Jun 13 2010

June 2010 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters



June 2010



Greg Hughson spoke to us on:

“Chaplaincy to a spiritually diverse campus community”

Greg, who is one of the Ecumenical Chaplains to the University, introduced himself:

I would like to begin by sharing a little about myself. I was born in 1957 and raised in Taranaki. I have been involved with the Christian Church from birth, having been born into a family steeped in Methodism for generations. Through my High School years it was my plan to become a Veterinary Surgeon. I went to Massey University in 1975 and narrowly missed out on getting into Vet School in 1976. I completed my B.Sc in Biochemistry and Physiology in 1977. During my three years at Massey my life was enriched by contact with University Chaplain Rev John Brook. John’s ministry kept me with the Church and with the Christian faith at a time when I would otherwise have left my faith behind. I am privileged now, as a University Chaplain to be able to offer similar support to a new generation of tertiary students. For three years I played the piano (as part of a lively music group) for the ecumenical worship services which John Brook conducted weekly on campus. I have always loved music, and completed my A.T.C.L. (Piano teachers) practical exams in 1974.

In 1983 I completed an M.Sc. in Biology through Waikato University, whilst working at Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre as a Science Technician. Soon after this I experienced a profound call to full time ordained ministry and spent 1985-1987 at Trinity Methodist Theological College. During this time I completed my Bachelor of Divinity through Otago University, majoring in Practical Theology. My B.D. dissertation was entitled “Story and the nurture of Christian Faith”. It represents an attempt at bringing together narrative theology and faith development research. Two Methodist Parish appointments followed, from 1988-1993 in Feilding and from 1994-1999 in Gisborne. During the late nineties I wrote a paper for the Methodist Theological Journal entitled “Theogenethics and the Integrity of Creation” . This helped me bring some theological insights to bear upon genetic engineering. I began as Ecumenical Chaplain to Otago University in 2000. During 2000-2001 I was a member of the ecumenical Inter-Church Commission on Genetic Engineering.

I found it liberating to move from Parish Ministry to University Chaplaincy. As a University Chaplain I am privileged to have contact with students and staff from all around the world. The services offered by our Chaplaincy team include

• pastoral care and counselling
• spiritual support – either individually or in groups
• encouragement
• prayer with you, or for you
• spiritual direction
• visits to halls, colleges and faculties
• help with homesickness
• worship opportunities
• sacramental ministry
• services of blessing for your room or flat
• support for Christian groups on campus
• resource people for seminars, forums etc
• retreats
• articles in student press
• interfaith facilitation
• weddings
• graduation thanksgiving services
• funeral, prayer or memorial services
• exploring ethical issues
• liaison with and referral to other support services
• liaison with local Churches and faith communities


There is more information about Greg and chaplaincy at: http://www.otago.ac.nz/chaplain/

Greg has also been very much involved with the Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group.

There is information about that at: http://www.dunedininterfaith.net.nz


Robin Smith introduces us to:


by Philip Pullman, Text Publishing Co, 2010. 245 pages

I first heard about this novel on Kim Hill’s Saturday morning radio programme a few weeks ago, and its controversial approach to the on-going debate over Jesus roused me to go and buy a copy which I have read with interest. I had already begun selecting some extracts for this newsletter when Don drew my attention to Lloyd Geering’s review in NZ Listener 5 June 2010, p.39. By and large, I agree with Lloyd’s verdict that Pullman’s new version of the “old old story” is spoiled by his strong prejudice against Christianity.

However, I still think his novel is worth reading so that we can take into account his implied criticism of what the church has done to distort and misrepresent Jesus over 2000 years. He respects the person whom he regards as the true Jesus (modelled on himself), whereas his Christ (Jesus’ twin brother) embodies the church’s distorted image.

Here are a few extracts to give you a taste of Pullman’s interpretation:

After Jesus’ baptism:

After Jesus’ baptism Christ comes to find him in the wilderness:

“’ … when you were being baptised, I saw the heavens open above you, and a dove come down and hovered above your head, and a voice said “This is my beloved son”.’ Jesus said nothing. Christ said:’Don’t you believe me?’
‘No. Of course not.’
‘It’s plain that God has chosen you for something special. Look what the Baptist himself said to you.’
‘He was mistaken.’
‘No, I’m sure he wasn’t. You’re popular, people like you, they listen to what you say. You’re a good man. You’re passionate and impulsive, and those are fine qualities, of course they are, as long as they’re regulated by custom and authority. You could have a lot of influence. It would be a shame not to
use it for good. The Baptist would agree with me, I know,’
‘Go away.’”                                                                                                                   (pp. 38-9)

The temptations:

Christ stubbornly keeps on trying to persuade Jesus by playing Satan’s role in the Temptations, until finally –

“ Jesus looked at his brother.
‘You phantom,’ he said, ‘you shadow of a man. Every drop of blood in our bodies? You have no blood to speak of; it would be my blood that you’d offer up to this vision of yours. What you describe sounds like the work of Satan. God will bring about his Kingdom in his own way, and when he chooses. Do you think your mighty organisation would even recognise the Kingdom if it arrived? Fool! The Kingdom of God would come into these magnificent courts and palaces like a poor traveller with dust on his feet. The guards would spot him at once, ask for his papers, beat him, throw him out into the street. “Be on your way,” they’d say, “you have no business here.”’
‘I’m sorry you see it like that,” said Christ. ‘But I wish you’d let me persuade you otherwise. It’s exactly that passion, that impeccable moral sense, that purity of yours that would be so useful. I know we’ll get some things wrong to start with. Won’t you come and help get them right? There’s no one alive who could guide us better than you. Isn’t it better to compromise a little, to come inside and improve something, than to stay on the outside and offer nothing but criticism?’
‘One day someone will say those words to you, and your belly will convulse with sickness and shame. Now leave me alone. Worship God – that’s the only task you need to think about.’ Christ left Jesus in the wilderness, and went home to Nazareth.” (pp. 44-5)

Jesus begins his ministry:

When Jesus does at last return home, Joseph gives him a Prodigal Son welcome, and Christ reacts somewhat like the older brother! When news of John the Baptist’s arrest spreads around, Jesus takes this as a sign to begin preaching and teaching, not at Nazareth, but some distance away at Capernaum and nearby towns around the Sea of Galilee.

“Before long, Jesus was renowned in the district not only for his words but for the remarkable events that were said to happen wherever he was. For example, he went to Peter’s house one day, and found Peter’s mother-in-law sick with a fever. Jesus went in to speak to her, and presently she felt well again and got up to serve them all food. This was said to be a miracle.
Another time, he was in the synagogue at Capernaum on the Sabbath, when a man began shouting ‘Why have you come here, Jesus of Nazareth? What d’you think you’re doing? Leave us alone! Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are! You call yourself the Holy One of God – is that who you are? Is it?’
The man was a harmless obsessive, one of those poor creatures who shout and scream for reasons even they don’t understand, and hear voices and talk to people who aren’t there. Jesus looked at him calmly and said ‘You can be quiet now. He’s gone away.’ The man fell silent and stood there abashed, as if he had just woken up to find himself in the middle of the crowd. After that he cried out no more, and people said that it was because Jesus had exorcised him and driven away a devil. So the stories began to spread. People said he could cure all kinds of diseases, and that evil spirits fled when he spoke.” (pp. 52-3)

Jesus at the synagogue in Nazareth:

“’You want a prophet,’ Jesus said. ‘More than that: you want a miracle-worker. I heard the whispers that ran around the synagogue when I stood up. You want me to do here the things you’ve heard about from Capernaum – well, I’ve heard those rumours too, and I have more sense than to believe them. You need to think a bit harder. Some of you know who I am: Jesus, the son of Joseph the carpenter, and this is my home town. When has a prophet ever been honoured in his home town? Consider this, if you think you deserve miracles because of who you are: when there was a famine in the land of Israel, and no rain fell for three years, whom did the prophet help, by God’s command? An Israelite widow? No, a widow from Zarephath in Sidon, a foreigner. And again, were there lepers in the land of Israel in Elisha’s time? There were many. And whom did he cure? Naaman the Syrian. You think being what you are is enough? You’d better start considering what you do.’
Christ was listening to every word his brother spoke, and watching the people carefully, and he wasn’t surprised when a great wave of anger rose among them. He knew these words would provoke them; it was exactly what he would have warned Jesus about, if he’d been asked. This was no way to get a message across.” (pp. 54-5)

A stranger enters:

Now the author introduces a stranger who is to play a key role in Christ’s development:
“’ I want to make sure that you have your rightful reward. I want the world to know your name as well as that of Jesus. In fact I want your name to shine with even greater splendour. He is a man, and only a man, but you are the word of God.’
‘I don’t know that expression, the word of God. What does it mean? And again, sir – who are you?’
‘There is time, and there is what is beyond time. There is darkness, and there is light. There is the world and the flesh, and there is God. These things are separated by a gulf deeper than any man can measure, and no man can cross it; but the word of God can come from God to the world and the flesh, from light to darkness, from what is beyond time into time. Now I must go away, and you must watch and wait, but I shall come to you again.’ (p.58)

Spy – or Evangelist ?

Christ starts following Jesus around but stays in the background, noting down what Jesus says to the people. He’s accused of being a spy from the Romans. However, the stranger turns up just in time to defend him:
“’ No, friend, you’re wrong. This man is one of us. He’s writing down the words of the teacher so he can take them and tell others the good news.’” ….
The stranger talks to Christ in private:
“’It is an excellent thing to do… Sometimes there is a danger that people might misinterpret the words of a popular speaker. The statements need to be edited, the meanings clarified, the complexities unravelled for the simple-of-understanding. In fact, I want you to continue. Keep a record of what your brother says, and I shall collect your reports from time to time, so that we can begin the work of interpretation …. Political matters are delicate and dangerous, and it requires a subtle mind and a strong nerve to negotiate them safely. I’m sure we can rely on you.’” (pp. 73-74)

Servant of the Kingdom ?

Christ manages to persuade one of the disciples to tell him on the quiet what happens when Christ himself can’t be there. The stranger again talks to Christ:
“’…this is not for everyone to know: in writing about what has gone past, we help to shape what will come. There are dark days approaching, turbulent times; if the way to the Kingdom of God is to be opened, we who know must be prepared to make history the handmaid of posterity and not its governor.
What should have been is a better servant of the Kingdom than what was. I’m sure you understand me.’ … ’In writing of things as they should have been, you are letting truth into history. You are the word of God.’” (p.98-9)

Pullman has many more surprises up his sleeve, but I’ll leave them for you to discover when you read the novel yourself.

Robin Smith

Chair: Marjorie Spittle – Phone 481 1418 – Email: Marjorie
Newsletter Editor: Donald Feist – Phone 476-3268 – Email: Don

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