Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Priested 20 years ago today

Twenty years ago I was ordained an Anglican Priest by Archbishop Brian Davis in Feilding. 20 years!!!! I struggle to believe it has been that long. 20 years and never a vicar. Is that something to be proud of???? And I have only worn a clerical collar sic times in those years, and not for my priesting either (I did for my deaconing to keep mum happy) Is that something to be proud of?

Some reflections:
Leadership: It has been a gift to be a priest and yet to spend most Sundays in the congregation. I get a glimpse into both worlds. And the worlds are different. It still amazes me how many clergy think of their parish as “theirs” to do with as they see fit, and then get really surprised when laity get grumpy. We need to find models where lay and ordained are able to work much better together. We need new models of leadership really.

Catholic: One of the joys of going to international Franciscan things has been experiencing a more catholic approach to worship, in the sense of being more contemplative, and more reverential. To see priests kiss the altar and preside with deep humility and devotion I find moving. There is mystery involved here. We need to be still much stiller in the face of that mystery. But also the actions, which involved the whole body in worship, and remind us of the out of the ordinariness of what we do. In worship we encounter the Living God, God most holy, God most just, in whom there is only love. To bow, to cross yourself, to kneel, to pray with hands outstretched, all that reminds us of the mystery of what we are doing, and of the enormity of what we are doing. God is present among us in bread and wine. How then do we approach.

Prayer: When I was ordained I did not get the daily office. It seemed so dry and boring. I entered it wrongly though. I was looking for deep and profound thoughts. I was looking for big stuff. I had not reckoned on the slow sanding going on through the words of scripture, and the ancient texts. I had not reckoned on God slow but profoundly changing me from within in the stillness and silence. I had forgotten I am much more than my conscious mind. Prayer is about al of me, and is about God’s actions in me and in the world, not about my consciousness of God, not about my thoughts. It took me a long time to get that. It is quiet liberating really.

Our role: To be a priest is to have a particular role in the community of faith. That role is one of leadership, but not to be the big cheese, not to be the one with the vision, not to be the one on whom all rests. It is to work with the community to develop a vision; to create a sense of identity based on God’s call to mission; to create life giving worship and to ensure that people are cared for. We play a pivotal role, but it is just one role. I have always thought of the church as a circle not a pyramid, with the priest in the middle, not at the top.

Love: Another role is to love. St. Francis desired to know the depth of god’s love in the passion, so that he might love as deeply. For that he was given the stigmata. That too is the role of the priest. To love with the love of God it is much less about what we do, and much more about who we are. We are called to be anchored in love, so that others might be anchored in Love. You can be a highly efficient and successful pragmatic leader, and things may be going well from an organisational point of view, but if they do not love, and if they do not know love, then what is the point. The church becomes little more than and Rotary club. But when we love as God loved on the cross, people can be changed, and something happens. It is not always huge or world changing. But it is profound. Then people are changed by love. Some of the best priests I have known were not the most efficient, and not many great things happened. But people knew God’s love, and that love radiated. To be a priest is to love. That love is based on our prayer, that time we spend in that most frivolous of activities, being still in God. Being a priest is not so much about efficiency and management or leadership. It is about gathering people around God’s love, and helping those people join in God’s way of love in the world today. To also spend time in frivolous prayer, to also learn to love.

Wiffle waffle: Well that is very waffley, and probably doesn’t say much. In short, who I am in God is way more important than what I do and what I wear. 20 years of lessons, and so many more to learn. Amen.

Yusuf Islam

While I was on Long Island I was re-introduced to Yusuf. I knew his music years ago when he was Cat Stevens. He has now put out another album called "An Other Cup". And it is great. Some of it is like the old Cat Stephens. Some lyrically is deeply influenced by his Islamic faith, and one or two are musically influenced by the Arabic style. It is a joy to listen to. But not so available in New Zealand. You can order it on-line though "Real Groovy". Enjoy.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fidel and Che

On Monday I had a basal cell cut out of my head, and have had to take things very quietly so as not to do anything nasty to the stitches.
As part of my taking things quietly I watched a DVD of a TV mini-series called Fidel and Che.
It was not the greatest thing I have ever watched But two things stood out for me. The first was a a statement at the end of the “movie” by Fidel to America. “Before 1959 your policy towards Cuba was to exploit. After 1959 it was to destroy. Your policy is that American businesses should be able to sell what they like to who they want where they want, with your military backing them up, and the CIA assassinating anyone who stands in their way. And you call this democracy?” It summed it up for me really. And Castro stood strong against that and was determined that Cuba made decisions for Cubans to benefit, and not American businesses.
The second was associated with this, and is a warning to anyone in leadership. He became entwined with his vision. It was his vision for Cuba, and to challenge that vision was to challenge Castro. Because of that he became incapable of hearing alternate views, of changing direction, of trying to achieve different goals. It became about him. The result was that he lost friends and supporters how became isolated. And Cuba suffered.
Sadly I see that on a smaller scale in churches, where ordained leaders have believed the line that they are the ones to come up with the vision, and then that becomes about them, and not the vision. This creates such unnecessary conflict and disillusionment. It is tragic. How ca I be a leader that allows the vision to emerge from the people I am among, and to not make it about me, so that I am free to allow that vision to change and adapt over time?
As some of us wonder about new ways of being church, this will be a crucial thing to keep in mind.

Monday, October 08, 2007

what to do now we have lost to france

Again! Who can believe it?
Anyway, here are my thoughts about how to win the next world cup:

Keep Graham Henry - he is one of our most successful coaches ever

Loose every game between now that then so that people don’t pump up just because they are playing the All Blacks

Only play if we get real refs and real touch judges - no more people in their first big game who clearly have no idea what a forward pass is, or what a deliberate block is either, come the think of it.

Only go if we can play in black. What is it with the silver? What are we, the all silvers??? Give me a break.

Give up. We can’t win it. So what??? We are the best team in the world. They can keep their silly little cup. Ours are much bigger anyway.

Friday, October 05, 2007

New York

I have been home a week now. In between meeting with bishops and trying to catch up on sleep, I have struggled to do much, hence the lack of a posting.
Anyhow here are some thoughts on New York: I began writing them on the flight home.

I was in Union Square, New York a couple of nights ago. It is one of my favourite places in New York. There is always something happening there, always!!!! It is not really glitzy, It is a quite space in the midst of noise and mayhem, of the need to be somewhere. As I walked through last night, there were heaps of couples sitting, talking, kissing, just being together. It was so nice. I missed Bonnie a lot at that moment, but it was nice to see couples being happy to be together. And dispersed throughout these couples were homeless people trying to sleep on the benches. There were others just sitting, students and others reading in the darkly lit area. There is this great mixture of life: love, despair, discomfort, joy, grief, all mixed up in one place. And you can walk though it, take part in it, sit and enjoy it, or rush past. You choose. At least I could choose. Some of those there do not choose. They have run out of most of their choices. That is Union Square. I love it. I love being able to be there and soak it up.

I went back this morning, had breakfast in a diner, and then wondered through the farmers market that is there four days a week. I was nice to see all the produce on sale, fruit and veges, breads, organic baking, jams and preserves, meat. Seeds, even grass. A little further round is the dog place, where only people with dogs and dogs with people can enter. There were little dogs, and big dogs, all running around, and owners dealing with what dogs do. A great way to finish my time.

So highlights:
Being with Masud and Janice for those four days. I was looked after so well

Living at Little Portion friary for the meeting of the TSSF ministers. I loved the chapel, and loved the rhythm of prayer in that place. It was very nice being with them all.

Spending time with the ministers. I had met most before, but it was good to meet David from South Africa. The meeting was good too. A highlight was planning to have a Franciscan prayer presence at Lambeth next year. Part of me thinks that far too much energy is going into this debate. And part of me thinks that we need to do something. To allow more voices to be heard, and to just pray together. I am excited about that.

I was taken to the Catholic Worker by Terry, a TSSF member who lives in E 1st St in Manhattan. The theme was forgiveness, but at the meeting it was clear that those who live and work among the poorest felt very frustrated, and very committed.
Finally, just wondering around was such fun. Watching the rugby in a bar in Bleeker St. with a Man U /Chelsea game going on behind me was bizarre. I kept having to remind myself that I was in New York.
Enough for now.

Francis, Clare and the Holy Cross

Yesterday was the feast of St. Francis, when we celebrate Francis, and remember his transitus from this life to the next.
A few weeks agao I preached in the Bronx on Holy Cross day. I had no idea what that was about. I found out it was when tradition St. Helena (Roman Emperor Constantines mum) found the true cross in Jerusalem, on the site of what is now Holy Sepulchre.

In my sermon I talked about how John saw the cross as the point of Jesus glorification, not the ressurection or ascension. I then used Francis and Clare to explore what that might mean. I was amazed at how much of my conversations with Masud informed that.
Any way, here are soem jotted thoughts from my notes:

Francis and Clare faced their own absolute poverty in the absolute poverty Christ on cross:
Only in realising own poverty were able receive great gift of love from God
If we do not face own poverty we end up constantly trying do things in our own strength
Trying to prove to selves and others deserving we are
Don’t we do that
Working to show what good Christians we are
Parents/ husbands wives. Sons daughters
Good workers we are
How deserving we are of peoples attention,
Peoples love and care
God’s love and care
Constantly trying to prove my own value and importance
And it is such a huge burden.
I meet so many people who try to earn love and respect
Trying to build self esteem on gifts and abilities and how people see them and relate to us, -
it wears them down
and they miss simple truth
That we are profoundly and deeply loved by God, who gave all away for us, so that we might give all away for God:
That is what the cross is about
We cannot earn this
We do not need to strive or try to earn this
We just need to live in that love, knowing that outside this love we are nothing, inside we are everything.

The cross says let go. Rest in God’s love

The cross says you are no more important than anyone else, so stop trying to be

The cross says you are no less important that anyone else, so let go

The cross says you are deeply loved by God. Live only in that love.

Not about you and me, but about us

On Cross Christ declared in most profound way Gods deep in infinite love for all humanity, for all creation, including you and me
There is no greater glory than that.
In death Christ loved and so was glorified