Hobbit-spotting in March

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I’m distracted at the moment.  I’m in the process of buying a one-bedroom flat in North East Valley.  I take possession at the end of April.  I have made the 10% deposit.  I’m talking to a mortgage broker about things like income insurance.  It’s going to take up most of my savings and I will probably have the mortgage for the rest of my life (I’m 50 now).  Still all is good and I am hopeful.

And I’m secretly excited.  I will have my own home!

I went to my first lecture for the Centre on Research on Colonial Culture.  Re-Configuring Government Houses, given by Martina Ghosh-Schellhorn.  Lots of notes about the details of government houses which I want to include in my imaginary city, Lamborough: the architecture, the servants, the lack of privacy.

I came away with two ideas:

  • the stone masons that built Government House in Kolkata then went on to build the Astana in Singapore.  The idea that Tony Ballantyne introduced of the internet of empire works, and needs to be explored further in this context.  Just as in the same way rhododendrum seedlings were introduced into New Zealand before they arrived in Britain, on the way from China.
  • Cultures interact in hierarchy.  Cross-cultural communication can happen.  It’s a word du jour at the moment, alongside multi-culturalism.  But white male anglophones (like me) still remain the privileged culture.

Prayers for Lent 3, 28 February 2016

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Good morning, big god, we come to prayer, spare us a moment and bend your ear to listen to us while we talk words. Come among us, holy spirit, we can wait, for we are waiting on you. We welcome you in, on the hot sweaty air, the cloudless blue skies, the long evenings. We love this summer season you have sent us, but don’t get us wrong, we could still do with a bit of rain, in your good time, please.

As it’s this time of year again, we’re back at work, school’s in, and the next thing we know, there’s university students back, filling up our streets with young people, and our ears with their noise. Now the weather’s settled, everyone is back. Our city revives from its long summer amnesia and the days of the year begin. Welcome us all in, and bring about your kingdom. We are a motley bunch: working and retired, young and old, families and children and single people. So welcome us all in, the familiar and the new faces, people who are coming and going, all of us part of your work for our salvation.

We pray for your church – keep us doing good works: to be a strength for those who need our support; to be a home to the wanderers, whether pilgrims, tourists or those seeking sanctuary; to be alongside those who need us to sit with them; and to live within our doubts. Remember our church leaders, our moderator, Andrew Norton, Assembly Office in Wellington, and others around our islands. We pray for the peace of our national church.

We pray for those you have given authority on earth, the Governor-General and the ministers of our government. We pray for our leaders in parliament and in council, may our representatives lay aside their differences and their own interests, to govern the country and our city, to maintain justice, and preserve our welfare and peace.

God defend New Zealand, keep our islands within your protection. We are here on the edge of the world. Your oceans, they surround our islands, preserving us from the conflicts of the world flooding across our borders. Yet they still come to us. We pray for those in Fiji and Vanuatu, our island neighbours, repairing their homes after storms. We give thanks for our defense forces lending a hand in the work of peace and security rebuilding in the islands. Strengthen the work of our hands, Lord, strengthen the work of our hands. Keep us working as good neighbours to support other nations, to hold back the storms and restore the bounty of our ocean. May the land, sea, and sky join together as our symbol of peace.

Remember those who have come to these islands as refugees, both welcome and unwelcome, scattered in different camps, different homes, different countries. We especially remember those who are coming to our city, may they be at home here, a part of lives. Let them find what is good in Dunedin – homes to live in, work to live, peace of mind and cure for the soul, an escape from vulnerable places with teeth like a shark, across hostile land and sea. Make our place a safe place both for new chums escaping violence in the homeland as well as for us who live here.

We remember our own people, present today, and in empty pews where memory is their ghost. When we are troubled, give us your heart’s ease. Heal us in body, mind and spirit. Make us to know your joy again, and let us join with those who celebrate. Jesus, teach us to party, and to celebrate as you did in the homes of the holy land. Bring us into the time of your great feast where we will party until the stars go out, and may there be cake.

Now, teach us to pray, the same words you taught your disciples to pray. We say together…


The Unfruitful Fig Tree and the Servant’s Duty by Kazakhstan artist Nelly Bube, Luke 13:1-9

Grace Notes for Lent 2

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John Swinton – Practical Theology

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I think that this is my first lecture report for 2016, John Swinton’s inaugural address to the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership.

I guess Practical Theology is something like practical witchcraft.  It has moved on from the days of “When you throw a clump of earth on the coffin make sure it doesn’t contain stones.  The sound will offend the family and other mourners.”

It’s a contrast of academic and faith-based theology.  Academic theology is knowledge of god; systematic, observed knowledge, scientia. Faith-based theology is knowledge about god, wisdom based on loving god and the people who love god, sapientia.  (Is this knowledge subjective?)

What is love? Whoever does not love does not know god, for god is love, 1 John 4:8. Love is god.  An action.

Doctrine shapes our imagination. Take every thought captive to Christ.

What happens when personality changes?  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in god, Colossians 3:3. We are who we are in Christ — and that is hidden from us. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we shall face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known, 1 Corinthians 13:12.  Self is always a mystery. We tend to create our identity in self-sovereignty, what we know about ourselves.  Jesus Christ is died and risen again for us. Christ has done it all. Life is hidden for now.  Uncle Karl’s new orthodoxy speaks again.

We move from what was to what is, the bridge is Jesus.

The river washes downstream — the riverbed remains.


John Swinton, University of Aberdeen, at Knox College, Dunedin, Photo: Steve Taylor


Grace Notes, February the Sixth, 2016

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From the Guardian Long Read:

From Stuff: Police door knock ‘known activists’ ahead of Trans-Pacific Partnership Protests

Last year I went down to the Octagon in Dunedin for a protest in support of health.  It turned out to be a small group, and I nearly walked by without stopping.  As there were people still joining I stepped up into the group.  I was glad that I did.  The group was made up of mental health patients and their supporters.  They were a group of people who needed to be heard or risk being crushed under an unresponsive system.  If I heard their stories then I was glad to do so.  The demonstration had been organised by the person in the Stuff article.  I am unhappy to read that they have been visited by the police to cause intimidation.

End of a brighter note, from Radio New Zealand Concert: The Circumstances of Beethoven’s Symphonies.  Now I want to read more about Beethoven.

30 January 2016

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During the week I came back from house-sitting for friends.  They were away for six days, up and down the island, showing it to visiting family.  I looked after their cats while they were away.

Part of the visit allowed me to raid their digital television cache for things I wanted to catch up on or see.  I don’t usually bother with downloading things at home so this is a treat.

What did I watch?

  • Doctor Who: I hadn’t caught up with all the episodes of Season 9.  I have been eratic about this.  I felt the Zygon episodes could have been better.  They kept a light hand on dealing with issues of terrorism and radicalisation of minorities which could have been more forward; and UNIT still are used as stooges.  I also hadn’t seen Heaven Sent and enjoyed this episode, placing Hell Bent in context.
  • The Expanse: Recommended.  I watched the first five episodes and loved it.  It’s Engineers in Spaaaaace! An empire-building space opera with hard science as humanity expands to colonise the solar system two hundred years in the future.  As they are based on a series of books I am now wanting to read the first title, Leviathan Wakes.  Apparently the series has been faithful to the books so far.
  • The Last Ship: season two of this post-apocalyptic series.  I liked the acting and writing in this series, and a second season did not disappoint me.  I am looking forward to a third season.
  • The Shanara Chronicles: Oh. Dear.

Promise? Yes, please, I’ll wait.  Make it good!

Second week after Epiphany

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Not much to report this week.  I have begun a couple of days house-sitting for friends down North East Valley again, looking after their extended family of cats.  Two cats that are part of the household, Baobao and Qinqin are old friends, and two that look in every morning, DJ, a black and white cat, and Huanghuang, a ginger, who appear to have joined the extended family.

I am surprised what people notice and what people don’t.  There are things of which I am unobservant, and I would have to admit I am insensitive to people, one of my vulnerabilities.  I am puzzled that people don’t live at a walking pace, especially in this neighbourhood.  In the staff room people had just noticed that the North East Valley Post Office, the tourist shop for Baldwin Street, of international fame, had opened again as a cafe.  I had noticed that it was renovating when I was here last, and opened a week after I left at the end of winter, The Grid Roastery, it is called now.

The Chinese takeaway in the shop beside Northumberland Street had closed about a year ago.  Today I notice that it looks like it might open again soon as a beer-garden.  I must mention that to the registrar when I see her again.

Perhaps I should end with some grace notes:

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