Vern Mason

My friend and former parishioner Vernon Mason died this week.  Vern was a real treasure.  I hope that every minister of the gospel has had a person like Vern in each place they have served – I have been so fortunate to have people like him alongside me in each pastorate.  Vern was the person more than any other, at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Gore, who was a friend and confidant as well as parish member.  In a season when ministers were being encouraged to be professional and to ‘keep the lines clear’, I was fortunate to have a companion who allowed me to be me – he did so without feeling compromised by the different responsibilities we held – he was blessedly free – comfortable in his own skin and therefore able to enter a level of calm that enabled him to be trusted.  Vern was a respected elder in the church – a person who did not seek or need to be noticed in the role, and therefore someone with the capacity to befriend the minister and provide a range of ways of being supportive and do so without fanfare.  With his treasure of a wife, Joyce, Vern offered me and my family hospitality, practical and understated spiritual support, a listening ear, a place of refuge/sanctuary, and time out on the golf course where he allowed me to vent… something I needed to do from time to time.  I never felt judged, only supported and embraced.  He was also very wise and quite funny… he had the ability to play with the things hovering around me that seemed so serious; he taught me to see the big picture and to not take myself or the situations before me, too seriously.  He was one of those people who discovered how to walk on the earth lightly – I have a feeling that these sort of people are those who Jesus describes as the meek who will inherit the earth… the people who actually get to live life in its fullness… the kind of people who are truly free.  I think he was both extraordinary and ordinary… extraordinary in his ordinariness… one of life’s treasures.  He is among a small group of men who have been my closest mentors in life and I have long mourned the loss of him as a regular presence in my life.
Vern and Joyce were the people who I found hardest to leave when I moved on, and even then, I did not feel judged. He was selfless in his encouragement.
I talked to him last week – he relayed a story that illustrates his playful humour… he said “Martin, do you remember me telling you on the golf course one day that I hoped to get to 83 years old and dying after being shot my an angry husband?  Well, I have got to 83, but I think I might need a manual to find out how to do what it is that would cause an angry husband to shoot me!”

Farewell Vern you gracious and generous man.  Thanks for modelling for me the kind of life that I was trying to preach about!

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Gibbston Winery Summer Concert

America at Gibbston

America at Gibbston

Bachman & Turner at Gibbston

Bachman & Turner at Gibbston

Neil Giraldo & Pat Benatar at Gibbston

Neil Giraldo & Pat Benatar at Gibbston

the 15,000 strong crowd of people mostly my age at Gibbston

the 15,000 strong crowd of people mostly my age at Gibbston

Anne and I were fortunate enough to join some Dunedin friends for a weekend at Wanaka and share Saturday afternoon with 15,000 others at the Gibbston Valley concert featuring America, Bachman & Turner, and Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo.
Summary:
1. you kind of had to be 50 or thereabouts to have your heart warmed… 15,000 were there and my guess is that 14,900 were within 4-5 years of my age!  Kind of creepy really – we tended to look our ages!
2. the music was great – I mean it… but there is one truth that hadn’t really dawned on me until the musicians came on stage – the musicians were at least 8 years older than me when they were hitting it big in the 70’s.  Actually Pat was 8 years older than me – all the other guys were 15+ years older… and they kind of looked it, their voices were less what they once were, and they had learned to minimise movement in order to last the distance… but they were still wonderful musicians – their playing was exemplary.
3. the crowd were pretty good – maybe they could not move like they once did on dance floors (and honestly, people my age shouldn’t hang out in mosh pits!), but they were happy in a worn down by life kind of way.  It was a good day away from the kids and grandkids.  There might have been a bit too much wine consumed in some quarters, but I guess the heat of the day called for desperate measures!
4. I wondered what rest homes will be like in 30 years… will bands come and play ‘We belong’ ‘Horse with no name’ and ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’ to entertain us?
5. The landscape – wonderful – dry, barren, hard and beautiful.
6. America – first up and the big surprise for me.  They were very very good.  These guys said they have been performing at least 100 concerts a year for over 40 years!  I recognised most of the songs, they had been very much in the background of my youth and not really to my taste – but I was really impressed.  The highlights for me were a few tracks from an album of songs they had released recently from a list of songs they wished they had written (other people’s stuff) – excellently played guys!!  And, the horse still has no name!
7. Bachman + Turner.  They were the reason I organised my mates from Dunedin some time last year.  Mark, Graham and I all had the Not Fragile album in 1974 – our 13-year-old minds being formed by crap lyrics but great guitars, drums and bass.  CF Turner still sounds as gruff as he always did and he looks like he might well have driven long-haul trucks across the prairies, but his bass playing was astounding and he loved his day job!  Randy Bachman was puffing a bit at times and had minimised his movements – not much show but stunning guitar work.  Awesome guys!  Awesome!  Highlights: CF Turner still gruff, and Randy looking like an old man but still working magic with that guitar.
8. Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo – a wee bit too loud, but punchy and energetic.  The classics were fantastic and a whole lot of wahine (women) sang and bopped in a floppy kind of way in the extended mosh area and it was obvious that Pat was big in their early years.  Pat looked great and sang jolly well for a 60-year-old – it was good to be around this couple who have an obviously great and long relationship.  Highlights: We Belong and Heartbreaker with a brilliant version of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire in the middle.
9. Great venue, but absolute rubbish car marshalling at the end – honestly, it was chaos and incompetence mixed with angry and frustrated drivers with carloads of often too much alcohol-filled passengers – I did my bit to help with marshalling and after an hour and ten minutes our cars had still not moved – fortunately we were rescued by the discovery of a back way out of the paddock.  Please, please, please next time charge us $5 more and employ some specialists to come up with a better plan… actually, just come up with a plan because there surely wasn’t a plan that day!  One intimidated, overwhelmed, and incompetent teenager in a fluro-vest is not a plan!
10. Who’s next?  Can I suggest Mark Knopfler and Talking Heads?  Though Hothouse Flowers would be great!

Christchurch Earthquake Award for St Stephen’s

Earthquake Award for St Stephen's

Earthquake Award for St Stephen’s

Here’s the Christchurch Earthquake Civic Award that I received tonight on behalf of St Stephen’s for their post-earthquake work including the red zone community food voucher fundraiser we established and dispersed with the help of people from St Giles & St Marks.  A big thanks to all those around ChCh, NZ, and overseas who contributed to the project of 15 months ago, and especially the people from the three churches here who walked out the $96,000 donated, most of which was turned into New World Supermarket vouchers which made some people’s lives just a little bit easier.  The evening was at times very moving with a huge variety of individuals and groups receiving awards.  It was great to see a number of MPs and City Councillors along as well, including my colleague Cr Glenn Livingstone.

Listening to Babel by Mumford & Sons

 

I am loving the new Mumford & Sons album, Babel.  I received a deluxe version on Saturday (which has three extra tracks including The Boxer with Paul Simon!).  It is early days but three tracks are really standing out – the catchy I Will Wait, the thoughtful Lover of the Light, and the extra track Where Are You Now.
While there is a degree of ‘same-ness’ to their first album on the first few listens – the differences emerge and now leave a lovely aftertaste, or better, a lovely ear-worm (the sound that stays even in the silence – this time a good one!  This all helps to maintain my self-imposed ‘Celine-free’ ear-worm zone).  The lyrics hold piles of small gems – many in the theological/faith category.  The tunes are mixed in style but with their trademark folk sound.
If you enjoyed Sigh No More, you will also enjoy Babel.  The New Zealand concert to come is much-anticipated!!!!

London Olympics

I have really enjoyed the London Olympics.  Timing-wise it has suited us in New Zealand very well with heats in the evening before we go to bed and finals in the morning when we wake (Athletics and Swimming) and finals in the evening for most of the events where NZers won medals – rowing, kayaking, cycling and yachting.
It ceryainly rates as the greatest Olympics I have witnessed, mostly because of the setting – the city of London was the winner.
How fantastic it was to involve the inner city in a number of the sports and the surrounds like Greenwich were fantastic for the equestrian events in particular.
I particularly enjoyed the humour and Britishness of the opening ceremony – Queen, Bond & Corgi’s especially (Griff, our househound of the Corgi persuasion was chuffed!).  Even the closing ceremony proved stunning.
For a despiser of the Spice Girls, I have to say that what they did (aided by excellent cabs) was ok (and they didn’t even tip off the moving cabs in order to make headlines) – and because they have made this leap they most surprisingly score a snapshot in my blog – a one and only says my editor!