Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Newest Completed Cathedral in the World

St. John's Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane is the most recently completed Gothic cathedral in the world.  It was begun in the early 1900's and completed in 2009.  We visited it this morning and we're happy to see this nice program they have going on Wednesdays:  COWS.  Anyone is welcome to come in for a simple "coffee hour" for free.  It gives the greeters a chance to meet lots of new people.

Barry and I came in and were greeted by a very hospitable man who was a real font of knowledge about the cathedral's windows and art in general.  He made sure to show me these 2 windows, the first a tribute to the American servicemen stationed in Brisbane in WWII who brought the people a whole new sense of who they could be.  Note the American flag at the top and the artist's attempt to render a bald eagle. This was in the days before Google Images, I guess.

Next, the window celebrating Jesus as the Light of the World and celebrating scientific explorations of light and energy.  The stars in the background are an image from the Hubble telescope.  Wonderful!

Finally the guide took me to one of the side bays alongside the side aisle.  Here was a huge space cordoned off for kids.  They are right there in the worship space, playing and singing and making their own comments.  The parents sit right across from them and take them for Communion at the proper time.  Another great service to the community.

I think that what struck me most about this cathedral was not even its beauty but its hospitality.  So many ways to welcome us all in.  I hope they'll continuing their welcoming ministry for centuries and centuries...thanks, St. John's!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Bower beside the Altar

Last month I posted from New Zealand about a church near the eastern Pacific coast of the North Island.  Penguins were nesting under the font!  And there was a little note apologizing for any fishy smells emanating from the area!  How charming--these penguins were an embodiment of the first verses of Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.  [84:1-3]

Well, today I found a bookend for the penguins under the church in New Zealand.  This is the bower or elaborate nesting place of the Satin Bower Bird.  [I encourage you to go to Google Images and enter in something like Satin Bower Bird nest.  These are all so amazing.]

This bird looks like a big, fat blackbird with a decided blue cast to the feathers (that's the male; the female is unremarkable brown).  But what the bird is known for is making a bower--a tight-knit archway of small sticks--which is the site of the mating ritual in the spring.  The Satin Bower Bird decorates the front of the nest with anything BLUE it can find.  Oh yes it also decorates with reds and browns, but primarily blues.  THis means shreds of blue plastic, blue bottle caps, you get the point.  Here is the nest I saw today --and keep reading for where it is.
First, the nest, long distance view:

Then, a closeup of the blue stuff outside--the artistic decorations designed to attract a female:

OK, here is the really wonderful thing.  The nest is located right next to the little chapel up in the rainforest retreat where we were.  Right outside the chapel, under a Hoop Pine tree.  Amazing!  This bower bird found refuge beside the altar of God.  Would that we all could!

Hiking in Gondwanaland

Geologists and paleobotanists say that at one time--hundreds of millions of years ago--the major southern continents were united in one major landmass on the globe, called Gondwanaland, or Gondwana for short.  This means South America, India, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica... Have you ever wondered at how the outlines of eastern South America and Western Africa line up?  There's a very good reason for that!

On what basis do they make this assertion?  Well, lots of reasons...for one, the continuation of swaths of the same rock types across the continents.  Another clue is in the types of plants that continue across continents that today are divided by thousands of ocean miles.  What a wonderful and surprising theory this Plate Tectonics is!  We've traveled thousands of miles apart, yet rock and botanical types continue across the divides.  (What about North America, you may wonder?  At one time North America and Europe were welded together in the Supercontinent Pangaea, which included what broke away as Gondwanaland.  It's really interesting to note that the most ancient rock types in our Appalachian chain continue into Canada, through Nova Scotia--and they match up exactly with rocks in Scotland.  Wow!)

Barry and I were reminded about the fusion at one time of Australia and Antarctica.  Today as we hiked we encountered tree Giants called Antarctic Beeches.  They are found in the fossil record of sedimentary rocks in Antarctica--and this means that they lived there once.  They continue to live in the temperate rain forests of eastern Australia.  Antarctic beeches.  Wow.

1.  Barry standing outside an Antarctic beech in Lamington National Park, Queensland, near Brisbane.
2. The look of the temperate rain forest at Lamington.  It's been a real privilege to stay here and walk its paths.  Yesterday we walked 27,000 steps, today 21,000.  Thank God for good hiking boots.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Another Cassowary

This one we ran into in the parking lot of a Rain Forest Discovery Center (well, we didn't literally run into it--but it sauntered by just as carefree as you could imagine).  This shows a full body view.  I think this one is also a female.  She's beautiful!

Tomorrow we fly to Brisbane, where the weather should be fairly mild.  It's our last city here.

Daintree Rain Forest and a Lesson in Trust

For the last few days we've been in Daintree Rain Forest, part of Daintree National Park, north of Cairns (pronounced "Cans").  Finally we're in warm weather again and the heavy clothing we packed goes to the bottom of the suitcases.  Here's a photo showing a bird's eye view of the floor of the forest.

We heard that this area is famous for its population of endangered cassowaries.  We were with some other people, one of whom saw one fleetingly in the forest.  But we didn't.  Here's a funny sign--some graffiti artist took the Cassowary warning sign and combined it with the speed bump sign to illustrate what might happen if you drive too fast.  
But all day I didn't see one and was mightily disappointed.  Then we checked into our motel in the rain forest, and look what was hanging around.  

This bird is magnificent.  It has this weird crown thing on its head and heavy, scaly feet.  It's about 5 or 6 feet tall!  It looks as much like a dinosaur as anything else I've ever seen.  This one is a female--they are the prettier of the sexes for cassowaries.  She lays the eggs and he incubates them and takes care of the chicks.  Kind of like penguins... Great for illustrating the evolutionary line of birds from dinosaurs.  And great for me--yet another encouragement to believe in what I cannot see.  

An Aboriginal Perspective

In the last post I mentioned how the Immigration Museum in Adelaide, South Australia, includes a lot of material on the shameful way that British and other immigrants to Australia have treated the Aboriginal peoples here (who preceded them by 10 or 20 thousand years).  Here's a piece of art that was done by an Aboriginal artist.  It shows the White City on a Hill, made possible by the shacks and labor down below.  See what you think.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Welcoming and Excluding--the Australian Experience

Immigrants are a big deal here!  Basically ALL the non-native peoples who are Australian have been or are now immigrants (like the USA).

Like many other First World countries Australia struggles now to incorporate people who are refugees--immigrants of a sort, fleeing from economic, religious, or political persecution.  We attended an Evensong in Melbourne in St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral.

Now take a look at the banner high on the outside of the Cathedral.  Here it is.  I'm glad to see that this diocese is really championing inclusion and welcome.  I think the banner is effective because it showcases the young who need a safe place to live--they are the ones to be running things tomorrow, after all.

Then in Adelaide at the Immigration Museum I was pleased to see a good deal of attention given to how immigrants from white Europe treated the native peoples here--those whom we call Aborigines. Lots of exhibits detailed exclusionary attempts and attempts to forcefully kidnap little kids and take them to missionary schools, often Anglican, to teach them how to be Brits.  And this entailed separating them from their parents--often with violence.  How tragic--people are still healing from it.

This is the Australian experience.  It might help us think about how we do things in our own nation.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Aussie Icons Aplenty

The other morning we left our motel to begin the drive towards Adelaide in the state of South Australia.  We were in Hall's Gap in the Grampian mountains.  And what did we see just outside the motel door?
Not just any kangaroo but a mother kangaroo with a little baby in her pouch!  Turns out, when the moms bend over to graze on the grass, it's a perfect situation for the baby to do the same.  Nice way to learn!

Then crossing the mountains we stopped at a lookout for the view and a large bird fluttered up into a tree.  Turns out there were a male and female Laughing Kookaburra right there...and they just let us photograph them as much as we could...
Note the iridescent blue patch on the female's wings.  Unfortunately these ones were somber, and not laughing...

We stayed at a place on the banks of the Murray River, the most significant river in Australia.  There we had 5 great Australian Pelicans patrolling the river right outside our door.  With blue fairy-wrens in the yard and so many water was fantastic.

But sometimes things don't go your way, right?  For the last 2 days we had lots of driving rain and winds as successive Antarctic fronts blew their way across the continent.  And so it goes.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Seek and Ye Shall Find

We're in Australia now.  We spent a wonderful, full day in Melbourne, in the far south of the country.  It's winter here--but the temp got up to maybe 60 degrees in the sun.  Here's a picture I really like of the city--taken from a marina to the south.

Last time we were in Australia the only place I could see a kangaroo was in the Melbourne Zoo!  That's despite all the signs between Sydney and Melbourne that warn travelers of their presence--signs like this one:

I was starting to joke that they all run away when they know we're in town...but last night we had our first sighting--in farmland, away from much civilization.  They're like deer in that they come out at dusk and often hop right across the path of your car.  Kinda scary.  So today we drove to the Grampian Mountains and hit the jackpot.  Get a load of this:
They hang out in packs.  Also saw the head of a platypus at a distance in a pond on the farm!  And today got a glimpse of an emu in this kangaroo neighborhood.  Wow!

Monday, July 18, 2016

38 Years of Gestation

Today we leave NZ, flying from Queenstown to Melbourne, Australia, for the next leg.  We were fully 1/3 of the sabbatical here, and enjoyed every minute (well, as long as it wasn't that cold winter rain...)

I was reflecting back recently.  Why New Zealand?  What's the big motivation for so much time spent there?  The answer is a little funny.

43 years ago I was a junior in university.  That's when I took the required science course--Geology 101 and 102.  I put it off because I thought it would be so hard and I would hate it.  Wrong!  But the textbook we used had all these beautiful illustrations of landforms in it.  I'd pore over those for minutes and minutes because they were so gorgeous.  And pretty soon a theme emerged--the photos were courtesy of the New Zealand Tourism Bureau--credited in each caption.

So ever since age 19 I've had a bee in my bonnet about seeing NZ.  And with Barry's enthusiasm and especially with God's blessings, we've been able to be here.  It's at the point that it no longer feels different--but instead it feels just right.

That being said, we're really looking forward to being home again, with all the blessings--especially the people and the work at Christ Church--to look forward to again.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Great idea for young adults just out of university...

Here in NZ we've encountered a wide assortment of young people working as waiters, B&B helpers, and store employees.  So far we've met young adults from the US, Canada, UK, Scotland, Argentina, Germany and France.  Last night I was chatting with our waiter from France (Normandie), giving him some sympathy about the recent awful attack in Nice.  Our store salesman at Kathmandu (an outdoor clothing company) was from Seattle.  He explained this to us--

There is a program here called a Working Holiday Visa.  Young people can come here to NZ to travel and also work for a full year.  Seems to me that it's helpful for the country--the tourism here is so strong a part of the economy that they need lots of help.  And it's great for the young people who may need an extra year to discern their direction for the future.   Gradschool or not?  Which way to turn?

Don't get me wrong:  it's no way to get rich!  The jobs are usually minimum wage and the living arrangements aren't as rigid as we adults might like.  But for a year at this time of life--it might be a really good way to continue to grow.

Here are some photos from recent days
Barry at one of the central-South Island mountain passes across the Southern Alps
And views around Queenstown, a center for winter and summer sports.  The jagged mountain peaks are in the range called The Remarkables.  Great name!  There's also a ski area there that Barry went to yesterday.  It's small in scale but good skiing, apparently.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Inside the Cardboard Cathedral

The cardboard tubes are stunning!  Even the large cross behind the altar is made of them.  It's light and airy--a lovely worship space.
Like most new churches, there are no pews, just movable chairs.  That allows the space to be used very creatively for all kinds of events.

I wasn't very surprised to learn that due to lots of controversy (some think the old cathedral should be salvaged; others think it should be rebuilt from the ground up) the old cathedral stands with gaping holes in the center of the city.  It's so sad when people in churches can't agree or work together.  Maybe this needs some cooling-off time.

You can find more on the cardboard cathedral by going to

Cardboard Cathedral

The Anglican Cathedral of Christchurch was severely damaged in the 2010 and 2011 quakes.  Here's what it looks like today:

 The diocese was given a huge gift by a Japanese architect who specializes in disaster-recovery architecture.  He designed the new, transitional cathedral by using cardboard tubes, and he did it pro bono.  It's pretty amazing.  There's NZ pine inside the tubes but the tubes give definition and lightweight to the new structure.  There's also been extensive use made of corrugated metal from shipping containers.  The bathrooms are located inside shipping containers, and are as nice as any we've seen anywhere else.
Here are photos of the outside of the building as you approach it, and a close-up of the glass panels, modeled on images from the cathedral...

Northern Reaches of the Southern Alps

This is in the South Island, crossing from West Coast through Arthur's Pass to the East Coast--Christchurch.  A vista around every bend...
Today we walked all over the central part of the Pacific Coast city of Christchurch.  They suffered a series of terrible earthquakes here in 2010 and 2011, and in a huge tragedy 185 people were killed as one building collapsed on them--it was a downtown office building, and it was in the middle of a working day.  Here is a monument to all those who lost their lives--it's called 185 Chairs.  The people of Christchurch maintain it, and every day on the anniversary of the building collapse they come here and paint all 185 chairs white again.  There's a poem called Grief posted in a shelter there, by our friend John O'Donohue...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

One more example of animal life in NZ

This morning's flat white:

Some Animal Life in NZ

Yesterday we went on a whale watch trip.  It was from the town of Kaikoura, about central latitude on the east (Pacific) coast of NZ.  It was a day after a big storm moved through, and the seas were really rough, so it was pretty grim on that boat.  Good thing there were seasickness bags all around...but we did see one whale in particular--and we saw him twice.  They gave him the name of "Tutu" because of markings around his middle that look a little bit like a ballet costume.  He is a sperm whale, and a bunch of male sperm whales winter there because of all the nutrients in the water.  But he put on a great show for us.  My photo isn't great, but here it is--Tutu diving back down into the deep:
The day before, just north of Kaikoura we stopped at a waterfall and its pool.  It was considerably inland.  So it was quite a feat for all the little NZ Fur Seal pups that play there to clamber up over boulders and obstacles in the stream that empties into the ocean.  Here is one seal pup up close--he came out of the pool and was on the hiking trail!

And here's a still photo of them playing in the doesn't do it justice, but the blog software won't let me upload a video here.  Use your imagination:  baby seals at play!

A New Sensation in Worship?

This morning we attended a celebration of the Eucharist at the Anglican Church of the Epiphany in Hanmer Springs, NZ.  The service was decidedly lower-church than we're used to...  Here's a picture of the church from the outside:
And here's the beautiful inside of the church...
What do you think of the SCREEN?  We didn't hold any paper or pick up any books...everything was up there, music and long as the person working it doesn't make any mistakes, it's fine...but not what we're used to in Redding!  The priest mentioned she was the only paid person there, so it's perfectly understandable that they go paperless.  Not sure we'll do that any time soon, though!!

So how was it lower-church in other ways?  The priest didn't wear any vestments, just a stole over a sweater and pants.  There was no bowing, and no crossing of oneself.  There was also no absolution (more like a declaration of forgiveness that could be given by a lay-person).  There was no formal blessing at the end.  But there WAS communion, and reverence, and Jesus was praised.  How interesting it is to see these differences.  It makes me evaluate how we do things, and why, and ask questions about idolatry around the way things look or feel.

Oh!  And one other thing--do you see that big black pipe next to the screen?  It is from a wood-burning stove, which really helped this morning, as the temperature was around 25 degrees F.  Now we're glad we brought the down jackets!  Last night in the cold we went across the street to the main attraction in Hanmer Springs--thermal pools.  We soaked in them for at least an hour and a half...It was divine, and the only bad part was walking from the pools to the locker room at the end.  Felt like Norway in the winter...or Iceland any time.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Please pray for our country

Lord, keep this nation under your care.
And guide us in the way of justice and truth.

As I wrote about in the previous post, this is my prayer now for our country--short, simple, earnest.  It's from the BCP service of Morning Prayer.  It says it all, and covers the political realm as well as the social.  Just this week we heard about the shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana.  And we heard about retaliation and sniper shooting of police in Dallas, with 5 now dead.  How dreadful it all is.  How we need help...  Many Americans carry around with them hatred of other races and types of people.  I know:  growing up in Western Pennsylvania I encountered several folks who were really handicapped by their own racism or prejudice.  It's everywhere.

Increasingly the political climate is becoming really awful, no matter what side of the aisle you favor.     Each candidate has big issues, big drama, big liabilities.  One senator this week called the political climate a "Dumpster fire."  That's not too far from reality...

Will you please join me and make prayer for our country a part of your prayer each day?  Might we also put ourselves squarely before God and ask to be led and shown where we, too, need to change?  We must start with ourselves, and pray for our health and growth, then also the health of our country. We love America.  May God bless her, and each of us...and may we submit to the painful process of changing, when it's really needed.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Mandarins, Pork Belly, and the Fourth of July

This is mandarin-ripening season on the North Island of NZ.  About the northern 3/4 of the island stays warm enough, even in winter, for many homeowners to have their own citrus trees.  And right now the mandarins are coming in--big time.  One of the B&B owners gave us a nice, big bag of them,  right from her tree, plus some kiwi fruit--also ripening now.
They've been great for roadside snacks.  One other food we're seeing on menus all over the place is pork belly.  Today we had some wonderful pork belly, prepared with some soy sauce and citrus juice. And Barry had the radicchio and I had the rocket...this was at a vineyard in the Hawkes' Bay region, outside Napier.

Now, today is the 4th of July, and it's weird to be out of our country for that holiday.  So I've been thinking about our great America, and praying for the country--all of us, really--today.  One set of petitions from the BCP's service of morning prayer is my prayer for us, especially in this time of upset and anger in some places:
V.  Lord, keep this nation under your care
R.  And guide us in the ways of justice and truth.

Seems to me we could use a double dose of God's guidance right now, on our nation's birthday, and as we all head toward our elections in the fall.  BTW Barry and I get asked by just about every Kiwi we meet about our elections.  They wonder about our candidates, particularly one of them who has blonde hair and is over 65 years old...The primary feeling about our elections that we've heard here is a wondering and disbelieving feeling...people are actually aghast and appalled--and very worried.  May we all do the right thing...whatever it is...and may we turn to God in sincere prayer for guidance and help for our great nation.  I hope that we can all work toward healing.

So let's end on a lovely note--here is some of the country we drove through today.  Tonight we are in the Martinborough wine district.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Maori Church

After the penguin-sheltering Christ Church we came upon another church down the road, this one was St. Mary's Anglican Church in Tikitiki (short i's in that word, not like "tiki torches".  More like a rogue clock.)

This church sits in the middle of Maori country, north of Gisborne.  It's constructed to reflect Maori culture through and through, echoing the look of a Maori Meeting House.  It's the architectural embodiment of the NZ BCP, combining Maori arts with English sensibilities.  The walls are covered with grass and stick woven panels.

Next, a picture of part of the roof, the central rib and some lateral supports, decorated Maori-style.
What do you think of this baptismal font?  I love it...
And finally, the end of a pew:  they are all decorated like this.  Note the mother-of-pearl.

More on the penguin-sheltering church

Sorry, the software cut me is the other pic of what else sits up by the font.  You can see the font behind and to the left of the little characters.  I bet the kids love these...

Upon signing the book for visitors I entered an altered version of Psalm 84:3--
Even the sparrow finds a home,
And the [penguin] a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young,
At your altars, O Lord of hosts...

Anglican-Maori Churches in the East Cape

Today we drove around the East Cape, that part of NZ that just out to the northeast in the North Island.  Every turn (and there were a lot of them...) was gorgeous, giving a new vista across a bay or beach or paddock or mountain.  We drive on the left side of the road here and I am fairly well adjusted to it--except for the fact that the turn signal lever and the windshield wiper levers are reversed.  Yikes.  Nothing like signaling a turn by throwing on the windshield wipers...

If you've attended one of our New Zealand Compline services on Sunday evenings you'll remember how the poetic New Zealand Book of Common Prayer taps into the Maori sensibilities of God in all creation.  Maoris traditionally have believed in a Father God in the heavens, the great creator (and a Mother God in the earth).  The Prayer Book here combines the best of the creation-centered mindset with traditional Anglican worship.

And the architecture also combines traditional English with traditional Maori.  First we came across another Christ Church--right on the coast--in the small village of Raukokore.  Here's a photo of today's Christ Church:
Looks a lot like ours on the outside, but this one has been buttressed so as to strengthen it against the winds coming in storms off the Pacific.

Here's the best thing about this church--right as you enter it you see the baptismal font (in the same place where our own Christ Church font was years and years ago.  But it smells a little fishy around it.  Here's the sign for visitors:

OK so I knew there were little penguins on the South Island, but we're still on the north...our B&B owner assured me that there are penguins here, too--little ones called fairy penguins.  So yes indeed the penguins love tunneling under structures like churches on the coastline in order to find shelter!!  That is one way we cannot compete with Christ Church,  Raukokore.  Seems to me that the female priest there now was behind what else sits up near the font, too:

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Frightening and Unforgettable

Today started out well.  We went to church this morning in the tiny Christ Church, Coromandel.  The priest was in Europe for 3 months, so lay readers led the service; it was just fine!  It's always a pleasure to use the New Zealand Prayer Book...they have a real knack for molding the language beautifully.  Afterward we were invited to coffee hour and had nice conversations with several folks.  The congregation was about 10 or 12 people, plus us.  WE learned that regular oatmeal cookies are known here as ANZAC biscuits..ANZAC refers to the combined forces of Australia and New Zealand...these biscuits apparently were sent many, many times to loved ones on the various fronts in World War II.

Lunch was at a roadside stand of sorts, the Coromandel Oyster Company.  See photo below.  Barry said that the oysters on the half shell were really fine and fresh.  And he loved the mussel chowder.  I had fish and chips, which was lovely.  The chips were made of kumara, which is a purple sweet potato.  They were delicious.

After lunch we decided to walk the track around Coromandel Town.  On the map it looked very tame.  But in reality it was anything but tame.  The person who laid out the track went in a more-or-less straight line, which meant lots and lots of steep stairs.  There was a boardwalk covered with netting, which was torn and which tripped me up as I crossed it.  Ouch.  Then lots of slippery paths due to the rain recently and the clay soil.

Next came the thunderstorm, which was scary.  We took shelter in some bushes and crouched down most of the time...and it passed over us in time and went away.

To add insult to injury we had to ford a stream towards the end of the walk--which we didn't know about at the beginning.  And the scary thing was that it was really swollen from rainwater that fell in copious amounts recently.  The normal fording place was unusable--flooded too deeply.  We found another place and Barry gallantly went first as I hung back and whined about how scary it was.  He helped me to cross, then promptly lost footing and partly fell into the rushing water.  But he got out again, thank God.  And after getting himself to the top of the slippery bank, he hauled me up, too.

This is one of those memories that we'll always we're laughing but at the time it was scary as can be.  The boots are drying and the muddy pants are being washed, and all is well.  Thank God.  Must have been the influence of Christ Church, Coromandel!

1.  Yesterday on the little deck outside our "bach" (I think the word is a shortening of "bachelor pad" or something like that.  We're in a basic little cottage, which is great.
2.  Christ Church, Coromandel
3.  Lunch today--oysters on the half shell, mussel chowder, fish and chips.
4.  Barry in front of a giant kauri tree...pronounced "cowrie" like the shells...These are indigenous to New Zealand and have been used for timber, including being hollowed out to form Maori waka, or war canoes.  They are being replanted and preserved--threatened these days with 'kauri dieback disease" which must be some kind of bacteria or fungus...
5.  Looking up that giant kauri.  They can be up to 50 feet around!!!  And live over 3000 years.  National treasures.
6.  On the FIRST part of our walk today, the fun part...looking at the bay and in the foreground on right is a small kauri tree, part of a replanting effort.  I hope they come back and thrive.