who God called him to be. As I stood before that statue I was very aware of their pain and sense of failure, and their love. As a parent I stood with them and wondered what I would do.

It has been a very heavy day. It has been wonderful. It has rained gently most of the afternoon. God has been with us every wet step. I am profoundly grateful to have had the chance to return here.
I will attempt to load some photos, but they wouldn’t go up this morning. We shall see.

This could be my last pasting for over a week. We have one day left in Assisi. I hope to go to the Hermitage which is about 5 km up Mount Subasio. It is where Francis and his early brothers would go to pray. A very special place. Then Saturday we are off to Rome early in the morning. I have been going to the internet café early in the morning to do my email and blog posting, so will not get a chance then. (I have been typing this up in the evening, saving it my little key, and then taking it down first thing in the morning to send or upload) And then on Sunday I fly early in the morning to Geneva, and then train to Taize. So it may be the 19th, when I return to Geneva for 3 days before I get a chance to email again

I leave you with the prayer I have prayed in every church and holy site.

May all those who enter be filled with the peace of God, and that they will work for that peace to be established throughout the world

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Assisi in word

Yesterday Dorothy Brooker, Anne Moody and I (all having been at IPTOC) travelled from London through Rome to Assisi.

Once we arrived at the guest house of St. Anthony, we wandered down to the Basilica of St. Chiara (Clare). The crucifix that Francis and Clare prayed before, and which so shaped their lives is in one of the side chapels in the Basilica. It was a profound thing to pray before it as well. We then enjoyed the jazz being played, the café lifestyle, and finding places that Dorothy and I had been to on previous trips, like Casa Papa Giovanni Guest House. After and early night, we had a good night sleep.

So good I failed to hear my alarm this morning, and so ran out of time to do much online. Hence the pictures alone on the last posting. I barely got those up.

Today we went to the Basilica of St. Francis. This was an interesting experience for me. To cope with the number of pilgrims coming to be near the remains of the saint, Brother Elias, at the Popes instruction, built two basilicas shortly after Francis’ death, one on top of the other, in different styles. The Lower Basilica is much darker; lower roofed, and moved me greatly last time. It was not as cave like as I remembered it, and it was not quite as breath taking away. What did move me this time was the chapel built around the stone coffin of Francis, set in the wall above and behind the altar. To be so close to his remains somehow takes you back to Francis and all that he lived for. I found that evocative and challenging. Several of his closest companions were also buried around the outside wall. It was like being with them somehow, which was very humbling. The relic’s chapel has “the” first rule that Francis wrote and the Pope signed, and the blessing he gave Brother Leo. It also has the trumpet horn that the Sultan gave Francis as a gift during his visit.
The upper basilica moved me in ways it did not last time. I did not like it then, but this time enjoyed the more Gothic style, and the airiness that gives the place. I also really enjoyed Giotto’s frescoes, and the story they tell of Francis life.

There are some outstanding frescoes in both basilicas which tell both the story of Francis’ life, but also and more importantly the gospel story. The frescoes of Francis are designed to invite us into the gospel through the life of Francis, to make it more real somehow. In the Lower basilica they act as train tracks, Francis on one side, Jesus on the other, which take you to the altar (built over Francis’ coffin) on which the resurrected Jesus is met in the bread and the wine.

There is much about these places that makes me struggle. The devotion to Mary and the pictures that evokes are not my thing. The fact that there is a Papal palace built behind, and the richness of some of the icons and relics makes you wonder what Francis would make of it all. Not much I fear. But rather than getting steamed, it is so much more life giving to go and experience God there as the designers hoped, and to be inspired and invited into a more profound way of understanding the gospel, and what that might mean for my life. I lit some candles as I left, praying that all those who enter these basilicas would know God’s peace, and would work to bring God’s peace into the world.

May all those that read this get that opportunity one day.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Travel Log

This is just going to be a travel log.














Since I arrived nearly two weeks ago I have mainly be in Canterbury. Some highlights of my
time there have included both the tour of the
Cathedral, and then a candlelight pilgrimage around the Cathedral with reflections and prayers at various important places. Our final service was in the undercroft, and our new Minister General was commissioned. She is the Rev Dorothy Brooker from NZ, the first woman to hold this post.

It was also good getting a broader vision for what we as Franciscans can be and do.

I really enjoyed getting to know other Franciscans from around the world, and from the other orders.

I would also have to say going to Whitstable on the coast, for Fish and Chips on Friday night and a pint was pretty cool as well.

Yesterday I came up to Staines, near Heathrow. Today I went into London, and met up with Lydia, a young woman from Tauranga who is over here on her big OE. We voted, and did our bit to keep the evil blue horde at bay. We visited a friend who does my job for the C of E, who took us to the church commissioners for lunch. We also did Westminster Abbey.

Tomorrow I am off to Rome, and Assisi until Saturday. That will be great.
More later.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Franciscans and liturgy

I have now been in England for a week. I am attending the Inter-Provincial Third Order Chapter of the Society of Saint Francis. I am one of three people from the New Zealand and Melanesia Province. There are also three from the Provinces of Europe, the America’s, Australia and Africa. This is also a joint meeting with our First Order brothers and sisters. We pray together, have input together, eat together, study scripture together, but meet in our separate orders.

The Third Order is an "Order" within the Franciscan Family. It comprises people who find the life of Saint Francis attractive, and feel a call or vocation to live by the principles he lived by.
We are a dispersed community of women and men, some married, some single, living in our own homes and doing our own jobs. We are a community in that we pray for each other, we meet when we are able, and we encourage one another in living and witnessing to the Christian life. We are a community in that we share the greater calling follow Jesus in the way of Francis.

While being an autonomous order in our own right, we are closely linked to the Franciscan Brothers and Sisters of the First Order and Second Orders. In the Anglican Church, members of the Third Order are known as Tertiaries.
In trying to become the persons we were created to be we each keep a Rule of Life, tailored to individual needs, which contains the following main elements:

· The Eucharist
· Penitence
· Self Denial
· Retreat
· Study and Reading
· Simplicity
· Work and Service
· Spiritual Counsel
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It has been really interesting given the last few posts and comments on liturgy. This whole thing is surrounded in liturgical prayer, morning prayer from the office book, eucharist, and evening prayer, and on occasions night prayer. I have had two responses. One has been overwhelmed by the huge number of words. There are a lot of words in these services. Most of them are straight from scripture. At one level it is not very exciting. We recite the words with little inflection. Just slowly reading them. And some we read every day. Some might say boring and not from the heart.
Yet at another level I am aware of how powerfully forming this kind of prayer is. In one of the comments my friend Simon talks about the importance of prayer from the heart being the most important thing. Well, I don’t agree. Prayer that forms the heart is the most important thing. And that is what good liturgy does. It is what any worship does, any thing we do repeatedly forms us. So while I agree that worship needs to engage us, it also has to have the depth for form us deeply. This might sound arrogant, and I don’t mean to be, but liturgy based on scripture, which most liturgy is forms us in profound and deep ways that are only apparent in retrospect. I went to a Pentecostal service recently with so little scripture I nearly wept. (interestingly I am supposed to be the liberal, and they the bible believing Christians) And I wonder what will form them. Songs of spurious theology that in the end will fail to take them anywhere. Yes they were engaged, but at what cost?

So how then do we find the middle ground and engage yet offer depth?