Mary Meets Mohammed

My local Amnesty International group in Dunedin will be screening Mary Meets Mohammed at the Pioneer Hall in Port Chalmers on Friday 28 November at 7pm. This is a heart-warming movie made by AI Australia about the friendship that develops between an asylum seeker from the Middle East and a Tasmanian woman who initially thinks that such people should be ‘sent back to where they came from’. A gold coin donation for entry will go to AI Australia to support our own Mary Morwood who has committed herself to a sponsored walk in Australia, raising money to support asylum seekers in detention, and the rights of Australian Aboriginal people. There will be refreshments available after the film. All welcome.

Mary Meets Mohammad

Here’s the trailer:

‘Otago Farmers’ Market’


there was
no shortage of apples or artichokes
no shortage of walnuts or whiskey
no shortage of cherries or chickens
no shortage of lamb or leeks
no shortage of pork or pinot noir
no shortage of edible flowers or eggs
no shortage of sprouts or Green Man stouts
no shortage of capsicums or Colin’s creamy farmhouse brie
no shortage of potatoes or pies
no shortage of coffee or Cardrona merino lamb
no shortage of tabbouleh or Ken’s tussocks
no shortage of bread or beets
no shortage of galettes or garlic paste
no shortage of asparagus or Afife’s Lebanese delectations
no shortage of smoked salamis or short skirts
no shortage of pears or pizzas
no shortage of vegans or vendors
no shortage of buskers on the platform jamming the blues.
By the time we reached Tony’s ’Nemo’ van
the only fish left were
‘It’s been a shocker of a week’, he said.
‘With three hours out to the reef
and three hours back,
and with no calm
to get any sleep. Still,
there’s always next week,

© Jason Goroncy
December, 2013


Three years later, in 2016, Mike Crowl set the poem to music. Its first – and possibly last? – performance was by The Choristers.

Kerry Enright: an interview

Kerry Enright and Pastor BerlinLast night’s edition of the ABC program Sunday Nights, hosted by John Cleary, included an interview with the Rev Dr Kerry Enright, the outgoing National Director of UnitingWorld, and a friend of mine. During the interview, Kerry reflects upon two of his favorite topics – the catholic nature of the church as gift from God and as sign to the world, and on the role of the church in civil society (here the discussion is focused particularly on Fiji, Australia and New Zealand). He also talks a bit about his forthcoming appointment as minister of Knox Church (Presbyterian) in Dunedin. I’m looking forward to welcoming Kerry back to Dunedin, and back to the PCANZ, soon. You can listen to the interview here.

And while I’m mentioning Kerry, there’s also an older interview in which he talks about God’s mission and about the significance of partnerships that UnitingWorld enjoys:

Interviewing David Clark MP

Interrogation roomLike many of life’s journeys, it all began with a single question. On this occasion, it was one posed by my daughter Sinead: ‘Why are so many things in Dunedin made in China?’, she asked. Rather than blunder my own way through an answer, I suggested that we write to the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon John Key, and ask him. She thought that that was a good idea: ‘Mr Key always seems to have a lot of time to play golf and to tweet about Lorde, so surely he will have enough time to talk with me!’, she said. And, ‘he’s always rabbiting on about how much he enjoys talking to average New Zealander’s about issues that matter to them’, I added. So, hopeful, we wrote to him. We received no reply. We wrote to him again, and again, and again, and again – inviting an answer to the question – but still no response came. This was disappointing, and birthed some grumpiness.

The invitation to discuss this, and any other question Sinead might have, was taken up by our local MP, David Clark. He should know about this stuff, we thought. After all, he is the Opposition spokesperson for economic development.

So, a few weeks ago, Sinead meandered down to the MP’s office to arrange an interview. That interview took place yesterday. In addition to her initial question, she posed a number of other questions – about Dunedin, about being a parliamentarian, about the personal costs of politics, about the relationship between politics and faith, and about the push for New Zealand to have a new flag. David was gracious, unpatronising, and honest in his replies, Sinead (and her dad) learnt a lot, and new questions were formed. And then she and David went out for ice-cream at Rob Roy Dairy.

I was very proud of her, and grateful to David for taking some time out to discuss matters of importance with one of New Zealand’s newest citizens.

The dirty politics of oil

Oil drilling

News that the Texan oil and gas exploration company Anadarko Petroleum Corporation is to undertake a test drilling program in the Canterbury Basin just off the Otago Peninsula is causing stir here in Dunedin among a good number of residents deeply concerned about the significant environmental and economic risks that such drilling poses to the region. Shell too have plans to explore the Great South Basin for additional oil and gas reserves.

Such highly-charged ventures rarely display politics in its most attractive, reasoned, transparent and democratic guise. One example of this occurred just a few weeks ago (on 10 January) when the intelligent and responsible folk who make up the St Martin Island Community were ordered, by the Otago Regional Council, to take down a ‘No Drill’ sign (erected in late October 2013) because, according to the ORC, the community were in breach of resource consent which states that ‘no advertising signage shall be erected on the jetty’. Now it’s not at all clear to me, or to the SMIC, just how such a sign is an example of ‘advertising’. (It is difficult to imagine such an order being issued for a sign encouraging the All Blacks to thrash their opponents at a game at the ORC’s beloved stadium (once described, in what sounds like a joke, as ‘pivotal to Dunedin and Otago’s future’; similar rhetoric was being used to sell the drilling program: ‘A key to Dunedin’s future prosperity could lie buried beneath the seabed just 60km off the coast’, we are told), or a sign welcoming cash-carrying Chinese tourists to Dunedin, or a sign championing the importance of brushing one’s teeth without the use of rat poisons, for example. And yet a ‘No Drill’ sign appears to me to be of much the same order.)

At the most recent meeting of the SMIC Council, it was decided that an appeal of the ORC’s decision would be made to the Environment Court asking for a stay on the grounds that the ‘No Drill’ sign is not advertising but ‘a prudent safety message’. Such an appeal has since been lodged and we now await the court’s decision, hoping that common sense and the rule of law (these are not always at odds!) will prevail over all other interests. Certainly any democracy that seeks to legislate against legitimate (i.e., non-violent) forms of protest has failed tragically to understand its own virtue.

Saint Martin Island

Interfaith Engagement for Peace: a Muslim Perspective

dringridmattsonI’m delighted to learn (and publicise) that Ingrid Mattson (who holds the Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada) will deliver this year’s Open Peace Lecture at the University of Otago.

The title of Dr Mattson’s lecture is ‘Interfaith Engagement for Peace: a Muslim Perspective’.

When: Monday 19 August, 1730–1900, followed by supper.

Where: Burns 1 Lecture Theatre, Dunedin.

All are welcome. The event is being sponsored by the Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group and Otago Tertiary Chaplaincy.

Martyn Percy in Dunedin

percy martynThe Centre for Theology and Public Issues at the University of Otago is to host Martyn Percy for two public talks on Monday 15 April:

(i) Prof Percy will be giving the fourth Abbey College Prestige Lecture, in collaboration with the Centre, at 5.30 pm in Archway 3 Lecture Theatre in Dunedin. The title of the lecture is: Salvation and Soil: Some Challenges for Churches in Contemporary Culture.

(ii) And earlier, from 12.30-1.30 pm, he will be in conversation with Centre Director, Andrew Bradstock, in the University’s AV Studio (Owheo Building, 133 Union Street East, Dunedin). You are welcome to attend in person or watch on-line. If you plan to attend in person, you will need to reserve your seat either by e-mail or phone (+64 3 471 6458).

Mass, Dunedin style

New Zealand Tablet, Volume IV, Issue 169, 23 June 1876, Page 1.

‘The first Mass was celebrated … in the loft of the old bottle store of Burke the brewer. About 20 people were present and they had to ascend a rather rickety ladder and squeeze through a narrow trapdoor to get to the loft. The second Catholic Mass in Dunedin was celebrated in the skittle alley of the Queen’s Arms Hotel, Princes Street South’. – Frank Tod, Pubs Galore: History of Dunedin Hotels 1848–1984, p. 67. [HT: Jennie Coleman]

‘Otago Peninsula’, by Brian Turner

There, beneath a portcullis of rain
lie the bones of time-rent men and women.

They lie awash in the slush
that saddened and sometimes defeated them.

Scabby hedges cling to the slopes
of hills yoked by sky.

Here the whole range of earth’s colours
sprawl on paddock, stone wall and crumpled sea.

Nothing is left untouched by sparse sunlight,
slanting rain, fists of wind punching

the ribs of the land. Here, under tough grasses
and the crust of sheep and cattle tracks

crumble the fondest dreams and prophecies.
No one came who stayed to conquer, no one came

who was not beaten down
or turned away for another time.

– Brian Turner, ‘Otago Peninsula’ in Ancestors (Dunedin: John McIndoe, 1981).

Library services

After reading about this latest threat from the depraved, short-sighted, unimaginative and wreckless Dunedin Council to cut library services, I was inspired to read (via Jim Gordon’s blog) about the people in Stony Stratford, near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, who have spent the week withdrawing their maximum allowance of books in protest against council plans to close it as part of budget cuts. They withdrew all 16,000 books from their library. So we’re off to the library again to max out our borrowing, doing our bit to undermine the claim that ‘the proposed changes reflected the number of people using the library …’, a claim I find astonishing given the high number of library users I observed when I was in there last week; in fact, every time I’ve been in there. In fact, I don’t think that I’ve ever seen so many using a public library. It was a bit like a packed stadium, only the crowds were there for longer. So if you live in Dunners, and you’re not a regular at our library, please get reading our books!

BTW: here’s one of the priceless images from last century, depicting the London Library after the 1940 blitz:

Update: I will continue to post links related to this issue here as I find, or am alerted to, them:




‘Life in Gaza Today’: an exhibition

Christian World Service are sponsoring an exhibition of paintings by Christian and Muslim children and adult artists who live in Gaza.

WhereKnox Church, 449 George St, Dunedin, in the Gathering Area.

When: 20–22 December 2010, 3–5 January 2011. 10.00 am – 4.00 pm.

The exhibition will be launched on Monday 20 December @ 5.15pm with a talk by Mai Tamimi.

Enquiries: email or phone (03) 477 0229.

‘A Small Ode on Mixed Flatting’, by James K. Baxter

Elicited by the decision of the Otago University authorities to forbid this practice among students

Dunedin nights are often cold
(I notice it as I grow old);
The south wind scourging from the Pole
Drives every rat to his own hole,
Lashing the drunks who wear thin shirts
And little girls in mini-skirts.
Leander, that Greek lad, was bold
To swim the Hellespont raging cold
To visit Hero in her tower
Just for an amorous half-hour.
And lay his wet brine-tangled head
Upon her pillow – Hush! The dead
Can get good housing – Thomas Bracken,
Smellie, McLeod, McColl, McCracken,
A thousand founding fathers lie
Well roofed against the howling sky
In mixed accommodation – Hush!
It is the living make us blush
Because the young have wicked hearts
And blood to swell their private parts.
To think of corpses pleases me;
They keep such perfect chastity.
O Dr Williams, you were right
To shove the lovers out of sight;
Now they can wander half the night
Through coffee house and street and park
And fidget in the dripping dark,
While we play Mozart and applaud
The angel with the flaming sword!
King Calvin in his grave will smile
To know we know that man is vile;
But Robert Burns, that sad old rip
From whom I got my Fellowship
Will grunt upon his rain-washed stone
Above the empty Octagon,
And say – ‘O that I had the strength
To slip yon lassie half a length!
Apollo! Venus! Bless my ballocks!
Where are the games, the hugs, the frolics?
Are all you bastards melancholics?
Have you forgotten that your city
Was founded well in bastardry
And half your elders (God be thankit)
Were born the wrong side of the blanket?
You scholars, throw away your books
And learn your songs from lasse’s looks
As I did once – ‘Ah, well; it’s grim;
But I will have to censor him.
He liked to call a spade a spade
And toss among the glum and staid
A poem like a hand grenade –
And I remember clearly how
(Truth is the only poet’s vow)
When my spare tyre was half this size,
With drumming veins and bloodshot eyes
I blundered through the rain and sleet
To dip my wick in Castle street.
Not on the footpath – no, in a flat,
With a sofa where I often sat,
Smoked, drank, cursed, in the company
Of a female student who unwisely
Did not mind but would pull the curtain
Over the window – And did a certain
Act occur? It did. It did.
As Byron wrote of Sennacherib –
‘The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold’ –
But now, at nearly forty-two,
An inmate of the social zoo,
Married, baptized, well heeled, well shod,
Almost on speaking terms with God,
I intend to save my moral bacon
By fencing the young from fornication!
Ah, Dr Williams, I agree
We need more walls at the Varsity;
The students who go double-flatting
With their she-catting and tom-catting
Won’t ever get a pass in Latin;
The moral mainstay of the nation
Is careful, private masturbation;
A vaseline jar or a candle
Will drive away the stink of scandal!
The Golden Age will come again –
Those tall asthenic bird-like men
With spectacles and lecture notes,
Those girls with wool around their throats
Studying till their eyes are yellow
A new corrupt text of Othello,
Vaguely agnostic, rationalist,
A green banana in each fist
To signify the purity
Of educational ecstasy –
And, if they marry, they will live
By the Cardinal Imperative:
A car, a fridge, a radiogram,
A clean well-fitted diaphragm,
Two-and-a-half children per
Family; to keep out thunder
Insurance policies for each;
A sad glad fortnight at the beach
Each year, when Mum and Dad will bitch
From some half-forgotten itch –
Turn on the lights! – or else the gas!
If I kneel down like a stone at Mass
And wake my good wife with bad dreams,
And scribble verse on sordid themes,
At least I know man was not made
On the style of a slot-machine arcade –
Almost, it seems, the other day,
When Francis threw his coat away
And stood under the palace light
Naked in the Bishop’s sight
To marry Lady Poverty
In folly and virginity,
The angels laughed – do they then weep
Tears of blood if two should sleep
Together and keep the cradle warm?
Each night of earth , though the wind storm
Black land behind, white sea in front,
Leander swims the Hellespont;
To Hero’s bed he enters cold;
And he will drown; and she grow old –
But what they tell each other there
You’ll not find in a book anywhere.



– James K. Baxter, ‘A Small Ode on Mixed Flatting’ in Collected Poems (ed. John Edward Weir; Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1979), 396–99.

Jim Wallis on Faith, Ethics and Public Life

A guest post by Andrew Bradstock.

With his rare ability to challenge people to think afresh about the issues of the day, and consider how religious faith can transform hope-less situations into hope-ful ones, Jim Wallis is always worth hearing.

But with so many news items at present involving ‘faith’ in different ways – from the threats to burn the Koran and proposal for a Muslim community centre near Ground Zero in the US, to the Pope’s visit to the UK, to the debates here and elsewhere about what it means to be ‘secular’, to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine – this is a particularly apposite time to get the insider’s perspective that a global commentator and White House adviser like Wallis is able to give.

There is a rare opportunity to hear Jim Wallis in person in Dunedin next week, and I hope you are planning to seize it!

Next Tuesday, 28 September, from 2.00 – 6.00 pm at First Church in Moray Place, Wallis will speak at a Conference on Faith, Ethics and Public Life. The main event of the afternoon will be the Howard Paterson Memorial Lecture in Public Theology, to be introduced by the Vice Chancellor, Prof David Skegg, and delivered by Jim Wallis at 4.30 pm, and also included in the programme are a ‘public conversation’ with Mr Wallis and the launch of his new book, Rediscovering Values.

Full information about the programme is available here, where you can also book your ticket (tickets are just $20 ($15 concession) including refreshments). Admission to just the Memorial Lecture at 4.30 pm is of course, as with all University open lectures, free, though in the event of the venue being full priority will be given to full ticket-holders.

As anticipated, this being Jim Wallis’s only South Island event tickets are going quickly, so do make sure you get yours now to avoid disappointment.  I look forward to seeing you!

Andrew Bradstock

Howard Paterson Professor of Theology and Public Issues
Department of Theology and Religion
University of Otago
PO Box 56 Dunedin 9054

Stretching the Zonules: 100 years ago today, and more recent exploits

‘The question of providing religious services for summer holiday-makers in the country was before the Dunedin Presbytery at its meeting yesterday in relation, particularly, to the growing popularity of Warrington and contiguous seaside resorts.

A report submitted recommended that a tent be procured at Warrington, but this proposal did not seem to find general favour although the point has not been settled, the matter having been referred to a small committee.

The Rev. J. Chisholm said it seemed to him that more attention should be given to these seaside resorts in the future.

The churches were almost empty for a few weeks in the year, and unless more attention were paid to the young people they would form habits which would doubtless be confirmed, and that would be to the injury of their church.

The Rev. R. Fairmaid brought the matter nearer home than the northern coast by referring to Broad Bay and the Peninsula.

A young man had told him that a kind of pagan life was lived thereby the young people who gathered for week ends.

This was a deplorable condition from the moral point of view, and, so far as he understood, there was no service provided by their people in these quarters.

The committee appointed could perhaps attend to this matter, too.

It was pointed out by the Rev. W. Scorgie, in concluding the discussion, that there was a Methodist Church at Broad Bay and a Presbyterian Church at Portobello’.

[First published in the Otago Daily Times on 7 September 1910. Reprinted in today’s ODT]

Also, there’s some good reading around the traps at the moment:

  • William Cavanaugh on Christopher Hitchens and the myth of religious violence.
  • Matthew Bruce reviews Matthias Gockel’s Barth and Schleiermacher on the Doctrine of Election. [BTW: my own review of this book is available here].
  • Richard L. Floyd shares an appreciation of Donald Bloesch.
  • Kim Fabricius shares a wonderful Call to Worship.
  • Steve Biddulph on fatherhood.
  • Robert Fisk on ‘honour’ killings and on the pain of satisfying family ‘honour’.
  • Ben Myers shares a note on misreading.
  • Robin Parry (shamelessly) plugs a forthcoming book on universalism: “All Shall Be Well”: Explorations in Universalism and Christian Theology, from Origen to Moltmann.
  • Luther is still bugging the locals.
  • Simon Holt shares a nice prayer from Ken Thompson about pigeon holes, compartments, and other places.
  • And Ken MacLeod offers a brilliant solution for distracted writers: ‘One of the major problems for writers is that the machine we use to write is connected to the biggest engine of distraction ever invented. One can always disconnect, of course – there’s even software that locks out the internet and email for selected periods – or use a separate, isolated computer, but I think something more elegant as well as radical is needed. What I’m thinking of is some purely mechanical device, that took the basic QWERTY keyboard with Shift and Return keys and so on, but with each key attached to an arrangement of levers connected to a physical representation of the given letter or punctuation mark. These in turn would strike through some ink-delivery system – perhaps, though I’m reaching a bit here, a sort of tape of cloth mounted on reels – onto separate sheets of paper, fed through some kind of rubber roller (similar to that on a printer) one by one. The Return key would have to be replaced by a manual device, to literally ‘return’ the roller at the end of each line. Tedious, but most writers could do with more exercise anyway. Corrections and changes would be awkward, it’s true, but a glance at any word processor programme gives the answer: the completed sheets could be, physically, cut and pasted’.

BTW: I haven’t abandoned my series on the cost and grace of parish ministry. If all goes to plan, I’ll be back posting on it this week.

The insanity of Dunedin summers

The water tank is full, the garden is soaked, the roof is fixed, the heater is on, the coffee is warm … it’s a good day to read.  It is high summer in Dunedin after all.

‘The climate in Dunedin, from its bracing character, as compared with the more warm, and, in some instances, weakening climate of the northern parts of New Zealand, presents an advantage for study, which those who have had experience in warm climates will fully appreciate’. – ‘Notes of Travel in New Zealand’, Evangelist, June 1871; cited in the Otago Daily Times, 28 December 2009.

That said, it’s just as likely to be beach weather tomorrow, (at least for 10 minutes or so) …

One could go crazy here. Which brings me to a piece by J.A. Torrance on ‘Public Institutions’ in a fascinating book titled Picturesque Dunedin: or Dunedin and its neighbourhood in 1890 (Dunedin Mills, Dick and Co., Printers and Publishers, Octagon 1890) edited by Alex Bathgate. In a section on ‘The Lunatic Asylum’, Torrance writes:

‘This question of insanity has all along been a serious one to Otago, and indeed to the whole of New Zealand, not because this kind of malady has prevailed here more than in other places, but because of the shameful extent to which weak-minded and mentally impaired persons have been deported from the Home country by their relatives or others, and shunted on to the colony’. (p. 223)

So, not only are ‘the grounds around the buildings a veritable Slough of Despond’, but one might reasonably conclude that Dunedin is a great place to get wet, study and go mad … especially if you’re a ring-in from out-of-town.