Monday, December 13, 2010

Franz Josef Chapel

On this day in 1642 Abel Tasman sighted the West Coast of New Zealand. On this day in 1959 I was making my first visit to this unique area of New Zealand, Tasman’s words ‘land uplifted high’.

It was at the end of my year at Christchurch’s Secondary Teachers’ College. For a few days the Social Studies group stayed at the Franz Josef camping ground. We spent a Sunday morning climbing up the glacier. The ice was much further down the valley then.

That evening some of the group decided they would like to have a service in the little Anglican church whose altar window then framed the glacier. They got permission and the key and persuaded me to lead it. Reluctantly I agreed. The previous year I'd pulled out of training for the Presbyterian Ministry. I have never preached in a more splendid situation.

Just as I began the sermon a fantail flitted in distracting both preacher and congregation. Don’t 'ad lib' they'd warned me when I'd been training at Knox College. On this occasion I did, successfully. Bede had preached a sermon years ago about a sparrow’s brief flight through the hall of existence. Who could fail speaking about a fantail - one of the delights of creation. I vividly recall the event – but not the words I said.

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