Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sensible Sentencing

Over the last few weeks and months our journalists have made a lot of noise about the Fiji Government's censorship of the press. Where will the press's neutrality be they ask? How can they ask the balancing and critical questions?

Yesterday was the reporting of the Sensible Sentencing Trust annual event held in the Beehive in Wellington. Garth McVicars, the creator of this group was interiewed on TV1. And I had to wonder if I was watching an infomercial for the Sensible Sentencing Trust. Where, I wondered were the balancing and critical questions? Absent!!! Completely absent. Our media, or at least, TV1 (and my expereince is as bad of TV3) failed to do their job.

McVicars wants parole abolished. The interviewer (Greg Boyd) lamely agreed, wondered why things were as they were, and suggested that McVicars simply was stating common sense. Is this our cherished free press at work?
So is this what we want our country to be known for, as imprisoning more people per head of population than anywhere else in the world. We are second to USA at the moment. How do we pay for this? Do we give back our tax cut? where do we build the new prisons? No-one wants a prison near them except if you have family in there. Is this really the best way to deal with crime. It makes victims feel better, but will it just lead to even more victims. Nope, none of these were asked. TV One, you were pathetic.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Law Changes and alcohol

Simon Power has announced some changes to the drinking laws. But good as they are, they are flawed. They are flawed because they are based on the myth that the drinking problem is a youth issue. It is not. Young people mirror what they see happening in the rest of society. They crave the same marks of adulthood they see exhibited by adults. Over 90% of heavy and binge drinkers in this country are adults, over the age of 20. These changes do nothing to address these, and therefore fall far short and doing very much.
Until we change societal attitudes towards drinking teenage drinking will remain a problem. The two are linked. Unfortunately while we adults are very happy to pass judgement on young people and to highlight binge drinking among young people we are much less happy to look at our own drinking habits or those of our friends and colleagues, and much less willing to do anything about that. Just listen to what politicians will talk about. Listen to what many commentators will talk about. It will be just about the youth drinking problem. 

At General Synod this year we had a presentation from Doug Sellman and the  5+ campaign working towards alcohol reform. As I said in that post I did not agree with everything, but am sure they are on the right track. These proposals do invite us to address our own attitudes and not just push the problem off onto young people. But are we willing?

I do agree with the split age proposal n the proprosals announced yesterday. It seems a good mix of treating young people well and addressing the issue.

At General Synod we supported this campaign, and passed a motion not only doing that but also inviting ourselves to look at our own drinking habits. When this motion came to our diocesan synod the last part was gone. It seems we keep thinking that it is someone else drinking too much, while we sip our own whiskeys and gin and tonics. While this hypocrisy continues, young people will continue to mirror our activities, and nothing will change.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Job Vacancy - Three-Tikanga-Youth-Commissioner

This is an excellent job, for a passionate youth worker to help develop the youth ministry between and within our three Tikanga. We need a really good person. Are you that person?

Friday, August 13, 2010


This is another posting on Clare by Ted Whitham, Minsiter for Australia.

St. Clare

The 11th (whatever day that was) was the feast of St. Clare. She is the other half of the Franciscan story, who with Francis laid the groundwork for the radical new way of living the gospel. She ws the first woman to have a rule approved by the Pople for a religious order, a rule that included the priveledge of poverty. (all rules for were Benedictine up to that point). She was extraordinarliry egalitarian, all were equal in God's sight and so in the life of the Order. Teh wealthiest gave all their welath away, and could bring nothing with them,unlike other Orders. All shared the menial tasks that needed to be done, including Clare herself. She taught that one should look not in the mirro to see oneself each day, but into the mirror of the crucified Christ, to measure our life of love compared to that seen there. We follow in here footsteps as much as Francis'.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Solomon Islands with TSSF - Day 8:

The Market

Tuesday, last day! Andrew took us to the market, and we did a bit of shopping, bananas for us and Andrew, and sarongs for pressies and a good look around just for fun. And then coffee at th coffee place with Andrew and Luisa, and then I went off to meet chris Taro the provincial youth Officer. Great stuff. It was good to spend an hour with a fellow provincial youth person, and to hear about what they are doing, and to get a copy of their youth policy.

Then a quick  goodbye at the Friary and off to St. Agnes to pack. Betsy came round to say goodbye, and then we were off to the airport. Now I am on the flight home, back to the cold, to normal life, clean water, no bettlenut, no election speeches. Just same old same old New Zealand.

This has been a grand trip. I feel like I am getting a handle on how Melanesia works. I really valued and enjoyed having Sarah and Helene journey with me. It made it a lot more fun,  and they worked hard during chapter writing things up and recording some of the sessions. They brought heaps of little gifts to give out at the various places we went to, unlike me, and connected with the women so very well. It was so good having them both there and I am grateful they wanted to come.
Sarah, Andrew, John, John Ama, Willie and Helene at the airport.
So,, looking forward t next time, I need to go to Makira I think, and to once again have chapter. And I think I will be sent to Savo as well, where I know I will be well treated. I look forward to that.
A grand week.

The Solomon Islands with TSSF - Day 7:

La Verna Friary, Hautabu

Monday – it was cold that night. Cold! Andrew Tada told us a cold night (and he thought it as cold) meant a hot day. He was not wrong. WE left Honiara shortly after 8am on the brothers’ truck, with me on the back in a chair. Off we went out west to Hautabu, La Verna and Little Portion Friaries where the novices are trained and where the chicken farm and pig farm are. Andrew Tada had been first order when this was built, and he had been one of 8 brothers who with brother Giles built much of what is there. He told us about how they laid to concrete floor for the dining room and chapel in one 20 hour work session.
The Formatters’ (those involved in Formation in the First Order from each Province) conference had been there the weeks before, in a specially build structure for the event. The only problem was that it had filled up with insects at night with the lights, and frogs had joined to party for the free feed. People were not so keen about that, especially those from Europe and America. Brother Clark Berge, Minister General for SSF told us that they had had trainers from the Quaker non-violence programme "AVP” from Australia come and lead a week of training in non-violence. One of the key parts of Franciscan vocation is building peace, and this workshop was a key part of that. In the second week Brother Christopher John and Sr Joyce (I think) had lead sessions suing both the material from the week before with stories of Francis, and some local people talking about the peace and reconciliation initiatives in the Solomon. Br Martin and Clark and Desmond had been inspired by it all and were very hopeful of how it would affect what would be happening in the formation programmes back “at home”.

Clark also talked to us about a programme he is organising in the Solomon, bringing in Franciscan International trainers in peace and conflict resolution to work for a week with trainers from all four Orders in the Solomon (Melanesian Brothers and Sisters, Sisters of the Church. And SSF brothers) and then holding a second week with all members of each order with the trainers presenting what they had learnt the week before. I am hoping that TSSF might get one or two people there too, maybe.
Then we visited the Melanesian sisters across the ridge, and the old boys’ school Andrew had attended as a boy, and Arthur Brooker had been principle of. It is so run down and in such need of attention. It is so sad to see. The chapel is really in bad way, and they are going to have to build a new one somewhere else. No deep fried banana chips this time. Then we zoomed past Selwyn College because we thought we were late for lunch at Bishop Patteson Theological College at Kohimaramara with the TSSF members there. While they were very kind and showed us around, there was no food. The day by now was super hot, and the back of the truck was hot when the truck was moving and super hot when stopped. I was glad for the sun block I had piled on. We paused briefly at the graves of the 7 Melanesian brothers martyred on the weather coast (Southern Guadalcanal, and of Charles Fox at Tabolia which s next to Kohimarama. It was good to see the development. Apparently they are hoping to move the campus in 10 years near TNK near Honiara.
On the way back we paused at Maravovo, Andrew and Harriet’s village to pick up Harriet and hear some of the story. This was where the Anglican mission had started, where the first Melanesian catechists and missionaries had come from, and where Ini Kopulia, the founder of the Melanesian Brothers had come from. We went down to see his grave site and give thanks for all that the brothers are doing and have done to bring God’s peace.
The trip up and back was marked by frequent river crossings. Last time I went up here these rivers had all had bridges on them, so it as a shock to see the bridge in ruins or gone. There had been a big flood earlier in the year which had swept them all away. Andrew said it was caused by logging up in the hills, which I can believe. Such in the greed of governments, letting this happen even thought they know people will die, as they did here. Ironically I saw an ad on TV that night about keeping safe which talked about not logging land. Pity the government did not follow it s own advice!!!
Monday night was the big farewell at Patteson how with the brothers. Farewell speeches, gifts for us, and we had gifts as well, including scarf and hat for Jimmy and daisy in the hope they get to NZ next year. Sarah and Helen did such a good job of taking stuff with them so we did well too. Next time I will do better. It was all very humbling. As I said, last time I felt like I had begun to know people, but this time I felt I was among friends. I will treasure those friendships for a long time.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Solomon Islands with TSSF - Day Six:

Sunday. The programme said church at 6am, then breakfast at 8 with the brothers and chapter starting at 10. Could we start earlier? No, some people had commitments in their local parishes so would not be able to arrive until at least 10am. There was a service at 7.30am, so Sarah, Helen and I decided to go then, thinking that would give us plenty of time before chapter at 10am. We arrived late, to find 6am still going. That should have been a warning sign. 7.30 started at 8am, and after sermon, sung Eucharist, notices, long notices, and rev up about being a high church and so fasting after 12 midnight till after church including bettlenut and drink, we finished well after 10am. Lucky I had breakfast first. There are not extra prayer books, or hymn books. You bring your own. And the language has been simplified, so even the bits you think you know are hard to join in with because they are slightly different. But such and experience. The choir right in front belting it out. Clouds of incense, clouds, just wonderful with a thurifer who pumped that thurible, did 360’s, and had incense everywhere. The altar disappeared when sensed. Brilliant. Such colour and drama. Wonderful.

Then to chapter, and the area reports, which again were a missed bag of areas meeting or not, being involved in mission or not. Again I emphasised that lets build on what has been done and really get TSSF going in Melanesia. Included in this were reports from George on the mission to sex workers (which Fr Caulton ahs said needs to be changed to mission to the under-served. They really don’t like the whole talk about sex thing. Most of them men giggled through that report.) We also heard from Charles about Taronaira and Daton about his work with those with Disabilities. It is so good to hear from TSSF people who see their work as part of the TSSF mission. And certainly for Taronaira and the sex workers this was work specifically set up my TSSF. It is so inspiring really.
After lunch we affirmed the job descriptions, and then elected people for each post. We had only one accepted nomination for Regional Minister - Ambrose BBugota. After that I encouraged people to have a vote, and we did for every other post. Mostly those who had been in the posts were reaffirmed, which was great. I was very glad that Luisa was elected as treasurer, which means there is a woman involved. She will be very good for them. We charged through the rest of the business, including one election to life profession, finishing about 5.30. another long day.

Walter and his family
That night we went to novice Walter’s place for dinner with his family. What a privilege that was. Saying prayers with the whole extended family, including mummy and daddy, eating the most beautiful food, speeches from us including other TSSF members, and then reply from the family, more prayers and singing and then farewells. Such a good night.

The Solomon Islands with TSSF - Day five:

Saturday – day one of chapter!
Chapter was the real reason I came over. The ministers meeting last year set out guidelines of areas wanting to become provinces in their own right, and even if Melanesia does not become a Province, it seemed to me that these set up the kinds of things that Melanesia needed to address, in particular, leadership structures, formation procedures and finance.
So we began on Saturday by hearing the reports of the various office holders. Unfortunately it is election time in the Solomon’s so many of the area people were not able to come to Honiara due to either being committed to the election or needing to be home for the election we did not have any representative from Makira or Vanuatu, Makira being the more of a problem, and while we had people from Makira and Isabel, they were not the leaders of those areas. None the less, hearing the reports was really helpful. So was seeing the diagram Jimmy had put together of how the leadership worked. It was the first time I had seen it, and I realised that John Ama was supposed to be the “leader” in Melanesia as the Minster Provincials’ representative. But I had not seen him in that light and he had not acted in that way, so Melanesia had been fairly rudderless really, although Jimmy had tried hard to provide direction and to hold it all together.
I thougth the key thing about the reports was to not get into too much of either a blame game, or to wallow in what had gone wrong. The key thing was to find ways of making it work in the future. That was really helpful, and allowed people to move on.
So we spent a day working through what people wanted, and eventually created a new structure led by a new potion, a Regional Minister (to mirror the wider Province) and then the same roles as before, with the Formation Director becoming one of the team rather than the team leader, and all positions having reasonably clear job descriptions.
We also spent time reviewing the formation process. Again not all had worked here, and gain the focus was on seeing what was not working, and being clear about how people thought it should work in the future. The process will work something like:
Enquirers, aspirants to contact the area chaplain, who will work with them initially. The area novice counsellors will help postulants develop a rule of life and the area will decide when someone is ready to be noviced. The novice counsellor will work with the novice through the novice notes. When the area thinks the person is ready, that person, the area chaplain and the area novice counsellor will write to the chapter to request that they be elected to life profession. Before this can happen a novice needs to have:
Been a novice for at least two years
To have completed all the novice notes
To have reported regularly to the area chaplain
To have fulfilled the requirements of the area including attending meetings and contributing to the mission and finances of the area.
That was Saturdays work. We ate with the brothers that night. It was a good day’s work.
That night I tried to find the rugby on one of the three channels on the TV. I watched a programme about hiring bicycles in London, and was about to give up when they said something else was about to start when the rugby popped up. Great. And a good game. And a dumb Aussie winger getting yellow carded twice. Dumb!! My fear is that we have peaked too soon again. A slight distraction was a rat climbing up through the window behind the TV, coming in, seeing me, going out, coming back and running through the house to the kitchen. I went off to ensure my bedroom door was shut and missed Cowan going off, so was surprised to see Weepu masterminding events again.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Solomon Islands with TSSF - Day four:

Care Centre for abused Women build with NZAid money.

Friday was quite the casual day really. Well, after we had met the Archbishop. I was able to talk a little about the third Order, who we are and to ask him to encourage them in COM. I left him some material about TSSF. We missed each other at St. Johns by a January Holiday. He replaced now Bishop James mason as the Melanesian student at St. Johns. He was about to leave to go to Fiji for the installation of Winston Halapua as the new Archbishop. So that was a nice link.
Then we tried to meet people at the Diocesan office, particularly Chris Taro, the provincial youth officer, but he was not in.  So we went off to the Care Centre West of Honiara run by the sisters of the church and Melanesian sisters. This is for battered women, a place of refuge and healing.

Sarah and Br. Martin SFF in Provincial Cathedral
We came back in to Honiara after that because William our driver needed to go to the airport to pick up Br George SSF, the Minister Provincial returning from PNG chapter. So after discussions Br. Martin SSF (from England) Andrew, John Ama, Sarah Helene and I went off for traditional fish and chip lunch (chunks of kumara for chips, large chunks) and then John, Sarah, Helene and I caught a taxi out to Vura parish where I preside last time, and then to the Cathedral. The dean showed us around, showing us proudly all the renovation work he is doing including new tile on the ground and repainting the whole place, new weaving around the sanctuary ad along the side. The provincial cathedral looks really good.

The Dean and I in the Lady Chapel. Note new tiles on the floor.
After clean up we went to Jimmy and Daisy’s for dinner that night which was really nice. Daisy is such a nice person and their daughter Jamiee is such a delight. The food was unbelievably yummy. Wonderful fish and to die for pork. So good. I am nearly healed of my phobia over pork now. It was bad pork that made me really sick in Tonga three or so years ago. And I have struggled with it in Pasifika situations since. So we will see.
Then Helene and I had a great adventure. We went off looking for a place for a beer. I thought the “Quality Inn” below us had somewhere to sit and drink, so we went to down to the main road looking for an entrance. We failed to find one. John Ama told us that the gate was up above and was locked at 8pm. (I have now worked out how to get in and am sitting in there now typing this) So we set off looking for another place. As we walked a RAMSE stopped to talk to us. He was a policeman from Invercargill. He wondered what we were doing. So we said looking for a beer. And then Helen asked where he was from, while He (Andrew was his name) and I looked strangely at him. He had a big kiwi on his uniform. We talked for a while and he told us where we could go. We set off gaily chatting. Then he drove up to us, asked how long we would be at the bar, and said he would drive us and then take us home. He was worried about these dumb New Zealanders walking around Honiara at night, the week before and election, in a place with 95% unemployment. So we went with him, and he came back half an hour later walking into the bar to call us out. The looks from other well dressed patrons was great. He was a very nice and kind guy. And such a good story, John and Helene sitting in the back of the PADY wagon after being taken out of the bar!! The Melanesian brothers and sisters loved, and were a little annoyed we had gone off on our won like that, even with John Ama with us

The Solomon Islands with TSSF - Day Three:

Thursday began at 6.25am with Helene asking if I was awake, and saying prayers started in 5 minutes. I staggered out from under the mosquito net, and sown the steps to the church, where I sat listening to Fr. Hudson and others pray Morning Prayer. Because the English has been simplified, initially by Charles Fox, I couldn’t join in. And there were no books. But that was fine, sitting, in quiet, joining the prayers in spirit.

Charles Fox's house, where we stayed the night
Then coffee up at our hosts house, before we went down to Charles Fox hut at the beach. This was where we had breakfast. And while there Charles talked about some of the miracles that occurred there, dancing crab shells, the stick he banged against the water tank when rain was needed, and it always rained. The rat that went to fetch something for him he had dropped. He seems to have a very Franciscan spirit. Charles talk us that Dr. Fox first lived in this hut, and then moved up into the house we had slept in, which is now being used by Fr. Stephen while he waits for Fr. Sam to retire.

Then Charles showed us around the village of Taronaira. First he took us to the new Fox memorial cross which Charles was instrumental in erecting on the point where Fox erected a cross. In part the cross was put there by Fox as a pointer to the spirits of the dead who came there to point them to their true resting place. In part it was put there showed Christ’s dominance over hammer head sharks and tricky currents after 3pm. When at Taronaira Fox came up here every day at 4am to pray. Charles said this was the heart of Fox’s spirituality, and what allowed him to do all that he did.

Fox Memorial Cross
Charles has built a concrete cross with sand from both Malaita and Guadalcanal as a sign of reconciliation. They also built and altar with stones in it from Aotearoa- New Zealand, and all the dioceses from Church of Melanesia. The NZ stone was given to him at Convocation in Matamata and had a tau cross painted on it, which you can just see. His vision for the place is that it will be a place of prayer and quiet reflection for those needing such a space. It will be a place where people can learn to pray as Fox did.

Charles also showed us around the village, and through the slipways and new enterprise checking, certifying and repairing life rafts. Charles came to Taronaira to reinvigorate the place. It had lost a lot of its reason to exist. It was only servicing the Southern Cross, the mission ship for COM, and could no longer afford to do that. So through building up the slipway business and starting new enterprises the hope it will re-invigorate Taronaira and become a heart of mission again. A grand vision.

slipway at Taronaira
After our tour, and lunch back at our hosts, we went down to the beach at St. Clare’s to wait for ht ferry. We talked with Fr. Stephen about his hopes for St. Clare’s and wondered if Franciscan Aid might be able to help. Then we went on our last plastic boat trip and met the ferry where we were hauled up the back on board and set off back to Honiara.

Fox Memorial Hut

When we arrived there, there were no docks as there was a cyclone warning out, so all the ferries to Makira and Ysable were still docked. We manoeuvred between a few ships and tied up next to another boat and unloaded over the side onto the ship, and then off that ship over the side onto the wharf. Not a gang plank to be seen. A reasonable swell made the whole enterprise very interesting!!!!! After a stiff coffee or two, we arrived back at our refuge of St. Agnes Rest house, where we showered away two days of salt and found clean salt free clothes. Dinner that night was with the brothers, which was really nice. Jimmy and I went off for a quite beer afterwards which was very nice. A good chance just to chat

The Solomon Islands with TSSF - Day Two:

Tuesday, we were up bright and early the next morning (5.40am) to be picked up at 7am to catch the 360 Discovery ferry to Gela Island, and Taronaira village. We were greeted very warmly by Charles and Fr. Stephen and his wife Joanna, and the chaplain of St Clare's clinic, Fr. Sam. Fr. Hudson, the Chaplin to Taroanaira joined us as well for refreshments, and to talk to me about the service that night where I was preaching, and Stephen and Joanna were being admitted as Novices.

That is Tulagi in the distance. This was taken at the Fox memorial cross
We then jumped in a little plastic boat for a 30-40 minute journey around the coast to Tulagi, the headquarters of the DOCS – Diocese of Central Melanesia. This island was the first colonial capital of the Solomon Island, and the scene of fierce bombardment and fighting during WW2. Fr’s Derek Vagi (vicar General) and Sam (Diocesan Secretary) showed us around, took us on a tour of the island (not large) on a road build by the Americans in WW2, and showed us all the deserted factories which make life hard for the locals.

Bounana (furthest point) from Fox memorial cross
We had lunch and then went by our little craft for another 30 or so minutes back across the channel the ferry had come sown and up to this little island of Bounana where a training school is based on the site of an old girls school. It was really run down. They are expecting about 100 students (31 for the catechist school and the rest, including 10 girls to the rural vocational school) in the coming weeks, without enough classrooms, dormitories and most important water tanks!!! Peter the assistant principle looked very worried. Then back to Taronaira on the little plastic boat. I had to admit my wee soft bottom was very sore a few hours later. I am not used to such hard seats. We went miles, with no life jacket in sight, and in quite lumpy sea. Our boatmen were very good and did well to keep us relatively dry. (Except for the crossing the channel, where even with a tarpaulin in front of me the water ran down my front.)

At Taronaira we showered, rested, then went down to the church and prepared for the Eucharist, and practiced the admission service with Stephen and Joanna. It was such a privilege to be part of that, and to be able to preach on the parable of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price. On the basis of one of the commentaries I read suggested that compared to the usual reading that the kingdom being the treasure and we giving all for the treasure, when read with all the other parables where God is the actor, we are the treasure and god gives all. Then I talked about Francis’s discovery of that, and finished by asking how they treated themselves as treasure, and how they treated each other as God’s treasure. I really enjoyed thinking about it and putting it together as I talked. And it was fun watching how devoted they robe, prepare for the Eucharist, conduct the service, with prayers for all kinds of actions we just do without stopping to think really. I was also intrigued at how they focused (like the book of common Prayer) on our sinfulness. That was hard work for me. I do wonder at what point we accept the forgiveness offered and live a resurrected life?

After the service we gathered for a family meal with the whole congregations, which was a big percentage of the village population. This included gifts, and speeches and talks. Mine was pretty bad, but Helene and Sarah had a great time with the Mothers Union where they talked about St Clare and then got the people to talk about Charles Fox. We were supposed to finish at 8pm. We started the meal at 9pm and finished the talks at 10.30pm. A long day!!! Then bed, thank God. I lay listening to our hosts talking in the next room thinking “how will I get to sleep?” and then woke several hours later needing the toilet and realising everyone had gone to bed. Sleep was not a problem.

The Solomon Islands with TSSF - Day One

Crazy stuff. We had to be at the airport by 5am (that was a shock in itself really) but Helene decided she needed a shower first, so we had our wakeup call at 4am. 4am!!!! The only thing you should do at 4am is go back to sleep. Fat chance. So I got up and had porridge for breakfast.

The flight over was good. I slept most of the way over to Brisbane, and after quick two coffees in Brisbane, read all the commentary stuff I had copied for the two sermons I thought I was delivering.

We were greeted warmly by TSSF brothers, John Ama and Andrew Tada and by some First Order brothers (Desmond and Martin) who were here for a formation conference at Hautabu. We missed Christopher John by a gnat’s whisker. He was boarding the plane we had just arrived on.

The Bishop of Chester was also on our plane to open a new wing of Chester house, the Melanesian Brothers rest house above Patteson House Friary (where Dorothy stayed last time) His daughter was flying out and was allowed through by customs to say a very quick hi to her dad. It was lovely.

We were driven by the brothers to St. Agnes House where we are staying. And then taken to the friary for refreshments. We then came through town to get money and came back up to the rest house to rest before the welcome dinner that night. That was a very low key thing compared to last time with very few TSSF brothers and sisters present. Quite a few are involved in the election next week and are busy, but Jimmy has been feeling quite deserted in trying to organise both our visit and the upcoming chapter. But it was a nice low key welcome which allowed us to meet some new people. The companions entertained us really well, and there was room for speeches etc… after we had eaten and listed.