Saturday, November 30, 2019

E noho rā - Farewell

Ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi

The old net is cast aside, the new net goes fishing

It would be so much easier and more to our inclination if in January Neil and I could just quietly head down the road.  Who likes goodbyes, especially goodbyes with a lot of fuss.   The little 2-year old whose picture I showed the Girls’ Brigade service in Kaeo recently (for your entertainment it is inserted here) really is the same shy little girl 63 years later.  Do I have to do it?
And all that effort people are going to make.  All that food and organisation, and cleaning up afterwards.
It would be simpler…
But it is not to be and, I think it probably is the last thing I need do as a positive act of ministry – for the sake of our purpose as a church.  We exist to be community, Christ-shaped community.  Therefore what happens in our lives we go through together.  We share happy times and sad times.  And we are community that continually opens up to others as a place they can feel at home and be part of this sharing – this whanaungatanga.  Times of farewell – and welcome – are opportunities to be visible church community within our wider communities, for the good of all.
The events of mid-January will be something of an ordeal, but as with any ending it is important to gather to honour the time that has been and say our thank yous.  I have much to be thankful for and very many people I’d like to say thank you to individually.  What’s more, our gathering will be a time a re-affirm what is really important to us as church and as communities in Northland.  That’s how it is with any ending, we grieve the parting but affirm the value of what has been and what will continue to be.  We affirm our values as people of faith.
We are very fortunate that the Methodist Stationing process came up with a person about whom the people of our congregations could say, “yes, you’re the new minister for us”.  I was delighted to meet Saikolone and his wife Fele’unga.  As we talked on the day after the face-to-face meeting, I knew for sure that you had found someone who would be an agent for continuity in the mission that is distinctive of this parish and an agent for new ways of being church in this wider district.  You are going to love Saikolone and his family very much.
The new net will definitely go fishing.
And the old net will rediscover activities I used to have time for and had almost forgotten about, as well as new activities I can’t even imagine yet.
Neil and I drive out of Kerikeri – and Northland – on Saturday 18 January and will arrive in Central Otago on 21 January, to unpack our furniture into storage and then settle into a wee crib[1] in Frankton until our house is finished.  I know I’ll be very sad as we leave – it’s tough having two places that you love that are at opposite ends of the country!  But how fortunate we have been that is the case – home in Te Tai Tokerau and Te Tai Tonga.
Nō reira, e noho rā aku tini hoa.  Goodbye my many friends.
Ka kite – ā te wā.
Rangimarie Peace Shalom, Robyn
November 2018

The measure of our compassion lies not in our service to those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them.
Gregory Boyle S.J.

[1] known by you northerners as a bach

Friday, October 11, 2019

Unexpected Heroes

Ruth 1:1-18

You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin–-to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours–-closer than you yourself keep it. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Like many of the books in the Writings section of Hebrew Scripture, you need to read the whole book of Ruth to get the real picture.   At least it’s shorter than e.g. Job, so it is something you could easily do settled into a comfortable chair with a cuppa.
The book is very likely a critique of male-centred law and culture, a challenge to the power of patriarchy and the powerlessness of women (and children) when they have no men to attach to.  It is clearly also a critique of xenophobia which patriarchy feeds into.  Now that’s very much a topic for contemporary consideration.
The important characters in this story turn out to be the least powerful people.  The people at the margins.
Do you know what it is like to be disregarded?  To feel dispensable.  Not sure of being any use.  To feel on the margins of a group.
The heroes in the book of Ruth – it might look like it’s Boaz the man in the story who rescued them from poverty, but actually it’s Naomi and Ruth – are margins people.
Bitter Naomi – that’s what her name means.  Her first thought in her dire situation is the welfare of others, of Orpah and Ruth.  That’s her response to being a nobody in the world’s view.
This is a clear pointer to her faith – her God is expansive, inclusive.  Even when she is suffering, even when she feels abandoned, she doesn’t lose this sense of all-encompassing life-giving Spirit and so can give of herself.
Ruth’s response to the dire situation is a promise to an “other”, to someone who in standard terms she does not belong with and has no connection or responsibility to.
This is a clear pointer to her faith – her God doesn’t take belonging as a cultural given, determined by birth and place in the world, but chooses belonging. Her God doesn’t see boundaries of social or political or cultural or economic making but, like Naomi’s, is expansive, inclusive.
Like Naomi, her response to being a nobody, counting for nothing in the world’s view, is to think of the welfare of this other person.
Here we have an unexpected God shown to us by unexpected people.  An understanding of Spirit and life that means it’s possible to risk the new and different.  We don’t have to stay within the confines of the known which so often require us not to care beyond our own zone.  For the sake of our own security and survival we shouldn’t risk too much compassion.
And we see God at work in unspectacular ways. God’s presence in the book of Ruth is through the characters, not grand action, but the little things of relationships.  Little things that really are the big things.  God is seen in what’s called in Hebrew hesed. Faithfulness, kindness, compassion, loyalty, never faltering love.  Aroha.
That’s the heart of who we are.
Shalom Rangimarie Peace, Robyn

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

An Act of Human Courage

Moemoeātia te moemoeā engari whakatīnanahia
Dream the dream but achieve it also
* * * * *
You’re not trying hard enough. Sorry. Please save your praise, we don’t want it. Don’t invite us here to tell us how inspiring we are without doing anything about it. It doesn’t lead to anything.
Greta Thunberg to the US Senate
* * * * *
People need hope and inspiration desperately. But hope and inspiration are only sustained by work.
Tarana Burke
* * * * *
We are hearing a loud and very clear challenge from young people right now. It reminds me of the verses in Joel (quoted in Acts 2) about sons and daughters prophesying and young people seeing visions.
Their vision of their future as adults concerns them greatly. Will life on this planet be liveable?
What will it be like in 2100 when babies born now reach old age.
There is quite a debate going on whether our youth should be leaving school classes to protest about climate change. As one politician (aged 70 plus) said, “they should be at school, getting a good education, and then being able to contribute to our country’s productivity.” But they can see longer term than the next two or even three decades.
Specifically, their protest is about the inaction of leaders on whom they have to rely at this stage of their lives. They are not yet the leaders. They do not yet vote. But it is their future that is most at stake.
Joel also said that the old people are to dream dreams. There is a clear role for the elders to draw on experience and keep dreams alive. With a lifetime of living in expectation and hope that we can make a difference for the future, there’s no point giving that up now, no matter how hard it is and no matter how bad it seems to get.
The prophets in the Old Testament were big on hope. Unfortunately, we’ve more often heard just their opening words, the ones making clear bad stuff was happening; the leaders were not being leaders for all the people, some getting the benefits, but most being left out; that the earth itself is being damaged. Yes, they talked about that too – environmental destruction by raiding armies and by urban exploitation of the rural poor.
The prophets started with “a state of the nation” strip down. They continued with a message of change and of hope. Turn back to ways of living that build community and livelihood for all. Turn back to God: keep the faith and work for the future.
Jeremiah did something like this when he bought back a piece of family land right in the middle of the exile (Jeremiah 32), when that land was still under the control of the occupying Babylonians. He put his money where his mouth was, to show people he believed God did have a good future for them. They just needed to join it, to believe it would happen and do whatever they could to work towards it.
That’s what I see as our call to action, all of us as adults, older and younger, and as young people.
Like Jeremiah, believe in what seems almost impossible with the trend of current events – a future that is liveable for the next generations and not condemned to conflict and contest over resources.
Yes, be inspired by our young people, inspired to help turn our dreams of what good life looks like and feels like into their reality in the decades to come.
It’s not the whole solution we’re asked to come up with. Just to have hope. To have hope and to prove it by living now in a way that helps towards good life on this planet. Every little bit makes a difference.
The last word is from an Old Testament scholar whose teaching has been formative for me, Walter Brueggemann. Hope is for him a key theme, perhaps the key theme of the Bible:
Hope is not a passive reliance upon God. Hope is a human act of commitment to and investment in the future. Hope is an act of human courage that refuses to cherish the present too much or be reduced to despair by present circumstance. Hope is the capacity to relinquish the present for the sake of what is imagined to be a reachable future. In the end, hope is a practice that bets on a vision of the future that is judged to be well beyond present circumstance, even if one does not know how to get from here to there.
Rangimarie Peace Shalom

Thursday, August 1, 2019


Aroha mai, aroha atu
Kindness received, kindness given
Kindness is a way of life and a treasure beyond all else.
Another whakatauki reads:
Ahakoa he iti he pounamu
Even though it is small it is a treasure
A small act of kindness proliferates into more of the same. 
It grows in the person who gives it, becoming in them more and more their instinct and habit. 
It grows in the person who receives it, like the way a smile from one person triggers the other to smile, a smile that is then passed on to more and more others.
A child learns kindness by receiving it and, I believe, by having their instinctive little acts of kindness appreciated and affirmed.  Presented by a toddler with a bunch of flowering weeds, would you ever say anything but
“Lovely! Thank you very much for this beautiful gift!”
As we grow up, experiences of getting things wrong – wrong in terms of popular perception – can make us hold back.  We don’t get humoured any more.  Who wants to feel a fool? 
But then, hopefully, we get to realise that it is much better to appear a fool and be kind than to be smart and unkind.  That’s my baseline understanding of Jesus and of what is involved in following the way of Christ.
I’ve been very much running on the kindness of others in recent days as I face one of my biggest challenges ever. 
You could say that it’s been a bit stressful.  What has surely helped me keep on track has been the people around me who, without fuss, have given me little doses of kindness, each in their own way.
On reflection, I’ve been running on the kindness of others for decades. 
For all we might say about church, what stands out to me is the kindness of church people. Church doesn’t have a monopoly on kindness: I’m surrounded by many people not connected with church who are equally kind.  The Spirit we speak of in Bible terms is alive and out there, very often calling us to join in.  Aroha mai, aroha atu.  The Spirit is urging us not stay safe and secure with kindness just among our own kind.  But out among many different kinds, being kind regardless of knowing the response we will get.   
And yet I reckon it’s in this delightful family of Christ that I’ve been able to count on it most. For all our differences and idiosyncrasies, some challenging, some inspiring, some irritating, there’s a pervading atmosphere of kindness that we pick up from one another. 
In relation to this I have found a strong bond with Māoritanga: so much in common between Christian values and what I have experienced among the people of the land (tangata whenua) in the North.  
Kindness is at its heart, the word aroha embracing it plus so much more.   Manaakitanga is the real essence of what we see in terms as the spirit of Christ.  It is aroha in community, interacting with, embracing, and reaching out to all kinds of people.
That’s the quality to hold on to.   Caring, welcoming, accepting, open hospitality, giving and receiving.
Nurturing relationships and therefore never-ending in its loving kindness.
  Rangimarie Peace Shalom
July 2019

Friday, May 31, 2019

Supporting Families

Ka whangaia, ka tupu, ka puawai
That which is nurtured grows, then blossoms.
Dame Tariana Turia used this whakatauki in her promotion of Whanau Ora back in its early days.  As I saw it at the time, the idea of Whanau Ora was good sense for all kinds of people. Its philosophy is cross-cultural in terms of ensuring support for the whole family in all aspects of life.   Not individual, not just specific issue focus, but integrated and well connected.
It’s what we do – what we need to do – in our families.  Nurture, so potential can blossom.  It’s what I benefited from growing up where I did in the family and community that I happened to be born into.  In fact, in recognising that it was a very advantaged background we had, this was the number one factor.   Whanau: a word encompassing the group in the family home and the local community and extended family.
Our own children grew up with this too.  Even though it was the 1980/90s in a city and then provincial town, as opposed to my experience in a rural district in the 1950s/60s, the proverbial “it takes a village to raise a child” was involved.  Grandparents were a key part of it.  Grandma and Grandad upstairs from us in the first few years, Nana and Poppa two and a quarter hour’s drive away. Then a swap with Nana and Poppa ten minutes away and Grandma and Grandad the same length of drive.
Our sons have been greatly influenced by growing up with their grandparents.  Their memories are strong and when together they often talk about those years.  It shows too in how keen our son with children is to have us part of his children’s lives.
Yes, children, plural.  Jeremy and Laura now have a little boy.  Matthew James Chirnside was born in mid-April.  Big sister Amelia is, understandably, finding it hard (the competition especially for mum’s time) and it made me realise how easy we had it in Dunedin. After Kim was born, Jeremy was regularly able to be distracted by his grandparents when his mum was busy with baby.  Going for walks with the dog, pottering in the garden, having morning teas and afternoon teas, catching the bus and going to the end of the bus route and back again, etc. etc.
Would that we could do that for our family!
Scattered families are a fact of life for many and it is a real challenge to be a nurturing family together. We have to be a lot more deliberate in staying well connected.  It needs to be talked about, planned together – what fits the schedules as parents and grandparents are often all very busy people – somehow managing to keep space in our lives for the children we may be blessed with in our extended family.   Not just grandparents, by the way.  I have a friend whose very full life has always had space for her siblings’ children and then their children.  Aunties and uncles can make a real difference to family well-being (aka whanau ora).
We can all make a difference, including in our own neighbourhood.
What about Christian upbringing?  That question is often asked. There are some basics that we who are involved in church can offer. There’s a strong Catholic basis to our moko’s maternal family, so visits to Nana mean going to church.  It means too that baptism is important and I’ve been asked that Matthew, like Amelia, be baptised here in the north.  (It will be in the springtime, after Taranaki calving has finished.  Parish Council have happily agreed to the request.)  Even without that, there is what I consider the best resource – stories.  Your own stories of faith and lots of really good fun books that tell the stories of the Bible.  Three Wise Camels is still a favourite with Amelia long past Christmas.  And she so loved the Joy Cowley one I read at church here on Easter Day.
For me, it was the stories that got into my system and proved invaluable for finding purpose and direction in life.  Church gave me the stories and the people.  How we relate to one another, how we nurture one another to blossom – children learn from that.
  Rangimarie Peace Shalom, Robyn
May 2019
Some recommended Bible story books:
Books by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen – stories that Jesus told
Joy Cowley Cowshed Christmas and The Easter Story
Lost Sheep stories (often seen in church): Go to and click on “shop” to purchase hard copy, or click on “stories” to read on-line

Sunday, March 31, 2019

We are Whanaunga

Ko tō ngākau ki ngā taonga a ō tupuna
In your heart lie the treasures of your ancestors
As people of biblical faith, we have a foundation that is not in fact the mainstream of the world-view called “Western”.  Drawing on the traditions of the Hebrew ancestry, and interpreted and deepened by the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, our foundational culture is not white.  If you wanted to give it a colour, I’d call it “olive”.  Which has a nice association, given the olive tree is a symbol of peace.
Within the Bible, when it’s not going off on human driven tangents, there are insights into the nature of life and humanity that have been invaluable to me as a white skin person (kaikiri) in my endeavours to uncover my own inclinations to kaikiritanga – racism.
You may have heard me talk of the opening verses of Genesis and how the ancient Hebrews understood the nature of human beings and our interconnectedness to the whole of the cosmos.  This is not the dualism that has pervaded the thinking brought here from Europe (and which I studied extensively as mainstream university philosophy in the 1970s).  This is not the black and white thinking that dualism breeds, but earth and living breath thinking.  That is, reality is physical and spiritual and human beings an integration of physical, mental/emotional, relational, and spiritual.  If that sounds like the Māori Te Whare Tapa Whā – tīnana, hinengaro, whanau, me wairua – then you are right. These ancient cultures, olive and brown, hold a similar world-view.
The original vision as given in the Creation narratives is of an interconnected whole, with the Creator envisaging life-giving and life-proliferating relationships for all things, all species and within the human species.
We know it goes awry as that is the ongoing biblical story, the Creator endeavouring to get humanity back on track.   Within the stories of the ancestors handed down in the Bible, there are stories of connection as well as stories from when concerns for power and control held sway, usually with fear and hurt at the root of it all.
One story of connection is very important for us right now.  Ancestor Abraham was promised to become a great nation – descendants as many as grains of sand – but his chief wife Sarah remained childless.  She suggested he have a child with Hagar, her slave-maid.  It happened and Ishmael was born.  Later Sarah did get pregnant and Isaac is born.  If we ever imagine this might have been a happy, diverse family (Hagar’s origin was from another ethnic group), the truth is it was a real family and things did not stay happy, even if the children wished they could.
Hagar was sent away with her son, sent out into the desert with some food and a skin full of water.  Most likely they would die – unless someone found them and was kind enough just to enslave them not kill them.
When the water had run out, Hagar put Ishmael under a tree and sat down at a distance where she would hear less of his whimpering.  She sat down and cried.  Then
God heard the boy’s cries, and God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “Hagar! What’s wrong? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy’s cries over there. Get up, pick up the boy, and take him by the hand because I will make of him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went over, filled the water flask, and gave the boy a drink. God remained with the boy; he grew up, lived in the desert, and became an expert archer.                                          Genesis 21:17-20
Ishmael is the son of Abraham named in the Qu’ran.  Hagar is the mother of Islam.
Abraham unites the three faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
We are whanaunga.  We are brothers and sisters.
The blessing of the God of Sarah, of Hagar,
as of Abraham,
the blessing of the Son
born of the woman Mary,
the blessing of the Holy Spirit,
who broods over us as a mother
over her children,
be with you now and always.
By the way, Jesus continues to call us to be counter-cultural. The gospel we are to live is the good news of life as an interconnected whole, working towards the Creator’s original vision of life-giving and life-proliferating relationships among all peoples and all things.
Anything else is not gospel.
  Rangimarie Peace Shalom, Robyn
March 2019

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Mentors and Heritage

Over the summer two people important in my life have been farewelled.  One I have known for just a few years but his influence on me has been significant in who I have become during my years in Te Tai Tokerau Northland.  The other I’ve known always.  One is our kaumatua Hiwi Tauroa, the other is my uncle Keith McPhail.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
Keith was the last of his generation, so it was pretty momentous for my cousins and me. The reflection I included in the service related to that but I realised it didn’t just apply to us.  It’s something that relates to any of us with the passing of people who have been part of our history.  So here’s some of what I said:
End of the chapter in that, while we had Keith, we had a connection that went way back in our own experience.  Yarns with Keith were a chance to talk about people and places that have been our lives.  We’re going to miss that a lot, and that’s a bit of an understatement.
Heritage: you could say that’s what Keith represents.  He has us thinking about what we’ve had handed down, in family, genetic or otherwise, or through friendship however recent.  The cloud of witnesses of those who have died are like the ancestors, the tūpuna, who keep us company on the side-lines especially at times when we need a booster shot of something. Something like the persistence and fortitude Nicki talked about.  If they could do it, I can do it…  Or just a reminder of who we are, the values we carry, the commitments we hold to.
I recall so many conversations with Keith about people, his parents – our grandparents that we never knew – about others in the family and the local district, about politicians.  Now they were some discussions – “putting the world to rights”.  I reckon he found people really interesting.  People and relationships: that’s what matters most.  Practical Christianity is what appealed to Keith.  The practice of it.  The ordinary life lived well with those we live among.
What I then continued to say talks about our district, so I’ll also share it with you:
An ordinary life that you may be interested to know played a part in something of extra-ordinary significance.  Some may remember Keith being taken to an event at the University of Canterbury a few years back to do with radar and involving a visiting overseas academic keen to meet Keith.
Keith served in the War in radar work with the central base on Norfolk Island and one of the five stations in New Zealand, Whangaroa in Northland.  In late March 1945 a very striking increase in radio noise was noted at Norfolk and it only occurred around sunrise and sunset. New Zealand physicist Elizabeth Alexander recognised the significance of this and arranged for it to be monitored within an hour of sunrise and sunset at the radar stations.  It was proving difficult to get definitive results but the commanding officer at Whangaroa found a way to increase the sensitivity of the instruments with the result that this station was first to get a clear indication of the solar based noise, as opposed to regular radio noise. I’d heard about it from the current resident of Radar Hill [Fred Barnes] and mentioned it to Keith.  He said, “yes, I was doing that.  We would observe and record each time it happened.”  Very matter of fact about something that was a significant discovery in the science of radio astronomy, and in the development of space communications and of our understanding of the universe.
But then, our ordinary lives are always extra-ordinary in their way.  That’s what we’re gathering up today: 97 years of one person’s experience – how amazing this life is that we live.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
Hiwi is remembered, among many other things, for his contribution to education – matauranga.  He was a big part of my education too. It started in Methven when I was doing te reo by Correspondence, looking for times to use the reo without getting the dirty looks I’d get if I did so at church.  Times like a Rotary Conference coming to town.  They wanted prayers to start on Sunday so I fronted up and found this famous man sitting in the front row.  More nervous even than usual I proceeded and, when I came to close with the grace, looking out and saying it from memory in te reo, I saw a beaming smile on Matua Hiwi’s face.  The pronunciation would have been terrible – I hadn’t yet come under the tutelage of Whangaroa – but what encouragement he gave me.  You might imagine my delight – and trepidation – when I saw Hiwi and Pat in church at Kaeo in February 2004 when I came to “preach to the call” (and be voted on).  I knew at once that my words to end would not be the ones in the script.  They would be those same words of blessing – the grace we now regularly say together on Sundays.
Hiwi, Tarzan, Uru: they have been my Kaumatua mentors.  There is a sense that Hiwi’s passing is another end of chapter for me.  Perhaps also for others here in the parish.  Who would I have been without them?  I hate to think!
Rangimarie Peace Shalom, Robyn
January 2019