Friday, December 25, 2009

God's love is amazing

Christmas Day is almost over, and I can't help but shed a tear or two of joy as I reflect on the last few days.

Being minister to three rural congregations, I have to spread myself about a bit at special times in the church calendar such as Christmas and Easter, so this week saw me leading the regular Sunday worship at Myrtleford, then an early Christmas Eve service on Thurs at Yackandandah, followed by a 'midnight' candlelight Christmas Eve service at Myrtleford and Christmas morning at Beechworth.

Being my first Christmas in this ministry patch (and also my first Christmas as a minister!) I took as much advice as I could from the locals about what is usually done, who attends these services, and what they would like, (as well as gleaning ideas from various resources and colleagues with more experience).

For the Christmas Eve services, I opted for a slightly modified version of the traditional Lessons and Carols format, allowing the readings and the carols to tell the story in their own way, rather than preaching a sermon, and also allowing the opportunity for members of the congregation to light a candle of remembrance for loved ones absent this Christmas.

It has struck me that Christmas is often also a time of sadness for people who are struggling with relationship breakdowns or who have experienced the death of a loved one in the past year or so. Some congregations hold 'Blue Christmas' services, which are quiet, reflective services, providing space for the grief and less than 'bubbly' feelings to be acknowledged and expressed. After talking to a few people, I decided not to offer this as a separate service in my congregations, but to incorporate a time of reflection and remembrance in the evening services, and this seemed to work well.

Another pastoral practice I commenced, (after a suggestion from a colleague) was to send Christmas cards to the families of folks whose funerals I have conducted during the year. I printed a special message which I pasted inside the card, saying:

The first Christmas after
the death of someone you love
can be difficult.

My thoughts and prayers

are with you and your family, that God’s peace
may be with you this Christmas.


I received a few responses from these, which indicated that people appreciated the fact that I had been in touch.


Another pastoral thing I trialled (and I think I will make a regular thing) was the 'open house' I mentioned in a previous blog entry. People have commented how much they enjoyed the opportunity to drop in, and a number of folk who didn't get there on the day have said that they would have loved to come, but had other commitments. I'm thinking of making this a bi-annual event, as I really do enjoy having folks around, and think that offering hospitality is an important part of my pastoral ministry.

So now, Christmas is over, there was much joy and celebration, tempered with some sadness - I still miss Dad, and I think it will take some time before I get used to the fact that not only is he not around, but unless Mum comes to me down here, I also won't see her on Christmas Day (but I'm looking forward to seeing her tomorrow when I head to Sydney for holidays :-).

Jesus was well and truly welcomed in this corner of the world, and may it be so everywhere.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tis the season to be... hospitable

It never ceases to amaze me that when it comes to hospitality, no matter how much I give (or even seek to give), I seem to receive so much more in return.

During a recent conversation with members of my lay reflection group (members of my congregations who have met with me monthly to provide pastoral support and encouragement during my first year in this, my first placement), the comment was made that many of them felt that they weren't sure whether they were welcome to drop into the manse. This was especially the case for those from Beechworth and Yack, who do often have cause to come to Myrtleford, for shopping or other errands, and have sometimes thought of calling in to say hello or have a cuppa, but weren't sure whether that would be presumptuous, or seen to be 'invading' my privacy or personal space.

I suspect this perception may go back to the days when there was a shift from seeing the manse as the centre of parish life, to seeing the manse as the private residence of the minister.

In the 'old days', church meetings were always held at the manse, and there were always church folk dropping in for various reasons to see the minister or his/her family, and there was an expectation that offering hospitality of all kinds went with the territory of being a 'manse family'. Whereas, these days, there is a stronger emphasis on the importance of self-care for ministers, so that my generation of ministers is encouraged to take regular time out from ministry, and not make ourselves available 24/7, except for genuine emergencies, and the sense that the manse is the home of the minister, and that the parishioners should respect the minister's privacy and need for 'down time'.

I suspect that the pendulum may have swung too far to the latter extreme, and I am keen to find a way to balance these two important values of hospitality and self-care. So I have made a deal with my parishioners, which involves the following statements:

1. There are certain times when they know I will be unlikely to answer my phone (ie before 9am on a work day, because 8:30-9 is my prayer time), and on Monday, which is my day off. I tell them that the machine will usually pick up calls at these times, and if it's urgent, I'll get back to them.

2. People are welcome to drop in for a chat and/or a cuppa, as long as they are prepared to take me, and the state of the manse, as they find it (i.e. I am not by nature a tidy person, so if I need to shift a pile of papers and books so they can sit down on the couch, they need to be able to cope with that); and I promised them that if I am busy with something that I need to get done in a hurry, or am about to go out, I will tell them that it's not a convenient time, and ask them to call back another time. This way they know that they don't need to try to second guess whether it's a good time to call in or not, because I will tell them.

Everyone I've spoken to about this seems to be quite happy with this arrangement, so we shall see how it goes in the long run. To kick things off, and to reinforce my desire to welcome people to the manse, I had an 'open house' this afternoon from 2-5pm, and invited people from across the two parishes to drop in any time during that period, for an informal cuppa.

During the course of the afternoon, I had more than 20 people drop in, and at times my loungeroom was packed, with standing room only, and other times there were just a few of us, but I think overall it was a resounding success, and people seemed delighted to have the opportunity to come and visit me in the manse (which also involved meeting and chatting with folk from other congregations that they might not have known, which was also a bonus).

I think I will make this a regular thing, maybe a couple of times a year, because, as I implied in my opening sentence, whilst it might have looked like I was the one being generous and offering hospitality, I also got a lot in return; the pleasure of chatting with people in a relaxed and informal context (and my collection of Christmas cards, hanging in the living room also seemed to expand too :-)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Amusing Christmas greeting

One of my Facebook friends, who I haven't actually seen for probably around 10 years or so (and is known for his rather dry and sometimes odd wit), sent me the following FB message today:

Merry Christmas
All the best for your employer's birthday and the new year.

Made me grin :-)

(although the concept of the Christmas services I'm currently planning being effectively my boss' birthday party did tend to increase the pressure a little :-/ )

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A marvellously meandering Monday

One of the things I really love about my current ministry lifestyle is my weekly day off. I am apparently being a little 'old fashioned' in my practice of taking Mondays as my day off (some colleagues have told me that these days they prefer to take a different day of the week off, and some of them don't take a whole day in one go, but rather blocs of time across a couple of different days).

Be that as it may, and call me old fashioned if you will, but after the emotional energy of Sunday, I really hang out for my Monday: a day when I let the machine answer the phone and don't think of work or ministry related stuff at all.

Yesterday, I had intentions of getting up (relatively) early, and heading to Wodonga for some retail therapy. There's a particular shop there that I wanted to visit, and so the idea was to set out early, hit the shops at Centro Wodonga, have some lunch there, then head home to potter around the house, do some washing, and write Christmas cards.

Well, folks, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men; well that seems to apply doubly so for clergy women. I ended up having a rather lush sleep-in (for once, NOT interrupted by parcel deliverers, or a certain parishioner who seems to have a radar for ringing my doorbell when I'm either still in bed or in the shower on a go-slow morning). I crawled out of bed around 11am, had a leisurely shower and breakfast (by which time the mail had arrived, so I read that over brekky).

A little more pottering, dropping off some letters to the postoffice, watering the plants on the back porch (and noting with glee that the chilli plants are budding!), then I brought in the line full of washing that I had put out on Saturday, and then started thinking about the rest of my day.

By this time it was approaching 2pm, and I decided that perhaps I needed to revise my plans for retail therapy- Wodonga might be a bit far, so a visit to Rivers in Wangaratta could be the go (as I wanted to get some summery, sandally shoes that are a little more presentable than my current 'beachcomber' style sandals).

As I hopped in the car, I thought about lunch. Given the lateness of the hour, maybe I should aim for Maccas or Hungry Jacks at Wang?... as I set out, I changed my mind, and decided to divert via Milawa and the Gourmet Food Trail, and visit the Milawa Cheese Factory to see if I could do lunch there... as I turned off onto the Snow Rd, I changed my mind again, as I remembered a rather interesting looking winery a bit farther past Milawa that I had passed many times and had been tempted to check out- this could be my opportunity!

So, with that in mind, I headed to Sam Miranda winery where I stopped and enjoyed a lovely lunch and a glass of their Sparkling Snow Road Pink. After a relaxing repast and read, (with a lovely view out the window, and friendly conversation with the girl managing the cellar door front of house), I continued on my way to Wang.

Fortuitously, I found a parking spot right outside the Rivers outlet (must be an omen! :-) and went inside to channel Imelda. I found a number of pairs of shoes that met my requirements, and as I was leaving the shop, I bumped (almost literally) into my Wangaratta counterpart, Ron Manley (who said he had not long ago been joking with the chair of his church council about how long it would take before he bumped into me on the streets of Wangaratta).

He invited me back to the church for a cuppa, and I enjoyed a lovely time catching up and comparing notes with Ron of our respective Carols by Candlelight experiences, Christmas services, holiday plans etc (among other things).

By this time it was nearly 6:30 and I headed towards home, feeling like I'd had a great adventure on my day off.

The day concluded with takeaway pizza for dinner, and writing Christmas cards in front of some trashy TV episodes on DVD (I seem to be going through a vampire phase at the moment, having just finished watching the first season of True Blood, and am now revisiting the first season of Moonlight. What is it about Aussie actors in American vampire TV shows? - Ryan Kwanten in True Blood, and Alex O'Loughlin in Moonlight- oh well, it makes for nice, familiar scenery anyway. Once I finish this current season, I might dig out my old Angel eps, because after all, Angel and Spike really are the vampires' vampires! :-).

All in all, it set me up well to commence my working week in a relaxed and joyous frame of mind (after all, we are in the week of JOY in Advent Season, so it's all rather fitting! :-)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Aye... aye... AIDA!

I spent my day off yesterday en route to Melbourne, to go and see the latest Opera Australia production of Aida, with Barbara, a friend from Tas. Some months ago Barb sent me an excited email, saying that a rather wonderful production of Aida was coming to Melb, and wondering if I could escape for a night to go with her to see it. So, after a bit of research into dates, times and ticket prices, we had a date.

Barbara flew to Melbourne on Saturday, and caught a bus up to my neck of the woods, to spend the best part of the weekend in Myrtleford, and then we set off for Melb on Monday. En route, we called into Seymour, and enjoyed a relaxed lunch and catch up with Linley and Barry, before making our way to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the heart of Melbourne's CBD (a bit flasher than my usual accommodation options in Melbourne, but we were able to take advantage of a special offer that Barbara and her husband had, which worked out very nicely indeed).

We were a bit like two giggly schoolgirls, enjoying the opulence around us (our room on the 6th floor had two double beds and a stunning view of the river, and the lights of the city after dark), and treated ourselves to a drink in the bar, and dinner in the hotel's Chinese restaurant (which, was a step or two up from the local Chinese takeaway in Myrtleford), before heading to the Entertainment Centre for the opera.

The set, costumes and everything was so lavish and 'shiny', it was wonderful (and I could even almost believe that the dashing tenor Radames could prefer the rather dumpy, middle-aged looking soprano 'slave-girl' Aida to the stunningly attractive -and very shiny- mezzo Amneris- which proves yet again the rule of opera that no matter how attractive she is, the alto never gets the guy!)

Barb and I had a great time, and when I got home at lunchtime today, after this experience, and the earlier bliss of the weekend, it felt like I'd been away on holiday for a week, and it took a while for me to get my head back into 'work' mode.

Given how busy I am going to be over the next couple of weeks, this is probably a good thing; a kind of recharging, and girding my loins in preparation for a busy time.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Ahhh blissss...

Yesterday (Saturday) I had the most blissful day I've had in a very long time (which, given how generally happy and excited I am about being here and doing what I'm doing, is really saying something.)

My friend and colleague, Martin, was visiting from Rochester, and we spent the day exploring my local ministry patch. We
started with a trip to Beechworth, where Martin worked hard to single-handedly prop up the rural economy with a bit of retail therapy and Christmas shopping. I teased him mercilessly about this, but he got the better of me in the end, which will become apparent soon.

We then swung by the Beechworth church, where we were both impressed by the liturgical elegance of the worship space, decked out in its
coordinated Advent purple. (I'll try to remember to take my camera next time I go to Beechworth, and post a pic here for your edification). It's really nice to have someone in the congregation who has such a great liturgical and artistic sense. I had had a conversation with this woman a few days prior about how we might use seasonal purple around the sanctuary, and no sooner had we spoken about it, than it was done! :-)

On the way out of Beechworth heading for Yackandandah, (and hello to the old bears who I am guessing will be reading this after my mention of Yack triggered your Google alert :-), we took a detour via the Beechworth scenic drive around the gorge- something I hadn't done before. It was great to see the vastness of the gorge, and enjoy the scenery.

Then on to Yack, to inspect our little stone church; followed by some well-earned morning tea at the Yack bakery (although by this time it was around noon). Then a wander down the main drag of town, and another new discovery- a fantastic little gallery called
Spiritus, housed in the old Yackandandah Motor Garage Premises at the bottom end of the main street.

The ambience and kind of items on sale there reminded me very much of the gallery shops lining Salamanca Place in Hobart, so I felt very much at home. I even discovered some jewellery by a Hobart metal sculptor, Bruce Pringle, whose work is very distinctive (I have a pendant and earrings he made, which are favourites)
.

But by far the most eye-catching item in the place was the very large wooden cross (about 1.5m high, I think), with a stylised metal representation of Christ on it, which was displayed in the window. Martin and I spent quite some time admiring this, and wondering about its presence so prominently in this place. I couldn't help myself, and had to ask the gallery owner about it, wondering who had made it. She told me about the artists (one local and one from Lithuania), and in the process of this discussion, I noticed a smaller version of the cross (about half the size) propped up near the larger one.

The cross, shown in front of my fireplace

At this point, I was remind
ed quite acutely of the fact that neither the Beechworth nor Yackandandah churches have a cross of any kind in them, and my mind started wandering down the path of contemplating how magnificent this (smaller) cross would look in a church. The gallery owner offered to let me borrow the smaller cross to 'test drive' it in the Yack church, to see what the congregation thought about it, but I was so struck by the artistic beauty and liturgical elegance of the piece, that I just had to buy it, and this way, it will remain my property, which can hang in one of the churches for a while, and when I leave, I can take it with me.

The fact that it's not a bare, or 'empty' cross, but has even a stylised Christ hanging on it might pose some problems for some of my parishioners (as in the Uniting Church, and most Protestant churches, it is not our tradition to use a 'crucifix', depicting the body of Christ hanging on the cross, but rather an empty cross, symbolising the fact that "he's not here, he is risen"), but I guess the best thing to do is see what happens. It is a beautifully evocative work of art, and I think introducing it at Easter time could be a good move.
More detail of the metal sculpture

After the purchase, Martin became my 'cross-bearer', carrying said item as we made our way up the street to the car. We discovered that carrying a large cross up the main street of a country town is a great conversation starter (funny that!).
The price tag on the cross was significantly more than the total Martin had spent on his purchases during the morning, so we agreed that I 'won' the prize for propping up the rural economy the most that day.

So we took our purchases home to Myrtleford, where I packed the eski with a picnic lunch (and of course, some lovely Gapsted Moscato) and we headed for Buffalo River Dam. The weather was perfect for a picnic, and we found a picnic table in the shade and enjoyed our lunch, with a luscious view of the lake and its serene surrounds. We had packed a lot into the day, and it would have been wonderful to stretch out on the grass and have a snooze in the shade for an hour or so, but Martin needed to head home, and I needed to head to Wangaratta to pick up my next house guest, Barbara, from Tassie.
The blissful scenery of Buffalo River Dam
(oh, and Martin in the foreground! :-)

So all in all, it was a fabulous day, and despite being full of activity, was very refreshing and relaxing. Have I mentioned recently how much I love living here in the north east? :-)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Coolness of the day- The Muppets do Queen!

This is the coolest of cool YouTube videos- the Muppets performing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Just love it, and wanted to share the cool.


Just call me St Francis...

It seems there is no limit to my attractant powers over our furry and feathered friends.

I have already banged on incessantly about my 'possum whisperer' status, when my Brunswick bathroom became something of a right-of-way to local possums seeking to get from the trees and rooftops back down to the ground again.

Well, now it seems the birds are starting to feel strangely called into my orbit. First, I have been woken up at obscenely early hours (well, before 7am!) by a bird that I suspect must be nesting in the eaves just outside my bedroom window. At the appointed time each morning for a couple of weeks, I was woken up by the sounds of scratching, scraping and flapping of wings that sounded, to my half asleep brain, to be disturbingly close. Fortunately, this unique alarm clock seems to have desisted, but last night marked the latest in my adventures in animal husbandry.

There was an Elders' meeting in my lounge room, and as we were spending some time in prayer at the start of the meeting, we were confronted with a loud scruffling noise, coming from the fire place. "Sounds like Santa is coming early!" I quipped.

More scruffling, and a few puffs of soot emanating from the vent of the wood heater firebox indicated that there was indeed some poor critter trapped in the flue of the wood heater.

Being a group of 4 women, we discussed our options- call the local shire ranger to deal with it? No way they'd come out at night... a chimney sweep? (who just happened to be the former tenant of this house)- didn't answer his phone... well, maybe we'll just continue with the meeting, and see what happens.

By the end of the meeting, and after a few more instances of fluttering and puffs of soot out of the vents, it became evident that it was indeed a bird that had managed to get into this sticky situation, and that it had actually managed to free itself from the flue, and was now happily perched on the piece of wood inside the wood heater.

So, our intrepid group sprung into action, closing off all doors, so that the only way was out, and armed with a towel, to humanely try to grab the bird, we opened the door of the wood heater. The bird didn't come quietly, and rather than allowing us to gently capture it in the towel, it flew out of the firebox, and floundered sootily around the loungeroom for a bit, perching first on the blade of the ceiling fan (and was I glad that we thought to turn the fan off first!), then on top of the curtains... and finally managed to find the door to the hallway, and then the open front door to safety.

I think it will be an Elders' meeting that will be remembered for a long time (for the entertainment value, if nothing else)!


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Feeling rich

With this week's Gospel reading about the widow's mite (I grew up with the KJV, so sue me!), it got some of the members of a liturgy email list I'm on asking questions about good illustrations about money or giving to use in this week's children's talk in their churches.

The discussion then led to poverty, and the idea of how privileged we in the west really are. One member of the list shared a link to a website called the Global Rich List, where you enter your annual wage, and it tells you where you stand in the world's economy.

Now I know lots of people seem to think that a ministry stipend is not the most glamorous income in the world, but when I entered the figures (converted from AUD to USD), the Global Rich List told me that I come in the richest 2% in the world.

Makes you think really, doesn't it?



I'm loaded.
It's official.
I'm the 129,565,218 richest person on earth!



How rich are you? >>

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In the hot seat

A few months ago, as a bit of a lark, I filled in an online application to become a contestant on Channel 9's Millionaire Hotseat quiz show.

A couple of weeks later, I received an email, congratulating me that I had passed that first stage and was invited to attend an audition in Melbourne a week or so later.

So I did.
And I got through to the final stage, where I had my photo taken, and a video interview with the contestant coordinator was taped.

Some time passed, and then I received a call to say they wanted me on the show!

So on Monday this week, I found myself again in Melbourne, this time at the studios of Channel 9, for the taping of the show.

The process took all day, from 8:30am till about 5pm (the original wrap time was supposed to be 6:30, but we were let go early). I got the full treatment, with hair and makeup, wardrobe had to approve my clothing choice (which took two goes to get right, the first top I wore had too many small dots on it and would strobe on camera, so I had to change), and a rehearsal, to get us used to the set and what would happen on the show.

Finally, after lunch, we began taping the shows. Five shows were taped on Monday, so there was a group of 30 contestants (6 per show) that formed a bit of a community as we watched each show being taped, and cheered on as people won, and gasped when they came close, but not quite there.

Finally the time came for my show to be taped. My friend and former neighbour, Alan, was my 'friend in the audience', and we were set. It was a lot of fun, and as much as I have never really been a big fan of Eddie Maguire, I have to say that in person he really is a nice guy, and very good at what he does.

Did I win a million dollars? Well, I signed a piece of paper that says I won't disclose that till after the episode goes to air. So if you want to know how I went, you'll have to watch the show on Friday 6th November.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

*sigh*

Friday is the 2-year anniversary of Dad's death. It's been interesting to monitor my feelings as this date approaches, and I was particularly surprised by my very negative reaction to the whole Fathers' Day palaver this year.

As the TV ads, junkmail and various email promotions bombarded me with the "perfect gift for Dad!" messages in the lead up to September, I became more and more agitated and likely to burst into tears for no apparent reason.

I was in New Norcia on study leave on that particular day, and remember a woman who was a fellow participant in the weekend retreat making a scathing comment about how the priest who presided at Mass on that Sunday prayed for "the fathers" but not for mothers. Someone else pointed out, "that's probably because today is Fathers' Day," and that almost subliminal mention of fathers in the prayer of intercession was the only reference to Fathers' Day in the Mass.

My response to hearing that comment (as I hadn't quite realised the significance of the date) was, "Finally... thank God it's finally come, now the advertising will stop".

It's not as if Fathers' Day was anything special when Dad was alive- we never made much of a deal of Mothers' or Fathers' Days. My usual filial duty consisted of a phone call on the day, and maybe a card, if they were really lucky (and I remembered to send it... they often would have arrived after the fact, as I'm a bit vague about such dates). But for some reason, this year, even more than last year, the fact that I was fatherless on Fathers' Day hit me.

This year, I won't have the opportunity to do anything particular to mark the date, as I will be spending Friday travelling to Canberra, and participating in a seminar on music and liturgy. (Last year, I watched the DVD recording of Dad's funeral, and then rang Mum and we cried together over the phone). This year, Mum will be in Newcastle, with my aunt and cousin, so at least she won't be alone, which is a good thing. I imagine we'll cry at each other over the phone once we both get back home and have the chance to catch up with each other.

It's hard to believe it's been two years. I still miss you Dad.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Floral update

I realise that in being such a slack blogger in recent times, I have neglected to share the progress of my potted bulbs.

I enjoyed a lovely crop of daffodils and jonquils (the last of which are now in a vase on my dining table), and also some delightful tulips, including some dark purply-black blooms which were pretty spectacular.

These have all now pretty much finished blooming, and in their place, the rinunculi and anemones are taking over, and looking lovely, with the freesias also starting to bloom. Just gorgeous!

Here are some pics of the early jonquils, some tulips and the early stage of the rinunculi and anemones.





I'm also discovering lots of flowers popping up all over the place in the manse garden. In addition to some amazing daffs and jonquils, there have been bluebells irises, winter roses, and now some freesias, and some rather colourful things that I have no idea what they are, but they look pretty.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The heavens are telling the glory of God

This afternoon I had a "Life is Beautiful" moment.

I was driving home from Beechworth, on the Buckland Gap Road, listening to Classic FM on the car radio. Geoffery Lancaster (amazingly talented harpsichord/fortepiano etc player and musicologist) was being interviewed, and was asked what was the most memorable or favourite of all the recordings he had made.

He nominated a performance of Haydn's The Creation, in a restored rococo church somewhere in Europe (can't remember where), with an orchestra and chorus whose members read like the most talented musicians in the world. He cited a particular moment in this performance when they were performing the chorus The heavens are telling, and he looked up from his fortepiano to the paintings on the ceiling of the church, and was so moved by the combined beauty of the art, the amazingness of the music (so perfectly performed) that he was overcome with emotion, and was literally crying his eyes out as he played.

They then went on to play that particular chorus (The Heavens are Telling the Glory of God- in German this time) from that particular performance. As the chorus started up on the radio, I began my descent into Buckland Gap.

As I started down the rather steep and winding road, through the black and brown trees (as the Gap was burnt out during the Feb bushfires) I caught a glimpse of a low-slung and somewhat elusive rainbow through the trees.

I caught only a fleeting glimpse, and as I tried again to see it (looking back once I'd turned a bend was not advisable on that road), I couldn't, and was left with a bit of a "did I see that, or just imagine it?" kind of feeling.

The whole scene moved me- the Haydn on the radio, and the elusive rainbow peeking through the desolate trees. The heavens were indeed telling the glory of God at that moment.

Interesting that this morning in church I preached on God's revelation through creation, and I have just started reading a book which explores the concept of theophany (God visiting, or manifesting himself to humans), which has so far been quite intriguing. I think this moment today was my own personal theophany.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It’s interesting what makes you snap

During the week, I received a mail out from the Synod, which contained a poster advertising an event on “Global Warming and the Love of God”, with John Bell as the keynote speaker. Now I have nothing against the church running events to raise awareness and discuss such issues, in fact, I think it's part of our prophetic role to keep such issues in the minds of everyone (and this is especially timely, given my current focus on the Season of Creation in worship over the next few weeks), and I have the utmost respect for John Bell, who is a fantastic speaker and faithful minister in the church.

However, what made me snap was reading the ‘biographical’ details about John Bell, which included the line: “He does not have a mobile phone, driving licence, camera, i-pod or wife”. Wife?... WIFE?!! I was gobsmacked. The inclusion of ‘wife’ in this list of what appears to be gadgets of the current age that one can be seen as noble for doing without, is surely indicating that whoever wrote this considers a wife to be a chattel.


As a single person, I will be one of the first to advocate that it is not necessary to be married in order to have a good and fulfilling life, (and yes, I confess to occasionally joking about the fact that I need my own wife to do all my domestic chores for me) but there is something about this casual disregard for the value, dignity and humanity of wives that is just plain wrong.

Because I’ve been preparing worship based on the Season of Creation theme, I didn’t pay much attention to the regular lectionary readings for this week, until a colleague mentioned that the Old Testament reading is from Proverbs 31, the “Ode to a capable wife”. At this point, I think I laughed hysterically at the timing of my little snap, and the irony of stumbling across these two, seemingly diametrically opposed views of a wife in the same week.

Perhaps it would be helpful for whoever wrote that biog for John Bell to read Proverbs 31:10-31, “A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels…” (or mobile phones, or cameras, or i-pods).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Selfless spirit

This morning I had a call from a lady asking me to visit her husband who is receiving palliative care in the local hospital. When the lady told me the name of her husband, I remembered I had actually visited this gentleman once before, not long after I arrived here. During that visit, I had left one of my business cards with him, and it was upon discovery of my card that his wife called me today.

He has had a long struggle with cancer, and is rapidly approaching the end of that struggle. In the course of my conversation with his wife, (who sounded quite distressed on the phone), she explained to me that they were "amicably separated". On my last visit, this man told me that he had chosen to live apart from his wife, in supported accommodation, as he wanted her to be free to live her life, and not to be tied to his illness. I remember thinking at the time that this was a rather selfless gesture on his part, and one that not many people would make.

When I visited him today, he asked me about my conversation with his wife, and if she'd mentioned anything about funeral arrangements. I commented that she sounded understandably upset, and he winced, as if even at this advanced stage of his illness, he was still seeking to protect her.

He said to me, "your job must be taxing, having to have these kinds of conversations with people," but I reassured him that I consider it a privilege to be able to travel with people at such significant times in their lives, when they are often hurting and vulnerable.

It was certainly a privilege to share some conversation and prayer with this gentleman, and I hope I get to see him again.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vale Keith (25.12.1905 - 20.7.2009)


This morning I am sad, after receiving word that a dear friend in Hobart died last week.

Keith Welsh died in his sleep in the early hours of last Monday morning, aged 103.

A member of my home congregation in Sandy Bay, I have many fond memories of Keith. In the early days, he would always sit with his mate Jim in church, and being two elderly, and rather deaf gentlemen, their running commentary of the service was rarely as sotto voce as I'm sure they thought it was. (The pair reminded me of Statler and Waldorf, the two old guys who contributed comments from the peanut gallery in the Muppet Show).

When Keith was in his late 90s, I asked him if he was excited about the prospect of reaching 100, and his response was pretty typical:

"You know Caro, I'm not all that fussed about it, but so many other people think it's important, so I suppose I should make an effort!"

When he did indeed reach the ton, his daughter and son-in-law threw a huge and joyful party to celebrate. There were many people there from various eras of his life, and numerous speeches paid tribute to the different aspects of his life: the footballer, the serviceman, the journalist and the churchman.


When I was about to leave for Melbourne, just after he turned 100, I gave Keith another challenge. Since he had made it to his century, I told him his next goal was to aim to be around for my ordination, in 4 years' time. He chuckled, and said,

"I think that might be a bit optimistic Caro".

Nevertheless, every time I have seen him since then, we have continued the countdown.


The last time I saw him was in February this year, and as we realised it was only a year to go, and that he might actually make it, we gleefully started making plans to book a maxi taxi to get him from the nursing home to the church for the ordination service.

Well, it's now three and a half years since I issued him with that challenge, and although he didn't quite make the distance, he came so close- so maybe there's something to be said for optimism after all.

Vale, old friend, enjoy your rest, you deserve it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

woo-hoo! we have shoots!

This past week or two I have been very excited to see some luscious little green shoots poking their tentative tips up from my pots. Of course, I was so enthusiastic when I planted the bulbs that I forgot to label the pots, so I have no idea what flowers are in what pots... so I guess that will be a surprise to come when the shoots become fully formed plants and then flower.

Can't wait to see how they all look. :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

We plant the seed, nature grows the seed..

Well, I may not be quite as bad as the Young Ones (extra points to those of you who picked up the reference in the heading)... but I am relieved to say that I have finally gotten around to planting my bulbs in the pots that have been sitting on my back porch since mid-March.

In a fit of energy and enthusiasm, yesterday afternoon I went to Dahlsens' and bought some potting mix (after carefully consulting with a staff member, who gave me some very helpful advice) and came home to plant the bulbs.

I discovered that I had far too many bulbs for the pots, so I went out today and bought more pots and potting mix, so will have a total of 8 large pots and two smaller, hanging pots, that will hopefully be a wonderful show of colour come springtime.

I will still have some left over bulbs, but will plant these in the front garden bed, which I have been told is quite shallow (created over the concrete of the old church tennis court), but that the anemones and ranunculi should cope there quite nicely, as long as I don't let them get too dry.

I'll have to remember to take photos when they flower, and post them here.

You know you live in a small town when...

I have run into (figuratively, not literally) my old car not once, but twice around town in the past little while. The first time was in the Myrtleford hospital car park, when I was there to conduct a worship service, and the second was today, when it was parked across the road from my manse.

I suspect the new owner must be a nurse or other staff member at the hospital, who also does some work for the Ovens and King Community Health Centre (which is next door to the manse, in what used to be the old Presy church building).

It's kind of strange to keep encountering the little white Festiva, and having to remind myself that it's not my car any more (even though it still proudly sports my Friends of New Norcia sticker on the back window. I wonder if the new owner has any idea what that means? :-). It's also reassuring to see that it's still going strong, and I hope the new owner is enjoying it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Warning: I feel a Julie Andrews moment coming on

The hills are alive with the sound of music!
(ahh- ah-ah-aaahhhh ;-)

As I have been driving around the countryside these past few days, I have so felt like breaking out into song as the beauty of my locale has overwhelmed me.


Driving home to Myrtleford after worship in Yackandandah on Sunday morning was an especially fine treat. The rolling hills around the place have all greened up with a lovely lush carpet of grass after the rain we had around ANZAC Day, and driving on a sunny day, with the small, green hills in the foreground, and the bigger, balder mountains in the background, with the sun hitting at just the right angle to make the mountain backdrop almost gleam, is just too much.

I initially kicked myself that I didn't have a camera to capture the view, but then remembered from past experience, that such scenery is best appreciated in person, as photographs always seem unable to capture that special sparkle that makes it so breathtaking.

So, I am continually thankful that I don't need a camera to capture the views, because I live and work in this funky scenery all the time!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Whatever happened to Caro's Nutrimetics thing?

For those of you who have known me for a long time, you will remember that quite a few years ago when I was still living in Hobart, I signed up as a Nutrimetics consultant. I did this primarily because I loved the products, and wanted to be able to access them quickly, easily and cheaply.

Then, I got a bit involved in the business side of the company, going to training, where I learned a lot about getting the most out of the products, and also marketing and promotion. So, for a while there, I was full-on into things, actively seeking customers, doing monthly brochure mailouts, doing Nutrimetics 'shows' for friends, as well as potential customers I met through various marketing ventures. I quite enjoyed it all, and made some friends, but eventually, the reality of having a full-time job and lots of other commitments got the better of me, and I had to pull back a bit.

Then, when I moved to Melbourne, as my life took a different direction, I had to let go completely of the 'business' side of my Nutrimetics involvement (but I still have an active account, as I still like to get products for myself).

In more recent times the Nutrimetics company has introduced a new promotional strategy (which I know other direct marketing companies have also had for a while), so 'consultants' such as myself can have a personal Nutrimetics website. After a bit of uncertainty, today I decided to sign up for one of these sites.

What this means is that my friends and family who may have bought product from me in the past (and cursed me when I moved to Melbourne, or later to Myrtleford, because it all became too hard) can now place orders directly through my personal website, and the product will be sent straight to you, rather than having to get it from me.

My personal Nutrimetics website can be found at: http://www.my.nutrimetics.com.au/carofield

This site will be updated regularly by the company with the latest special offers. I don't plan to promote it vigorously (will probably mention it in my next email newsletter, and place a link on my blog home page, but that's all). As I said, I'm no longer actively pursuing the business, and don't do 'shows' (or 'Spa Experience' as they are now called). But I hope that this site will be useful to my friends and family who really like the products and would like to still access their favourites despite not having a local consultant of their own.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

My heart overflows with joy

I have just completed my first Easter as a minister. Having only arrived in my congregations in the middle of Lent, there wasn't a lot of time to plan for Easter worship, look at themes, or arrange anything that I considered particularly creative, but despite that, it's been a wonderful Holy Week and Easter celebration. Because of the number of congregations I have responsibility for, I have been a tad peripatetic during Holy Week, leading Palm Sunday worship at Myrtleford, Maundy Thursday evening at Yackandandah, Good Friday at Myrtleford, and Easter morning at Beechworth and Yackandandah.

On a dark and cold Thursday evening, about 8 of us gathered in the Yackandandah church, to celebrate a simple Maundy Thursday Eucharist and Tenebrae service. It was a special time, as we turned off the lights, and began extinguishing the candles, as we followed the shadows of Jesus' journey to the cross. When the final candle, the Christ candle, was extinguished, the church was in total darkness, and all was utterly silent. It was a confronting and special moment as we sat in silence in the dark together before quietly leaving without the usual social chat that follows Sunday worship. As I was packing up after people had left, one of the congregation leaders told me that as he drove one lady home, she commented that she found the service deeply moving, and wouldn't have missed it.

On Good Friday, we had a number of visitors in Myrtleford, and spent a time of worship slightly more reflective than usual contemplating the cross and what it meant for Jesus to endure it, and die. A slightly "Vicar of Dibley-esque"
communication mix up regarding the starting time of this service advertised in different places didn't seem to detract from the worship which was solemn, without being overly dramatic or "slash-your-wrists-depressing".

But of course, the crowning glory was the celebration of the risen Christ this morning. I left home at 6am to arrive on the rock overlooking Beechworth in time for the 6:30 ecumenical dawn service. A group of 50-60 people from the combined churches of Beechworth, and some visitors to
the area gathered to proclaim our joy in the risen Christ.

As part of this service, two crepe paper crosses, suspended by helium balloons (see the photos) were released, with a note on them explaining what they were, and inviting whoever found them to contact the churches to let us know where they ended up. One of the crosses released yesterday during the Beechworth Golden Horseshoes festival parade landed about three hours later, in the grounds of an art gallery in Bright.

After this, I celebrated worship and Holy Communion at the Beechworth church, which was interesting. I often find when I'm leading worship that it's hard to gauge how it's going, and whether the worship hits the spot for people in the congregation, but today, after the Beechworth service, I was buzzing. A number of people expressed how much they appreciated the service, which included a visual presence and an explanation of some of the symbols of the resurrection, and I got more and more excited as the service proceeded, as the reality that "Christ has risen, he has risen indeed!" infected me anew.

When I arrived in Yack, to lead worship there (using the same liturgy and sermon; well, as much as any sermon can ever be the same twice), I commented to the church organist that I reckon the Yack folks were pretty lucky today, because after already leading this worship at Beechworth, I was seriously excited and 'pumped' for their service, even more than I was earlier in the morning.

So, despite being now utterly exhausted after a hugely busy week, and day today, I am still excited, and utterly high on the thought of what a privilege it is for me to get to lead this worship with these amazing people on this special day.

Whilst I'm really looking forward to a day off tomorrow, I'm jumping out of my skin with excitement. Have I mentioned before how much I love this job? :-)

Monday, April 06, 2009

more photos

Some more pictures, from my first Sundays at Myrtleford and Beechworth churches


The classic "mother-daughter shot" taken on my first Sunday at Myrtleford.



Arriving at Beechworth to lead worship, with bolt-cutters in hand. No, I didn't need to storm the barricades after resistance from the locals to the new minister, just returning them to a couple from Beechworth who loaned them to someone at Myrtleford last week. (but seriously, shouldn't every girlie minister have a pair of bolt cutters, just in case? :-)


The 'meet and greet' after church. I look like SUCH a minister!


Moment passed... oh well. (The Vicar of Dibley really is my role model :-)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Around Myrtleford

I figured it's about time I posted some pictures of the local scenery. More will come, including some pics of Beechworth and Yack, but this first instalment is around Myrtleford.

Welcome to Myrtleford!
This is the scene that greets you as you enter town, coming from Wangaratta on the Great Alpine Rd.


The Big Smoke!
Tobacco was a major industry in Myrtleford up until Phillip Morris pulled out of the area a number of years ago.



The recent bushfires had a significant effect on the local area. This is a common sight along the Yackandandah Rd at Mudgegonga, where the foreground is untouched and green(ish) and you can see the skeletal remains of the burnt out treeline along the ridge of the hill.



Here are the remains of a house burnt out in Mudgegonga on the Yackandandah Rd.


Already, regeneration is starting, as new life sprouts out of charred, burnt trees.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's been a great week.. or two

For my morning prayers during Lent this year I have been vascillating between using a daily devotional book written especially for Lent by a Benedictine sister, and the Jesuit Sacred Space prayer book. One of the exercises in Sacred Space this week is to look back over the past 24 hours, and identify things to give thanks for, and things to be sorry for.

I must be having a pretty good week, as I am finding lots of things to be thankful for- so much so that it kind of blows me away- and not much at all to regret or be sad about.

One special moment, not really related to my ministry at all, that I'd like to share happened on Sunday afternoon. After leading worship for the first time at Beechworth and Yackandandah on Sunday morning, I decided to have a wander around the Yackandandah Folk Festival in the afternoon.

I had a pleasant wander around the street stalls, and a lovely lunch with some folk from the Yack congregation, before heading off on my own to take in some of the music.

An amazing thing happened right at the end of the afternoon. A friend from Melbourne was up for the festival, performing with the Men in Suits choir. They had a gig at the end of the afternoon, as the last act in the Yack Courthouse. Because the choir was too large to fit on the Courthouse stage, it was decided that the performance should move outside, with the audience sitting on the grass slope, and the choir standing near the entrance to the Courthouse.

It was a warm afternoon, and it was very relaxing to sit on the grass with everyone else, and listen to the choir singing (much witty and entertaining material, as well as good singing). At one point, it started to rain. Stephen Taberner (the choir director, so those of you familiar with him and the Spooky Men's Chorus will have an idea of the ilk of Men in Suits) shouted at the audience behind him "don't you dare leave!" and noone did.

There was something very special and relaxing about sitting on the grass, feeling the gentle rain (which didn't last for very long, so we didn't get very wet at all) and listening to the music. People walking past also stopped and listened too.

A lovely way to conclude a great weekend.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I'm now officially here

I'm currently on a high, after having my service of recognition as an intern yesterday afternoon, and celebrating my first service of worship (including my first Eucharist) at Myrtleford church this morning.

Yesterday's service was great. The church was quite full, and in attendance were quite a lot of representatives of the Presbytery, as well as a significant number of friends who had come to celebrate the occasion and support me in the commencement of my ministry. (I calculated that there would have been at least 14 people who came up from Melbourne, and one from my home Presbytery of Tasmania, bringing with her the greetings of the Presbytery, and a tape of recorded messages from friends from the Sandy Bay congregation in Hobart).

It was a very joyful service, and the excitement of the folk from the Myrtleford-Beechworth congregations at finally having me here was palpable (as was my own excitement, but I think you would have already guessed that to be the case).

One friend from Melbourne commented that all the folk from the local congregations who gave speeches of welcome after the service spoke as if they already knew me and were genuinely glad to have me here, knowing all that I could offer, rather than the usual "welcome to the area" kinds of things one would expect.

In fact, one person who spoke on behalf of the Myrtleford congregation (who also happens to be one of the people who lost a home during the bushfires) expressed her thanks for all the support I have already given her and her husband since the fires ... and left me wondering, "what exactly have I done?" Not much, from my reckoning, but whatever it was, she obviously thought it significant. That's the funny thing about pastoral ministry, we can never really tell how significant what we do or say is to people.

After this morning's worship, as I did the 'meet and greet' as people went out to the hall for morning tea, a number of folk commented that they hope I will be around for a long time. So I guess that's encouraging (although I will wait until the 'honeymoon' period is over before I get too excited :-)

But in all, it's been a great start to my ministry in this place, and I'm excited (yes, still excited! :-) And this afternoon also marks the "two down, one to go" point of the three services in three days marathon that marks the start of my ministry (service of recognition yesterday, Sunday worship with Eucharist today and my first funeral tomorrow). I think I'll sleep well tomorrow night.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Typical...

Well, I haven't even officially started work yet (still in the first fortnight of "settling in" time) and I have been asked to conduct a funeral next Monday afternoon.

This will be the first funeral service I have ever led, and the prospect of it, as I listened to the message on my answering machine this afternoon, struck more than a little fear to my heart. I could have gotten out of it, by claiming either that Monday is my day off, or asserting that I am not supposed to be working till after my service of recognition on Saturday, and so could have fobbed off the responsibility to someone else in this strange interim time.

However, when I spoke to the family representative of the deceased man, I agreed to conduct the funeral, as I figured that this time of grief is not a time to be dithering about marking out boundaries. And even though we have been trained to be vigilant about self-care in ministry, and to watch out for things that eat into time off, I reckon that there are some things (and this is one) where a bit of flexibility is called for in the name of compassion.

So, now I find myself with two services of worship to prepare in the next few days, as well as some pastoral visiting of the family requesting the funeral. Such is life in ministry, and you know what? I'm loving it! :-)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Movin, movin, movin...

I am very pleased (if somewhat exhausted) to say that I am almost ready for the arrival of the removalists on Monday morning (and it's only Saturday!). Mum and I have been working hard (Mum probably more than me, given that I had to spend a day at a Victorian Council of Churches training day on Thursday, whilst she stayed home and packed up the kitchen. What a woman!), and now it's almost all done.

In fact, today we ran out of boxes, so the nice man from Kents who estimated how many boxes I would need mustn't have looked in some of my cupboards (I am thinking particularly of my Nutrimetics 'warehouse' here).

But anyway, all of the hard work is done, and there is only some easy stuff like clothes and linen and some last minute things (like my laptop!) that need to go into the boxes that the removalists will bring with them when they come on Monday morning.

One of the 'hardships' about having everything packed is that it's not possible to cook meals any more, so Mum and I just have to go out to the pub for dinner tonight... it's such a hard life, especially when the local Bridie O'Reilley's does such a great steak :-)

Friday, February 20, 2009

After the funeral...

Now I'm home in Melbourne, I've been reflecting a bit on the last few days, and although it's been sad, and was a bit hard being in New Norcia, knowing that Glenn wouldn't be there (as spending time with him had been a significant part of all of my previous visits there), I do feel a sense of peace, and am glad that I went over for the funeral.

I met up in Perth with a friend called Peter, from Sydney, who I had met through Glenn on a previous visit to New Norcia, and we travelled up together in a hire car. When we arrived in New Norcia, Abbot John was waiting for us in the guest house and spent a good hour or so with us, talking about what had happened, and sharing some of the things Glenn had written in the long letter he left for him before he died. That conversation effectively answered most of my questions about Glenn's death, without the need for me to actually ask anything.

Our time in town was a fairly subdued time, but there was something about the inherent peace and sacredness of New Norcia that was very healing for me. Peter and I did some therapeutic polishing of brass in the church vestry on Tues arvo in preparation for the Requiem Mass on Wed, and had an Abbey Ale in the hotel each afternoon we were there. (Sorry BB, I didn't bring any back for you ;-)

The funeral Requiem Mass itself was a beautiful event. Abbot John presided, and his liturgy and homily were stunning, from all angles: liturgical, theological and pastoral.

I thought his most masterful and astute stroke was to make a very firm and unequivocal statement right at the outset about the unconditional love of God, firmly asserting that even though Glenn had committed suicide (and he did use the "S" word a number of times throughout the service, not shying away from it, as happens in some funerals for suicide victims) there was no question of Glenn's standing with God.

After the eulogy, Glenn's sister-in-law, who has suffered from depression for the past couple of years, spoke quite powerfully about the issues surrounding depression, and how important it is for people to talk about it, and get the support of those around them to help them fight it.


All in all, it was a very positive time, even though experienced through tears and sorrow. Abbot John asked Peter and I to participate in the mass by bringing up the bread and wine for the Eucharist. He said that he was wanting to involve as many people from various areas of Glenn's life as possible in the service, but thought it best not to ask us to read, or actually say anything, given how emotional he thought we'd be, and I was grateful for that.

It all went well, and there was a procession from the church to the cemetery a few hundred metres away, and a brief graveside committal. I think the event was a good tribute to Glenn's life, an opportunity to mourn his death, and also a chance to worship and give thanks to God. The church was full to overflowing, with a huge diversity of people there, showing how widely known and loved Glenn is.

Peter and I left New Norcia on Thurs morning, after the usual morning offices and 7:30am mass, which Abbot John dedicated to us, sending us on our way with the prayer and blessing of the community, which was very touching and special. From what John said to us the previous night, I think the community was moved and thankful that we had made the effort to come from the east to stand with them at this difficult time.

Before we left town, we went by the cemetery to say a final farewell at Glenn's grave. So it's been a very intense time, but the overall experience has left me feeling quite at peace (although not looking forward to all the work of packing up and organising myself for the big move).


Sunday, February 15, 2009

... on the hop...

I arrived home in Melbourne from my Tassie holiday tonight, noting the colour of the sky around Melbourne, heavier than the usual Melbourne smog, thanks to the bushfires still burning just out of the city.

Since arriving home I have collected my mail from my next-door neighbour (a huge bundle for only 2 weeks away!), eaten some yummy ( but not very diet- friendly) takeaway fried rice for dinner and have packed another bag for my quick trip to WA for Glenn's funeral.

I will be on the plane at 6:05am tomorrow, and will meet up with Peter, a friend from Sydney, in Perth, and we will drive up to New Norcia together. Glenn's funeral is on Wednesday morning: a Requiem Mass in Holy Trinity Church at New Norcia, followed by a burial in the NN cemetery, and a light lunch afterwards.

Arriving on Monday afternoon, will mean that Peter and I will have the chance to settle into the place, and prepare ourselves emotionally for what will be a very difficult funeral. We'll then stay on Wed night and head back to Perth on Thurs morning.

This means I will be away from Mon morning till Thurs night, which will probably have an impact on my packing and "preparing to move house" program, but it's important to me to go to this funeral of such a dear friend, and I'm sure things will all get done eventually, so I'm not particularly stressed about it (after all, Mum is coming to help with the final stages of moving and packing, so she will certainly whip me into shape!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Double sadness

I am currently on holidays in Tasmania, but am aware that people may be wondering about what's happening re the current Vic bushfire situation.

I am due to commence my placement in Myrtleford-Beechworth in early March, and so expect to hit the ground running when I get there. At this stage I am conscious that the fires have affected pretty much all of my future parish, with Beechworth, Yackandandah and Stanley especially affected, and I think, still at risk from the current fire situation.

I am also aware that one couple from the Myrtleford congregation have lost their home. I'm not sure if there have been any other losses, but guess I'll find out soon enough.

I am feeling a tad frustrated, as if teels a bit obscene to be here in (Raining) Tassie, having a holiday, whilst my future parishoners are facing such terrible things in the face of the bushfires; but as a wise Presbytery Minister pointed out to me, the time for caring action will come when I get there, so until then, I am keeping the people of the parish (and other fire affected areas) in my prayers, and trying to enjoy my holiday, and recharge, relax and recreate so that when I get up to Myrtleford, I will be of use to the folk there.

On a different, but also sad note, I heard today the tragic news that my dear friend, Dom Glenn Swallow, a monk of New Norcia, took his life over the weekend. This came as an utter shock to me, and to others who knew and loved Glenn. At this stage funeral details are not known, but I am hoping that it will be sometime next week, and am hoping to get to WA for it.

I will write more once I get home and things settle down a bit.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Melbourne is melting

Melbourne is currently experiencing some kind of record-breaking heatwave, with temperatures the past two days soaring close to 45C (according to the BOM, today's maximum temperature in Melbourne was 44.3C at 4:43pm. Cool, eh? Well... perhaps not... :-/ )

It's days (and nights) like this, that a science geek grrl such as yours truly gets to experience first hand the principle of Physics that hot air does indeed rise. As I climb the stairs of my flat, I can feel the temperature gradient go from "mildly uncomfortable, but quite tolerable" downstairs, to "Hell may not really be physically located in Brunswick, but it sure feels like it," by the time I get to the top of the stairs.

For example, at 11pm last night as I sat at my computer briefly, I noticed that the temperature in my upstairs study was still 35C. The BOM predicted that the minimum temp overnight last night would only get down to 29, but according to the actual readings, it actually got down to 28.7 at 3am- woo-hoo!.

Tonight, as I sit in my study (very briefly) at 11:30pm, I see that the temperature is now 37C, and I can feel the sweat start to trickle down my back. I think it's time to go to bed, and try to sleep... with a heavy duty fan aimed at the bed, in the hope that it won't actually feel like 37 degrees.

If you don't hear from me again, you'll know I melted away (either that, or our area has had to take its turn for the power cuts that are plaguing significant parts of th city).

As I watched a bit of the late news on TV, with a story about the heatwave conditions in Melbourne and Adelaide, bushfires around the state of Victoria etc... immediately followed by an equally dismal story about a snow storm somewhere in the US, I couldn't help but find these conditions to be reminiscent of the apocalyptic situations that were to be found in the plethora of 'beyond the end of the world' kind of movies that came out back in the 70s and 80s (remember the Mad Max movies?).

Maybe life is finally imitating art; or maybe the movie makers really were prophets.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A surprise gift

Today I received a parcel in the mail, from a friend in the US. I was quite surprised when I collected it from the postoffice, as it was quite heavy for an international airmail parcel (and must have cost a fortune to post).

When I got home and opened the box, I was delighted to find a collection of books, of various shapes and sizes, all individually wrapped in Christmas paper.

As I started unwrapping the parcels, I discovered a lovely collection of books mainly on topics of contemplative spirituality, some of a Benedictine flavour, some by Thomas Merton, and some others by Quaker authors. One of the latter is a history of American Quaker women and feminism, and looks like it will be quite an interesting read.

During the course of my studies, I have been building a frighteningly large collection of "books to read when I finish studying"; various novels (trashy and otherwise) and other books on pastoral ministry, prayer, theology (I will read Moltmann's The Crucified God this year!). However I think some of today's arrivals will enter the "To Be Read" pile quite close to the top.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy New Year

Yes, I know I have been silent in the blogosphere of late, and this is because I have been hot, busy and a tad stressed. Still have my final two essays to finish (by the end of Jan!) and so can't spend much time thinking high and mighty and bloggable thoughts.

So, as a consolation prize to those of you who may have been disappointed at my recent lack of verbiage (man, who am I kidding?! :-) I have updated my profile picture to replace the old one which was taken over three years ago, before I moved to Melbourne, with a more recent pic, that was taken on the day of the UFT valedictory service last October. (Thanks to Susan, the photographer, who sent the photo to me).

I spent Christmas and new year in Sydney with Mum, and managed to catch up with some friends which was very nice, and am looking forward to a further two weeks in Tas in the first half of February, to also catch up with people and generally relax before the onerous task of packing up my flat to move to Myrtleford in early March.

So hopefully, sometime Real Soon Now (TM) I will have the time and energy to blog a bit more. Until then, Happy New Year, and enjoy what's left of the 'holiday period' :-)