Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Larry Norman passes on to the next life

I just received this from a friends bog. Larry is gone. When I was younger he was so influential. I loved his music. He showed me Christians could do rock. It was sooo cool. And his concerts were great. So great. I have an abiding memory of him playing solo, and just holding us all with his playing and singing. Great times. We have lost a great soul.

May you rest in God's peace, and rise in glory

Friday, February 22, 2008

My Reflections on the recent Theological Hui in Auckland

Last week I went to a theological hui run at our Theological College, to ehlp us use Romans to explore our life and unity as a church.

Kathy Glieb did two main presentations which were really really helpful.

To start as she did with an exploration of why Paul wrote this letter and what it purpose was helped put the whole thing in context, and made it much more useful for us today as a church. Paul wrote this book to the divided churches in Rome. Yes churches, not church. They were seriously split. And if you read the book you will see the theological reasons for those splits. Paul needed the support of those churches to help in his proposed mission to Spain. He needed to overcome some of the negative things that had been said about him, particularly that he was not friend to the Jewish Christian church, And he needed the churches to focus on what united them, the gospel and their common mission, rather than on what divided them, so that they could support this mission. Hence the letter. Isn’t it interesting how we use that same book today to justify further dividing the church, and taking the focus of what unties us, rather than on what divides us?

In that light I returned to the now oft quoted passage from Romans 1 20-28. Now we could get into a discussion about what is natural (short hair for men for a start) and what is not? But more important is what comes after v. 28. And even more importantly, the beginning of chapter 2. “Therefore, you have no excuses, whoever you are, when you judge others, for in passing judgement on one another you condemn yourself, because you the judge are doing the very same things.” The very same things?? Are we all gay?? No, but we all do the same shameless acts. This list wasn’t put there to decide who was in and out, but to show how no-one deserved to be in. We are all in the same boat. All!!

A second reflection is based on one of the summary statements, about how some are asked to walk further and give more that others in our church. Now this was aimed at the demands place on gay and lesbian people by some. But I also thought of one of the reflections at the end of the first night. Jim Biddle pointed out that although he is in Te Manawa o Te Wheke, he still belongs to Waiapu. He was baptised, confirmed and ordained in the Diocese. It is part of who he is. But the asked, do Pakeha have any notion of the Hui Amorangi being part of who they are? Do we even know the names of the Hui Amorangi, or of their Pihopa? The answer for some is no. Do we understand the financial constraints our tikanga partner in the mission of our church operates under? Do we care?

As a diocese, we divided up our Trusts after the new constitution was put in place. We did our bit. And then we have for many of us largely forgotten about the Hui Amorangi we share this land and this mission with. We give generously to mission overseas; we give generously to CWS, and to World Vision. We never think of giving an equal amount to the work of either Te Tai Rawhiti or to Manawa o Te Wheke. That they virtually have no stipendiary priests. That their minita-a-iwi work for nothing, for long hours, with expenses not covered at times escapes us. Meanwhile the Pou Tokomanawa Fund struggles to gather adequate fund to offer any of note to our tikanga partners. I felt challenged by this event to think about my own attitude and giving Do I see Te Pihopatanga of Aotearoa as part of who I am as an Anglican? Do I seek to resource it in its work? Do I invite others to do likewise? Do I focus on the mission that unites us rather than the cultures and structures that separate us?

Thank you Kathy for this great introduction and timely reminder.

Young Lives New Life:

This is a talk given at the Hamilton Ministers Winter Lectures, August 2007. It has taken me awhile to type it up!

To start with, who am I?
I am an Anglican priest, who has worked in youth ministry fro the last 20 years, both in the Methodist and Anglican churches
I am a Franciscan
I have a deep interest in spiritual formation
And I am a husband, and a father of three children

The topic, “Young Lives, New Life” can be read in a variety of ways.
It can be read as meaning the new life “we” offer young people
This way fits with picture we are constantly given of young people
As either lost, hurt, in need
Or out of control, drunk, being hoons on the road, or as violent or viscous criminals.
From my own experience, nether of these pictures are very accurate. In fact my experience would suggest the opposite is true. The Australian survey across 15-30 year olds reveals that at least in Australia young people are happy and content, in fact are optimistic about the future.
So what is another way of reading this title?
Maybe it could be about the new life offered to us by young people?

For many of us the world we live in now is very different from the one we grew up in. Let’s use two television programmes to explore what I mean.
When I grew up, one of my TV heroes was Captain James Kirk of the USS enterprise, of Star Trek
He was a hero
He led his crew on a voyage of discovery
The truth was out there, to be discovered, through rational objective evidence, and they sought it in there star ship
Sought it through discipline and science
This Truth would lead them to a better life, and progress
Everyone on that star ship had a clear sense of purpose, and there were clear boundaries and clear rules.

Today my favourite programme is Boston Legal
William Shatner is once again the leader, but a very different kind of leader.
And truth is no longer an objective reality waiting to be discovered, but depends very much on my standpoint and experience
So Denny Crane and Alan Shaw have very different truths
The moral boundaries are very fuzzy
The purpose of their endeavours is not so clear
Decisions are made by groups, not individuals (which begs the question who is the leaser, and what is their role?)
Themes such as relationships, participation and living in the now are very important,
And morality becomes very relative

These two programmes come out of and mirror two very different worlds.
Today: Screens are more important than books, {contrast how much time young people spend in front of some kind of screen (phone, computer, TV) compared to a book?}
Diversity is more important that conformity
Multicultural hold a greater value than mono cultural
The team approach of Boston Legal is more important than the lone ranger of Captain Kirk.

How can we respond to this very different almost alien world?
Denny Crane longs for the past, he liked it then
He pretends today is not like it is
And he fears for the future
There are a lot of people in our society and in our churches like this.
Many of us also like the pretend; we pretend we know how to deal with the present
But for those my age (50) and older, I want to suggest that neither approach works.
The past in gone
And sadly we don’t have the answers!
We need young people; they are the means by which we can find new life.
What might that mean? Maybe this article I read in Australia will help:

Gen X bosses up popularity stakes by Kirsty Ross
Two-thirds of Australians prefer working for a Gen X boss far more than they do a baby boomer, a national workplace survey reveals.
And 37 per cent of those polled said young managers were dramatically changing the Aussle workplace for the better, the Talent2 study of nearly 2000 people found.
Talent2 spokeswoman Laura Mabikafola said Gen Xers — those born between 1961 and 1981 — think very differently from their parents.
They work to live, not live to work; they work smarter, not harder; they think outside the box; they are more creative and confident; they are less selfish and more open to change; and less likely to insult employees.
Gen Xers also place less emphasis on hierarchy, are technologically advanced, more flexible, and possess greater gender equality and human skills.
Mabikafola said Gen Xers believed you could “have it all”.
‘Those aged between 26 and 46 have a totally different skill set to previous generations. And in terms of employees, working for them certainly has its benefits,” she said.
“Work-life balance, people skills and the idea of working smarter, not longer are ideals that appeal to this generation.”
She said baby boomers admired the technological abilities of Gen-X and the way they used them to improve business. (p.8; MX News, Melbourne, August 9 2007)

So here are five things we can do:
1. To start, we need to confess that we do not have the answers. You would be amazed at how often I hear clergy tell me that: this is the problem, this is bow to solve it, and all they need to do is persuade the vestry and the congregation that that is the ay to go. Often, I am not even sure we know what the problem is, and I am sure that most of the time the solutions are inadequate
2. In the church setting, we need to be clear about what our rich heritage offers younger people, and then pass it on.
3. We need to trust them to use it as they see fit. We need to let go!
4. We need mentors, not educators. We need guides, listening ears friends. This is not about creating “mini-me’s)
5. We need to be open to hear the voice of God in the lives of young people.

In conclusion:
Young people don’t need your answers to our questions – they are not their questions
The do need us to help them ask their own questions
They do need us to help find their own answers
In that we offer life
In that we are offered new life

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ash Wednesday and Waitangi Day

Last night I went to a combined Ash Wednesday service with the local Roman Catholic parish. This in itself was a great symbol of acknowledging our unity and confessing our broken communion, a good way to start Ash Wednesday. Although much of the service was about our individual brokenness and need for repentance, it was placed within the communal brokenness.

What caught me though was how this Ash Wednesday occurred on Waitangi day. I have often thought of this day as a day for celebrating the vision of those who worked for the treaty, and the vision behind it. I have also thought of the treaty as offering us as a church and a country a way of being. What I was reminded of this ash Wednesday is the ongoing need to repent how we have failed to live that out, and to start anew in seeking a just way in this land. Starting anew, recognising past failing, letting go of the crushing burden of that, and starting again to live it out fully.

I know some within Tikanga Maori will be angered by that statement. There is no letting go of the crushing burden, because they live with the socio-economic, demographic and political consequences of the Pakeha reneging on the treaty. I do not want to in any way ignore that. That fact makes working at honouring the Treaty more urgent. But there is also a sense in which we get bogged down and halted by our history. To let go of the burden, and to start afresh in dealing with past injustices and creating a just future is needed, every year.

That is what is needed in all sorts of ways. In youth ministry, we keep being weighed down by our ineffectiveness, and here this lent the invitation is to let that go, to recommit ourselves and to start afresh in working for just, creative and life giving ways that we as Anglicans can live our and offer the gospel to young people.

I at least found this quite thought provoking.

This weekend I am off to help elect a new bishop of Waiapu. I hope it is a chance for us to start afresh, and build our diocese.