Feb 11 2014

Newsletter February 2014

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091011.SOFimageSea of Faith – Dunedin
Exploring Meaning in Life
Newsletter FEBRUARY 2014

Next Meeting

Rod Mitchell

Thursday, 27 February

Highgate Church buildings,

Maori Hill

Tea and Coffee will be available
between 5.00 and 5.40 pm
Food will be available
$5 for as much as you want to eat plus rent
$2 if you come for the meeting only
Kitchen volunteers:
Marjorie and Bruce Spittle
The programme will start at 6 pm


We Start With…

A two minute period of silence.


From the Chair

The New Zealand Sea of Faith National Steering Committee meets monthly, mostly by teleconference but once each year face to face each January in Wellington. This year’s meeting opened with the opportunity for each of us to introduce ourselves. Taking 5 – 10 minutes each, we traversed our early and middle years – including religious instruction and subsequent changes (if any) – and latterly about how we each ended up at the Sea of Faith. I found this time of sharing provided a very constructive space for the subsequent meeting, and very much enjoyed the experience.
Later, while discussing ‘Where will SoF be in 5 years’ time?’ we highlighted the reducing membership of some groups, and an aging membership in some, too. Concern to increase our membership led on to the difficulty of explaining ourselves simply – the name ‘Sea of Faith’ can be attractive to some but we think many are put off – and realised as an organisation we are ‘different things to different people’, witness what we had learned as we shared our backgrounds earlier that day.
This led to experiences of sharing ‘religious odysseys’, ‘faith journeys’, or spiritual autobiographies’ in SoF-like groups (taking anywhere from four minutes to an hour, depending on the purpose and organisation). It was mooted that a gathering of some 12 – 20 short autobiographies might be a good way of describing to enquirers, or those who might be attracted to SoF, what a diverse group of people discussing a diverse range of thought we are, and that we provide ‘a safe place to discuss unsafe things’.

Our Next Meeting

Dr Rod Mitchell will give some impressions from the 3rd Common Dreams Conference in Melbourne (under auspices of the Progressive Christianity movement) he attended late last year. Rod has addressed us twice in recent years, on Ken Wilbur and, in 2010, on the Parliament of World Religions held for the first time in Australia. Both addresses were very well received. Rod has a .25 EFT position with the Methodist parish, mainly at Mornington, and promises his address will focus on ‘a bigger story for our faith’.

Our March Meeting

The March meeting will include a short AGM of about 20 minutes. We are looking for several new people to join the Dunedin SoF committee. The work is not onerous – one or perhaps two meetings per year to discuss the programme, a willingness to help with a small amount of organisation, and willing hands during our meetings. Please talk to someone at the February meeting if you could be interested.

Conference 2014

This will be held at Tolcarne House, the Boarding Hostel of St Hilda’s Collegiate, from October 3rd to 5th. Please mark your diaries. We have a passionate and dynamic group of folk who are determined to make the event a success and to promote the city we are all so much in love with. Dunedin is a Scottish City (and the vote for Devolution comes up in Scotland on 18th September, so the issue will be decided then – at least for the time being) and so prepare to celebrate all that with a splash of tartan and a sprig of heather to welcome the visitors.

Dirk de Ridder, Richard Egan, Sandra Winton, Bernard Beckett will be Keynotes, as well as our good friend Lloyd Geering.

Dirk de Ridder, Richard Egan and Lloyd Geering will need no introduction to readers, but I had to look up Sandra and Bernard. This is a little of what I found…

Sandra Winton has a Distinguished Service Award from the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists. Many of you will know her through either the University Chaplaincy or Ashburn Clinic links.

Bernard Beckett is a children’s writer and secondary school teacher, whose knowledge of teenage culture is reflected in his believable adolescent characters.

In the News

The ODT on 5th February 2014 reported the last census data concerning church attendance in Dunedin. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the figures show a huge drop, with the biggest drop being the Presbyterians from 40,000 (using approximate numbers) in the last census to 32,000 in 2013. The number of people claiming no religion has increased from 45 000 to 55 000. Religion and spirituality are not the same thing of course and it always seems to me that when I attend a funeral or a marriage, the “audience” has a strong role in the proceedings with special poems being composed and read, unusual music being played and a form of service unlike services I attended as a boy. We do seem to be a very spiritual people, we respond to “A Fair Go” with an innate sense of social justice and whenever there is an appeal, we give very generously. Whilst the data show that Dunedin is a decreasingly religious place, it always strikes me as a very spiritual place.

Ian Harris has written frequently about frustrations within the institutional church and in 12 Oct 2013, wrote about the challenge to German Catholics to pay their taxes to the church or risk no being allowed to access the facilities of the church – including the sacraments. Ian has also written about congregations being “in one place” and the established church being some way behind; the difference being another cause of frustration. In our group, many believe you can be a Christian without a belief in God, many churches are not comfortable with that but it has been an exciting journey for those of us who have arrived at that point.

Newsletter Editor:
Alan Jackson
55 Evans Street
Ph: 473 6947

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