About this Blog

Monday, November 27, 2017

Communion at the typewriter

We did a lovely thing in Church on Sunday. (Ponsonby Baptist Church). 
It felt like a sacrament.
We were celebrating All Souls day - not on its usual calendar Sunday I know, but so what!

It began with  a thoughtful reflection on death, dying and those we have loved and lost. Then we were invited to come to the communion table and type (yes type) the name or names of those we wished to honour and remember.

I watched the steady stream of people lining up, waiting quietly, then sitting at one of the two typewriters. It was so similar to the lines waiting to receive the bread and wine at communion. And of course this was communion of another kind. We were communing with those who have gone before.  (See here for a previous post on the cloud of witnesses.) We were also communing with one another in our shared experiences of grief and loss. It was moving to witness each other intent on recording the names of loved ones. The sound of the typewriter keys clicking was the music of this sacrament.

Personally, as well as the names of family members, I typed the name 'Pat'. It felt like a lovely closure. Pat was one of my dear older friends. In 1956 Patricia Preest was the first woman trained and recognised as a 'deaconess' in the NZ Baptist denomination. This was a long time before ordained women ministers were even considered!

For all the years I knew her Pat was an unobtrusive person who mentored and supported others in more public roles. She was a valued member of the congregations she belonged to and quietly introduced contemplative ways of prayer where she could. When she died several years ago no-one told me until after her funeral. Her family thought a mutual friend would tell me and that friend thought they would. Apparently it was a small funeral. I felt very sad to have missed the chance to honour her by being there. So typing Pat's name on Sunday felt like my chance to say "good bye, good and faithful friend."

(Sadly, the only photo I can find of her is very out of focus! Not sure who took it!)

I often think of Pat and feel her presence. Things I remember about her :

  • She loved the outdoors. When she came to Auckland in her later years I would take her to the beach and find a place she could sit and watch the sea.
  • She always dressed well and wore discreet makeup. That may sound an odd things to value about her but I thought at the time that she kept her dignity and didn't slump into "not bothering".
  • She was always eager to learn and to read. She often asked me what I was reading especially in the field of spirituality.
  • She was a forward thinking woman. Being the first deaconess was a sign of her willingness to push beyond traditional boundaries. In her 80's she was still keen to follow the growing edges of the emerging Church.
  • She loved old hymns. Several times when she was quite unwell she told me that "these lovely hymns just come to my mind".
I don't know if the hymn below was one of Pat's "lovely hymns" but she certainly knew it - and it is one of my favourites. I'm sure Pat now enjoys the fulness of "life that shall endless be". Click here for a beautiful version sung a capella by the Westminster Chorus.

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
                              - George Matheson

Saturday, November 25, 2017

We really are all connected!

A few days ago I was suddenly struck by the absolute wonder of how connected we are.
Early that morning - using my phone - I read a Blog written by someone I presume was writing from India where he lives (thanks Paul Windsor!) In it he reminisced about favourite music and included some YouTube links. I clicked on one and sat listening and watching  a beautiful young woman pianist (Julia Fischer) playing a Grieg Piano concerto somewhere else in the world. (YouTube didn't tell me where!)

This kind of "clicking round the world" has become commonplace now. I do it all the time and most often don't stop to wonder and be amazed at what technology allows.

Then this morning I received an email from Avaaz - an organisation I am delighted to support. It outlined some of the truly wonderful things Avaaz and its members have made possible in 2017. Click here to share this good news! From the Masai people in Africa, to the refugees fleeing Myanmar and Syria... and so much more. Do look at this link for so many signs of hope and good will in our world.

As Advent approaches there is the opportunity to be connected to others who want to take time to reflect prayerfully and practically on what this season is really about. I've signed up for the TearFund NZ  Advent reflections (free). I am also going to participate in a more in-depth retreat offered by Abbey of the Arts. This does have a fee attached - but again, how amazing to be able to interact with others in prayerful community without travel or accommodation costs! 

Of course there are all the well known dangers and down-sides to being so connected by simply sitting at home and staring at the computer or small screen. I'm not naive about that. It's also important to be part of a real life, face to face community! I deeply appreciate my church community and many other friends. However, I am very grateful for the wider connections with people around the globe that today's technology allows. We live in a world where we can choose to use these opportunities to connect us for good purposes. 

All the wonders of this technological connection are, of course, a tangible expression of the underlying scientific and spiritual reality of our inherent connection with one another and all things! A topic for another day!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

If you want to be happy be grateful

I am so grateful for Brother David Steindl-Rast. That is as it should be since gratefulness is the message of his life and teaching! At 90 (or maybe 91 by now) he continues to bless many people through personal interviews and through all the books and recordings published over his long life.

I am delighted to read on the Gratefulness website that an archived collection of his life and work has opened at the University of Massachusetts. A good overview of the collection (including photos and a recording) can be seen here.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

In the pink...

These are a few of my favourite things... 🎶
 Dewdrops on petals...

and Flowers on fences....

Colourful driveways...

all food for the senses...

When the rain pours and the wind blows
I simply remember that beauty surrounds me
and then I don't feel so bad!

(With apologies to Julie Andrews!)