Monday, 8 February 2021

In excess of 300 years

Today, 8 February 2021, a band of us gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our Ordination to the priesthood. [8 Feb 1981]

Our ordaining Bishop, then Archbishop of Adelaide, Keith Rayner at the great age of 91 celebrated The Eucharist with us.

[pictured here from L-R: Stephan Clark (me), Keith Brice, (not present...but in contact) Archbishop Keith, Ross Morony, Graham Head, Barry Davis...we are now all retired; not pictured here was  WarwickWinsall-Hall who was ordained a deacon on that day and was present...two Roberts who were also deaconed on that day were not with us for different reasons]

Then we went out to a pleasant lunch! (at the Feathers Hotel)

Together this small group of people represents more than 300 years of pastoral ministry! But I find myself feeling glad that these days this picture would have women as well as men!

And then again there are 4 walking sticks

[pictured here from L-R: Malcolm Thomas  (who was ordained in Melbourne around the same time) Stephan Clark (me), [Keith Brice, ( was not present...but in contact)] Bishop Keith, Ross Morony, Graham Head, Barry Davis...we are standing in more or less the same order but we are all looking 40 years older]

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Dealing with death



There is not just  one song that you have to deal with

OMG she is such a great performer.

Yesterday my children mocked me at lunch because they know how much I loved her .

Sarah said ..."We always knew when you were preparing a dinner party because you were singing Helen Reddy songs." I am so sad that she has died.

The youngest S Clark and I experienced  her in concert at the Adelaide  Festival Centre a few years her late 60s or early 70s ...You and me against the world.....I don't know how to love Him ( her first work) and of course ...I am Woman ...and Leave me Alone...and the alarming ....Angie Baby

She was of course not the only diva Dusty Springfield immediatelyjumps to mind


Saturday, 5 September 2020

Treating people with respect

Readings for Sunday 6 September 2020 can include Exodus 12:1-14, Ps 149, Romans 13: 1-10 Matthew 18:15-20
preached at the Parish Mass at St Paul's, Port Adelaide, South Australia 

Today the Gospel reading is very practical.

It is about what we call these days conflict resolution

I think the first thing to note is that Jesus is not suggesting

what we sometimes pretend  in Churches

and, that is that, there will be no conflict.

Rather, he is saying that when there is conflict,

not if..but when,

it should not be avoided, 

or swept under the carpet,

but it needs to be dealt with directly.


The process is quite straight forward

  • ·       Go and speak to that person alone
  • ·       If that doesn’t work, and you still feel aggrieved, go with one or two others
  • ·       It is only at the point where that hasn’t worked that you consider going public 
  • ·       then, and  only then, when all else has failed might you take more drastic action, like exclusion from the community


It does always strike me that this is enormously practical advice

and we would do well to pay heed to this process

But often we choose to ignore it

because, I suggest, we don't even want to talk about conflict.

Perhaps hoping that it will just evaporate.

That, of course, would be a fantasy.

Jesus is not a big fan of the fantasy world,

he is always drawing us back to 

How do we live in the reality of this time.

This of course has  never been more true

than in this difficult period.

We need to live with the reality of this plague;

I am hopeful that one of the things we might learn

is that we should be kinder to each other

and realise we are ALL under stress

So Be Kinder!


Let me say a few more things 

about the way Jesus is inviting us to deal with difficult situations


This is a process

Do things in order!

We note that each step gets progressively more serious.

One of the reasons 

we do it in order 

is so that we will not make the situation worse

by getting ahead of ourselves


Go and speak to that person alone 

Don’t barge in with all guns blazing

when a simple (albeit difficult) conversation

one on one

may well be all that is required.


If that doesn’t work,.... go with one or two others

This, too, could be difficult.

But I suggest that this is not an act of intimidation

It is not ganging up.

The text suggests 

the reason for this:

in order that we may confirm every word

Allowing others to hear what we are saying

can hopefully help us to say it clearly

and to make sure we are hearing what the other party is saying


Particularly if we have been upset 

we can find that we don’t always

express ourselves properly

or we don’t hear what the other person is saying

Allowing one or two others to share 

may help us to clarify the situation.

This of course must be done with confidentiality

It is sometimes at this point where we find 

that we get the process out of order.

The THIRD step in the process 

not the FIRST

is making some public acknowledgment.


It’s likely that confronting in public before having taken the two private and confidential steps 

will not ease the situation.

All communities

can fall into traps

which do not respect people’s privacy

and integrity.

Gossiping or talking about people behind their backs

is not dealing with conflict

it is rather like 

arming oneself for conflict

by marshaling allies.


We can see plenty of examples (sadly)

throughout Church & Parish history

both in the long-term

and in the short-term

where conflict has not been dealt with properly


And ultimately the process of exclusion 

may take place

Not, so much in my experience,  by formal writ

but rather by forcing people to leave.

A sort of self-exclusion.


Let me reiterate the principles:

---We don’t deal with conflict by avoiding it.

But the process is one of charity and compassion.

---Follow the simple process, 

don’t get ahead of ourselves

---It is important to respect 

those with whom we disagree

and not stab them in the back

by gossip or abuse of power


---there will be times

(hopefully few)

when we will witness a parting of the ways.

---We will not always 

be able to agree 

about everything.


One would and should  pray that all this might be done with honesty, respect and love

Both in coming events

but more importantly in the life of Church, Community and Family

in our work-places

And in the breadth of the world.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Remembering a friend -JSD

 Some of you will remember JSD from 40 years ago.
This is an amazing picture since he as a quasi-intellectual was never ever seen to have shown the slightest interest in his child relatives.
I have observed elsewhere that "it is not that he was against children, he was just oblivious to them!!"
But here he is with two great nephews and maybe a  great-niece/nephew, probably early 80s, in Hartford Connecticut.
What those of us who know JSD would find intriguing is that he actually seems to be enjoying and smiling as the naughty little boys rudely stick their tongues out.  These are his cousin's children. Of course now adults in their 40s or 50s...and they have incorporated these pics into their family genealogical record

This pic is of JSD having graduated from King's Cambridge, almost unrecognisable for those of us who knew him in the 60s and 70s, guess he was in his mid to late 20s.  Possibly both pre-War (Kenya?) & ; post-War  (Cairo?). Worked for the Intelligence Service (what is now MI5). He found Cairo in the Palestinian troubles deeply disturbing.
Those of us who knew him as a University Chaplain and Lecturer in History of Education find it a  bit difficult to connect this photo with the late 60s and 70s.

Spencer was tragically killed as a pedestrian in a late night accident in 1982

There's a little bit  more in another post here

This latter picture was of a "Pontifical High Mass" in the Chapel of The Community of the Resurrection(CR) at Mirfield, Yorkshire. Spencer's family thought this might have been during his time there as a postulant and a novice....but it couldn't be, as the Bishop in question, the saintly Trevor Huddleston who was a member of CR wasn't ordained a bishop until 1960, by which time JSD had left and been ordained as deacon and priest. 
Subsequently becoming a 'missionary' to Australia
Huddleston was a giant amongst people, a great advocate against Apartheid in South Africa one of the heroes of the Church in the 20th Century.
I note, for those of you who care, that he is embracing all orders in his vesture. He's wearing his Episcopal mitre, and underneath his priestly chasuble, and underneath wearing the deacon's dalmatic; and the sub-deacon's tunicle.  
Totally mad, but part of the hilarious fun that is Anglo Catholicism!!!

Remembering a friend. Thanking God for the eccentrics of this world

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Mother's Day

I guess many of us will be thinking of our mothers at this time with Mother's Day on Sunday 10  May in lots of countries [ of course I realise that in the UK Mothering Sunday is in Mid-Lent...this year on 22nd March 2020].

This is my mother Lil (Lillian) who died in 2002.
The photo is taken in (we think) 1946. So she would have been in her mid 20s (25 or 26). It's a beautiful photo of her

This morning we celebrated my eldest daughter's birthday. And it was great to be with both of my daughters who are also mothers, S with 2 girls and one boy, and K who has 2 boys...but still in utero....only weeks ...possibly days to go. And my youngest daughter who has a kitten.

I know my Mum would be so proud of all her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and the sense that life has gone on

Not sure if my grandson looks like his great-grandmother. But he's a very happy boy. Credit to the nurture of his Mum and Dad, and the laughing of his sisters

In these days of pestilence, may we rejoice in the good stories of our families.

And my thoughts go out to those who live in unsafe or abusive families.

Go and wash your hands!!

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

I suppose it marks the beginning of an era

It's taken some time and in the end I had to work around the idiosyncrasies of the system.
I wonder what the lady up the road who has never used a computer would do.  What indeed would my mother have done.
I am sure it has has been lodged but am equally sure there is more road to travel

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Reflection on some Churches in Europe

As I sift through my life in these my latter years, (I am now 67!! did that happen?)
I think about many wonderful times there have been to engage with the spirituality of European Christianity
And, indeed, of European society

This is a couple of poems that I wrote as my former wife and I did a minor European Tour in 2007.
Our marriage was no doubt well over by this time.
But we decided that we should do it.
And to be fair  we had a great time.

7 May 2007

Mass in Notre Dame 

My bread is shared today
a gift from total strangers
to eat
with others
who speak not
the language of words
the language of peace.
A clasp
A nod
A word or two
not in English
but in Latin
Pax Dominum
On the top of the Eiffel Tower Sue freaked and had a panic attack, I sort of rallied ( what else can you do?)


On top of the Eiffel Tower

There is no redemption
but a sense of awe
there is no reconciliation
but a gift of courage.
Here, in a place
equally as foolish
as Babel
awe, courage, amazement
deep in the loins.
Most of us
get it
maybe not
the young, the brash
who think they know it all
Who smoke
to show they can
and shout
lest no one know
how brave they are,
how central
how they are.

But on this foolishness
it is not God
but Paris
all around.
And the wind changes
and cold
and we all
old and young
decide enough is enough
of human invention

6 May 2007 --10 p.m.

Mass in Sacre Coeur

On the steps of Paris
they sing
in impromptu concert
while within the white domed church
Dominus is intoned.
Each, oblivious to the other
the mystery within
flows without

In the cool darkness of the night
we flee
back to the pee stinking tunnels
and the steps
that crush the knees;
it was mystery
it is over

4 May 2007(?)

In La Sistina

We lost each other
Making our our way to the centre
I stood alone
while a spikey haired man went
then would scream in anger
"No pitch!" and then "I said No Pitch!"
It does not alter the wonder
of a ceiling or a wall
declaring the mystery of God
it does tell us
No pictures! No pictures!
Save the pictures in our heart(maybe)
which we could not share
because we were lost

Friday, 22 November 2019

Pre-Ascension Chat

As you speak to me
before you go
I am reminded
to not be anxious
about small flashing lights
and that you are
the loved son
who is within
drawing out
the loved son in me

Allow yourself to be healed
and to pick up the snake
that has always frightened you
and whose very presence
rather than touch
has been what has poisoned
your loved-son life

You have picked it up
and still live.
the poison does not appear
to have worked

It may have been
life saving
love giving

Even  as I wave goodbye 

Monday, 18 November 2019

Afternoon in Jericho

Saturday afternoon in Jericho
Saturday afternoon

in Jericho;

the place seems deserted;

it reminds me of childhood Sundays

in Whitehaven

There is no blind man

by the side of the road,

well not one that I can see

any way.

And that is rather the point 

this is a reflection on Luke 18:35-43   The blind man who sits by the road (today's Mass Reading)

It actually alludes to a Saturday afternoon some years ago in the Holy Lands, we were coming back to Jerusalem from Galilee when we stopped for a break in Jericho. It seemed deserted .

Of course I realised only today (some years later) that we there on the Shabbat 

Likewise, Whitehaven in the 50s and early 60s reminded me of the Sabbath , which for us was Sunday.

Only got this I reiterate 

There is no blind man...well none that I can see

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

What to say a funeral.

It was nice to go out to lunch today ( in the wake of 'retirement') with some friends (from University days....would that be 50 years ago?) and one of us asked the two priest do you cope with funerals and grief.    
It is a question that has taxed me over the years... for funerals have been ever present.
Early in my ordained ministry I was asked  "What do you like about ministry?" and unguardedly I said 
"Well I quite like funerals!"
Looking back it's a curious thing to have s.  But I have thought is true.!!

So, last week I went to participate in the obsequies of J, who had been both ballet dancer and surfer... that's Australia for you. 
Leonie, who was leading us, reminded us of the traditional Hawaiian practice of  Ho’oponopono...she framed it thus wise ( which is more expansive than the narrow way)
  • I am sorry, please forgive me.  
  • I forgive you....
  • Thank you
  • I love you

 This calls us to attend to what is important in a person's life
  • I have made mistakes...forgive me
  • You have made mistakes ..   I forgive you
  • Thank you for all the giftedness that  we have shared
  • In the end, there is nothing greater than to say ...I love you ...or at the least ...I want to love you
At the very least, I thought this seems to have got it right

Sunday, 10 November 2019

A new way - let's sing

This week has been interesting.
Last Sunday we had a wonderful Mass to conclude my ministry at St Mary Magdalene's.
It was nice that quite a few folk gathered together.
Particularly  my three daughters who with my two granddaughters sang to me.
In our family this is the way you show how much you love  another person.
I often tell the story, with great  joy, how my first son-in-law Dénes said to to Sarah, his beloved, "Your family always sing at each other!!"
It was good to hear an 'outsider'  [ for such he was then] discover this great treasure....WE just did it...sang G & S, Barby Girl, Musicals...all the time.

When I was younger and we used to drive to far beaches in SA in the car we would sing Church songs, the Beaumont Folk Mass...and all sorts of other things. My Dad, who was not particularly religious, used to love it. 
I just muse that  now Dénes now sings to his daughters ... and indeed to us all.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Bloody hard

Australia is a rugged country, most people who live elsewhere get this. Perhaps we who live here find it a bit curious, and find that we are not so much rugged or tough, but laid back.
We often say that we are the land of the ‘fair go’. But like so many such statements, the ones who get ‘the fair go’ are those who are doing pretty well already, thank you very much.

One of the things that has saddened me in the more than half a century I have lived here, is that our hearts seem to have become increasingly hardened.
Not rugged but HARD.
We are no longer saying,”If you want to live here then you have to work hard, and pull your weight.”
We are saying stupid stuff like
“We are full!”
“Go back to where you came from.”
“If you come by boat you will never settle here!”
Now, I came here by boat in 1967.But then I am white, I was born in the UK…and though I may have some non-Aryan ancestry…yet of course I speak English ( and a smattering of other languages…looking forward to retiring to brush up on Bahasa Indonesia !)
Curiously we moved into a South Australian industrial town, Whyalla, as did hundreds of other UK citizens in the late 60s. There was a real sense of ‘ghetto’.

I went to the central High School ….I had never experienced ethnic discrimination before …but I did there. I was a Pom!
People laughed at my accent (NW England) as if they some how had the key as to how English should be spoken.
Let me tell you that Maroon …is pronounced MAH ROO N
Not MA RAWN!!!
That it’s perfectly OK to say DANCE with a hard ‘a’ and you can say DARNCE if you want to…but who cares?
To provincial South Australians these seemed like linguistic baseball bats.
We tended to retreat to our ethnic homelands…so my four close friends were from Liverpool, Tyneside, Luton and North Wales.
By the time I graduated with education degrees and became a teacher in the third High School the tables had reversed.
In that school 85% of the students were not born in Australia. Most came from the UK with about 10% a mix of Greeks, Italians, French and others.
While I realise I was subjected to the pejorative “Pom”…in the Eastern school, the Aussies were “Skips” in the Western school …and thought to be as thick as two planks.
This is how prejudice works, not with logic but with the prejudice of the majority mocking the minority.
All of this is of course nonsense.
I was fortunate to have teachers who realised that when I was a minority “Pom”, I had actually probably had better schooling in Maths, Physics and Chemistry before I came to school in Australia than they had been able to deliver. John Lyon my Chemistry teacher was one of the first to spot this.
He gave me an A in my first series of reports even though I had been taught under an ‘old fashioned’ way. He took time help me translate this, and I accelerated with his help.
Five years later, inspired by him I guess, I went to be a teacher in school of which he was Head (Stuart High School). I understand now that he had not only an educational vision, but also a spiritual, philosophical and theological vision of what a school might be. I liked that.
Deeply influenced by liberal Protestant theology. He promoted such epithets as “Freedom to choose!” and “Acceptance of consequence” deeply seated in the theology of Tillich, Bonhoeffer and others.
Made sense to me.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Seeing as God sees

Readings for this week September 8th 2019 (proper 23) Pentecost 13 are taken from the following selection :

The potter at the wheel

is a very evocative image,

more so to those who would have witnessed it (like Jesus)

in their own backyards.

They would have seen
the craftsman start to make the pot
and then decide
"This is not quite right"
and squash it all down
and start again. 
I remember many years ago going to Bendigo Pottery
the thing that most amazed me 
was not the fine pottery in the top-end Showroom
which is indeed wonderful
but the Seconds Showroom 
which seemed to  go on for miles
(this was the stuff that was not good enough of course they are playing their market a bit )

I certainly found their, considerably cheaper seconds, 
to be excellent
Better than what I can find at Target or KMart.

Often the amateur
looks on with amazement 
as the potter smashes it down 
or chucks it away;
wondering why the work has begun again.
To us it looks OK
to the artist, the craftsman, the master
they see something
that needs more and more and,
yet more work

So, this is a quite a useful image
for you and me
of the way God sees us.
We may think we are OK
or that there is not much that can be done
but God views us rather differently than we view ourselves. 
It is not that God looks at us
and thinks we are a mess;
but rather that God looks at us
and sees more than we see 
God sees that we are good
that we are worthy of love.
As popular commentators have crudely put it
"God doesn't make trash!"
I am not,
you are ,
So Paul revisits quite a lot of his old friendships,
and relationships this one with Onesimus
and finds with maturer and deeper reflection
that things change.
He says to Philemon
"You know you and I used to think of him as USELESS "
The name
Ονησιμος ('onesimos' actually means useful, profitable or beneficial in Greek)
but they had smugly ( as arrogant young men do) nicknamed him 
Paul was not always given to kind reflections,
but he does not stand still 
"God does not make trash!"
and there is a sense
in which Paul becomes more compassionate,
more charitable 
dare we say
more Christlike
as he grows older.
So might this happen to all of us!

  • Take a few moments to ask God if you are seeing your life as God sees it.
  • Is there something about your life that you are just not understanding?
  • Do you have a relationship with another person that needs to be re-evaluated in a more positive light? Are there things that need to be begun again?
  • And remember, sometimes what looks or feels like destruction is a new beginning