Saturday, March 31, 2007

I learned something valuable today

Beware of men asking for a favour that involves an electric razor clipper gadget thingy.

Tonight I became practised in the art of shaving the back of a man's neck. I'm sure my neighbours must have been somewhat bemused to hear or see me making a bit of a ruckus out the back of my flat at 11pm, with an electric clipper thing in my hand, giggling slightly more than a little as I attempted to remove the fuzz from the back of the neck of a male friend.

Unfortunately, he did not allow me to shave my initials into his neck- that would have been cool :-)

(and yes, I do have some other comments to make about my recent visit to Tassie and other more weighty things however, it's too late, and I'm too tired to do that now... so you'll have to be patient for the deep and meaningful stuff! :-)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A sudden bout of homesickness

I arrived in Hobart last night, and (after enjoying an extra hour in bed, thanks to the end of Daylight Saving) as I lingered over breakfast this morning, staring across the river to the Hobart CBD out the window of my friend Rosalind's Howrah home, it occurred to me how intensely I am missing this place. It was quite a surprise, as until now, I hadn't really felt any intense homesickness, but it snuck up and whacked me big time this morning.

Melbourne is so flat and boring in so many ways, but in Hobart, no matter where you go, there is a great view, either of the river, Mt Wellington (or other mountain/hilly scenery) or both. And SPACE... lots of space! :-)

Again, as I walked into the Sandy Bay Uniting Church (my 'home' congregation here) to worship, and saw all of the familiar faces, it hit me again, and I nearly burst into tears (all the time cursing the fact I was wearing non-waterproof mascara!)

In a way I am quite relieved at this intensity, as I was starting to feel it a bit strange that I hadn't yet felt any serious homesickness since moving to Melbourne, and it also feels kind of nice... because although I am happy living in Melbourne, and feel at home there, there is something special about still feeling a particular connection to Hobart in parallel to that.

Gee I love this place!

Friday, March 23, 2007

I should be packing... but...

I'm too excited... well, kind of.

Tomorrow evening I will be heaving on a jetplane (so to speak) on my way "home" to Hobart for a few days. The Tasmanian Presbytery is holding a "women in ministry" retreat from Mon-Wed, and since they generously provided me with financial support to attend, how could I resist the opportunity to head south a little early and take advantage of the opportunity to spend some more time in God's own country.

I will have the opportunity to worship on Sunday morning in my home congregation of Sandy Bay, and then attend the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the TSO (one of my friends boggled when I told him I was excited about attending this meeting, and even after I explained that the event would be about 20mins meeting, half an hour music and up to an hour of drinking and eating, he was still not quite convinced of my sanity). But I have a bit of a soft spot for FOTSO, having been a member of its committee for a number of years, and even though I now live in Melbourne, I chose to become a life member, so that I will always be able to maintain some kind of link. (so I really was excited to discover that the FOTSO AGM coincided with my visit to the island!)

Another thing that coincides with my visit to Tassie, is the biannual Ten Days on the Island festival. So, on Sunday night, I will be attending a play that is on as part of the festival.

Oh well, enough excitement... I need to pack my bag, and try to get some sleep (although it's all hot again! Damn Melbun weather!) before my day of classes tomorrow.

Monday, March 19, 2007

the transition (finally) begins

Today I finally bit the bullet and changed over my driver's licence from Tasmania to Victoria. In fact, I found myself in the temporarily embarrassing position of having my Tasmanian licence expired, and being unable to secure an appointment with VicRoads to effect that changeover until about a fortnight after said expiration.

However, all that is behind me, and I am now the owner of a shiny new, very green Victorian 3-year driver's licence, complete with a photo of me at my Monday morning best (a friend once made the comment about photo IDs of the student card variety that you know you've had a really big night before, if on the morning after, when you look in the mirror you actually resemble the picture on your student card. Whilst my licence photo isn't quite that bad, I'm sure it will still give various friends a certain degree of amusement- if I let them see it :-).

I have to say that I was quite impressed with the efficiency of the Vic Roads system for changing interstate licences over- I was walking out of the building, with the new licence-photo and all- printed out and in my wallet, less than half an hour after my scheduled appointment time. The staff behind the counter were also very friendly and helpful, and the guy who served me also had a rather dry sense of humour, and we had a couple of jokes with his colleague on the next counter.

It's always nice to find some humanity where one expects to find faceless bureaucracy.

I still have to change over the registration of my car, but this will be a more complex process, as I understand my car will need to be inspected, and before that happens there are some minor repairs and servicing that need to be done to ensure it will pass the inspection.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Standing on the shoulders of greatness...

This was the title (or something like it) of tonight's 2007 Commencement Lecture for the United Faculty of Theology, which was delivered by the Very Rev Francis J Moloney SDB. Frank Moloney is a world-renowned New Testament scholar, who has written squillions of books (3 of which are in my own collection- the most recent of which is now signed by the author! Yes, I'm tragic :-) and has held professorial chairs in various Catholic theological colleges around the world, but is now the Provincial Superior of the Salesians of Don Bosco in Australia-Pacific.

The evening's festivities began with the dedication and official opening of the Dalton McCaughey Library, and moved on to the Commencement Lecture and supper afterwards.

The library was formerly known as the Joint Theological Library, and was renamed to honour the contributions to its foundation of Dr Davis McCaughey and Fr Bill Dalton who were then, in the late 1960s, respectively, Master of Ormond College, and Principal of the Jesuit Theological College (and Davis McCaughey went on to be the President of the Uniting Church's National Assembly when the UCA was first came into existence in 1977, and later the Governor of Victoria). This opportunity to rename the Library occurred upon its relocation to its new home in Morrison Close Parkville, within the Uniting Church's new Centre for Theology and Ministry (CTM) complex.

The evening was a great celebration, with more than 120 people in attendance (which is double the usual attendance of the UFT Commencement Lectures of the past few years) and a good time was had by all.

At supper time, I was chatting to one of my professors, and he made a comment about what an historic occasion this was (which I think he had capacity to appreciate more than I, since he has been on the organising/planning group for the CTM for the past 10 years, so it was certainly a special thing for him to see it all come to fruition).

As I have said in one of my earlier posts, it really is a blessing for me to be studying here at this institution, where there is now not only world class scholarship (in a uniquely ecumenical setting) but also a modern, (dare I say, "state of the art") facility in which to have classes.

Ahh... life is good! (or rather, I
should say, life is "tov", and get back to my Hebrew translating for my reading group tomorrow! :-)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Am I a blessed chorister or what?

As I think I have mentioned in a previous post, one of the cool things about studying at the UFT is that I get to sit under the teaching of some luminaries (who would have thunk it, in little old Melbun? :-) Well, that is not just true of the theological side of things. One of the faculty at the Jesuit Theological College is Christopher Willcock SJ.

As a chorister in Hobart, I had heard of Christopher, and even sung some of his compositions (and some of his compositions are also included in the second edition of the Australian Hymnbook, Together in Song).

This week I have the opportunity to sing with a group performing a work which Christopher wrote a few years ago, and will see its second ever performance for the occasion of the official opening of the Dalton McCaughey Library. Because the library is a joint venture of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, and the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), Chris has invited representatives from both of our colleges to make up a small choir to sing this work during the opening festivities.

And, although not quite as famous as Christopher Willcock, one of my fellow ministerial candidates, Martin Wright, also writes music, and has been rather prolific of late. Towards the end of last year a number of us from the Theological College and Queen's College communities enjoyed a recital which premièred a luscious song cycle for piano and baritone, which Martin composed. More recently the Queen's College Choir has benefited from some of Martin's briefer liturgical works (including a psalm setting and sung intercessory responses).

It's very exciting to be in a place where there are creative people, and opportunities to share in the products of their creativity... ahhhhhh... life is indeed good :-)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

That old, familiar feeling ...

It's now a week and a half into semester (and the whole academic year), and, you guessed it:

I'm excited!!!!

Of course, you're not at all surprised, are you? :-)

The first week of classes was largely of an introductory nature, where we were settling into the class venues (most of which are in the shiny new Uniting Church Centre for Theology and Ministry- very nice and modern) and working out what the course would look like over the semester, the various assessment hoops that we will have to navigate, etc.

However, this week, things have started to heat up and get a bit exciting. I was totally blown away by my Making, Housing, Feeding class yesterday morning and came away buzzing. Now you may not think that three hours spent discussing a potted history (from New Testament times up to the 3rd century CE) of the Baptismal rite: how it was performed, the theological significance of the symbols etc, is all that exciting. Maybe I really am a sick and twisted puppy, but I found this session rivetting both in content and presentation.

The lecturer was Andrew McGowan, and this was the first time I have had him as a class teacher (and seriously hope it won't be the last). He managed to convey an enormous amount of information in the 3 hour slot (have I mentioned before that I'm a bit of a content junkie? :-), but did it in such a way that I felt like I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Lecturing without any notes, just some Powerpoint slides with brief dot-points (for our benefit, not his) and some printed notes that he gave us with various excerpts from documents illustrating his points. He really knew his stuff, and was quite happy to divert along different paths when asked questions by members of the class, and then calmly continue on to meet his intended end point.

(One of the very cool things about the United Faculty of Theology is that the combined teaching staff, drawn from the UCA, Trinity Anglican and Jesuit Theological colleges, consists of an incredible group of scholars, many of whom are
renowned nationally and internationally in their particular areas of teaching and research. And Andrew McGowan is certainly one of these. It's a slightly surreal sensation to look at my book shelves, and see the names of a number of my lecturers staring back at me, because they have literally written the textbook, or a definitive commentary, on their particular areas.)

In the evening, I had my second Ethics class for the year.

Hmm... I think it will take me a little while to get my head around this subject. Already there have been heaps of new concepts, principles, terminology etc that my brane is herting trying to remember and understand it all. I also find it vaguely amusing that we seem to have a lot of lawyers in the class -and just to be very even, in the class we have one ministerial candidate for each of the Uniting, Anglican and Jesuit traditions who were lawyers in their former lives- as well as a retired magistrate and another practising lawyer (studying theology part-time). So- not quite the same bouncy feeling as I got from the morning class, but I think I will get into the swing, and once I do, the new concepts will be really helpful in helping to inform the way I approach and analyse ethical issues (so that's also exciting, but in a less immediate way :-)

I have also just finished preparing for the first of my tutorials in Christology class. One of the things that got me dangerously excited this time last year, was the tutorial readings I had to do for the Groundwork in Theology class. I have a feeling that a similar thing is going to happen in this class.

WOO-HOO! :-)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Godspeed, Gordon

Today I received news that, after a long period of declining health, Gordon went to be with his Lord last week.

I have known Gordon for quite a few years, and whilst we were never particularly close friends, on my regular visits to Poatina, I would usually run into him and he would always have a smile and a warm greeting (although I missed him on my last few visits, as he was too ill to be out and about around the village).

He was a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle and close friend to a large number of people who have been part of my life for a long time, and I know that he will be greatly missed.

Special love and prayers at this time to Agnes, Anne, Jenny and the whole extended family.

A rich and diverse 'Sabbath' experience

Tonight was the first regular Sunday Evening Prayer service at Queen's College Chapel for the year. I really enjoyed singing with the Queen's choir, and worshipping on Sunday nights at Queens through last semester, and am very glad to be back into it again for this year.

Despite it being rather hot and a little stuffy in the chapel, the season (and Daylight Saving), means that the stained glass windows were beautifully illuminated by the evening sun, which enhanced the worship experience for me.

The choir's anthem tonight was Tallis' Lamentations of Jeremiah, which was a challenging sing, but rather lovely (albeit a little imperfect in rendition), and the Acting Dean of Chapel, Robert Gribben, gave a very inspiring sermon on the topic of Lent and the significance of Lenten disciplines and using this time to draw closer to God.

Lent is something that I have often struggled to get my head around. Whilst I have understood for some time now, the significance of the season as a preparation for contemplating the death and resurrection of our Lord that we celebrate at Easter, the concept of fasting, or 'giving something up for Lent' has always rankled with me.

I know this is a throwback to my Brethren roots (which in this matter are very strong and long-lasting!). When I was in the Brethren, none of the traditions or seasons of the Church were ever observed, and I have vivid memories of one leader in that church dismissing the concept of Lent as nothing but a 'crawl job to God' (the rationale being ,that if we want to make a special effort to do something extra virtuous for this brief period, isn't that a bit hypocritical, because, surely as good Christians, we should aim to live consistent lives of virtue all the time, and not just for special occasions).

Whilst I strongly agree that it's hugely important for Christians to live lives that are consistent with their faith- all the time and not just on Sundays- I have over the past dozen years or so developed a great appreciation for the symbolism and help that can be found in church traditions and seasons such as Lent, and also the concept of having a regular Sabbath (which provides an important time to wind down, and step out of the regular busy-ness to be in a place, or do something that will help connect with God, and refresh the spirit to energise us to face the coming week.)

For me, my Queen's chapel worship tonight was such a Sabbath experience, and I thank God for it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Beware of tramstop 13

Now, I am not a superstitious person. I have never worried about whether something is 'lucky' or 'unlucky'; for example, I have no issues with walking under ladders (of course, after checking that there isn't someone above likely to drop something on me), and I actively encourage black cats to cross my path (or rub against my legs, sit on my lap... and come to think of it, they don't have to be black, I am not colourist when it comes to cats! :-)

However, today it occurred to me that there just might be something in the idea of 13 being an unlucky number. On days when I have classes, I usually catch a tram down Royal Parade into college, getting off at the stop at the intersection of College Crescent. On many occasions, far too numerous to list, in attempting to alight from the tram I have been almost collected by one or more cars illegally passing- often at great speeds- the stationary tram at this particular stop. It happened again this morning. Not one, but two cars, went speeding past the tram, as the driver manically dinged his bell and almost jumped out of the tram to chase the offending cars. (He also yelled a few choice words that I won't repeat in this polite company).

The strange thing is, that this has happened to me many times at this particular tram stop, but I can't recall it happening at any other stops when I have travelled by tram to other parts of the city (or even alighted at a different stop on Royal Parade). Today, for the first time, I noticed that this tram stop is in fact stop number 13. (I hadn't noticed this before because I don't navigate by stop numbers, but rather by colleges. From where I get on at Brunswick Rd, there are two preliminary stops, followed by stops at: Ridley - or at least the street that leads to Ridley; Whitley; JTC; Ormond; Trinity, and then the main Melb Uni campus stop...)

Perhaps this particular intersection constitutes a "Bermuda Triangle" of Melbourne where motorists' sense, sanity and ability to see stationary trams with flashing lights, mysteriously (and temporarily) disappears somewhere into the aether.

So, to all commuters on tram Route 19- beware stop 13- make sure you look very carefully for oncoming traffic before stepping off the tram at that stop!