Feb 15 2009

February 2009 Newsletter

Published by under Annual Report,Newsletters


We started with a short Annual Meeting and moved on to Don Feist introducing:
“Before the dawn”
Don explained:
Many people today find that their intelligence and their integrity make it impossible for them to believe that the mother of Jesus really was still a virgin when he was born; that Jesus did turn water into wine;  that after his death he was resurrected in such a way that there were no remains of his body left on Earth.  And I could list many other similar difficulties that have been linked with accepting Christian beliefs.
But there was a time, before the dawn of the scientific age, when such beliefs were not incredible in the way they are today.  I propose to lead you back into the time before that dawn, in the hope that we may better understand both our ancestors of 500 years ago,  and how radically different our perceptions of ourselves and our world are, in the Western world, from what once seemed self-evident and was accepted unquestioningly.
1.  Annual Reports:
Geoff’s Annual Report (see below) and Ian’s Financial Report (see 2nd appendix at foot of this post) were enclosed with this Newsletter.
2.   The Cup of Tea:
There was  tea, coffee and biscuits at 5.30.
3.  Our Library:
We had a collection of excellent books on themes of interest to  Sea of Faithers. Ian Wishart our Librarian had them available to borrow [and return] between 5.30 and 6 pm.
With sadness we reported that since our last meeting of 2008, two of our members of long-standing  –  Jeanette  Scott and Albert Moore – have died.  Each of them made a significant contribution to the life of our group.   We offer our sympathy to their families, and we share their sense of loss.
Awe and Wonder
The last meeting of the year was again one which invited contributions from the group, this time about “what gives you a  sense of awe and wonder?”   Not surprisingly  some themes recurred often. This summary  can’t do justice to the depth and variety of  what was said.
The gift of life itself:  the beauty, responsibility, potential of a newborn child, the experience of giving birth, holding a grandchild; reflecting on life from the perspective of old age.
Nature:  complexity and detail, rhythm of the seasons, the way all the senses are engaged walking in the countryside, the variety of scale from galaxies to fruit flies, a sudden sense of identity with all living things, farming – one awesome thing after another and time to reflect on them.
Human relationships and emotions: with friends, children, grandchildren, pupils;  passion that inflames creativity and destruction; exploring serious ideas with others, a retreat at Iona Abbey, a Te Reo course.
Art, communication and thought: Making music alone or in company, singing, playing, listening;  making discoveries, linking knowledge, making it known.
Below are two of the contributions.

WONDER                     David Kitchingman

The word “wonder” is enough to fill me with wonder. Spoken, it is two segments of sound waves produced by larynx and mouth.  Written, it is six squiggles of light waves reflected off a contrasting surface.   Either of these physical disturbances can produce a response that carries meaning inside a human body.   Approximately the same meaning can be shared with other humans of the same language group, even across generations.

When I say the word, a host of electrochemical reactions in your brain creates a storm vaguely similar to the one raging in my head.   Somehow these multiple galaxies of our brain cells perform the impossible – and inter-react as mind. This may be the greatest wonder – cannot understand our minds, any more than a tooth can bite itself.

The size of a mind is mind-blowing; there is scientific evidence for the assertion that “every individual consciousness  is as vast as the universe”.  But the sense of meaning is even more mind-blowing.  We might argue theologically that every individual consciousness is also as profound as God, profoundly knowable and profoundly unknowable.  Some might even want to add that every individual consciousness is a part of God. It may be that our discourse is itself divine.

What matters is that the subjective phenomenon is  awe-inspiring.  We must never lose the wonder of the process by which we wonder.

What Gives Me a  Sense of Awe and Wonder …  Ian Fleming

…the realisation that I am a child of the universe;  that a very temporary arrangement of atoms comprises me.   The atoms have more space than solidity between their electrons and nucleus of proton and neutron, bound together by  electromagnetic forces.   The atoms have been there since the Big Bang and will continue into the ever expanding future of our universe.   I am stardust, coming together for the brief instant of my life.

My seventy–odd years of life, so precious to me, is an insignificant flash in the 3 billion years of miraculous, procreating life on this planet.   I have inherited DNA through my ancestors that stretches back through mammals and their predecessors to the first bacteria, who still feed on the sulphur of the fumaroles in the ocean depths and thrive in temperatures of 1000 degrees Celsius.   I am cousin to every form of life I come across – the worms and bugs in my garden, and countless bacteria that conspire to produce the plants and weeds, not to mention create the oxygen I breathe and nourish the planet that nurtures me.

My particular species has come up with, in various forms, a god concept, in its best form, the god of the good we do, the practice of compassion, justice, creativity, agapeic love.   That excites me too.

Chairman:    Geoff Neilson   –    Phone 489-6727  –    Email:  Geoff
Newsletter Editor:   Donald Feist  –   Phone 476-3268   – Email:   Don
Dunedin Sea of Faith
The Dunedin Sea of Faith Discussion Group met each fourth Thursday in the month, February to November 2008. We had various thought provoking evenings, both challenging and rewarding. We are truly grateful to all those folk who led these discussions – it is worth noting the number of our own membership were involved in leading these evenings.
The programme for the 2008 year was:
February     : Authority – it ain’t what it used to be. Don Feist.
March         : Karen Armstrong’s take on “The Golden Rule”. Ian Fleming.
April           : Growing with a Song. Colin Gibson.
May            : Origins of Religion. Greg Dawes.
June           : Leaving Port on the Sea of Faith. Bruce Spittle.
July            : On Moral Instinct. Margaret Feist.
August       : Abide with Me. David Kitchingman.
September : The New Schism. Chris Bloore.
October     : The Ecological Imperative – Is Tomorrow’s God Gaia?
Five of our Members reported back from the National Conference.

November  : What gives you a buzz, a sense of awe, wonder or excitement?
Members’ discussion.

This year has seen the establishment of our own web site. Our thanks to Ian Fleming for making this happen.

After many years of having the opportunity to have a meal prior to our meeting, this now longer continues. Our thanks to the Maori Hill Church Caterers for the meals they served up over some ten years. This was, for many of our members, an enjoyable social event prior to commencement of our meetings. This will now be replaced by a “tea/coffee and biscuits social half hour”, organized from within our membership. We have agreed that we should monitor this new arrangement and review its operation sometime during the year.

The phasing out of this evening meal also means the team of dedicated “telephonists” will no longer be required to phone around our Membership each month to ascertain the numbers that would be coming to the evening meal. Our thanks to them for the work and commitment they made over many years.

The “library” continues to serve a useful purpose. With the appointment of a “librarian”, responsible for the overall function of our book borrowing, I am sure this important part of our group’s activities will be better organized and our Membership will gain from it.

Don Feist and Alan Jackson, two of our Members, were appointed to the National Steering Committee for a three year term.

To Ian Fleming, our treasurer, go our thanks for keeping the finances in order, to Don Feist, our Newsletter Editor for preparing our monthly Newsletter, and my own thanks to Don for his assistance to me as Chairman during the past year.

It is the continued interest and participation of Members that makes this Sea of Faith Group so successful.

Geoff. Neilson Chairman

(Click Agenda and Statement below to enlarge)

Big Report

AGM Agenda

Big Statement

Financial Statement

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