As I prepare to move on from Vaughan Park, this seems a good time to reflect on what the gift of this New Zealand scholarship has been to me. It's actually very hard to sum up - words are very inadequate to express experiences of the spirit - and I anticipate that it will be working itself out in my life for some time to come as I sift through and reflect on my experiences here.
It has been the most enormous gift to be free to study, reflect and write for this extended period of time. And it has taken me to places where I did not expect to go.
As so often happens when we place ourselves in God’s hands, I have been led to explore unexpected paths. The freedom to be prayerfully reflective has taken me on an unexpected journey of deeper personal healing, for which I give thanks. It has also brought me to a profound sense of, and deep clarification of, my calling for the next stage of the journey. These two outcomes, though not as tangible as words on a sheaf of paper, have been above and beyond what I hoped to achieve here and will undoubtedly shape my future ministry.
Through the people God has brought across my path, and through the study I have been able to do here, I have developed a greater understanding of how the healing process works. I have written a variety of things; prayers, meditations, poetry, some liturgy. The project that I came here with is, truthfully, still evolving, but I know that, as it continues to birth itself in me, richer writing will be born through this Vaughan Park experience.
I have been privileged to meet some very special people, from many different church traditions and walks of life, some of whom may well become lasting friends. I am particularly thankful for the opportunities I have been given to meet Maoris within their culture. Meeting such a rich variety of people and beginning to learn about, and transcend, our cultural differences, has been a huge blessing.
And all this has been set in the jewel of the most amazing and beautiful environment that New Zealand is. This scholarship time has been an unconditional gift of love, and in that sense Vaughan Park has mirrored Christ to me.
The three months has not been without its challenges, including the loss of a significant amount of writing when my laptop crashed. At that time I also lost all my email contacts from home, hence the reason I went quiet on you all.
What will I remember?
So many things ... late night prayer in the iconic chapel, sunlight shimmering on sea, laughter and love, snorkelling in crystal waters, a night spent with a nun in a remote mountain hut, the beautiful bird song of the tui, the dance of the fantail, the Paschal flame on Easter Saturday, harmonies of Maori singing, the Vaughan Park team, stunning sunsets over a beautiful beach, precious friendships, being in the presence of spiritual wisdom, the stunning native bush, the beautiful soft sound of the spoken Maori language, and their deep intuitive spirituality, the sense of being used as a catalyst, wall to wall blue sky, Kiwi friendship, morning muffins, a clarification of a calling, Anglican rhythms, spirit led study, healing insights, Godly serendipity, deep contemplation, sailing on the South Pacific, the dance of the dolphins, the curl of the ferns, special moments of solitude ... and so much more.
But also, there were deep personal struggles, and a journey into the depths of myself. Often there was a sense that I had travelled 12,000 miles to 'find myself'. God has been close. If this experience doesn't change me, then I shall be disappointed in myself.
So, once again, I value your prayers ...
Give thanks for the blessings of this scholarship time and pray for the work of the Vaughan Park team.
On April 30th I leave to travel round the South Island. Please pray for safe travelling and a good holiday before I return to the UK on June 1st.
Please also pray for peace as I prepare to leave this place that I have grown to love and discernment as I begin the transition back into home life and ministry.
I am sure that New Zealand will draw me back. Shame about the 12,000 mile commute!