Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tis the season...

If the Magi had been really wise, they might have chosen this option for gifts for the Christ child.
:-)


funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Caro's Christmas Message

Yes, time has escaped me again, and I have resorted to a cut and paste to the blog directly from my latest email update (so apologies to those of you who have received the email and thought this might be something new)

Well, it’s that time of year again; the days are longer, the weather warmer, and Christmas is just around the corner. Where did the year go? Well may we all ask.

Executive Summary (more detail below)

* Study stuff - I have received my results for the semester which were reasonable, given the heavy study load I had this semester - still have one reading unit to complete (2 more essays to go) and then the whole degree is finished! Yay J

* I get around, round, get around, I get around - The end of year travel juggernaut has commenced, and last Wednesday I returned from 10 days in WA, most of which was spent in New Norcia. Next Sunday I head off to Sydney for Christmas and New Year, then Tas in the new year, and then moving to Myrtleford in March (after which I think I’ll just stay put for a while). Phew!

* Health stuff - The diet (and weight loss) continues. Now up to a total of 15.9kg (which is approx 2.5 stone in Imperial). Have finally seen an orthopaedic surgeon about my knees, and it looks like there may be surgery in my future- exactly how serious will depend on results of CT and MRI scans I am having next week.

* … and in the New Year - I officially start my placement in Myrtleford-Beechworth on 1st March, although the first fortnight is moving & settling in time. The Presbytery of NE Vic has set the date for my Service of Recognition for the evening of Friday 13th March, and my first Sunday “on deck” will be the 15th.

The Gory Details (for those of you who want it all… make a cuppa, put your feet up, and enjoy :-)

Study and College stuff
This semester I had 4 B.Theol. units (Pastoral Care & Ritual, Continental Reformations, Genesis and Ministry and Sacraments) as well as the Friday Program Dip. Min. unit on Prayer and Spirituality. This was quite a heavy workload, as all units involved classes during semester (as opposed to other semesters when I have had 4 units, but one of these was an intensive for a fortnight at the beginning of the semester, or over a few Saturdays). So this meant my weeks were pretty full, and I found it hard to do more than the basic minimum requirements for each unit. This was reflected in my marks, as for my B. Theol. units I ended up with only one Distinction (in PC & R) and Credits for the rest (and I still haven’t received the results for the Dip. Min. unit).

Even though my marks this semester weren’t quite up to the standard of previous semesters, given the factors of workload and other things I was managing (like the exit/placements process) I am happy to have done as well as I did, and to have those units behind me. Alas, it seems the High Distinction will continue to elude me (as it will be nothing short of a miracle for me to get an HD for my reading unit on Trinitarian Theology! I think even aiming for a D will be optimistic!), so maybe I will need to do another degree sometime in the future (the far distant future) to see if I can crack that final frontier :-)

I get around, round, get around, I get around
Wise Woman Goes West (again!)
I have just returned from a lovely time in WA. Once again it was good to catch up with Adrienne and the Brauns in Perth, and this time I also managed to have coffee with another friend in Perth, Ben, who calculated that it had been about 18 years since we last saw each other. It was delightful to catch up with him over a coffee en route to the airport on my way home.

Of course, the main reason for my visit to the Wild West was to spend time in the monastic community at New Norcia. This time, I deliberately did not take any study material with me, and enjoyed the experience of being immersed in the monastic timetable and lifestyle (with no TV, radio or mobile phone coverage, it was a real retreat!). I was in New Norcia from the Tuesday to Tuesday, and during the weekend in the middle of my stay participated in a formal retreat titled, Growing in the Reverence of God, which explored different aspects of the biblical notion of the ‘fear of God’ and what that means for our personal and corporate devotion and spirituality. For the rest of the time I read (totally for pleasure- 4 books bit the dust during the week!), finished off a cross-stitch project that I hadn’t touched in over three years, did some volunteer work in the monastery archives and museum and of course, spent time in prayer and reflection, which is so easy to do in that environment.

I was telling one of the monks how every time I visit New Norcia God seems to teach me a lesson about patience, tolerance and humility. After settling into the peace and silence of the place for a few days, I found myself getting a bit annoyed when other people would come into the guest house and behave in a loud and (what I considered) unnecessarily boisterous manner (and yes, I am aware that in saying this I am sounding like a grumpy old woman!). One of the general practices in the community is to observe the “Great Silence” from 8pm (after Compline, the final prayer each evening) until 8am (after Mass in the morning) and I always try to observe this silence and so usually take a book with me to read over breakfast, and if anyone is around at that hour (my habit was to have breakfast around 6:15, and most people who didn’t get up for Vigils at 5:15 tended to be still in bed at that time), I would try to avoid eye contact so as not to be engaged in conversation, and just focus on my book. This strategy usually worked, except for one morning, when I just couldn’t avoid being dragged into conversation by a particular woman. At first I felt impatient, and tried hard to cut things short and ‘escape’, but after a while it became apparent that she really did have something on her mind that she needed to talk about, so I settled into ‘pastoral listening’ mode and encouraged her to proceed. I got the impression that I was not the first person (and probably wouldn’t be the last) in whom this woman confided, but she seemed to appreciate the opportunity to be heard.

This experience, and conversations I had with other people during the week, reminded me that people go to New Norcia for all kinds of reasons, and with all kinds of agendas, and none of them are necessarily any more or less valid than any others (so after that I managed to not get quite so stroppy with others).

On a lighter note, I also fell in love during this visit to New Norcia… with a lovely dog called Sandy. Now some of you would be aware that I tend to be more of a cat fancier than a dog lover, but that in thinking of moving to the country, I have been considering getting a dog for company, exercise and security (or at least the appearance of it). When I met Sandy (who was the companion of a rather interesting guy who was also staying in New Norcia), after spending some time with her sitting on my feet, and snuggling up to my lap when I sat on the bench outside the guest house, I thought to myself that I could handle having a dog like Sandy. She is a medium sized Staffy X (not sure what with) and has the most delightful temperament. So, when the time comes for me to actually make a decision about getting a dog, I think I will have to drop a line to the folks at Staffy Rescue, to see if they have any suitable dogs I can adopt.

Sydney here I come!
Next Sunday (Dec 21) I will be heaving on a jet plane (again!) en route to Sydney this time, to spend Christmas and New Year up there with Mum. I’ll be there till Jan 7 (which is almost 3 weeks) and am looking forward to catching up with a few people whilst there (so, Sydney people, feel free to get in touch to book in a time to catch up!)

Heath Stuff
Knees
As you may be aware, I have had persistent problems with my knees for most of this year, and have finally managed to see a doctor about it (What? Me? Procrastinate? :-). The X-rays indicated moderate osteoarthritis in the right knee, and the beginnings of mild OA in the left, as well as a significant lateral deviation of both kneecaps from where they should go when I bend my knees. The orthopaedic specialist was making dark mutterings about the worst case scenario being knee replacements, but she said that I’m too young for her to consider doing this, and so if the CT and MRI scans indicate that my knees are so bad that there isn’t any other realistic option, she said she would consider doing some minor maintenance (which may involve injections and/or minor surgical scrapings to tidy things up inside the joint and maybe take some pressure off) until I’m old enough for her to consider the full knee replacement surgery (I think she said something about needing to be at least 50 for this). So I guess I will have to wait and see.

Weight
As I mentioned above, my weight continues to decrease, and I now find myself in a tricky situation of having shrunk out of many of my clothes (I went to wear a pair of slacks to church this morning and had to go for ‘Plan B’ as they were just far too big, and would have fallen off). I have started to resurrect some of my previous ‘skinny clothes’, but have effectively shrunk out of all of my jeans, so may need to pay a visit to an op shop to get something that fits for this in between phase (as I still have quite a bit more weight to lose, so am reluctant to spend too much money on clothes that fit me now, as I’ll hopefully shrink out of them soon too).

Intern Placement
A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting of the North East Vic Presbytery (along with Linley and Martin, the other two interns who will be starting placements there in the new year). It was good to meet some of the key people in the Presbytery, and to start talking turkey about dates for a Service of Recognition (to officially welcome me into the placement). Yesterday I also received a copy of the preaching plan for Beechworth, Yackandandah and Stanley for the first half of next year, and it was both exciting and a bit weird to see my name peppered through it. Kind of adds to the feeling that it really IS all happening!

My mind is gradually turning to address a few of the pragmatic things that I need to do in preparation for commencing my ministry up there, and first thing on my list tomorrow will be to ring the Synod removalist to start the ball rolling to arrange a quote and then book a date for the big move. At this stage, if everything lines up with the removalist and the manse availability, I am hoping to shift my worldly possessions as early as possible in the first week of March, so I will have the maximum possible time to unpack and settle in before I start work in earnest on 15th March. Mum’s planning to come down to help with the packing and moving, so that will be great (and she’ll finally be able to get a good look inside the manse, as we could only really do a drive-by and look at the outside when she was visiting last month).

Well, I think that’s enough for now, thanks for your support and friendship. I look forward to hearing news from your neck in the woods, so please keep in touch. I hope that you have a happy and holy time this Christmas, and manage to take time to reflect on the significance of the season beyond the hype and busyness and commercialism.

Caroxxoo

Friday, November 14, 2008

The last few days...

Earlier this week, Mum and I took a trip to Myrtleford, where we stayed at the very lovely Myrtle Creek Farmstay cottages, (owned by a couple from the Myrtleford congregation), and spent a couple of days exploring the local area around Myrtleford, Beechworth and Yackandandah, so Mum could get an idea of where I will be living and working next year.

The locals put on a couple of "meet the new minister" events, a dinner at Myrtleford and a lunch at Beechworth, and it was great to meet some of the other folks from the congregations (after having only previously met a few people who were on the Joint Nominating Committee). The fplk at Myrtleford apparently spent a lot of time convincing Mum that they will look after me when I move up there (but hey, isn't it my job as their minister, to look after them?!) and she was very impressed with how nice and welcoming everyone was.

We ate lots (well, you know, country hospitality, I couldn't very well be a diet nazi in the face of such hospitality) and I even allowed myself to sample the wares of the Beechworth Bakery when we were wombling around town, doing a bit of retail therapy.

So, I can really relate to this cute pic from the I can haz Cheezburger website, which obviously understands my recent diet dilemmas :-)


funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Monday, November 10, 2008

A brief update... as shared with some via email

The end of the academic year has arrived, and I have almost finished all of the requirements of my degree and formal “core training” for the ministry. This update will therefore be quick, and only in Executive Summary form, as life is still busy. Once I am officially on holidays, I will wax more lyrical and verbose :-)

Executive Summary

* Study stuff -Although the UFT semester has officially finished, I still have 4 more assessment tasks to complete. These are two pieces from the current semester, for which I have a Dean’s extension until next Monday: a creative assignment for my Genesis class, and a report and theological critique on an interview I conducted with a hospital chaplain for my Pastoral Care & Ritual class. The other two essays are for a reading unit on Trinitarian Theology, which was extended from first semester into a summer reading unit, and these will hopefully be off my plate by Christmas. The last week of the official semester (ie, last week) was very busy and stressful, but I survived it and managed to get everything done (miracles DO happen!).

* Valedictory! – Last Friday was the Uniting Church Theological College Valedictory, where the college community celebrates the end of the academic year, and sends out the students who are exiting for the year. We had a service of worship, which was a lovely celebration, in which all three of us who were exiting (the Three Wise Women) took part, and received a crackingly good sermon from Robert Gribben, who is also leaving the college when he retires at the end of the year. In the past two years, this has become a significant event in the life of the college, with invitations to various representatives from the Synod and Presbyteries, as well as family and friends of the college community.


Mum came down for the occasion, and is staying with me for a week. After the worship, we had the Valedictory Dinner, which was great. The food was good, the company great, and our fellow candidates in lower years prepared a great program of fun and farewell (including a reading of a very profound, but little known theology text, by Dr Seuss- and the valedictorians were presented with copies of this book!), so that we came away from the night feeling well sent out with love and prayer. It's so hard to believe that this is it!!!

* This week – Mum is being very patient, as I need to spend a fair bit of time working on assignments, but tomorrow we are heading to Myrtleford for a couple of days in the area of Myrtleford and Beechworth, and the local congregations there are arranging a couple of “meet the new minister” events, so I’m looking forward to meeting some of the folk I will be working with from March, and traipsing around the area with Mum, so she can get an idea of where I'll be living and working.

* Holidays! – I have mentioned in previous emails my plans for various trips around the place, to Perth & New Norcia, Sydney for Christmas, and Tas in Feb, so won’t go into detail, except to say that in early Oct I received the sad news of the death of the Abbot of New Norcia, Fr Placid Spearrit. Placid’s death was quite unexpected, and came as quite a shock to the community of New Norcia, and all the friends of New Norcia around the country. A small group of people who have connections with New Norcia gathered in Melbourne for a memorial service a week or so ago, and I was glad to be able to attend that, and look forward to catching up with the monks in New Norcia when I’m there next month. It’s a weird thing, to think of New Norcia without Placid, who was a huge force for positive change during his time as superior of the community there, and I will always regard him as a great role model of the kind of servant leadership I hope to practise in my own ministry.

* Hospitality and visitors - There have been a few people from Tassie passing through Melbourne recently, and it’s been great to catch up with them-especially at times when I was feeling overwhelmed and busy, it was great to be able to take a little time out for a coffee (decaf, of course!) which helped me to focus a bit better when I got back into the work.

* Health - I finally got around to pinning down my GP to examine my knee, and she has ordered x-rays, and plans to refer me to an orthopod to get it checked out properly… not sure what this will mean, maybe surgery, will have to wait and see… and speaking of ‘wait’ (or ‘weight’ :-) I am still beavering away on my diet, and have now lost just under 15kg, and there is a distinctly noticeable difference in how I look, which stunned Mum when she arrived, and various people at the Valedictory who hadn’t seen me for a while also commented. So I am feeling good, even amid the stress and busyness of the pointy end of semester.

Roll on holidays! :-)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Busy, busy, busy

I haven't blogged for a while because I have been (and continue to be) squished under the weight of assignments, exams and other academic pursuits that I need to deal with before I can be FREE!

But I had to have a whinge today, as I was up late last night working on an assignment that was due in today, and after dragging myself out of bed, still sleep-deprived, to put the finishing touches on said assignment, and then print it out to submit, disaster struck.

What is it about computers and photocopiers that they seem to have a sixth sense, and can tell when you are stressed, and working to a deadline, and so pick the most awkward moment to spit the dummy? Today as I was printing out the numerous and varied components of this particular assignment, trying to be very systematic and not forget to print any of the parts ... about 2/3 of the way through, the printer apparently ran out of ink.

No problemo, as I whipped out my trusty cartridge refill kit, and proceeded to top up the black cartridge...

Yes problemo, as the wretched thing still wouldn't print... I tried every trick in the book to get it to work: realigned the cartridges, did a maintenance cleaning cycle, even administered mouth to mouth on the cartridge (to blow the ink down, to get it flowing again)... all to no avail!

So, about to lose it, I decided to take desperate measures, and ran out to the car, drove to Officeworks and BOUGHT a new cartridge. Thankfully, this fixed the whole printer issue, so the printer was able to resume printing where I left off... until...

One particular document just wouldn't open to be printed, and of course, this was the main overview of the whole project, so I couldn't get away without it. Somehow in the process of transferring it from my laptop (which is a better, faster computer that I use downstairs to do all the work on) via USB drive to the desktop computer (which is slower, clunkier, but attached to the internet and printer, upstairs), something weird happened, and it wouldn't open. And as if that wasn't enough, for some reason I had lost a significant chunk from the document on the laptop, which I then had to quickly try to recreate (grrrr), and then after a few unsuccessful attempts, had to find another USB drive and transfer it on that, which thankfully worked...

But all this mucking around meant that I wasted a good hour or more that I really can't afford (and heaven knows how my blood pressure fared in the process)... oh well, at least that assignment is now all printed out and submitted... One down... 4 more to go (including two essays, a written exam and an oral assessment) ... all by Friday.

So Friday, being the day of our College Valedictory celebrations, is definitely going to be a royal Stuff the Diet Day*, and I think I really will need to drink a lot of alcohol at the Valedictory dinner, to celebrate the almost-end of all this study, and surviving to the end of this week!


*and for anyone wanting an update on the diet, I've now lost about 14kg... which is a bit over 2 stone in Imperial

Thursday, October 16, 2008

... and so the Year of Firsts is complete

Today is the first anniversary of my father's death.

In some ways, the time seems to have flown by so
quickly, but in others it's dragged.

So today marks the end of the official "Year of Firsts" for Mum and me: the first birthdays, Christmas, anniversary, Fathers' Day etc without Dad. We have both been blessed to have a great deal of support from people who love us, and from each other, during this past year, and for that I'm very grateful.


Rest in peace Dad.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

for the geographically challenged

OK, so I've had a few comments from people who don't know where Myrtleford, Beechworth or Yackandandah are.

Hopefully this map should help. Basically, from Melbourne, one heads up the Hume Freeway towards Sydney until you hit Wangaratta, and then branch off either to Beechworth and Yackandandah, or Myrtleford.

(and if you don't branch off, and keep heading up the Hume, you will hit Albury about an hour after Wangaratta)






Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Finally- it's all officially official!

Picture a rooftop...
...now picture me shouting from said rooftop...

I am now - finally - able to spread far and wide the exciting news that I have just accepted a Call to a Ministry Intern placement in the linked congregations of
Myrtleford- Beechworth, commencing on 1st March 2009.

Myrtleford church

(As a ministry intern, I will effectively be THE minister for these congregations, although I won't be ordained until I complete the requirements of the intern phase, which will take about a year. As an intern, I will most likely be licenced by the Presbytery to preside at the sacraments of baptism and holy communion in the context of this placement, as well as being authorised to conduct weddings.)

This placement is in the Presbytery of North East Victoria, and it is doubly exciting, because two of my colleagues, Linley and Martin, have also accepted calls to Intern placements in the same Presbytery. (Linley and I have already worked out the halfway point between our two patches, where we can meet up for coffee; and have ideas in mind for "retail therapy" and "tourist" excursions around Beechworth and Bright for some of our days off... what? us? excited? :-)

My ministry will involve responsibility for three congregations (Myrtleford, Beechworth and Yackandandah) and a smaller preaching place (Stanley)- although I understand that there is a lay preacher who usually looks after worship at Stanley. These congregations are very typical of Uniting Church congregations (ie smallish and ageing), but I am very excited by how outward-looking they all are, and the level of involvement in the local communities they all have, and the amount of cooperative ecumenical work they do with other churches in the area (and I think they are excited that I'm excited :-).

And of course, the area is stunningly beautiful (almost as nice as Tasmania! Yes... you can take the girl out of Tassie, but... ;-).

Beechworth church

I will be living in Myrtleford, which is about half an hour from Wangaratta (the closest major regional centre) and an hour from Albury (the closest airport), and three hours drive from Melbourne (or 3 hours on the train from Wang to Melb).
Beechworth is a fairly major tourist town, very historical (the best preserved Gold Rush town in Vic).

The general area is part of the "High Country", very close to the Vic snow fields, smack in the middle of winery territory, and it seems to be "Festival Central" with the local region hosting the Beechworth Celtic Festival, Myrtleford Festival, Yackandandah Folk Festival (and of course, the Wangaratta Jazz Festival just up the road!) just to name a few, as well as some incredible looking venues for food and wine across the region (ranging from the award-winning Beechworth Bakery to outrageously expensive Fine Dining and everything in between). So it's lucky I will be living in a 4BR manse, as I anticipate (and encourage!) lots of visitors!

I have also discovered that a fellow ex-pat Taswegian, who I used to sing with in TUMS many years ago, is now a magistrate in the region, so I am looking forward to catching up with him when I move up there.

So, now you know- the secrecy is over, and you can understand why I have been so excited!


Yackandandah church
By the time I start there in early March, the placement will have been vacant for almost 2 years, so the good folk of Myrtleford, Beechworth and Yack are understandably excited as they look forward to finally getting a minister to call their own. So I think there will be a fair bit of mutual bouncing off walls with excitement in the early stages of my time there.

Mum will be coming down to Melbourne for the Theological College Valedictory celebrations in early November, and staying with me for a week, and during her stay we will travel up to Beechworth and spend a couple of days checking out the local area, so she can get a feel for where I'll be living and working. During this visit, the folk from the 3 congregations are planning to organise a "meet the new minister" social event so members of the congregations can put a face to the name whilst they're waiting for me to arrive and start work. It will be nice to get to meet some of the people before I move in.

If you are curious about the local area, you might want to check it out at:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

First kiss of summer...

... by the sun, that is!

This weekend Brunswick UC had our annual church camp, which is always a great time for fellowship, (and some relaxation space to help get perspective on current workloads!).

Despite advice on the camp form to bring a sun hat etc, I didn't bother, as I wasn't expecting to be outdoors very much (and anyway, the weather has been a bit dim recently).

When I got home this afternoon, and looked at myself in the mirror for the first time, I noticed a happy glow of mild colour on my cheeks, decolletage and forearms (ie all the areas of skin that were exposed to the sun today as we spent part of our worship time outside).

So it looks like I'll have to remember to slip, slop, slap from now on if I'm going to go outside- summer is really coming! :-)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Vale, Abbot Placid



I received news this morning that Fr Placid Spearritt, Abbot of the Benedictine community of New Norcia WA, died suddenly on Saturday afternoon (UK time). Abbot Placid was visiting Ampleforth Abbey on his way home from some meetings in Italy, when he collapsed and died, after feeling unwell on Friday. He had just recently turned 75.

After meeting him on my first visit to New Norcia, I looked up to Abbot Placid as a wise monk, scholar and servant of God; and see his servant leadership as a role model that I hope to be able to emulate in my own ministry.

However, despite the shock and sadness at news of his death, I can't help but smile at the thought that Placid's death was consistent with his life: straight to the point, and no mucking about.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the community of New Norcia at this very sad and difficult time.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ordination! (no, not mine)

My good friend Avril was ordained as a Minister of the Word today at the Church of All Nations, Carlton.

It was a very inspiring service, as the very large congregation witnessed an account of the steps that Avril has taken to get to this point in her ministry; a cracking sermon by Robert Gribben which very adeptly encompassed the theology of ordination; and Avril's ordination vows with the climactic moment of ordination as the representatives of the Presbytery laid hands on her and prayed for the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower her ministry. The celebration was made complete as we shared the Eucharist together.

I'm sure that once she recovers, Avril will have lots to say about the occasion in her own blog :-)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

... watch this space...

On Thursday I travelled to parts as yet unable to be disclosed, in the Victorian countryside, for a meeting yesterday morning with the Joint Nominating Committee to have a 'conversation' about the possibilities of me being the next minister in that patch.

Well, the meeting was very positive, (and yes, I'm even more excited now than I was before) and we have agreed that the process can move forward. So now I have to wait for an official call to be issued by the Placements Committee for me to minister in that place, and once I have received and accepted the call, I can disclose where it is.

After the meeting, members of the JNC showed me around the area, and we checked out the church buildings and manse, all of which are rather nice (and I will have plenty of spare room for visitors once I am settled there!), and my mobile phone even works in the area (I was a bit concerned about this, as the Optus GSM network is notorious for poor coverage in rural areas, but I have nothing to worry about there :-)

So watch this space, as I expect I will have official news Real Soon Now!

UPDATE- Mon 29 Sept
I have been informed by the Secretary of the Placements Committee that at the next Placements Committee meeting (on 10 Oct) he will be proposing that an official call be issued, so we will all have to be patient until after that date before I can do any shouting from rooftops. (Two whole weeks! However will I cope!? :-/ )

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You know it's nearly summer when...

Last night I spotted my first cockroach of the season... crawling up the drainpipe of the handbasin in the downstairs toilet. After a failed swat with a rolled up junkmail catalogue, I resorted to a quick spray of Baygon around the littlest room in the house.

Note to self: put cockroach baits on the list for the next shopping trip.

Damned mainland vermin!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Excitement knows no bounds

After some constipation in the Australia Post system, which caused me to wear a track to my mailbox every day since last Thursday, I finally received the profile for my prospective placement in the mail today, and let me tell you, if you thought I was excited before... I am virtually uncontainable now! :-)

Over a leisurely lunch, I spent an hour or so going over the profile with a fine tooth comb and noting all the questions I need to ask the Joint Nominating Committee when I meet with them on Friday. The list of ministry priorities in the placement profile are very close to the priorities I listed in my personal profile, so it is feeling like a pretty good match on that score. The profile also told me that the church members have a high level of involvement in the local community (and have stated a desire for more), very warm ecumenical relations, and a number of joint activities
with the other churches in the area that seem to happen through the year.

The Presbytery Minister for that presbytery said to me that she thinks I will have a very interesting ministry there, and I think she's right... there is a lot happening in the placement that excites me, and I feel that I could fit in very well with all of that. But the placement has been vacant for a while, so I imagine by now some of their key people will be pretty tired. They also have some hopes and dreams for building on what they have and adapting to change in the local area, which I think will stretch me a bit as I try to help and equip them to realise these goals. So, I think it will be a great opportunity to work alongside these faithful folk to help them grow, and be strengthened as the people of God in their part of the world. (And I reckon I'll probably learn just a few things from them, too! :-)

So now I just can't wait to get out there, see the place and meet the people.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More steps...

On Sunday night, just after I got home from Queen's chapel, I had my first contact from the Joint Nominating Committee (JNC) of the placement I have been asked to have conversations with.

The woman who called me is the convenor of the JNC, and from one of the neighbouring congregations in the same presbytery, and she sounded just as excited as I to make contact. She told me the placement has been vacant for quite some time, so they are delighted to finally have someone to talk to as a potential minister.

The JNC met this morning, and the convenor rang me from the meeting to set up a time for me to come and meet with the JNC. So next week I will be heading to the country, to meet with the JNC and check out the relevant local sights (like the manse, the church, and the local area) whilst I'm there.

The profile document should arrive in the mail either tomorrow or Friday, as the JNC wanted to review the profile and add some information before sending it to me, as they said some things have changed since they originally wrote the profile. So more excitement in store! :-)

Car!

In preparation for the big trip to the country to visit my potential new placement next week, I figured that I should get my rear into gear and put my car in for a service (it's been over a year since the last one, I hope my former mechanic in Hobart isn't reading this!), and also to have a rear wheel bearing replaced (which I am assuming is on the opposite side to the one that was replaced when I was on placement in Launceston about 18mths ago).

I am lucky enough to have a Goodyear service centre just a few hundred metres up the road from me, so, after being a little underwhelmed after using a mobile mechanic for the last service, I thought I would use this place this time round and see how it goes. When I dropped the car in this morning, and reminded the guy about the wheel bearing, he asked me what made me think I needed a wheel bearing replaced?

My very technical response, "because it's making the noise cars make when a wheel bearing is on the way out." (sometimes it seems that mechanics really do think women are stupid when it comes to cars, but I'm sure my response impressed him :-)

Anyway, I left the car, with the expectation that the day's work would cost me in the ball-park of around $350. (you can guess what's coming, can't you?).

Later in the morning, I received a call from the mechanic, telling me that both my rear tyres are very worn, and really need to be replaced. I was a little surprised, as I tend to keep an eye on the tyre wear, and hadn't noticed they were particularly bad... but I have been a bit vague about such things lately, so, after asking how much extra this would cost, I asked him to go ahead.

About an hour before I was due to collect the car, I had another call. This time, bearing news that when he was replacing the wheel bearing, the mechanic had noticed that the rear axle was bent. "This would explain why your tyres are worn, as a bent axle really causes you to chew through tyres". When he said that, I remembered how frequently I've needed to replace tyres since I've had this car, and now suspect that the axle must have been bent all this time, and this was the first mechanic to notice it.

He told me that it would be a waste of money to put new tyres on the car if the axle wasn't replaced too. So, with fear and trepidation, I once again asked him the $ question. He replied that the cost of the part, and fitting, would be between $450-500. So all up, I'm going to have to fork out around $1000 this week on my car.

Interestingly, I had been thinking seriously about getting a new car when I move to the country- especially if I end up needing to do lots of driving- as something with a little more power might be more comfortable to drive than my current little baby, which is a whole 1.3 litres of pure "grunt" (because that's what it does when it has to go up steep hills- it grunts and groans a bit).

However, after spending this much on the car, I might just hold onto it for a bit longer (after all, it does have fantastic fuel economy), and so I struck a compromise and joined the RACV instead (it's only taken me nearly 3 years to get around to joining!). I guess next week's trip from Melbourne out to meet with the JNC will give me an indication of how well the car will cope with that particular trip, which may end up becoming a fairly regular route for me next year.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Today's sermon

Today, I preached my second-last sermon as a ministerial candidate (which will be revisited tonight at Queen's Chapel). My final sermon as a candidate will be preached to the unsuspecting folk in the Riddells Creek and Mt Macedon congregations in late November. After that, the next time I preach or lead worship, it will be as an intern in my new placement next year!

So, to celebrate this auspicious moment (and because I actually had to write out a full script for this sermon, which I don't usually do, as Brunswick UC like to circulate the sermons as part of the weekly email newsletter) I thought I would put it up here for posterity.

Focus on Matthew 18:21-35

On Thursday last week, the world marked the 7th anniversary of the terrorist events that have come to be known collectively as “9/11”. On September 11th, 2001, approximately 3000 people were killed as a result of coordinated terrorist activities in the United States on that day.


I’m sure that we can all remember where we were on that day, when the news of the attack first reached us. I was in Sydney, visiting my parents, and have vivid memories of sitting with my mother in the lounge room, glued to the TV as amateur video footage showed first one plane, and then a second, flying into the Twin Towers, and bringing the World Trade Centre crashing to the ground.

As the Australian TV channels took copious hours of live feed from American TV news services, I remember also being somewhat amused (in a black and macabre kind of way- or perhaps a very Australian and cynical way) as all of the American news readers and commentators expressed such astonishment and disbelief that anyone could possibly want to do this heinous thing to America- because, “doesn’t the whole world LOVE the United States?”

As more detail of the attacks gradually came to light, and it became evident that it was indeed a coordinated campaign of terrorism, the world waited with bated breath for an official response from the US President.

At that time, I remember thinking (in one of my more prophetic moments), wouldn’t it be a powerful statement if the President could come out and say something along the lines of:

This terrible act has caused significant pain and grief to our country, and the world is shocked and saddened by this senseless loss of life.

But I say to the perpetrators of this deed, we will not sink to your level, and will not retaliate in acts of violence, or by seeking retribution for this bloodshed. Instead I say to you that we forgive you, and may God have mercy on your souls.

Of course, this didn’t happen, and for the 7 years since then, we have been living with the consequences of the so-called ‘War on Terror’. I knew it wouldn’t happen, but can you imagine what world politics would look like today if it had? What a potent and remarkable gesture it would have been for the nation whose currency bears the words, “In God we trust” to publicly forgive its enemy.

Our Gospel reading today talks about forgiveness. It opens with a 2-verse vignette of a dialogue between Peter and Jesus, as Peter asks, “Lord, how often should I forgive? Seven times?” Jesus’ response (depending on which translation we read) is that Peter should forgive 77 times, or 70 x 7 times. Whichever way we look at it, this is quite extravagant, and could even be seen as somewhat hyperbolic.

It is no accident that this follows straight on from the passage listed in last week’s revised common lectionary, about pointing out the faults, and correcting those in the church who sin against us.

It seems to me, that this 2-verse vignette that begins today’s reading is deliberately placed after last week’s section, in order to remind the community that when they do point out the faults of brothers and sisters who have sinned against them, they should do so in a spirit of compassion and mercy, being gentle and ready to forgive.

As we move on to consider the parable in today’s Gospel, we can see that the analogy of the forgiveness of debt in the parable is a good one for considering forgiveness generally. When someone is owed a debt, that gives them power over the debtor. If someone is in debt to me, there is a sense that they owe me something, which sets up a power dynamic in that relationship, and so the act of forgiving a debt means relinquishing that power.

Bill Loader refers to forgiving as a form of giving, because in forgiving someone (whether of a monetary debt, or some other kind of debt) we are in fact giving something of ourselves, and not holding back in that relationship. There is no longer a power dynamic. We all know that it’s not healthy to hold onto things like grudges or bad feelings towards someone who has hurt us, either for us, or for the other person, so to forgive is ultimately good for all concerned. Of course, the ultimate role model of forgiveness is God’s self-giving through the gift of the Son.

In our parable the extravagance of God’s forgiveness is indicated by the ridiculously huge debt owed by the first slave to the king- 10,000 talents!

When we consider that a labourer in those days would have to work more than 15 years to earn talent, it is obvious that for a slave to rack up a debt of 10,000 talents would have been a sheer impossibility. The reason why the Gospel writer uses this over-the-top figure is to distract the reader from the content of the story, to consider the meaning behind the story: God’s generous and extravagant forgiveness, freely given, so no sin is too big, nor is there any upper limit on the number of times God will forgive- as shown by the equally extravagant “77 times” (or “70 x 7 times”) in verse 2; and also emphasising the spirit of generosity that should characterise our forgiveness to others.

This is certainly good news for us all… but the story does have a sting in the tail. Whilst it is certainly true that God’s forgiveness towards us is a pure act of God’s love and generosity - nothing we can do can earn that gift- it is also true that God expects us to ‘pay it forward’- in response to the good things that we have received from God, as an outflowing of our own joy and gratitude, we in turn initiate random acts of kindness to others, so they can also benefit. So, after experiencing the freedom and grace of God’s forgiveness to us, an appropriate response would be to also forgive others, out of a sense of joy and gratitude, not of compulsion.

There is something relational about forgiveness, because God’s forgiveness of sin is not just about saying “sorry” for our sins, as this misses the whole point of the Gospel. Just as the Hebrew concept of “shalom”, peace, is not just about the absence of conflict, but rather is about the positive and palpable presence of wholeness and wellbeing, in the same way, the concept of forgiveness is not just about the absence or removal of sin, but about a positive presence of restoration and wholeness. God forgives us so we can be restored into full relationship with him, and in that relational process, we become whole.

For this to happen, we need to be aware that forgiveness is also costly, both for the person who forgives (because they have to give something up) and also for the one who is forgiven (who has to first of all acknowledge that there is something that needs to be forgiven, and thus put aside the lies, delusions and masks to allow forgiveness to happen).

It is also tempting for us to focus only on God’s generosity, grace and the free gift of forgiveness, but in doing this we fail to recognise the value, and indeed, the costly nature of forgiveness and grace. This is why the apostle Paul made the comment in Romans 6:1, after a lengthy discussion about God’s grace being manifest in forgiveness, he asks, “so what shall we do then? Continue sinning so that grace may abound? BY NO MEANS!”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes this attitude, where we fail to fully appreciate the cost of God’s grace as ‘cheap grace’, and points out that we need to recognise that even though we don’t need to do anything to deserve God’s grace, it is not cheap, but is, in fact, quite costly. Costly to God… costly to God’s Son.

As we learn to appreciate that cost of God’s generous grace and forgiveness, how could we NOT want to respond, and emulate the example set for us by our loving, self-giving God?

Weight update

I thought I should make a brief mention of my weight loss progress, as a few weeks have passed since my last mention of this topic.

I have now lost about 9kg (although official weigh-in day is tomorrow, and I have had a couple of little "stuff the diet" moments this week).

For the past fortnight or so, I have been able to comfortably wear one pair of jeans that I couldn't fit into before I started dieting, and two other pairs of jeans which were already a little loose, are now unwearable, as they just fall down. When I was in Hobart a couple of weeks ago, I bought a belt in a "Salamanca retail therapy moment" but it is still a little small, so it will take a few weeks before I shrink into it.

(but after that it will be very helpful in keeping my modesty intact, and my trousers up! :-)

Next Steps...

On Friday morning, along with 3 other exit students, I made a brief presentation to the Synod Placements committee in preparation for their prayerful deliberation on matching each of us with a potential intern placement to commence next year. Prior to making our presentations, the 4 of us were invited to join the committee for their opening worship, which included the Old Testament passage from this Sunday's lectionary (Exodus 14:19-31) which told the story of the Israelites' escape from Egypt across the Red Sea, and subsequent drowning of the Egyptian army that was pursuing them

This led the 4 us (who were feeling just a tad on edge at the time) to discuss amongst ourselves whether at that particular point we identified more with the Israelites or the Egyptians... either way, we decided that for this occasion, we should change our collective descriptor from "exit students" to "Exodus students", which felt quite fitting.

Anyway, our presentations all went well, and we then left the meeting to debrief over an early lunch together... counting down the hours/minutes until we would receive the phone call to inform us of what placement the committee thought would be a good match.

I have been bouncing off the walls with excitement (even more than usual!) since about 5:30 Friday night, after hearing about the place I have been asked to have a conversation with. Whilst I can't disclose specific details at this point in the process, I can say that it is a placement in country Victoria, which is what I was both expecting and hoping for.

After a bit of preliminary internet research about the local region on Friday night, I can't wait to get there for a visit. (And it also looks like a lovely place for entertaining visitors who want a relaxing retreat from the city! :-)

So, the next steps will be that I will receive a copy of the placement profile in the next few days, so I can check out the details of the placement, and their specific ministry priorities, as well as some of the logistics about the people and place. Soon after that I will be contacted by a rep from the placement's Joint Nominating Committee to arrange a time for me to meet with the JNC, have a look around the church, the manse and the local area, and commence our conversations.


So, depending on how soon the JNC and I can get together, and if the conversations go well, I may have some official news sometime in the next few weeks- at which point I will definitely be shouting it from the rooftops (and this blog, of course! :-)

(although a cheeky friend from Tasmania reckoned that Allan Thompson would be sure to beat me to the punch and spread the word across the Tas Presbytery before I had a chance to do any shouting from rooftops :-)... but either way, once it's all official, the word will get to you!

So now, I have to come down to earth and work on a couple of essays that are due. (sigh)


Monday, August 25, 2008

Up and Down

Today I am both up and down.

Up- because I have been officially ticked off... well sort of.

On Saturday I made a presentation to my home Presbytery in Hobart, whose task it was to discern whether they consider me ready to move on from my current core training at college to an intern placement in the new year. After my presentation, and some deep questions from the floor, I left the room whilst the Presbytery deliberated and made their decision. When I returned to the room, I was told that the Presbytery "unanimously, enthusiastically, and with great excitement" approved my readiness to move into an intern placement next year... so since then I have been feeling pretty excited and very UP!

Down- because there is less of me than there was a month ago

After 4 weeks on the diet that I mentioned a while ago, I have now lost 7.2kg (which in Imperial is a pound or two over a stone). So, my weight is going DOWN, and I am feeling GOOD! :-)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dummy spit

Whilst it may be true that Jesus said it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles (according to Matt 15:11, in the prologue to this week's Gospel reading), but what goes into the mouth certainly does have an impact on one's weight.

A month or two ago, after struggling with painful knees and other side-effects of the fact that I was then heavier than I have ever been, I had a dummy spit about my weight. Those of you who have known me for a long time will realise that this is a good thing, because no matter how much people (eg mother, doctors etc) nag me about my weight, or patiently cajole or explain why it's not good to be carrying so much excess baggage, it is not until I have my own personal dummy spit that I will actually take serious action to do anything about it.

So, the dummy spit happened, and I decided that I needed to take things in hand and actually lose weight. I had joined the local gym a year ago, but due to problems with my knees, busy-ness, and various other excuses (some valid, and some a tad thin) it's been a while since I last went to the gym. So, I decided I need to do something about my diet.

I had been eyeing off the Tony Ferguson program for some time (as it's advertised to death on TV), and after checking out the details of the science of what this involves, I took the plunge and ordered the meal replacement shakes, vitamin supplements and other things required to start on the program, with the intention of starting on it when I returned home from my sojourn in WA.

So, a fortnight ago, I started, and said goodbye to my erstwhile staples of caffeine, pasta, rice, caffeine, potatoes, noodles and caffeine. I have been drinking lots of water (which made me realise how little water I had been in the habit of drinking in the past), herbal teas, and the occasional decaf coffee (although I did get a response of, "why bother?" from a waitress the first time I ordered a 'decaf latte with skinny milk')

However, after a fortnight, the news is good. The caffeine withdrawals were mercifully (and surprisingly) brief and mild, I have not been at all hungry on the program, and as of today, I have lost a total of 4.2kg, which is pretty good for my first two weeks.

I have also developed quite a taste for kangaroo meat, after trying some after chancing upon it in the 'gourmet' meat section of the supermarket a few weeks ago. It is quite tasty (almost sweet) and very tender and lean, which is good for the diet.

So, with such an auspicious start, I am hoping to lose around 25-30kg by the end of the year, and will undoubtedly make various references to my progress in this esteemed blog (although I don't really want to turn the blog into a "diet diary", so will spare you most of the gory details).


Friday, August 01, 2008

It's all about ME! :-)

Well, maybe not, but sometimes it feels like it- check out this picture!

It was taken on my recent visit to the West, as my friend Adrienne and I were travelling from Perth to New Norcia. She wanted to show me a bit of the countryside, and so after a bit of an exploration of some of the small towns up the coast, we pulled into the Roadhouse at Cattaby for a coffee, and this sign caught my eye.

I must be famous; I have my own road! :-)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Back from the West

It's been a while since I last blogged, as I've been rather busy with essays etc (which are still plaguing me a bit, so this has to be brief too. More later, I promise.)

I have just returned from a fortnight in WA where the highlight was spending a week and a half in the Benedictine community of New Norcia. After spending a week there last year as part of one of my class units, I was determined to return again, so this was my return visit.

The timing was specifically to coincide with the Feast Day of St Benedict (11 July) not only because it's pretty cool to be in a Benedictine community on their special feast day, but also because a friend who I had met on my last visit was to be "monked" on this day.

Dom Glenn Swallow was clothed as a novice during my last visit, and on the Feast of St Benedict this year, he made his Simple Profession as a monk (ie committing himself to the monastery and monastic life for the next three years. After that, if it is evident to him and the community that God is calling him to this lifestyle as a permanent thing, he will then make his Solemn Profession, which is for life).

It was a great privilege to attend Dom Glenn's Profession, which was a ceremony performed as part of a special Mass, and as a friend of Glenn's I was asked to read one of the Scripture passages in the service. It was a very moving ceremony, and I'm very glad I was able to be there. As part of the ceremony, Glenn was dressed by the Abbot in the monastic hood and scapula that go over the tunic he had been wearing as a novice, as a sign of his profession and commitment. The picture shows him in his full monastic finery after the event.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Worth a thousand words

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I reckon a warm, fuzzy hug is worth just as much when you're feeling cold and low. (although the way I'm feeling right now, I'm not sure whether I'd rather switch places with the man, or the cat in this pic! :-)


see more crazy cat pics

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Does the reverse placebo effect work for technology?

My internet service provider recently made me an offer that I couldn't refuse. Because of an upgrade to the local telephone exchange, my service can now support the shiny new ADSL2/2+ fast broadband. My ISP not only offered to upgrade my contract to ADSL2/2+ for the same contract price as my existing service, but they also sent me a shiny new router which would handle the ADSL2/2+ service, (for no charge!)

The sales drone also assured me that this would make my internet experience so much better, stronger, faster (we have the technology... we can rebuild it...*), but I have to say that after a day and a half of the new service, I haven't really noticed much of a difference.

I so want my connection to be better, stronger and faster, but it just doesn't seem to be. It's just like the placebo effect in reverse. Instead of seeing an effect where there isn't one, I am not seeing an effect where there should be one. I guess I'll just have to keep hoping that things will get noticeably faster.

* bonus points to anyone who actually gets that reference to a trashy 70s TV show!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Exams down... essays to go...

Well, I'm feeling a tad relieved today, after completing my two exams for this semester.

Now I have all those essays to face, but I am actually starting to feel a bit excited about the prospect (yes, call me weird, everyone else does!)

The preparation process for the exams, and the requirement whilst sitting them to just WRITE like the clappers for two hours was quite a cleansing experience for me. It feels like the 'writer's block' that I was experiencing when it came to essays, has been purged, and I am keen to get back into the books (and BB's namesake will be gratified, I'm sure, to know that my Romans exegesis will be the first cab off the newly unblocked rank*).

Woo-hoo, I think I need to get some nice takeaway to celebrate, and snuggle down for the evening with a good commentary. Yes, I know I need to get a life... isn't that what the Intern Phase is for? :-)

* Yeah, so the exams didn't manage to purge me of ridiculous, mixed metaphors; just deal with it, ok? :-)

Possum Postscript: in case you're wondering (as I know many of my dear readers will be), my waters were wrong, and I have not received any late-night bathroom visitations from furry fiends in the last couple of nights.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I have a feeling in my waters

.... that the possums will be on the prowl tonight.

They have been very quiet for the past week or two (ever since the last one landed in my bathroom at 3am one Friday morning) but I have heard a few gentle scritching noises in my ceiling cavity (and it's only 6pm- very early in the night by possum standards), and a thump or two on the roof... so I am girding my loins for a possible visitation tonight.

I guess one advantage is that if they do come and make a racket, they will be unlikely to disrupt my sleep, as tomorrow is my first exam, and I'm expecting to be up fairly late working on last minute preparation tonight....

*sigh* this student gig and its ritual stress and sleep deprivation thing is not as easy to cope with as it was when I were a yoong lass.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Procrastination...

This is how I'm feeling right now...

kitten
more cat pictures

*sigh*

For more on my current spate of procrastination (if they gave out degrees in the subject, mine would be a PhD!), see the article on the topic I wrote for Trapeza.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Kittehs imitating life

Given the issues I have been having with my phone and internet access in recent times, this cute, captioned pic from icanhascheezburger.com seemed quite timely and appropriate.

It's a bit along the lines of life imitating art, or art imitating kittehs, or kittehs imitating life, or something like that.


funny pictures

Gotta love that cuteness factor! :-)


Friday, May 30, 2008

Next step

I was congratulated today by the chair of the Theological College Formation Committee, as he informed me that when the committee met last week to consider the reports from the exit interviews (mine and those of my fellow Wise Women) the committee made the recommendation that, pending satisfactory completion of my studies next semester, I am ready to exit at the end of the year.

Woo-hoo! Bring on the dancing tenors!

I celebrated tonight by watching Spooks on TV (gotta love the Brits- they do conspiracy and espionage so much better than the Yanks ;-) with a glass of champagne and take away noodles.

And I think I need to go to bed now... after being woken at 3am this morning by another possum frolicking very loudly in my bathroom (and by the time I had escorted the furry one down the stairs and out to the waiting tree, then cleaned up the mess in the bathroom, it was around 3:30 when I got back to bed.. need... sleep...)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Exit Process begins

This morning I had my "Exit Interview" at the Theological College.

It's hard to believe that I'm at that time in my candidature already, as it really does seem like only yesterday that I arrived in Melbourne ready to start this exciting period of training. And now, I'm at the Beginning of the End, which will culminate in a presentation to the Synod Placements Committee in November, and (hopefully) a phone call that night with the name of a potential ministry placement, and I will be invited to commence a conversation with the Joint Nominating Committee from that placement about the appropriateness of me going to them as their minister during my time as a Ministry Intern when I exit from College.

There are lots of steps in the process between my Exit Interview (the first step) and the JNC conversation (close to final step), which include meetings with my home Presbytery of Tasmania (the council of the church ultimately responsible for my oversight, and decisions about my progress to the Intern phase of my training, and later, my readiness for ordination), and meetings with various members of the Placements Committee prior to presenting to the full committee in November.

But the first step in the process has now been taken... it feels kind of scary, as I know that things will proceed at lightning pace from now on, and it will be no time at all before I find myself at the end of the process... wow.

Makes me pretty keen to savour the remaining time I have in the luxury of full-time study here in the great community of the Theological College and the wider CTM and UFT.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Possum Tales II, or What is does it mean to be Hospitable?

I originally wrote this article for the Uniting Church blog Trapeza, and thought it was worth reproducing here.


During a recent church Bible study, discussion led to the consideration of hospitality, and we asked the question, “what does it mean to be hospitable?


I would guess that for most people, the thing that immediately springs to mind when you mention ‘hospitality’ is the idea of having people into your home, for meals, or perhaps to stay. A couple of members of the study group commented that their circumstances prevent them from being able to invite people into their homes for meals, so we started to explore other ways that we could be hospitable to people which don’t necessarily involve providing meals, or accommodation.


Think about it: how would YOU define ‘hospitality’ if you couldn’t use any concepts relating to meals or inviting someone to your home?


Someone I know once said that hospitality is “allowing the chaos of another person’s life into your own life”. Our group talked about what it might look like to do this, in a practical way, and came to the conclusion that ‘hospitality’ in its broadest sense is very much like ‘generosity’; a willingness to be generous with our time, and all aspects of ourselves for the benefit of others.


This is quite profound, and can often be costly in practice. I shared the story of a colleague many years ago when I was a youth worker in Sydney. He and his family (he and his wife had two pre-school aged daughters at the time) would often have various waifs and strays staying at their home for differing periods of time. On one occasion, he told us how he had rigged up a complex ‘alarm’ system (comprising various tin cans and other noisy items balanced over the doorway of his daughters’ room) so he would be able to hear if a particular houseguest tried to gain access to the girls’ room during the night. I remember marvelling at this, and even now, more than 20 years down the track, I’m still not sure whether to be in awe of my colleague’s faith, or gobsmacked at his stupidity for inviting someone into his home who he thought might harm his children. Either way, he was certainly inviting the chaos of that mans’ life into his own in a big way.


On a lighter note, I am currently struggling with my own hospitality issue, as I note with some dismay that in the last week a local family of possums has decided that my bathroom makes a nice cubby house in which to frolic during the night. Whilst waiting for the promised tradesman to check out my roof and seal off the access point, I have resigned myself to just shutting the bathroom door and allowing them to frolic away, as the larger ones are able to get out the same way they get in, but it seems that last night the baby of the family came for a visit, and when he was finished playing, discovered to his great consternation, that he was not able to climb up and get out. We both had a little ‘moment’ when I went to use the bathroom and discovered him cowering in my bathtub, looking very frightened and forlorn. Fortunately, my ministerial training equipped me to ‘pastorally counsel’ him down the stairs and out the door to the safety of a welcoming tree.


So, I am starting to feel like “The Possum Whisperer” of Brunswick, and can’t help but wonder whether this current situation is some kind of preparation for my future in rural ministry.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Time for zero tolerance?

I have made no secret of the fact that I do not like having creepy crawlies and other foreign creatures inside my home. I have waxed lyrical to friends on many occasions about my policy of "if it has more than 4 legs and is inside, IT'S DEAD".

That's right folks, none of this bleeding heart, "scrape up the spidey-widey into a jar, and let it go outside" crap for me.. oh no, there is a good reason why I have so many heavy theological books strategically placed in various rooms of my house.

Well, I think I have reached the point where I need to revise my policy of how many legs a creature must have before it is dead meat if it finds its way inside.

Tonight I was quietly preparing my dinner in the kitchen, and heard some dreadful scratching noises upstairs... so I went up to investigate, but didn't find anything untoward. A few minutes later, there were more scratching and thumping and some impressively loud sounds. At first I thought that my 'upper room' had been visited by The Almighty, but then changed my mind to think that maybe one of the Bucknall Court resident possums* had found its way into the space between my downstairs ceiling and upstairs floor (there is a crawlspace of about a foot between the two), which would have presented serious problems if the critter was trapped, and couldn't escape, and died. (after a week or two,the smell would have been intolerable).

So once again, I trooped upstairs, and this time found evidence of a possum in my bathroom (dirt, droppings and scuffed footprints on the floor), so thought there must actually be a possum INSIDE somewhere... and sure enough, when I went into the spare room, there he was, sitting on the chest of drawers, large as life, staring back at me as if he owned the place.

I say "he" because, after extracting a very detailed description from me of the possum's appearance, the daughter of my next door neighbour (a self-confessed possum fancier) informed me that I had been visited by the Dad of the resident possum family.

After enlisting the assistance of a neighbour (the only male to be living in our block now), we managed, via a series of 'comedy capersesque' strategies to coax the possum out of the room, down the stairs, and out of the front door (I hope- I didn't actually see him go out, but heard him go down the stairs, and we did a pretty thorough patrol of the living room's nooks and crannies, and couldn't see him anywhere)

This was not a pleasant experience, and it concerns me as to HOW this critter actually got inside, as I am not in the habit of leaving doors or windows open, so there may be a 'secret entrance' that only the possums know about... That's a worry.

So, on the basis of this, I am seriously considering taking a zero tolerance stand with anything with more than TWO legs that I find inside my home.

Call me a redneck, I don't care... just keep those critters away from me!

* I have been informed that we now have a 'family' of three- a Mum, Dad and baby... all of which I'm sure take great delight in crapping and weeing all over my car, and leaving their mess all over my courtyard (and doing the same for all the flats).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the carbon footprint

I received my gas bill today.

I was somewhat bemused to note that during the past 63 days, I have used a mere 81c worth of gas.

Of course, the total bill comes to much more than that, as there is a supply charge of just over $20 for this billing period, which means that approximately 96% of my bill is due to supply charge, and only 4% is actual energy usage.

This seemingly ludicrous situation comes about because the only gas appliances I have are my stove and heater. Since I haven't used the heater in the past 2 months, this means I have done 81c worth of cooking in the past 2 months,... although the percentages will change very soon, as the weather gets chilly, and I start to use the heater again.

Unfortunately, my electricity bills are not quite in the same ball park as my gas bills (if only! :-)


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The year of firsts...

Chronologically, today is halfway through the first year after Dad's death.

As far as the Year of Firsts goes, we have been through the First:

  • Christmas (25 Dec)
  • My birthday (31 Dec)
  • New year (1 Jan)
  • Wedding Anniversary (26 Jan)
  • Easter
  • Dad's birthday (4 April)

Still to come, is the First:

  • Mum's birthday (22 May)
  • Father's Day (7 Sept)
  • Anniversary of Dad's death (16 Oct)
  • Anniversary of Dad's funeral (23 Oct)

Liturgy for the Scattering of Ashes

This is the liturgy I used for the ritual when we scattered Dad's ashes.


Ceremony for the
Scattering of Ashes
4th April 2008



We Are Here

Neville always said that he didn’t want a fancy funeral, but wanted to meet his end floating down the creek in a cardboard box. This ritual today is our way of honouring his wish as best we can.

We are here because this is a special place for us,

a place which will always carry for us memories of Neville,

the one we loved.
Let us remember him.
(a silence is kept as people remember, or brief memories about the place and its connection with Neville are shared)

Today we will make this a place which will always be sacred for us
because it holds the ashes of our family member and friend.
This will be part of our farewell

and a sign of the setting free of Neville to leave us,

and enter into his next journey,

whatever that may be.

Scattering the Ashes

Let us look at the beauty of this place

which will today receive Neville’s ashes.
It waits to receive them as a gift for its future life.
It will be the joining of this one life with the life of the universe.
We will scatter these ashes as those

who are now prepared to let Neville go

even as we still grieve.

Before we do that, let us pray:
Loving God, today our minds are filled with memories of Neville.

So much of the life we shared together has come flooding back,
and the pain of separation is reawakened.
On this day, his birthday, when the feeling of loss is so acute,

may our sense of your loving care be very strong.

We thank you that the shared experiences that grew out of our life with
Neville are still enriching our relationships with others,

and pray that this simple ceremony will help us all

on our own journeys of grieving and healing.
Amen

The Scattering

We will scatter these ashes

as those who are now prepared to let Neville go,

even as we grieve.
We will let him go, so that he will return to us in a new way;

as gentle memory… as unexpected presence…

as love and laughter in many forms.
(a silence is kept)

We will now scatter these ashes

and send Neville on the great journey into universal life,

life which is as free as these ashes floating in the air,

one with the turbulent waters of the creek, and as light as sunshine.
We now send Neville into life

which is as strong as our hopes

and as lively and as wide as the sea.

Our love gathers around these ashes as they go,

not because they could ever hold the whole being of Neville,

whose life and spirit

could never be contained in a few small ashes,

but because they are small echoes of the one we have loved

and go on loving.

I now invite you all to take a handfull of ashes and scatter them

into the creek and over the surrounding bush.
(the ashes are scattered. After everyone has scattered a handfull, Isobel scatters the remaining ashes to empty the container)

Travel safely and well, Neville.

We will follow you with the flowers that you loved so much,

to go with you on your way

and in celebration of our love for you

and who you will always be for us.
(orchids are thrown into the creek, after which people move up to the garage workshop)

The Sending Out

From now on, when we see this plaque in this place,

may it be a reminder to us of this ceremony,

and the sacredness of this place,
and the creek where we scattered Neville's ashes.

May the gentle rain visit this place with its greening of life,

may the winds of freedom move in delight among the trees around it

and connect its breathing and growing with the spirit of Neville.
May the sun on the water be bright with hopes for all that is to come

and the calm moon cherish all life with gentleness.
May the waters of the creek flow along their course

with love every day,

just as we have loved our husband, father and friend,
and as he has loved us.

Let us go in peace.


(Based on a liturgy in Rituals for Life, Love & Loss by Dorothy McRae-McMahon.
Prayer adapted from Uniting In Worship)