|Introduction: Church Council||
Welcome, thanks, and updates
from the Church Council*Welcome to the first issue of Mark the Word, and to the new Editor, Suzanne Yanko. Commencing also with this issue, the newsletter will be available in electronic form, with print copies available for those who require this format.Church Council greatly appreciates Suzanne’s enthusiasm for the role of Editor, and the strengths and experience that she brings to the role. Suzanne will have the support of an Editorial Reference Group, appointed annually by Church Council, and thanks are offered to Norma Gallacher and Wendy Langmore who serve in this capacity.
Church Council acknowledges warmly the contribution of the outgoing Editor, Sue Blackwood. Sue has served in this role for seven years – some 28 issues of the newsletter! What was once little more than a leaflet has grown, initially with input and stimulus from John Smith but then extended and expanded by Sue, in her role as Editor, who gathered material from a range of sources.
Thanks to Sue, the newsletter has always appeared on time, produced to a high standard, including a reflective editorial with each issue, an innovation by Sue. Sue, you have delivered a wonderful service in your role as Editor, and we offer sincere thanks for this.
Regretfully we note the passing of two faithful and much loved members of the congregation since the last newsletter was issued: Jean McCaughey and, more recently, Don Lugg. Numerous members of the congregation joined the very well-attended services of thanksgiving that were offered for their lives. Both Jean and Don enriched the congregation immensely with their gifts and loyal service over many years, in ways far beyond what this brief tribute can encompass.
Planning continues for the major transition in ministry that will occur when John Smith’s term concludes at the end of February 2013. The Joint Nominating Committee has worked very hard to ensure that tight timelines are observed so that an early appointment can be made, and without a lengthy hiatus. Progress will be reported when it is to hand.As an interim arrangement at least until the arrival of the new minister to the congregation, Noel and Cynthia Schultz have offered to undertake pastoral visiting. Church Council is grateful to Cynthia and Noel for their willingness to engage voluntarily in this important ministry to the congregation, and it will ease the load on John Smith at what is proving to be a very busy time.
During the last three months, significant progress has been achieved on the restoration and renewal project for the church, with a revised financial plan now in place, and Synod approval for the project expected this month.
This year’s Annual General Meeting had to be held over until 11th November, due to the delay in the 2010 audit being able to be conducted. Before the audit was possible, the huge task of rebuilding the 2010 accounts had to be completed, following the fraud. Finally, an administrative AGM was held on 11th November, and the second part of the AGM will be held on 25th November when the audited 2012 reports are expected to be available for presentation and approval.
Yarra Yarra Presbytery’s review of Hotham Parish is well advanced, and Church Council anticipates being able to bring the results to the Congregation within the next few weeks. The new structure and arrangements are required to be inaugurated from 1 January 2013.
A significant decision made since the last newsletter was issued relates to the future of the UnitingCare Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project whereby, as a result of multilateral negotiations that included congregations at Kensington and North Melbourne, the UnitingCare Hotham Mission Council resolved to negotiate the transfer of its Asylum Seeker Project to another Uniting Church welfare agency. This decision was endorsed by both Church Councils and by the Hotham Parish Council, and the negotiations for transfer are now well advanced.
* Church Council members: Sue Blackwood, Wendy Langmore, Morag Logan, Gus MacAulay, Heather Mathew, Rod Mummery, John Smith, David Sutherland, Alan Wilkinson, Ann Wilkinson.
Thanks to the Church Council for this appointment, and to Sue Blackwood for her enthusiasm and editorial skills, which have made it easier for me to gather worthy copy for this first online issue. In fact, it is as well that most readers will have this edition delivered on line – it is such a bumper issue that it otherwise presented a terrible threat to the trees!
As it is, I have so much copy that I am holding some over for the Autumn 2013 issue, which is rapidly shaping up to be arts-inspired: Katharine will write about Hildegard of Bingen, Lorraine tells us about the congregation’s thriving film group, Gavin describes a wonderful partnership to promote literacy, there’s news from Mary Sutherland … and I write about what our new organist is up to (musically speaking) when not at the Mark the Evangelist keyboard.
This month has naturally assumed a theme of endings, and new beginnings. Noel Schultz has expressed the feelings of us all in his farewell tribute to our loved minister, John Smith. In case you missed November Crosslight, read some of what John himself wrote about Jean McCaughey, while our former minister Wes Campbell reviewed a book about Davis McCaughey. In the same issue Katharine Massam’s piece is very relevant as we introduce an online version of Mark the Word.
As some formers parishioners pay a visit, Alan Wilkinson reports on what is happening to the church building that they loved as we do, and Rosalie Hudson assures us that people are still at the heart of our concern and giving.
Bill Mathew is well known to readers of The Age as an inveterate letter-writer, and has contributed a piece that has an unexpectedly new relevance to events overseas.
With our minds still on other parts of the world, it’s good to read of the Runias’ productive sabbatical and joyful time with family.
Finally, although John’s Reflection is usually at the core of the newsletter I chose to keep the best till last and invite you to “mark the word” as his thoughts close this first newsletter to bear that name.
A Tribute to Our Retiring Minister
John, our diligent and faithful Minister of the Word and Sacraments, after some forty years in a variety of demanding settlements (and none more so than Mark the Evangelist, North Melbourne), will soon join the ranks of the many hundreds who are classified in the Uniting Church as Permanently Retired (PR).
John was largely unknown to most of us in Victoria when he came to North Melbourne from Western Australia thirteen years ago. Throughout those years he has provided highly valued pastoral care and critically important leadership to a congregation and parish experiencing unresolved issues and daunting challenges, but with patience, persistence and courageous faith he has guided the congregation through them all.
There has been no indication that the last years of John’s ministry among us have been a “winding down” and a gradual adjustment to the quieter times ahead. In fact, quite the reverse. Research that Cynthia and I carried out in 1997 for the Beneficiary Fund of the UCA among some hundreds of ministers and spouses in the early years of their retirement highlighted the importance of the retirement being a planned experience (not brought about on account of illness or for other reasons). Well, John’s has been planned three years in advance – for 1 March, 2013 – but given the circumstances he faced in the congregation and parish over this period he has had little time to reflect on what it will be like not having a service to prepare for next Sunday, and Church Council, Parish Council, Hotham Mission Council and numerous other meetings for which planning have to be undertaken and reports written.
A few congregation members have known John for the whole time he has been at North Melbourne, but others of us for a much shorter time. During the five years that Cynthia and I have been associated with Mark the Evangelist Congregation three major events have impacted on John and his ministry among us: his serious illness (which necessitated a course of radiation therapy), severe structural cracking of the walls and tower of Union Memorial Church and the fraud.
Lovingly supported by Katharine, close friends and many congregation members John endured the health crisis with a positive attitude and confident faith. But it must not have been easy for him to step back for some months and let others minister in his place.
While health issues are happily in the past, finding ways to deal with the many challenges associated with the repair and restoration of the 130-years-old Heritage-listed church has involved John and others in years of careful planning, skilful negotiation and courageous action. Union Memorial Church as yet displays little evidence of these years of behind the scenes planning, negotiating and taking action, but in the New Year we will, with confidence, begin to see the beginnings of restoration activity.
Those who have been heavily involved in the detailed planning for this major undertaking will readily and gratefully acknowledge the major contribution John has made in creating and communicating a vision of what we can achieve together in restoring the church as a worship and mission centre for North Melbourne.
Together with Rod Mummery, the parish treasurer, and Greg Hill, Hotham Mission Administrator, John has been heavily involved for eighteen months now in responding to the damage caused by the massive fraud in the parish office. He would have undertaken this difficult work with a heavy heart, struggling to come to terms with the sad reality that one who had been trusted, and had been given a second chance, had persistently deceived and betrayed such trust.
Incidentally, one of the very significant consequences of the fraud was Synod’s decision to initiate a review of the parish structure. Though the process is not yet complete, John has played a major role in helping to develop a revised administrative and organisational structure that should serve our congregation well in the years ahead.
Outstanding among the many qualities of John’s ministry (often in the midst of potential distractions) is that he has continued to provide, week after week, thoughtful Gospel-centred sermons, carefully structured liturgical worship services that direct the worshippers’ attention to the living Word made flesh and the meal of grace God’s Son has bequeathed to the church. In all the Focus Groups members spoke with one voice of their appreciation of the high standard of liturgical worship in which we share throughout the year.
But perhaps even more important and valued than anything else John has done among us is the genuine, empathic way he reaches out to and listens to the young and not so young among us. He has not allowed any unanticipated challenges encountered in his service among us to diminish that which is at the centre of his Gospel ministry, namely his pastoral heart.
When John leaves us at the end of February 2013 he will take with him the profound gratitude of the congregation and parish for a highly valued ministry. The effectiveness and depth of his work among us will be reflected for many years to come in the way we, individually and collectively, maintain his vision and reflect some of the qualities of dedicated leadership so characteristic of his ministry. We hope that he will now have the time to undertake the writing that will extend his ministry to ever-widening circles.
In his recent book about the internet and its impact on human thinking, Nicholas Carr argues it is important to ‘unplug’ regularly. This seems especially good advice as the calendar for the end of the year starts to get crowded.
Days lengthen, exams begin, school ends, Melbourne Cup lunch merges into Christmas Party and pressures to finish the year well intensify.
Like the overstimulation and paralysis of having too much to do, Carr warns the tools of the computer age can fritter away our ability to follow complex arguments. He calls his book The Shallows for a reason.
Christian wisdom throughout the centuries has also warned against “busyness”, lack of focus and overwork. Ancient teachers encouraged a sense of time as a friend and that same respect was at the heart of the traditional Protestant respect for the Sabbath. It reminded people that time is a resource to be treasured, not to be left empty and without purpose, but not to be over-stuffed with activity either.
More than half of Australia’s paid workers won’t take annual leave this year. The constant whirl that makes fatigue a badge of honour can be part of a mindset that lets us slip into never making space for what’s most important.
The tools we use shape our thinking too. Carr shows the ‘staccato thinking’ and constant skimming of the internet not only diminishes our capacity for reflection and relaxation, but also reduces our ability to respond with emotional depth.
The shift in information technology has happened before. Changes in ‘intellectual technology’ of reading and writing impact the way people tell stories, argue and share thoughts.
In ancient Greece, oral storytelling was replaced by written accounts some 700 years before Jesus. The new-fangled technology of writing alarmed ancient scholars. Plato argued in Phaedrus that real knowledge needed to be held ‘by heart’ by the person speaking it from an internal knowing, not by the shallow encounter of merely reading information.
As Plato suspected, the language tools we use literally shape and re-shape the way our brain functions. Readers’ brains changed to suit the new tools of the book. Then, as now, brains were plastic, adaptable and changing, but not elastic; they don’t snap back easily into the former shape.
Now digital technology is making information accessible and retrievable in remarkable ways. Tools like Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au) bring vast archives of data within reach of our questions, and make new questions possible.
Digital technology is also bridging distances and time zones for friends and families, as well as businesses and researchers, who need to communicate with all the immediacy a screen can offer.
There is a lot to celebrate in this, but there are also dangers if the ‘perpetual locomotion’ of digital media is the only way we engage with information.
As the year speeds towards December, thoughts also turn towards holiday reading. Carr’s work shows that a good book, read slowly, can work deeply on the mind and heart. It shows that people who are free to read deeply and pay attention to their own reflection think more clearly and focus their attention more easily.
The Christian calendar will also make space in Advent for quiet, for reflection on the deepest and most challenging stories. We could read these slowly too, and remember how they change our lives.
Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: how the internet is changing the way we think, read and remember (London: Atlantic Books, 2010).
(extract from an article in CROSSLIGHT 4 November 2012)
… from a review of Davis McCaughey: a life, by Sarah Martin (UNSW Press)
by Wes Campbell,
Ecumenical Chaplain, University of Melbourne
Where would the Uniting Church in Australia be without John Davis McCaughey?
The question is prompted by the beautifully written biography of this man, born in Belfast in 1914 and migrant to Australia in 1953, teacher of theology and Master of Ormond College, a major drafter of the Basis of Union, the first President of the Assembly of the Uniting Church, and Governor of Victoria (1986-1992).
An answer is proffered by Sarah Martin’s work, Davis McCaughey: a life. Davis was a churchman. Though he was a parish (Presbyterian) minister for only 10 months in 1945, his life exhibited a clear unity: ‘A theologian and a devout Christian, he practised his faith in all that he did’.
In 400 pages, Martin provides a big book on Davis, recalling that Davis’ own plans for a ‘big book’ remained unfulfilled. In its place she presents Davis who gave much as a man of faith, a churchman, a leader, thinker and friend; more, as Jean’s husband and partner, and father of James, Patrick, John, Mary and Brigid.
On a personal note, though he was my father’s age and a national figure, when I became his minister in the Congregation of Mark the Evangelist (a name proposed by him), he welcomed my ministry and, where correction was due, was gently encouraging. Many have similarly received from him and have much to be thankful for. Thanks also to Sarah Martin for reminding us of the churchman Davis, and his vision for church and society.
… Jean McCaughey 8 May 1917 – 15 September 2012
by Rev Dr John Smith
A long and fruitful life ended when Jean McCaughey died on 15 September at the age of 95. Born in County Antrim, Ireland in 1917, Jean Henderson married Davis McCaughey in 1940.
In 1952 with their family, James, Patrick, John, Mary and Brigid, they came to Australia where Davis took up an appointment to the Presbyterian Theological Hall. In her own right, and with Davis, Jean played a significant part in the life of the University life, the Church life, the community.
Her work in relation to poverty and disadvantage in Australia is well known. Jean was a Research Fellow at the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, and later worked for the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
In the late 1980s, when it became her lot to live at Government House, her uncommon zeal for making the world a better place for common people never flagged. She and Davis enjoyed their unusual approach to high office, and many others enjoyed it with them.
The human causes and concerns that engaged Jean, and were affected by her, are obvious. But it is impossible to explain her commitment without reference to the Church and Christian faith. Jean had a favourite text: ‘For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day’ [2 Tim 1:12].
The section from which this comes is like a capsule of the Gospel. It tells how God’s plan, manifest in Christ, was to make the promise of fullness of life available to all people without distinction. The promise of this gift conquered the real and symbolic powers of death, and gave birth to courageous and empowering hope.
Jean McCaughey’s efforts to make the world a better place were grounded in a deep knowledge that what she had committed to God, and what God had committed to her, would be protected and kept for the day when the seed of the Kingdom planted in the world comes to fruition, and all people will enjoy the peace and community for which they were created.
This is the faith that empowered Jean McCaughey to live a courageous life of advocating justice and equity for all. We give thanks to God for all that the world has been given through her.
Blast from the Past on Curzon Street
Early in October the Uniting Church on Curzon St had a visit from two distinguished women, Phyllis Dixon, who now lives in retirement at Mornington, and her sister Joyce Hansen (pictured here with the Minister, the Revd Dr John Smith). The sisters were born in North Melbourne and were active members of Union Memorial Church.
Phyllis, who at 95 years of age is sprightly and alert passed a comment to Debra Richardson, one of the carers who visits her retirement village, that she would like to visit the church once more. Before she knew it Debra and her friend Tia had organised a visit that was a wonderful trip down memory lane for both women.
Phyllis has led a remarkable life. In 1941 she left the congregation to commence training as a Deaconess in the Presbyterian Church, a step which led her to serve all over Australia, and travel overseas, including to the UK. The call to help others has never left her, and many in her retirement village continue to benefit from her compassion and wisdom.
Thanks to the kindness of the staff at the Bastow Institute, Phyllis and Joyce were able to inspect the refurbished building. In its original incarnation as a school it was where their received their primary education.
On the way to the Bastow Institute Phyllis and Joyce called on Jean McKendry-Paterson, a life-long North Melbourne identity, also a former student of school that is now the Bastow Institute, a member of the church, and the leader of the North Melbourne Senior Citizens Club.
Phyllis and Joyce remarked that so much of North Melbourne looked the same, and yet on the inside it had changed. They loved the refurbished Elm St Hall, and though sad to see the church in its present state, were glad to know that in 2013 planned restoration will begin. Showing them around the church as it is, it was possible to rediscover the special atmosphere visitors always used to comment on, and to realise that in a year or two, many will be able to experience its peace once again.
Mark the Evangelist Restoration and Renewal Project
The Church Council is awaiting the approval of the Synod Property Board on 21 November to enable us to proceed with the design of the restoration and sanctuary renewal work. The Concept Approval Application has been agreed at all levels of Hotham Parish – Mark the Evangelist Church Council, the Congregation, and Hotham Parish Council. All being well the Synod Property Applications and Review Team is expected to recommend approval to the Synod Property Board.
Synod Property and Insurance Services is being consulted regarding an appropriate contracting structure for the NMUCC project. With an agreed contracting structure identified, a number of architects will be invited to submit expressions of interest in the position of lead architect and it is hoped that an appointment can be recommended to Church Council on 6 December.
Space and Furniture Committee are meeting again with Jason Williams on Thursday 15 November to firm up his proposal to finalise the Sanctuary Renewal concept which was started with Randall Lindstrom around 2007. With the restoration of the Church as Stage 1, this is Stage 2 of the Restoration and Renewal Project.
Randall Lindstrom has agreed with Church Council that the master planning discernment sessions with the Congregation will take place on 9 and 23 February 2013. Those who would like to know more about the vision and plans presented to Synod are invited to access the updated NMUCC website at nmucc.wordpress.com. Under the heading “Restoration and Renewal Progress” you can immediately view the photographs of the site which accompanied our Concept Approval Application.
You can also read reports on progress with the Project. Under the heading “Document Access” you can click on “Mark the Evangelist Congregation” which will take you to the password page. If you insert Mark3051 as the password and click on “Submit”, you will obtain access to each of the three Project Applications (Forms 1, 2, and 3I) together with the latest updates of key attachments.
This website is only for those involved with our Project, so please do not share the link and password with other parties.
Monthly food voucher collection for asylum seekers
In May 2012 we ceased our monthly Metcard collection for asylum seekers and, without losing momentum, started our food voucher collection. Many thanks to members of the congregation who have contributed from May to November, towards our total of $880. The food vouchers are forwarded to the ASP each month.
Asylum Seeker Project (ASP) staff have expressed their appreciation for this very practical way of assisting the most needy refugees in their care.
The food voucher collection will be in abeyance over the Christmas period, in view of the wider ASP Christmas appeal, and resume in February 2013.
Coles or Woolworths food vouchers (suggested $10 ea) or cash equivalent may be given to me (or to Rod Mummery in my absence) on the first Sunday of the month, re-commencing in February. However, these gifts will be accepted on any Sunday. A reminder note will be included in the pew sheet at the end of January 2013.
The Plight of the Palestinians
The plight of the Palestinians today reminds me of Jesus Christ’s well-known parable of the good Samaritan (Luke, 10: 30-37) and two cases of extreme crimes against humanity, one during the second World War and the other that began almost immediately after the war.
We are all aware of those years of the NAZI crimes against humanity: the terrorist persecution of Jews from the 1930s to 1945 in Germany, during which time the Nazis blew up shops, expropriated properties, confined Jews in concentration camps and then commenced an extermination program from 1941.
No organised body in Europe stood up for the Jews. The Catholic Church under Pope Pius XII looked the other way. The Zionist movement that sought to establish a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine increased in influence. Limited Jewish migration to Palestine expanded massively at the end of WWII, following the horrors of the Nazi persecution.
While UN deliberations and recommendations for a partition that defined a state of Israel were in train, Israel declared its statehood following a program of terrorism and mercilessly drove Palestinians from areas identified for the Israeli state. They carried out a number of shocking massacres of Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims. Villages and towns were torched and their inhabitants banished. Three quarters of a million indigenous people were driven from their homeland to become refugees. The people who resisted the invasion of the Jews were slaughtered without mercy. The refugees now number 4.5 million, living in squalid refugee camps mainly in Lebanon and Jordan, without a country to call their own, living in destitution, and without hope. The 1967 war further dispossessed and enslaved the Palestinians.
Today, history is repeated in the most ironic and cruel fashion in Israeli-occupied Palestine. The Israelis demolish homes and expropriate Palestinian properties on a daily basis; and have created the largest concentration camps in the history of the world. The Palestinians in the occupied land have no human rights, no property rights and no country to call their own. In the December, 2007 edition of National Geographic, Michael Finkel’s article “Bethlehem 2007 A.D.” describes the terroristic persecution of Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians, under illegal occupation by Israel. Many Christians have left Palestine for Western countries. The Muslims have nowhere to go.
Finkel writes, “Can you imagine Bethlehem without any Christians? You better start imagining it, because in a few years, it might be reality.” If Mary and Joseph were journeying to Bethlehem today, they would be delayed at a checkpoint on the 700 km apartheid wall Israel is constructing and the baby Jesus might well be born on the roadside.
Yet not a single European body or group – and this includes the Christian churches – stands up for the Palestinians. Just as the Christian churches passed by on the other side during the Holocaust years. Today, the Palestinians are like the man in Jesus’ parable, who was robbed, beaten up and left half dead by the side of the road that leads from Jerusalem to Jericho. It is time that we as Christians ask ourselves who we resemble? The priest and the Levite … or the Samaritan?
This year from mid-June David was able to enjoy a four-month long period of sabbatical. This is a short account of how we spent that time.
We spent most of our time (about 3 months) in The Netherlands, which of course is our country of birth. We decided to have a stopover in Malaysia on our way to Europe and enjoyed 4 days in Kuala Lumpur and Melaka. Because our son, Anthony, has a Malaysian partner we were invited to stay with her father in his lovely home in Kuala Lumpur – a beautiful old home filled with antique Malaysian furniture and built around an inviting swimming pool. It was good to visit KL with him and to get to know him a little and develop some understanding of the background of our ‘daughter-in-law’. We also spent time with her mother and grandmother.
We wanted to visit Melaka because of its history of colonial occupation which included the Portuguese, Dutch, English and Japanese periods. It was easy for us to recognize the Dutch presence in the style of buildings and street names, the old fort and the churches as well as the cemetery. There was even a Stadthys (Townhall) which still carried the name. The Chinese presence was very evident in the fascinating old Chinese temples which were open, inviting and friendly.
While in the Netherlands we were based in Amsterdam, where we had a lovely apartment in an old (late 19th century) house only seven minutes walk from our dear family – our daughter, Emma, her husband Daan and their son Oliver (3 years old). We were also right next to the Vondelpark, a large park in the middle of Amsterdam (similar to the Englischer Garten in Munich) where the locals come to relax. We spent many a happy hour there at the playgrounds with Oliver and drinking coffee in the sun with Emma.
David was granted sabbatical in order to continue work on his ARC grant on the sources of early Greek philosophy. He used his time to the greatest possible effect (in his own words) and was able to make great progress on the research. Every weekday he left Amsterdam at 7.40, took a tram to the station, then a train to Leiden and then walked for 20 minutes to the university library. He now realizes what a great privilege it is to have only a one-minute walk to work. At Leiden University (where he worked from 1993 to 2002 as professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy) he worked in the Scaliger Institute, based in the university library. He was able to renew many old friendships among colleagues there and gain from their scholarship and life experiences.
While David was away researching I spent some of my time on desktop publishing. My work included the preparation of 2 journals (Philosophia Reformata and Aedificamus, the Queen’s journal) and also 2 books (The Studia Philonica Annual and Philo of Alexandria’s Exposition of the Tenth Commandment). But I still had plenty of time to spend on renewing old ties with friends and family and especially spending time with Emma and Daan and little Oliver.
There was also time for other things such as travel and enjoyment of music and art. We attended organ concerts in the beautiful old cathedral and attended concerts in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The Hermitage Museum had an interesting exhibition on Impressionists such as Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley. In Leiden there was an exhibition on the Chinese terracotta warriors.
Our travels took us to various places:
We spent a few days in Munich, where David attended a symposium while I had the pleasure of exploring the old city and visiting the Marienplatz with its churches and the Stadtmuseum, the Schloss Nymphenburg and the already mentioned Englischer Garten.
A weekend in Brussels was most enjoyable. We took David’s mother, who is 84, on a trip to this lovely old city and stayed at the Hotel Metropole a glamorous Art Deco hotel dating from 1895 in the historic centre of Brussels, close to the Grand Place and Brussels Central Station. While in Brussels we caught up with Matthew and Miranda – it was wonderful to see them and hear about their life in England and Europe.
In order to have a complete rest we flew to the Greek island of Kos for a week in August. Kos was an obvious choice because David’s research at this time was focusing on some ancient medical questions and Kos is the island where there is the famous healing temple (Asclepieion) and where Hippocrates, the legendary “father of medicine”, began his career. The problems on mainland Greece were not very obvious on the island and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. We drove all over the island, visiting ancient ruins, mountain villages, forts, harbours and beaches. We even visited Bodrun in Turkey for a day where we saw the ruins of Halikarnassus one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We can now claim to have visited all the 7 wonders, namely: the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Garden of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria!
David also travelled to Capetown and Stellenbosch where he has a visiting professorship at the university of Stellenbosch.
And lastly David travelled to Berlin give a seminar on his research to a group specializing in ancient medicine.
Towards the end of September the most important event of our stay took place. Emma gave birth to Sophia – our second grandchild and first granddaughter. We were privileged to be in the house when Sophia was born, we heard her first cries and were able to see her just a few minutes after her birth. It was very moving to be present at this time and share in the joy of this precious time.
And now we are back at home and at work. We look back and see there is much to remember with joy, but also with sadness. Some family members and friends had grown very old or passed away – but there was also the great promise of new young life. It is now in the past for us, but the memories are stored and treasured.
On Suffering and Grace: reflection on Mark 13:1 – 8
The “Intouchables” is a film about a wealthy aristocrat who, after he became a quadriplegic, hired a man from the housing estates as his carer. The two hit it off really well. As time went on the rich man’s friends became uncomfortable. They warned him about having the man around: he had had a record, had dubious friends, and was being entrusted with too much in the rich man’s life. They asked: “Why do you keep him on?” The rich man said: “He does not pity me.”
The word pity comes from the ancient French and English that links it to the piety of religious observance. To have pity means to have compassion as Christians are called to do. But there can be a way in which to have pity on a person is to look down on them from a point of strength, which puts them in a subservient position. But the carer did not do this. He had the capacity to give without condescension or denigration of the other.
Where did the man’s capacity for open acceptance and joy in the company of a person so different in background, style and life from his own come from? Perhaps it grew out of a life struggling, at the bottom of the heap. Perhaps his own troubles had polished the stone of his life in such a way that he could turn out from himself and embrace someone completely different, without threat or rancour or prejudice, or pity. Maybe you can think of times when the troubles you endured opened your eyes to see in a way that brought out something completely new in your life. Perhaps in enduring a profound loss, life was opened up at a deeper level, and it became possible to embrace a fresh vision of the life and suffering of others.
As we approach Advent and Christmas the themes of the first readings each Sunday have been highlighting stories about birth and new beginnings, sometimes born out of great grief and loss as in the story of Ruth, or in the birth of Samuel to Hannah, who had been unable to conceive. Suffering and grace go together.
During these weeks we also read from the apocalyptic literature, which so often becomes the happy hunting ground of cranks. It makes it all the more important to come to an understanding of its message. In the ancient classical world, as in common parlance today, an apocalypse is a catastrophe that results in large-scale destruction that destroys all we hope for and hold dear.
Mark chapter 13, known as “the little apocalypse” has this sense about it. There is a tone of judgement and catastrophe, “wars and rumours of wars” are expected, “nation will rise against nation and there will be natural disasters”. “These things will happen,” says Mark but they are secondary because “the end is not yet” – there is something else to look for. In scripture the word apocalypse means an uncovering – a revelation. Mark’s message unveiled the news was that in and beyond the disruptive events that were affecting the people God was doing something important. The struggles we go through, bad as they are, are part of the landscape of history. Mark says they are the “birth pangs” and we are called to stay alert because the “end is not yet”. We are on the way to a new stage of life, epitomised by the trial and death of Jesus, in which all the world’s hate was poured out on one man, who turned towards it again in love. What Mark points to is the unexpected coming to light of life and goodness that was not defeated by the fearful context in which people were living. As they were being wounded through suffering and disaster, people were also being offered hope in a new kind of healing.
In a time of disruption, doubt, fear and crisis, far greater than we have been going through, Mark wrote to encourage his community to keep their focus on the place where God’s renewing judgement was at work in the world. In the strangest of ways, the place of suffering was also manifesting itself as a place of grace, and it gave them a whole new way of looking at life, and one another. Because God was among us as one who suffered, and loved – and loved again, Mark’s call is to live in the freedom of love’s way.
2 December First Sunday of Advent: the Year of Luke
9 December Advent 2, Special Budget Appropriation Meeting – CCK
23 December SERVICE OF CAROLS AND LESSONS
25 December 9.30 am CHRISTMAS DAY (note time)
6 January Epiphany
13 January Baptism of Jesus
3 February INAUGURATION OF THE NEW PARISH STRUCTURE
13 February 6. 30 pm ASH WEDNESDAY (note time)
17 February LENT 1
24 February LENT 2 John Smith’s Final Service and Farewell