Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reframing Stories

Today was my last full day in Capetown. I left Simons Town early and got onto Capetown by 10am. I walked in the increasingly heave rain down to the waterfront arriving I'm plenty of time for a coffee before getting on the 11am ferry to Robben island. It was pretty weird being with a whole lot of people not used to sailing and exclaiming excitedly at every wave.

Robben island is very cool and very well organise. We got into a bus for a 45 minutes tour around the island. Then we are handed over to an ex political prisoner who takes us around the maximum security prison for 45 minutes. That left 30 minutes for wandering and shopping. It is amazing to hear how those prisoners first sent there refused to see this as the end and treated it as a university. St first secretly and then with permission and support those who were educated taught those who could not read or write. In the end many sent there left with diplomas, and degrees. That reframing carries on today  with the facility now a world heritage site to inspire others to bring freedom and justice for all.
Then I caught the hop on and off bus up to the Green Markets and St George's cathedral. In the crypt is a display of the huge peace march led  by archbishop Desmond Tutu and the mayor of Capetown in 1989. It has photos of that and other marches that happened around south Africa in support. It also has a display of some of the stories heard by the truth and reconciliation tribunal. Very moving.

I finished the day at the Slave Exhibition based in the old slave lodge. Capetown was built and maintained on slaves brought here from Indonesia, India, and east and  west Africa. While slaves were treated appalling by the Dutch and English. Even when slaves were freed in the late 1830's they were deemed to be unpaid apprentices. However this mix created Afrikaans (the earliest written Afrikaans was on Arabic script written by Indonesian Muslims). One of the tragedies of apartheid was it ripped multi cultural and ethnic Capetown apart.

I am now sitting in Kalk Bay in a pub\restaurant built on rocks I'm the sea. It is on the train station. I can see Simons town from here. A nice way to finish the day.

With luck tomorrow I go whale watching before heading home.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Table Mountain

Today I tried to go whale watching, but it was not happening. I am booked on for Saturday morning. i will need to be well organised.
So I went for plan B, trained into Capetown, and taxied up to the Cable Car on Table Mountain. 45 minutes later there I was in the midst of the "Table Cloth", cloud that covers the top. I happens a lot and creates this wonderful wet environment that early settlers used as their water supply. Apart from the lack of view, the wicked cold wind, the hail, and the path disappearing into mist, it was just breathtakingly beautiful. Luckily I had a mix up with my coffee so I was delayed leaving the cafe. When i came out the cloud had lifted to a degree and there were stunning views to Cape Point, along the buttresses on the Atlantic side of Table Mountain (the 12 Apostles) out over Lion Head and Signal Hill, and across Capetown and over the Cape Flats.
Tomorrow I am booked to go to Robben Island. the forecast is bad again, but today worked out way better than I thought, so here's hoping.
With some luck Saturday will be whale watching, and then fly home. My upgrade has been confirmed this time from Perth. Nice.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Embracing the wet

Today has been a great but very wet day. We went to Cape Point, and then the Cape of Good Hope. On Cape Point I could see nothing until I went up to the lighthouse where I could make out the sea and some birds. At the Cape of Good Hope I could see a lot more, and climbed up the path to two great vantage point. I was pretty wet by the end.
We then went to the Kirstenbouch Gardens. Just amazing. We had lunch at a very nice restaurant. I had Kudu, and antelope. Very nice. We then ambled through the glass house.
Tonight Nolan had organised dinner for Averil and I at a retired priest's house over the hill in Scarborough, on the Atlantic coast. That is pretty wild as that is where the weather is coming from. Tomorrow I am going to try for a whale watching ride and up Table Mountain. I am not confident about either.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Aquila Game Park

Today we were picked up at 6.30am and then driven for 3 hours north to the Aquila Game Park. The countryside up there is spectacular. Rugged hills pushed up by huge tectonic forces that leave these striations at all kinds of crazy angles. A harsh dry environment, from which comes grapes and cherries.
The Game Park welcomed us with a very nice all you can eat breakfast. Then we set off in our wee vehicle. I could tell it was going to be cold when they gave us a blanket and hot water bottle. And it. When the sun was out and the wind dropped it was almost warm. The rest of the time it was just nasty. But, whatever. We had a hot water blanket.
We set off and over the next two hours sat and watched hippos, elephants (we had to quickly move out of the way of one of those - it was not going to walk around us) zebras, springboks, black and blue wildebeest, water buffalo, lions, giraffes, eland, ostrich, white rhinos, and a leopard in the animal rescue centre. And we saw several groups on the road coming and going. There are lots of baboons around here. They get into peoples houses, open fridges, jars all sorts of things looking for good. it is so weird having them around like that.
Then we had another buffet lunch, and the long drive back. No need for dinner tonight. Photos can be found on my facebook page.

The weather for the rest of the week looks spectacular, but bad for things like going up Table Mountain, going out to Robben Island, or going whale watching. it should all clear up on Saturday. Never mind. Tomorrow our tour guide is taking us out again to Cape Point and along the Atlantic coast (I am on the Indian Ocean coast here) and then into Capetown. What ever the weather throws at us it will be a good day.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Western Cape National Park

I have just returned from our trip away with the brother of one of my parishioners and his wife. They picked us up after church on Sunday and took us up to the top of the Western Cape. At this time of  year there are a ton of wildflowers of all kinds of colours out. I looks magnificent. We stayed last night at a small beach resort, Paternoster. And today spent the day in the Western Cape National Park. We saw giraffes, zebra, springbok, flamingos, herons, egrets, sun birds, ostriches, and a few other beasties.
Tomorrow we are being picked up at 6.30am and taken about 3 hours north to the Aquila Game Park. The forecast is not good for the next two days sadly but we will try to make the most of it with our personal guide.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Just thought I would check in. 

I em currently in Simons Town, near Capetown, for a meeting of the TSSF Ministers Provincial. As part of our meeting we have been getting out a bit. On Thursday we went for drive around the coast, past the towns all the coloureds were moved into in the 1960's from Simons Town. We then went into one of the townships to visit a school on of the Tertiaries helps at one day a week, and a foster home people in Nolan's parish have been involved in establishing and running. Such beautiful children, and such a lovely place. We then had drinks with several of the Trustees at the house of one of the key people involved in establishing and running the home. It was inspirational to see these people working hard to change the world for these 6 children. It doesn't seem alot, but for those children and the foster mother it is everything. The are eating the elephant one bit at a time.

Our meeting finished yesterday lunchtime. They have decided that the next meeting will be in NZ while I am still Minister. I am hoping to take Ken to the Solomon straight afterwards.

After another magnificent lunch, Nolan took us for a drive around the other side of the Cape and along the Atlantic coast in behind Table Mountain. Stunningly beautiful. I should put up some of the pictures on Facebook. We went to the oldest winery in Africa and did some tasting. I left it to the others to buy. Last night we went to his parish fund raising curry night, which was a lot of fun. I wore my all blacks shirt.

Today we farewelled John and Ken, and Averil and I trained into Capetown. We spent the afternoon on the hop on and off bus. We had a great time. While Averil went to the markets to buy presents for people at home I went and found the Robben Island ferry and bought my ticket for Friday morning.

We head off with the brother and wife of parishioners back home. We are heading up the west coast to where the flowers are out, which should be a lot of fun. We get back on Monday night. Tuesday we are booked in with a private tour guide to take us to the game park, which is about 2 hours out of Capetown. Wednesday, the same tour guide will take us on a day long trip down to the actual cape of good hope, up Table Mountain, and tea in the gardens. All for a little over $100 each, plus the cost of getting up and into the various places.

On Thursday Averil leaves and I will see about doing a boat trip out to the whales. Friday back to Capetown, and we will see what Saturday brings. It is looking pretty busy, and lots of fun.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Graced Body

I had the privilege to join the SSF Brothers living at the Hermitage at Stroud near Newcastle in Australia for a week. Well, Br Alfred Boonkong was there for the whole time and Br. Bruce Paul was there for the first couple of days.
Technically I was there for a retreat. But I spent the first couple of days just talking and catching up with Bruce Paul and one of the other people staying there,and Alfred took me sightseeing on afternoon.
The last three days were much more retreaty, although I spent most of the time reading Bruce Paul's doctoral thesis. It is called "The Graced Body - toward a theology of human sexuality". In it he uses the work of Karl Barth and Jurgen Moltmann to develop a theology of embodiment. Embodiment he describes as involving "the meeting of the life giving Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit with the totality of the human person, body and soul." We are embodied souls and ensouled bodies. That embodiment then becomes the medium by which and in which the encounter between the divine and human takes place. That includes everything that we are, including our sexuality. The question he raises out of this is how does the Trinity make holy our sexual loving?
Bruce wrote this to develop a theology that gives those in monogamous same sex relationships a way to take their place in the life of the church based on their baptism rather than being prevented by their sexual orientation. It provides a way by which all people can take their place based on their baptism rather than gender, sexual orientation, or any other means by which we exclude people from their calling within the embodied life of Christ we call the church.
I was most interested in this as it pertains to sexual desire. For too long I have unconsciously felt sexual desires are wrong, something to be subverted by prayer or by other means. Bruce Paul talks about how this attitude comes out of the platonic vision of the world of spirit good, physical bad. The Enlightenment also didn't help with it's understanding that the body should be subservient to the mind. What I really liked about Bruce Paul's is that it reframes sexual desire from a bad thing to the vehicle by which I can experience God's desire for me, and my desire for God. So desire becomes something to pay attention to rather than something to subvert. Francis lived this theology out. He longed to expereince the love of God expressed in the passion of Christ in his own body, and was granted the gift of the stigmata, the wounds of christ - bodily expressions of God's desire for all humanity. True love, true desire is tough. This is not an easy way out.
Today one of our elderly tertiaries was convicted for an indecent act on a girl under 12. I wonder what difference it would have made for him to have operated out of a theology of a graced body, and rather than constantly fighting his desires focuses those desires on God's desire for him and his desire for God. it just feels so much more healthy.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Burning Verandah

A man sits
enthroned on his verandah
caressed by warmth and
wind, touched by song
and stirring, surrounded
by bush on blue sky, aroused
by beauty and fear.
Desire burns hard in the loins
of his soul. He aches with
a longing so deep he
does not recognise it.
with no way
to find his way home.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Final Thoughts

It is very hard to believe that tonight is the last night here in the Solomons, and my last night here as Minister Provincial. I hope I will come back, but I will have no official capacity. I have grown alot in all three visits. It has not been easy. I struggled on Savo. But I have been humbled by the welcomes, hospitality, generosity, friendliness and honour that has been shown me. The fact I took the time to travel, to stay in various places, to meet people and to get to know them has meant alot. It has not cost me alot, but I suspect God will use this time to do some good things in TSSF. Tomorrow I go to Australia, and the next part of this grand adventure will begin. I am excited for that, but very sad this part is over. I would happily have stayed longer.


Yesterday was my last formal engagement. It was the Regional Chapter. This was a highlight. When I was last here 3 years ago we held a two day regional Chapter. But for various reasons only people for Guadalcanal, Savo and by accident Ysabel were there. We spent along time working out what kind of structure would help Melanesia stand on it's own feet. Then we elected people to each of those positions. While they developed a budget and hopes on how to raise the money, there was a sense that they would struggle. And so it proved.
This Chapter had representatives from nearly every Area, (not Vanuatu). We reviewed and affirmed the structure put in place three years ago and new people were then elected into all but one of those positions. The new Regional Minister then chaired the last half of the meeting. (It is really hard chairing a meeting when you understand less than half of what is being said). There is a real sense of hope and energy and I look forward to what the next three years brings.
At the end I was asked to lead night prayer. Luckily it was one developed for a training event for Anglican Religious a year or two back, and so was beased on the SSF Office. The Melanesian Prayer Book spends a lot of time on how sinful we are. Alot! And the night prayer ends with a confession, a long confession. I liked this one with a short confession to start with. Anyhow, I again used the service for a new guradian to both release those who have finished in their roles, and to pray for those who were beginning. I also used "Lord it is night" from our prayer book.
I was asked to say a few words to finish before the prayers. I said I came hoping for three things. the first was to spend time with friends and meet new people, and to get to understand TSSF in Melanesia more. The second was to hopefully offer some thoughts that might be helpful in their growth as Franciscans. The third was to help Melaneisa take some more steps to stand on their own feet, to grow up and no longer be the little brother in this Province. I reminded them that to eat an elephant you have to take one bite at a time, and not eat the whole elephant in one bite. That would cause you to choke, and poossibly die. One bite at a time. I feel condient that we have taken another bite on this trip. I think God has used my visit to act as a catalyst for several Areas to gather and refocus, recommitt. And the chapter has taken some more steps forward. I hope that Betsy, the new Regional Formation Director, does get out and offer traning on how to use the Novice notes that she and Rose have developed. It is what is being asked for. I hope that they will continue to develop their processes for how to elect peoplle to profession. and I hope they continue to work on their vision, how they with the First Order can offer the Solomon Islands a Franciscan way and help the country reconcile, and grow spiritually and economically. I think the new Regional Minister will help a lot in this. He is chaplian at Bishop Patteson Theological College at Kohimaramara, and with Betsy has begun a small exxport company for people across the Solomons wanting to export wood for the best price. They take very little cut on this, and are helping communites across Malaita and other Islands become much more economically self sufficient.

Kiribati Camp

 Sunday night Jimmy took me to a friends for dinner. Kenneth is an AOG pastor working in the Kiribati camp area of Honiara. this is home to over 20,000 people (out of 60,000) who basically squat on government land. Because they have no title they are unable to have water, except where they run illegal hoses off the main water pipe, and even power is not very accesible. And because this is not an official area the council takes no responsibility for roading, so the roads are in places like goat tracks. I was amazed that anything but 4 wheel drives even attempted them.
We had been invited to Kenneth's mothers 95th birthday. She has 160 grand and great children and counting. Only some were there. They are an AOG family, and it was great to be part of their singing and praying. The mother then prayed over and for her grandchildren while we sang which was beautiful. I was asked to speak some words of encouragement, so i talked about Francis and his love for God, and seeing in everyone he met the crucified and risen Christ. We too are to be filled with that love and to treat all we meet as the risen Christ. At the end i was asked to pray a final prayer, and then the mother wanted Jimmy and I to pray for her.
I returned to this camp the next night for dinner at Walter and Demetria's. The last time i was here Helene, Sarah and I went to his house for dinner in his church house above Agnes House. He has finished working for the church, and now lives with family in the camp. Every Sunday a group gather in their house for fellowship and prayer, and they were all keen to come again to meet me, which was humbling. We prayed the evening office and daily obedience, I talked about Francis and the leper, we ate a beautiful meal, which Demetria served for me, and after a time of toktok and final prayer I was accompanied by Walter, Demetria and Alsoisoi back to Agnes House.
As you drive up the hill to this camp you pass a police station called "Borderline". Here the road seal ends, and you enter into a place of hardship. I passed a number of churches, and on Sunday night heard the loud music of another. I wondered with all these churches what they did to create employment, what they did to provide hope in the day to day, rather than just in the sweet by and by. It the churches worked to create work, they could change the lives of so many people.
Even so, in the place of deprivation I experienced such humbling hospitality and generosity. these people live out what Susan Pitchford talks about, giving till it hurt, for what they have is ultimately God's and must be shared with those who have less.


To be honest I was a little nervious about this part of the trip. Jimmy and John Ama had told their terrifying stories about their last boat trip there - slow, big seas, slightly overloaded, arriving in the pitch black of night. And my bottom remembered the last plastic boat trips.
Actually the trip out (1.5 hours) was pretty uneventful. Nearly two weeks here has hardened my up more than I thought. Our boat had been organised by David Raurau's (Savo Chaplain) wife, Florida. I discovered she is studying Early Childhood Education in Honiara and does not have the money to travel home to see her family very often. It was good we were able to pay for her to come with us to her home.
We were met and warmly welcomed by David Raurau and other Tertiaries. Staying on Savo was challenging, and yet very good. Savo has no electricity, no piped water, no sewage system. Aus Aid had come to this village a few years ago and put in a solar panel and provided batteries for each of the houses, but over the next two years all the batteries had died, and no-one had the resources to replace them. Aus Aid had never been back to check. But these people were no concerned. they have all they need. They have access to fresh running water. Some houses have solar panel in the roof. lost have battery powered lights. They have a hot water stream to wash in. They have good land to farm.
We spent a lot of time sitting around talking. My busy European brain wondered at this for awhile. In fact everywhere I have been we have spent a lot of time sitting around talking. And as I look around I not a lot of people do sit around talking a lot of the day. I am reading Susan Pitchford's "Following Francis - The Franciscan Way for Everyone", and her chapter on simplicity challenged me about this observation. She talks about how our lives have become so busy and we have so little time to pay attention to the world we live in, the people we love, and the God we follow. I realise that I have been sucked in by the notion that vicars work 50 hours plus a week. We are to be busy, busy, busy. Why? What most of my parishioners want is for me to sit around and spend time talking with them. The best time on Savo was sitting around listening.
On Saturday David took John Ama and I up the volcanoe behind the village. Only 3,500 ft., so technically not that hard. Except it is over 30 degrees and we were walking next to a hot water stream that slowly turned the air we were walking in into a sauna. You don't climb hills in saunas. You sit still. It was a great walk, but I was pretty stuffed when we got back down.
That night I led a reflection, again looking at why we follow Francis, and what it means to be Franciscan first. Most of the time was spent in small group conversation and plenary. So most of what happened was in pidgin, which was what I hoped.
The next day, Sunday, I preached and presided. There is no senior priest in Savo, so they do not get a communion service very often. They are very Anglo-Catholic, like all of Melanesia, and still want the priest to preside with his back to the people. It has been a long time since I ave done that. Much of the service is sung, which was beautiful, but what threw me was that many of those responses were in "language". So there were long gaps while I made sure they had actually finished the response. At the end of the Great thanksgiving is a sung response, and then the Lamb of God, also sung, during which the priest beats his breast three times, while a bell rings. The question for me was, "are we still on the response, or are we now in the Lamb of God?" I guessed right! I really enjoyed using the thurible, genuflecting at various points, and trying to remember everything the priest in Kira kira had done. After I preached I also admitted a new novice, and prayed for two new postulants, which was grand. It was a humbling experience to serve these people in this way. I will cherish it for a long time.
The journey back was choppy, and several of us staggered out of the boat with very sore backs. My bottom however was fine, even though we sat on a pallet on the way back, which was not that comfortable. Savo was hard, but I would not have missed it for anything. I did rejoice when i returned to Agnes House and fell into a cold shower, and lay down on my soft bed with the fan on and snoozed.

Kohimarama - Bishop Patteson Theological College

Today I was invited up to Bishop Patteson Theological College to visit the three Tertiaries that are there on faculty, and to speak to any faculty, students and spouses that wanted to hear me. The day began with me arriving back at Agnes House to find Brother Clifton had come to pick meup. Despite me asking John Ama 3 times to confirm that I would be picked up at 10am, he told clifton 9am. They came back at 9.20 and I was far from ready, and a little peeved with John. I was ready well before 10, as I knew I would be, but felt like I had held people up.
The two topics I was asked to speak on were: my role as Minister Provincial and what it means to be a Franciscan Priest.
I began by talking about the Francis and his being immersed in God's love, and how soon many others sought to follow him so that they might, like him, walk in the footsteps of Christ. I also talked about the three orders Francis established, with a quick history of SSF in the Anglican Church, and how TSSF was established at the same time as a stand alone Order with the other three Orders (there being two first Orders, one brothers and one sisters) I then described our Provinces (Europe; Americas; Africa; Australia, PNG and Asia; and The Pacific - which is Aotearoa-New Zealand, Polynesia and Melanesia. I described my role as having oversight of the Order in this Province, and to care for its health and development. I then talked about my visits here, which I hope encouraged those who came to listen, and would help the further development of the Order in Melanesia to stand on it's own feet.
I then starting talking about being Franciscan first - a Franciscan priest, Franciscan husband, Franciscan father etc.... Everything comes out of my being Franciscan. Not that I am especially good at living out of being Franciscan, but that is the idea any way. And the fact that I am not so good at being Franciscan is OK because Franciscans were God's fools, the Order of Friars Minor. They are also the ones who embrace their poverty, their lack, and so I embrace mine.
I talked about the fact that in ministry the most important thing we offer is ourselves. We can think at the place of learning like Bishop Patteson that it is what we know, but unless we are people of love then people will not care what we know. And we can think it is all the good things that we do and the skills we have to offer, but unless we are seen to be people who care then no-one will care what we can do. In the end it is who we are that matters the most. the other things are important (they had better be, I do have the equivalent of 4 degrees) but it is who I am that counts the most. And God wishes to work on me through the way of Francis.
I talked a little about my rule, the headings and how that allows me to be intentional about how I live, and to hold myself to account to God for that way of life. I was asked about poverty and I talked about living simply and self denial, and also humility. I need to work on not seeing myself as the big fella in the parish with everyone else serving and helping me, but to see myself as the servant, who does not have all the answers or the skills and who needs all the parishioners if we are to be who God invites us to be. I also talked about the community obedience teaching me to pray and being the way God shapes me, and the need to not grasp for more, or see what I am paid as mine and what I have earned, but God's gift with which i am to be generous. I finished by talking about how Francis reminds me that point of church is not church, but the effect we have in our wider communities. I talked about how Solomon Islands need the churches to be working to bring reconciliation, God's peace and life, between those who have been fighting and still do not trust each other. But Solomon Islands also needs the church to be involved in rebuilding society, the economy, the trust in public institutions. it will be that which will show how successful the church is, not how many people singsongs and pray on Sunday mornings. We are here I said, using Bishop Justin Duckworth's words, to work with God to build a society where all can contribute and all benefit.
I was disappointed when I arrived that no current ordination students were there, they were on field work. But a lot of the faculty was there, and the wives were there who are doing a diploma in women's studies and ministry. i was glad to talk to them. I hope they understood me, and found it helpful. Certainly the faculty I talked to found it helpful.
Over lunch at the Ngalihesi's I found out that Betsy has finished work on the material in plain english, including stories of Francis, novice notes, community obedience, and other forms. So I am looking forward to having that available for Chapter next week.
Tomorrow is a rest day before I head off to Savo. I may do nothing. I may work on my report for the ministers meeting. But I am thinking a day completley off will be a good thing. It has been a busy but good week and a half, and I was sick before I came, so I am feeling pretty tired.

Other thoughts and such

What one has to be ready for is the unexpected. While I have been given a programme it has not always been clear what each section meant, like the Quiet Time on Malaita. And then there are the things that just happen. So on the last night after we have finished with the community obedience, Sam was giving the notices. In these I discover that there will be a Eucharist the next morning at which I will be presiding, and no prayer study time, but that is OK, I can use my material in my sermon. In my what?? In your sermon tomorrow during the service father. Oh, that sermon. Right, fine, thanks. And when I arrive the next morning before morning prayer it has been decided that we should also commission all the office holders, which is a good idea, and give opportunity for us all to dedicate ourselves to the task ahead. All good, but where might we find such a thing. Luckily I was pretty sure the SSF Daily Office book would have such a thing, which it did. It was a grand way to finish our formal time together. We finished with a farewell breakfast and speeches and gift giving. My time ended with a visit to the Diocesan Office to meet the vicar general and the diocesan secretary. They received me well and we had a good conversation.
The time came to go to the airport and to wait. the plane arrived, I got my bag, retrieved the paper for Sam, and then followed my bag back onto the plane. It has been a very busy but very enjoyable 3 days. I wonder what lies ahead?

Sunday sermon on Luke 11:1-13

I was greatly helped in my approach to this reading (as I am most weeks) by the blog site "Holy Textures". Each Monday I receive the beginning of that weeks posting, which I happened to receive before I entered the internet free (for me, my sim just not work here) Solomon Islands. The writer of this blog, in talking about the line "Hallowed by your name" by asking who makes God's name holy? The Greek he suggests is in the passive voice which means it is God who makes God's name holy. So I used that as the key to the rest of what Jesus teaches about prayer.
How does God make God's name holy? God makes God's name holy through "Your kingdom come." And what does this kingdom look like? When we who pray this prayer are willing to trust that God will "give us each day our daily bread," and that we do not need to be anxious and strive each day and to see what we are given as God's generous gift and to be thankful. At this point as a white fella from a pretty wealthy country that was easy for me to say. So what i said about that was my understanding. they needed to work our what it meant for them in Makira. For me this line invites me to be satisfied with what I have and to not constantly grasp for more. More than that, it invites me to be as generous with God's gifts as God has been, to not hold on tight and to not protect it as mine from those undeserving who I perceive as wanting what is rightfully and deservedly mine. When I act in this way then I join God in making God's kingdom come, and in making God's name holy.
The kingdom is also seen when I am able to forgive as God forgives, although this line puts it the other way around, which is quite troubling, because lets face it, if God forgives like I do, or we do, then we are all in big trouble. In part I think this leads from the line above. If we see all we have as ours and what we deserve, then we will strive to protect it, and want reparation and punishment from those who might take it. But if we see all we have as God's gift with which we are to be generous with, then we simply forgive those who take, as Francis did, and offer to give more. But i think there is more at play here. Earlier in Luke (chapter 6 I think) Jesus teaches that when we we want to take the speck out of our brothers eye then we are to first take the log out of our own eye. When we see the sin of others we are to use this as an opportunity to stop and consider our own sin. Then we will forgive, and God will forgive us as we forgive others, and so we join God in bringing God's kingdom, and so join God in making God's name holy.
We then pray that God will save us from the time of trial or temptation of seeing what we have as ours, of not being either trusting in God or thankful to God, and holding tightly on to all we have instead of joining God's generosity. We ask to be spared the temptation of being anxious, wanting more and more, thinking that I deserve all I have, and not seeing all as God's gift. We ask to be spared from the temptation of always taking specks out of our brother or sister's eye, and leaving the log in our own alone, of being hard and unforgiving. For when we fall to these temptations, when we fall in the time of trial, evil is let loose, God's kingdom is not come, and we do not join with God in making God's name holy.

Sessions on being Franciscan

I was asked to lead several "sessions" for those present. The first was a retreat for those being noviced and professed the next day at the Cathedral. I was also asked to lead a quiet time, address the chapter, and then preach on the final morning during the Eucharist, at which I presided. In the end everyone attended everything, and one or two first order brothers sat in as well, which was a little unnerving. In addition I preached at the Cathedral on the Sunday morning before the admission of the novices and the life profession. Given my lack of pidgin, and my love of big words this was all a bit of a strain, but I have enjoyed preparing the talked and giving them.
One of the things I learnt with all those sessions I did with Polynesia was that I need to try to keep my input to a low level, and get the participants to do as much of the work as possible. So for the retreat I did two talks - two stories really.The first was Susan Pitchford and why she follows Francis, and then why I follow Francis. My question for them to talk about was why do you follow Francis? To be honest i need to do some more work on this for myself. I have an answer. I am happy with that answer. But listening to those present helped me think more about that. My reasons begin with meeting the SSF brothers at Riverslea, but includes issues around looking for a community of Christians, Anglicans who seek to take community seriously, who seek to care, for each other, for God's world, and all God's people, who seek to walk the way of love. All of that is true. And yet there is so much more. There is my gradual learning of Francis, being inspired, challenged, appalled by him, and yet knowing deep down I fearfully long for what he longed for, to love with all the passion that Christ loves. I fear where that might or will take me. I resist that. And yet somewhere I know that is the way to life. There is also the growing realisation of first that i am called to be Franciscan, and secondly that I am Franciscan first and foremost.
Which leads to the second talk, about my time at Taize, and being introduced as a Franciscan priest. It was a life changing moment for me. Its significance for me has been huge. And when I tell that story, I notice that for others it is an eye opening moment. I then asked them to talk about what it means for them to be Franciscan first, and how they live that out everyday of their lives.
The next night I led a session around why we are to use the Community Obedience. I began by asking them that and getting them to talk about it with their neighbour. My hope in having these conversations is that even if they did not understand a word i said, they had the benefit of the conversations with others, and then listening and sharing in the report back times. basically everything I wanted to say was said in this time, I just wanted to push it a bit. I have been greatly helped in my appreciation of the community obedience by an article Ted Witham wrote and which I read on the way over. So why do I think the community obedience is important?

The Community Obedience

To begin with, the community obedience reminds me pray each day. It is not always easy to find time to pray each day. To be required to pray the community obedience reminds me of this obligation, this way of life. And it provides a not too long format on which I can build such a time of prayer.
It also teaches me to pray. When we begin praying we can often think that prayer is talking to God, giving God our list of things that concern us and that we would appreciate God's involvement. Sometimes we can get stuck here which is not very healthy. But for most as we learn to pray we discover that prayer is a conversation between us and God, and then between God and us, where God takes the initiative and we listen more and more. As we journey on this way we learn that prayer is not our initiative but God's initiative, where we are invited into the love at the heart of the Trinity and allowed to simply be in that love. Prayer slowly ceases to be the words we say, but the silence between the words, in which the heart of God speaks to our heart and shapes in in the image of God. The community obedience becomes a vehicle by which God shapes me and moulds me.
The words of our community obedience become a primary means by which God sandpapers us into Franciscans, people called by God to walk in the footsteps of Francis as he walked in the footsteps of Christ. This the point Ted has helped me understand. Too often we focus our post profession formation in terms of study we do and increasing our cognitive understanding of Francis and the Franciscan way. However Ted has reminded me that important as our cognitive learning is, it is who we are, not what we know that is of most importance. And our daily praying with the principles not only increase our understanding, but provide the vehicle or God most holy to slowly mould and shape us into people who follow Francis in the way of love.


It seems a lot of this journey is about God teaching me stuff. The plane down was overloaded, so they needed to reduce weight. They asked for volunteers to take the next plane on Monday, but no one volunteered so they off loaded a whole lot of bags, mine included. I discovered this as I stood around waiting for my bag to come off the plane. It did not come off. I was told it would arrive on Monday. At first i was grumpy as. Why leave my bag? Why not a local persons bag. They would have other clothes to wear. Me, I have nothing. Worse, all the manuals and crosses for the novicings and professions were in the bag, with all the other paper. Plus my drugs to keep me going. But I was surprisingly quickly able to see the other side and take this as an opportunity to embrace simplicity. I went out and bought a tee-shirt and lavalava to wear at the transit house and to sleep in, and some soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, and deodorant. And I have survived. It has been a good learning.


Today was pretty quiet. morning prayer and Eucharist at 6am, with breakfast some time later. While waiting for breakfast I talked with one of the Franciscans who had stayed with John and I. he is a Catechist and works with young people in the Cathedral Parish. He receives a small amount of money for that, and for the rest of their needs relies on crops they grow on their land. As he spoke his eyes lit up with passion for his work and those young people. he has a family to support in all this, with three children either at secondary school or about to go to secondary school. that involves school fees, uniforms and all the rest. I think his wife would like him to get a real job, but this is his passion. I wonder how to honour and support him
A little later we had a quiet stroll down to see the Bishop, Bishop Sam Sahu (I think). I went armed with our community obedience and intercession list. He was genuinely interested in the third order and our relationship with the first order brothers. He then told me about Malaita and that it is the largest population base and the largest diocese in the Province. Despite that it struggles with all sorts of issue. He talked about some of their struggles and hopes, the tightening of the money coming from the Melanesian Trust Board in Auckland and the need to achieve self sufficiency in the not too distant future. He also talked about the struggle to offer his clergy a degree course. Places at Kohimarama are very limited, and the Pacific Theological College is struggling. What he wants is distance courses offered so people can stay at home at study part time. Despite our struggles in NZ we have an easy life. So much is readily available and so much we take for granted.He then invited us all out for lunch which was very nice. A staff member from Bishop Patteson Theological College was also there. He had met the bishop after us. He is responsible for their distant diploma programme which they are slowly rolling to several of the Diocesan Training centres.
The ferry trip back was late, slow, rough. The trip to Savo continues to scare the pants of me. I also have found my bottom is too soft. sitting in a canoe for several hours is not going to help this!!!!
When we got back I washed clothes, bought noodles for dinner, and Jimmy gave me my instructions for tomorrow. I am not excited that I have to be at the airport two hours before we leave. But another adventure in Makira waits for me tomorrow. God will be waiting for me and I trust will use me as God has done to this point.


Our journey to Malaita was nice. It was good to see Tulagi again, and St. Clare's clinic near Taroniala. I had no idea the channel between Little Gela and Big Gela was so long. It was very beautiful.
We were met by Fr. Wilfred at the wharf who took us to St. Francis House where John and I were staying, and where the TSSF brothers were beginning to gather. I had an experience that took me aback. It showed me up badly. When Brother Athanasius showed me my room, the first thing I noticed was that it was dark and grimy. Yes the door and walls were grimy, but the floor was clean and the bed cleanly made and all was make ready for me. I could not believe I could be so ungrateful, so unreceiving of the kind and generous hospitality offered me. I was humbled and was truly grateful for everything from that point on. It was a good learning for a so called Franciscan.
Wilfred explained what the Quiet Time in the programme was, - that was the retreat time for me to lead them. So after a super large lunch (Lunch and dinner were very similar, and came with stacks of rice - too much rice) and a moe, and worked out what I might say that night, what I might preach about the next morning at Eucharist, and some beginning thoughts for my sermons in Makira on Sunday. Some key things I talked about were: that we are Franciscans, first and foremost, and everything I do and we do comes out of that place; we are equal members of the Franciscan family, so that means we have the responsibility to live out the Franciscan charism as much as the first order; because we are Franciscan we are always in the company of our brothers and sisters, when we pray we pray with them. I talked about Susan Pitchford and her chapter on why follow Francis, and some of my reasons (the SSF brothers I met at youth camps at Riverslea, looking for something more authentic than normal church offers and being inspired by Francis and those early brothers). I also talked about how following Francis has changed me, and then got people into groups to talk about why they follow Francis, how following Francis has changed them and what has lead to that change. After time in discussion we shared in the larger group, and I asked them what they needed from each other and what they needed from the wider Order. With that we finished for the night.
The next morning I presided and preached at our Eucharist at 6.30. It was the feast of St. James, the first martyr.
We had a really good chapter. All the paper i had brought with me was greatly appreciated. They asked about the Regional Chapter three years ago, which given i had written to every Chaplain and Convenor about that event surprised me. Clearly that information did not get passed on. We need much better lines of communication with Malaita and Makira I suspect. However they elected three new officers, Chaplain, Treasurer and Novice Counsellor to work with the Convenor which relieves David of being the only one who will organise meetings. They can now work to meet several times a year and i will send over more information when I get home. A good meeting!!! And one of their number will travel to Honiara for the Regional chapter on Tuesday week. Excellent.
In the afternoon we travelled around dropping off brothers at their home village, and visiting the hospital, the cathedral and the village built for the Arts Festival last year. It has been a good day.

The Solomons - arrival.

I was greeted by John Ama and a small group at the airport and taken to my place of residence for the first night. I has been told the time was an hour later than Brisbane, but when I asked some of those who picked my up what the time was they told me the time it was in Brisbane. This nearly had terrible results.Later John arrived at Agnes House to take me to dinner. He was surprised to see me sitting drinking tea and reading Chris Barfoot's early history of TSSF in New Zealand. I was surprised he was so early.
During dinner Jimmy told me that I needed to move out of the room. I had unpacked and was thinking I would only take a small bag and leave most of what I had taken behind. So we had to wake up Betsy to talk about where I might leave that bag. All sorted. I got back to the room and decided to repack and organise myself.
So next morning my alarm goes of at what I think is 6.15, an hour before John is coming to meet me to take me to the ferry to Malaita. Surprisingly John turned up about 5 minutes later telling me we are running late and we need to go. Turns out the Solomons are 1 hour behind NZ and 1 ahead of Brisbane. We caught the ferry OK, but not with a lot of time to spare.

John is going away

Over the next six weeks I have the privilege of travelling to the Solomon Islands, Australia and South Africa to fulfill some of my duties as Minister Provincial, Third Order, Society of Saint Francis, Province of the Pacific. I have decided to record some of what happens, and my thoughts and reflections. Here they are,

Travelling to the Solomons
The journey out of NZ was pretty uneventful, except I discovered that my MPass app has a little feature that alerts you if your flight is delayed, which mine out of Tauranga was due to fog,. I discovered this once I was at the airport and finding out that it was an hour delayed due to fog in Auckland earlier that day. Never mind. Some good people from St. Georges had offered to drive me there, and had coffee with me while we waited which was really nice.
The flight to Australia was all good until we arrived, and the air bridge at our gate broke down. Eventually mechanics got it to move, and we were allowed off. Then you have to go back through security because everyone departing Australia has to go through security. This is not quick and efficient like in Auckland. It is painfully slow. so slow I would have missed my connecting flight if not for the fact the flight was delayed an hour because the gate at which the plane was parked was broken and the plane had to be towed to a new gate. So probably the same plane.