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.