Fri Feb 1
I had a very good flight from Australia – over 7 hours sleep. SD was sunny when I landed. I had 2 busy days with practical/financial affairs & caught up with several close friends for meals/coffee & ate far too much! Today I fly to Austin, TX, for the w/e.
Today is the 33rd anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. As always, the day began with thanksgiving & later with reflection on a wonderful 33 years. Consistent with getting older, my mind went back to that day in Adelaide in 1980, as if it were last year. I also reflected on the 3 wonderful, but quite different parishes I have been in charge of. My 20th anniversary, celebrated at both Fitzroy & Port Adelaide, as also my 25th & 30th at San Diego, were all wonderful occasions.
At 12 noon I went to St Mary’s RC cathedral for Mass. This is a beautiful cathedral & the Mass was lovely. No Candlemass ceremonies, but good liturgy & homily, attended by 60 people. Afterwards I went for a 2 hour walk along the river. It was a warm, sunny day & lots of people were out walking/jogging, some with strollers & far too many with dogs! It was a beautiful a/noon.
Today I fly to London, arriving Wed at 9.45 am. After 2 days catching up with friends my friend, Joan, drives us to Walsingham, where we will spend a week. This weekend is the Partners Weekend. Walsingham Partners are a group of people who support the Shrine financially & I joined in 2005 as a thanksgiving for the 25th anniversary of my ordination. However this is the 1st time I have attended the Weekend because it is always the w/e before Ash Wed. I have been asked to be the after-dinner speaker on Saty night. After discussing with Joan, I decided to talk about my experience of Walsingham over the years since my 1st visit in 1974.
One of the excellent things about being retired is that I can make a visit to Walsingham when I want. I am thrilled to be back at Walsingham & look forward to seeing everyone again. It will be a new experience to be here for Ash Wed & starting Lent in this wonderful place which is really my spiritual home.
It has been an excellent w/e at Walsingham. Friday night I enjoyed renewing my friendship with the staff & Year4God team. On Saty morning 120 Partners & guests enjoyed a report from the Year4God team about the ministry with youth & children. I know these 3 young people from my time here in October & it was gr8 to see & hear them. Then Bp Lindsay gave a thought-provoking talk about the work of the Shrine & future plans. In the a/noon I joined a group of 16 for a tour of 3 churches in nearby villages. In the evening was the dinner – all very well presented & professional. My after-dinner talk was very well received & many people spoke to me about places & priests I had mentioned.
This morning was Mass in the parish church, which I concelebrated at as I did last October. At 2.30 pm it was Sprinkling, Benediction & Last Visit. Most people have left now, but Joan & I are staying on until Friday, of course. We are looking forward to a quiet week ushering in Lent. I have been asked if I can assist with Masses during the week, which I will happily do, as well saying my own Masses for people & intentions I am praying for.
it has been a nice quiet week – tho very cold. Mon night we went to a nearby village, Binham, for dinner – the pub we had been to last Nov. Tues we were going to Norwich for the day……but when we got to the car Joan discovered it had a flat tyre! The AA were duly called – it was a puncture from Norfolk flint. We phoned the people we were planning to visit, then drove to Fakenham to get the tyre fixed. That was our Shrove Tues outing! In the evening I shouted the youngsters to some Pre-lent drinks at the local pub, The Bull.
Today I assisted at the 11am Solemn Mass & celebrated the 5pm Mass in the Holy House. So Lent begins.
After a wonderful week at Walsingham Joan & I drove back to London. On Saty I checked into the Intercontinental Westminster – the newest of the IC hotels, opened just 10 weeks ago. I was very interested to see what it was like & it is excellent. The staff were super-friendly & I received wonderful attention. At 3 pm I attended Evensong in Westminster Abbey. A relaxing night in my spacious room finished with me falling asleep watching one of my favourite movies, The Birds 🙂
On Sunday morning I met Joan at St Gabriel’s, Pimlico for Mass – a short 25 min walk. I had met the curate at Walsingham last year & decided I should attend Sunday Mass there. The church is nice, with a growing congregation of young people. The Vicar preached an excellent sermon, without any notes. He was very friendly to us at coffee – a good SSC priest! Afterwards I found a lovely restaurant for us to have lunch – then Joan & I walked to Pimlico tube station & said our goodbyes. I lived in Pimlico in 1975 (tho never attended St Gabriel’s) & walking the familiar streets brought back memories of those happy days.
At 4pm I checked out of the hotel & went to St Mary’s, Bourne St. Fr Cherry had kindly offered me the guest room for the remainder of my stay. I went to Evensong & Benediction, then to the pub afterwards with parishioners. It was good to be back at St Mary’s & everyone was pleased to see me again.
Tomorrow I fly back to SD – but only for 2 days. Then new travels beckon.
Flying to Tokyo tomorrow, arriving on Saty night. Have 3 nights there, then fly to Seoul for 4 nights. Have not been to Japan or Korea, so am looking forward to new experiences in this latest adventure 😉
It has been sunny but cold here in Tokyo. The city is not that interesting – too many ordinary high-rise – but I have had an interesting time discovering Japan. Sunday I intended to go to St Alban’s Anglican Church – but they only had Morning Prayer. The new rector was inducted Feb 3, then announced he would be away for 2 weeks! So I headed for an English Mass at the church of Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs – built to commemorate Christians killed in the 17th cent, when christianity was persecuted. I had the wrong directions, so walked around Tokyo 3 hours until I found the church.
Today I caught the train to Kamakura, the ancient capital where the Shogun & Samurai first held sway. The city is in a perfect location on the ocean, 50 km from Tokyo – tho there seemed to be endless suburbs on the hour-long trip. Several temples attracted my interest & after a pleasant few hours I returned to the hotel. Slept well.
This morning I walked to the Imperial Palace, then thru the palace gardens which are open to the public. very nice. I continued walking around the place grounds (which are huge) & past the Diet building, built in 1936. At 6.30 pm I fly to Seoul, arriving there at 9.30 pm. So farewell Japan.
1st impressions of Seoul are better than Tokyo……more interesting things to see & not as cold. Set out walking to get the feel of the city. After 2 hours caught the very impressive & cheap subway across the river. 1st stop was Namsangol Hanok Village – an excellent collection of old Korean homes in a park. I then walked about a mile to Myeong-Dong cathedral. This 19th cent RC gothic cathedral is impressive & was teeming with young people for some special Mass at 1.30 pm. A young nun directed me to the crypt, where the relics of Korean martyrs from 1839 are preserved.
I then walked along a busy shopping street to the City Hall. This is the heart of the city. I visited the nearby Anglican cathedral – a building I remembered from missions news in my youth. Final stop was Deoksu Gung palace, one of several palaces in this part of the city which date back to 15th cent. To my delight, I arrived in time for the changing of the guard. This is an impressive ceremony involving soldiers in bright blue outfits, a band in bright yellow, incl the traditional Korean top hats, & officials in different traditional outfits, also brightly coloured.
I then explored the palace grounds, which contained several buildings for living, administration & reception. The buildings are well preserved & impressive, tho the paths & grounds were wet & muddy with remains of snow. The grounds are much reduced from their glory days before the Japanese occupation & one could only imagine the hustle & bustle in the past. This is not the main palace, but was the cente of the Great Han Empire, 1897-1910, & gave me a feel for Korean history & tradition.
When I returned to my hotel I enjoyed an excellent supper in the Club Lounge. I then watched the Pope’s final audience from the Vatican & realised that I was watching history.
Today I went on a tour to the DMZ – the border area with N Korea. It was a very interesting experience, bringing to mind my long interest in the Berlin Wall & Germany’s post war history. The last remnant of the Cold War, it left me wondering if N Korea will follow the example of Germany sooner rather than later. It was a 50 km drive to the DMZ & our 1st stop was a tourist centre, from which most tour busses depart for the military check-point. Inside the DMZ we stopped at the 3rd tunnel. This is one of 4 known tunnels dug by N Korea for invading the South, & was discovered in 1978. 1st we went to a display about the Korean War, incl a short film. Then it was down the tunnel – quite a climb.
After the tunnel we drove to Dora Observatory. Here you can look over the border to N Korea. Unfortunately it was a foggy day & impossible to see the towns & factories which are usually visible thru binoculars. Our last stop was Dorasan Station. This is the final railway station in S Korea & the gateway to the North. Built following talks for reunification about 24 years ago, it looks wonderfully new with all mod cons & many associated buildings, all empty. Unfortunately N Korea has not shown interest in continuing the railway & fulfilling the dream of connecting Korea with the Trans-Siberian railway & Europe. Just 2 daily trains from Seoul use the station & it has a forlorn feel of unfulfilled hopes.
Returning to the hotel I walked to Bongeunsa, a large temple complex nearby. It is a centre for Korean Buddhism, with a modern admin centre to promote the revival of this form of Buddhism which had been repressed during the Joseon Empire.
Fri Mar 1
This morning I visited Changgyeonggung Palace. Built in 1484, destroyed by Japan in 1592, rebuilt in 1616 & turned into a zoo by the Japs in 1907! The main hall & a beautiful stone bridge date from 1616. The whole complex gave me an insight into Korean history & tradition. The Koreans are very proud of their history – no doubt because of their occupation by other nations over the years – & admission to their palaces, etc is cheap ($1) with free English guide books.
I then walked to nearby Jongmyo Shrine, passing thru a park where lots of old men were playing Janggi, a Korean version of Chinese checkers.
Jongmyo Shrine is the pre-eminent royal shrine in Korea & is UNESCO World Heritage site. Admission is only by guided tour & I met the English guide for the 2 pm tour with 2 others from China & Russia. This was a very interesting visit as the guide gave us a detailed & interesting tour of the shrine & it’s history. Built in 1395, it is where the ancestral tablets of deceased kings are enshrined. The descendants of the royal family (of whom there are many, bearing the name Yi) still carry out an annual ritual to honour their ancestors. The ceremony is based on Confucian spirituality & is both colorful & solemn.
After breakfast I walked just 15 mins to the Seolleung Royal Tombs. 3 royal tombs from the 16th cent are situated in a large, hilly park. Stone paths lead from a gate to a shrine, beyond which is the tomb on a hill. The tombs are under mounds which are surrounded by a stone railing. Keeping guard are large stone animals & men. It was nice to see groups of children with teachers having a real lesson on their history & culture. At 2.30 pm I leave my hotel for my flight back to the US. Altho it has been cold (4c today) I have enjoyed my 4 days in Korea.
After a few relaxing days in Boston (one of my favourite cities) I head to Montreal for the w/e. I am enduring cold weather, but avoiding the snow storms.
It has been a cold w/e in Montreal with ice still on the ground. Altho I have been to Montreal before, I do not remember it being so anti-English. We know the Quebecoise need to prove they are not English – but the bus ticket machine at the airport was only in French. So much for welcoming overseas tourists! To add to this Francophone insecurity, it was announced that schools would no longer have “English as a 2nd Language” classes. Can’t have the Quebec youth speaking English behind the government’s back! So much for Canada being bilingual. But the best story was in the newspaper. It seems the government language watchdog agency, OQLF, had recently ordered an Italian restaurant to remove the word “pasta” from it’s menu!!
The hotel was to provide further experiences. On checking in I was given the wrong room # & naturally my key didn’t work. I called the desk & they sent a young security man up, who happily let me in, saying keys often demagnitize. However when I went to the desk to get new keys, it turned out that I was actually supposed to be in the next room. So I moved from the original room to my real room, which was a huge suite. Of course if the desk had bothered to check my registration they would have discovered that in the 1st place!
So, dear reader, if you want a free night at the Intercontinental Montreal, park your bag in front of any room & then call the desk & say your key doesn’t work 😉
When I did move into my proper room there was the usual plate of fruit with a welcome note from the manager. Unfortunately it was in French. So I wrote on it, “I don’t speak French”, & put it in an envelope for the manager. This caused some mirth at the desk. The next night there was a note in English along with a plate of fruit & delicious local cheese that I had commented on at cocktails in the lounge Fri night 🙂
Sat was a sunny day (tho still cold) & I enjoyed walking around the town centre. The Basilica of Our Lady is magnificent & there are some lovely old buildings from the French colonial era. Sunday morning I went to High Mass at St John’s, the anglocatholic parish. The church is stunning & so was the music. An excellent choir sang a Latin Mass & 2 motets. Unfortunately the celebrant did not match their excellence. He couldn’t sing & spoke at a rapid pace, so much so that I hardly understood his sermon. It caused me to wonder if that was how it was for the people of All SS when I began as their Rector. The congregation was under 50, with no families. It was strange not to have young children coming into Mass after Sunday School.
In the a/noon I visited St Patrick’s Basilica, the English speaking RC church – Montreal has 3 basilicas! It is a magnificent building beautifully restored & they had Exposition, concluding with Benediction. A nice conclusion to Sunday before cocktails in the Club Lounge. I fly back to SD tomorrow a/noon, before returning to Australia on Wednesday.
I arrived safely home in Melbourne on Fri & on-time, even tho my flights were delayed in SF & Syd. It was a glorious sunny a/noon in St K – just like it was in SD when I left. Unfortunately it is the w/e of the Melb Grand Prix. Usually it is the 2nd w/e in March & I had planned this trip so I would return home after it was all over. But they changed the date! What this means is that the tram to St K yesterday was packed – & in fact will be replaced by busses. The race is held at Albert Park, a mere 10 mins walk away. So the noise will be very loud. At 4pm on Fri there was a jet fly-over. It also means St K may be full of drunken petrol-heads 🙁
So on Saty a/noon I escaped & caught the train to Stony Point – an interesting journey thru the southern suburbs of Melb & then into the country as far as Westernport Bay. Unfortunately rain & wind pelted down, a real taste of winter, which made exploring of Stony Point difficult. This also mucked up the Grand Prix. That will teach them to change the date without consulting me!
It has been a week of adjusting to being back in St K, contacting friends & getting over jet-lag. And now the football season has started – tho neither of my clubs play this w/e. An SSC priest from Newcastle was in town to do a wedding & we caught up yesterday. I showed him around St K, which he liked, & we finished with drinks & dinner nearby. Now for Holy Week.
Tues April 2
It has been an interesting Holy Week & Easter. By choice I was not involved in any Services – the 1st time since 1978. This was mainly because it was the opening round of the footy season & I wanted to be free to go to as many games as possible. I went to 5 games – impossible when I was a busy priest. So I went to various churches. The problem for me is that it’s easy to compare them with the wonderful Services I have been involved in over the years. However, I was able to attend Mass each day & make my confession to a wise old priest. The highlights were the magnificent Chrism Mass in St Patrick’s RC cathedral & Good Friday at All SS, E St K. The music was stunning. On Saty night I went to the Easter Vigil at All SS. It wasn’t well attended or a wonderful liturgy – but the party was gr8! Easter Day I went to the famous St Peter’s, Eastern Hill….& it was awful! I have attended this church for over 45 years – but won’t go back again. I went to their 9.30 am Mass so I could attend the gathering of Port Adelaide supporters at 11 am, but wish I had gone to All SS. I was pleased to meet an old friend from the 60’s. We then marched to the MCG for the 1.10 pm game (awful time!). It was well worth it – Port Adelaide played fantastic football & thrashed the opposition. One could talk about the resurrection in footy terms & beating the Demons 😉
Highlight of last week was when my neighbour from Maryland St, SD, visited me. He is in Australia for 2 weeks & loved Melb. It was good to see him. The w/e was more football, incl gr8 victories by Port Adel (which I watched with the Vic PAFC Supporters Group) & Collingwood (at the MCG in front of 84,000). This week there have been dinner parties at home & out with people from my time at Fitzroy, as well as an SSC chapter meeting on the Feast of the Annunciation, at which I said the Mass. Weather this week has been beautiful & today I walked along the bay & into the city & back.
I was intending to post about the wonderful victory of Port Adelaide over arch-enemy, Adelaide Crows, in Adelaide on Sunday. However, I woke to news of the bombings in Boston. I felt sad & angry & am thinking of all my American friends. I was there just 5 weeks ago & am familiar with Boston, a city I have always liked. Am hoping that this does not take the US back to those post 9/11 days.
I have just had a wonderful w/e on the Gold Coast. The purpose was to see Port Adel play the Gold Coast Suns & I flew up on Friday, returning today. I was last there 2 years ago. The 1st thing that impresses is the natural scenery & beautiful beaches…..no wonder people retire here. The game was on Saty night & it was another exciting victory by Port Adel! Earlier that day I got quite a shock & a thrill to enter the elevator & find 3 of our players there. After expressing my pleasure & best wishes for the game I then informed one of them, Kane Cornes, that when he lived with his brother, Chad, on the Esplanade at Sema4 it was on the site of my family home. I explained it was an old sea-captain’s home & that after my father’s death in 1989 we sold it & the units were built. He was very interested & went on to play a brilliant game that night. Obviously I brought him luck 😉
I have just had a very nice w/e in Adelaide. Managed to catch up with a few old friends & had Sunday lunch with my cousin – but the purpose was to attend the footy on Saty night. Port Adelaide were woeful in the 1st half – but as they have done every week, came out after 1/2 time & played gr8 football. Kicked a total of 10 goals & hit the front towards the end of the last 1/4ter, winning by just 5 points. Exciting stuff…….& the crowd was roaring! We are 5-0 & equal top 🙂
Sun May 5
This has been a week when nothing works. 10 days ago I had friends for dinner. They brought a bottle of wine with a cork (unusual in Australia these days) but to my dismay I realised I didn’t have a cork-screw. So on Tuesday I bought One. That night I had 2 friends for dinner & was keen to open the desert wine with the cork. But the cork-screw broke! Next day my telephone indicated the battery needed replacing. It is an unusual type & there was none of that type at the local supermarket. Don’t know where I will get one. Then on Thursday the globe in my study light blew. However I could not unscrew the cover. Nor have I had any success since. I had this trouble with the other light last year & had to call the electrician. Guess I have to call him in again!
Thurs night I had relief from these frustrations – it was my 1st Melb Symphony concert for the year. An interesting programme. Berlioz: Beatrice & Benedict, Mozart: Violin Concerto 5 (with a brilliant young soloist from Melb, Ji Won Kim) & Strauss: Thus Spake Zarathustra…magnificent!
On a better note, Collingwood won Friday night – but not brilliantly. And Port Adelaide lost in Hobart. I watched this game with the Vic PAFC supporters group & was greeted with “Hello Stranger” & “Are you back in Australia again?” This morning I went to Mass at All SS, E St K. I was last here 4 weeks ago & was welcomed back. The choir was good – they now sit on both sides of the chancel. The sermon began with the notices, as usual – something I find unnecessary, distracting & annoying. We were berated about needing to elect parish reps to the Diocesan Synod & how we make excuses…..which proves my point! The sermon was subsequently lost on me – until he mentioned being retired. The less said about that the better.
This week has been busy having meals with friends & getting odd-jobs done in my condo. Last night I went to a very interesting talk presented by Deakin Uni. To my surprise & delight, upon arrival I was given a name tag which stated: Rector Emeritus, All Saints’ Church, San Diego, USA. The occasion was the inaugural David Parkin Oration for Sport & Social Change. David Parkin is a famous AFL coach & Player, & also an educator & motivational speaker. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Deakin & the night began with a tribute to him. The speaker for this inaugural oration was Andrew Demetriou, CEO of the AFL. He began by talking about being the child of Cypriot immigrants growing up in northern Melbourne & the place of football in their community. It is 20 years since the AFL began its anti-racism programme & he gave an excellent review of all the social initiatives implemented by the AFL over the years. Quite an achievement & a testimony to the leadership of the AFL in social issues, now being tested by the drugs business.
Now I have to get ready for my next overseas trip. On Monday I fly to SD, then on to London to celebrate my b/day.
Saty May 18
Today I am 66 – & I am celebrating it in London 🙂
I flew out from Melb on Mon & had 2 nice days in SD. Called by at the church, had b/day dinners with various friends & a fun evening with my former neighbors in Maryland St.
I was up early on Thurs for my 10 am flight to London via SF. However SF weather delayed my flight & I missed my connection. Was re-scheduled on an evening flight, which was also delayed! So instead of arriving in London on Friday at 7 am, I arrived at 3 pm. I had been awake 24 hours, apart from 5 hours sleep on the plane!
It is nice to be back at Bourne St & the Presbytery guest room has been made more comfortable. This morning I will celebrate my b/day by attending 11.30 am Mass. My friend, Joan, will join me & then we will have lunch at the local pub (where I often watch AFL footy). In the a/noon I will check into the Hilton, Park Lane – a b/day treat to myself. Tomorrow I fly to Frankfurt for a 10 day trip in Germany by train.
It was raining when I arrived in Frankfurt…..so much for Spring in Germany! I arrived at the Intercontinental in time for supper in the Club Lounge & was pleased to meet a Melbourne couple who had spent 5 weeks in Germany. Conversation soon turned to football, of course! Jet- lag finally got me & I slept until 10 am. I rushed to breakfast & then to the Station for the train to Koln. Importantly, I was able to renew my BahnPass, which gives me 25% discount on all trains & makes it affordable to travel 1st class. It is all reminding me of the 6 weeks I had in Heidelberg last year.
Yesterday was Whitmonday, a holiday in Germany. After settling into my hotel I walked around this lovely town & visited the magnificent Dom. I discovered that Koln likes to celebrate Whitmonday as much as it does the Monday before Lent – tho differently, of course. No parade with choccies, but free organ recitals in various churches. I attended one in the Dominican church of St Andrew, an historical church nicely restored. The church was packed & the programme incl works by Bach, Vierne & Messiaen.
I stayed on for Mass, which was well attended & beautifully done – a continuing celebration of Pentecost. I had dinner in the hotel. The waiter, Stefan, was charming & I took his advice to have local dishes. The main course was a chef’s speciality. It was a work of art & delicious, so I took a pic of it with my iPad & posted it on Facebook!
Today I catch the train to Dusseldorf. On this trip I am visiting cities I have been to before, so have done all the touristy bits already. This is more relaxing & in some cases returning to hotels where I know the staff – as in Frankfurt, Dusseldorf & Berlin.
it was good to catch up with Steffen at Duesseldorf Intercontinental. I 1st met him at Berchtesgaden IC, when he went out of his way to take me to a Bavarian farmhouse for dinner. He ensured I had a nice room for my 24 hour stop-over. On Wed I caught the train to Berlin. My interest in the Cold War as it affected Berlin, the Nazi era & the resistance to Hitler has given me an ongoing interest in this amazing city. I have seen it transformed since I visited in 1993 – & there are always new things to see. I have a long list of sites to see from my reading over recent years, but on this trip I only eliminated 4!
2013 marks 80 years since the Nazi’s came to power & is being marked by displays & exhibitions all over the city. The theme is the rise of the Nazis & how they killed the diversity of what was a vibrant city in the 1930’s. Today I walked the familiar path from my hotel to Unter den Linden, finishing up at the German History Musem, where there is a special exhibition chronicling Berlin 1933-1938. It began with the Nazi takeover of government, incl the book-burning in May 1933 & finished with the expulsion of the Jews in 1938. It was all familiar, but as usual I learnt more. One is left to reflect on the possibility of this happening in our modern democracies. We are, after all, under a lot of government control & spin!
Tomorrow I catch the train to Prague, which I previously visited in 2001.
The train journey to Prague was interesting – once out of Berlin it looked like the old East Germany, with dilapidated buildings & old train stations. Prague was different to what I remember from 2001. The 1st thing I noticed is that the station is modernized. I remember arriving here 12 years ago having booked a guest-house online, but there was no-one to meet me. I subsequently walked into the city centre & found a cheap hotel. This time I walked thru the city to the Intercontinental hotel, where I was given a lovely suite.
Prague has lovely mediaeval buildings & spires dominate the skyline. Unfortunately it rained all w/e, so I didn’t walk too far around the city. Sunday morning I crossed the stunning Charles Bridge, with its stone sculptures of saints, then up the steep streets to St Vitus cathedral for 10 am Solemn Mass. This was beautifully celebrated, but the congregation was not large – the Czeck republic is supposed to be the most atheistic country in Europe. A choir of 5 young men sang a beautiful Latin Mass & we were given copies of the Mass setting so that we could join in. Such a boon for the Internstional traveller!
There was a most amusing thing during Mass, which I have never encountered before. After the celebrant announced the Gospel & censed the gospel book, he then indicated that we should sit for the homily. The MC then came up & whispered that he had forgotten the gospel! Mass subsequently continued as usual. After Mass I was able to explore the cathedral & see the St Wenceslas shrine – which is normally closed to the public.
The day concluded with a quiet evening in the club lounge chatting to an interesting couple from London. Today I catch the 12.30 pm train to Hamburg – a 7 hour trip. This is just a stop-over on my way to Frankfurt for my flight back to the US on Wednesday.
Mon June 3
After 2 relaxing days in SD I arrived in NY on Saturday a/noon. It was hot & humid – a sharp contrast to Europe. A week ago I was in Prague & it was raining – now it is in danger of being flooded. I made my way to the House of the Redeemer, where I am to be “Priest in Residence” for the month of June. The HoR is a retreat house belonging to the Episcopal Diocese of NY. It was built in 1914 for a granddaughter of the Vanderbilt’s in the style of an Italian villa. I had been here for Lenten retreats 2007-8-9, & knew they had retired priests as PiR each month. I had applied last year & was pleased they accepted me for June…….thus escaping Melbourne winter! This is a marvellous house, with a grand stone staircase in the entrance foyer & standing candelabra throughout. It furnished as if in the 1930’s & the chapel is quite delightful. The website = www.houseoftheredeemer.org
Judi, the House manager was expecting me & took me to the priest’s flat. This is full of old furnishings & has large windows overlooking the street. My duties are to be a spiritual presence & available to guests on retreat. There is the daily obligation of saying Morning & Evening Prayer in the chapel – Tues pm & Thurs am are Masses. There is no obligation on w/e’s. Altho not the same as Walsingham, the spiritual atmosphere & routine of Daily Office & Mass suits me very much. A real gift for my retirement.
After exploring the House & organising the priest’s flat, I said EP for Corpus Christi in the chapel. It is gr8 to have a chapel I am responsible for. The priests flat was part of the family living area (as opposed to the servants on the next floor) & has 3 spacious rooms. The large sitting room faces the street. You then walk into the bedroom & thru to the bathroom. Beyond that is a little kitchenette, with all that I need. I was still jet-lagged, so went to bed early & had a wonderful sleep.
Sunday was another hot day. I went to Mass at the Church of the Transfiguration. I walked the 65 blocks, encountering a police diversion on Madison Ave. When I asked about it, the reply was, “A suspicious package, Sir”. Such is life here in NYC! The church is famous & is where a former assistant Bishop in Melb, Andrew St John, is Rector. He was supportive of my ministry at Fitzroy & was a good friend during my time at All SS, SD. The High Mass for Corpus Christi was just like All SS…….Rite 1 with Benediction at the end (but no Eucharistic Procession). Afterwards Andrew took me to brunch with 2 other Aussies from Melb who were visiting NY.
Walking home, I encountered 2 parades – a feature of NYC in the summer. It takes me 10 mins to walk 10 NY blocks. At 4 pm I met with Judi in the chapel, to go thru various chapel things & see the sacristy. I then went shopping at a nearby mart to buy food & essentials. The area is very interesting, with all sorts of shops & restaurants. This is the Upper East-side & the buildings are impressive – I would hate to think how much it costs to rent here.
I had another good sleep on Sun night. It rained overnight & I was up early this morning. MP is at 8 am & I was in the chapel at 7.30 am to prepare. A woman called Mary joined me. She lives nearby & regularly attends the Services. I asked her about the way they did things. Not very complicated & quite familiar to me, altho I never said the Office publicly at All SS. She reassured me that they expect every priest to be different & said the last one was very “high church”. She is about to discover a newl meaning to that phrase 🙂
Afterwards we had coffee together in the House kitchen. I then met the various staff. When the rain stopped I went for a walk thru Central Park. There was a wonderful aroma from the rain on the trees & bushes….how fortunate to have this grand park on my doorstep! I continued walking to a famous food store on the Upper West-side & bought some real NY bagels, then back to E 95th St. The day concluded with EP at 5.30 pm, for which I had no congregation.
Last night was the annual Garden Party to raise funds for the House. It was a very stylish affair & the house is a perfect setting for it. About 120 people – mostly younger than me – enjoyed canapés & drinks…….& opened their check books for the auction. My task was to be visible as the PiR & circulate. I enjoyed meeting most who were there, many of them from neighbouring parishes. And they all seem interested in me. Afterwards I was taken out for a very late dinner by one of the Board members & 2 supporters of the house – one of whom works for ECUSA as a legal adviser. It was very enjoyable & I had quite a late night in the city that never sleeps.
This morning I was joined by 3 people for Mass. This the 1st time I have had a congregation since Monday am. At 1 pm I had lunch with Bishop Michael Marshall. Bishop Marshall has just finished being interim at the local parish (Church of the Heavenly Rest) & I enjoyed a marvellous lunch in the palatial rectory. I met the bishop in 1974 when he was Vicar of All Saints’, Margaret St, when I lived in London. I have followed his progress over the years, but this is the 1st time we have met since 1974. He was most interested in my journey from my days in London, to ordination, to my various parishes & particularly finishing up in San Diego (he having himself moved from UK to ECUSA years ago). At one point he asked me the secret to the growth of the 3 parishes where I had been PP……a fascinating question from a bishop! It was a wonderful a/noon.
I have now been here a week & enjoy the routine of being in the chapel for the Daily Office. In the morning I have to stand at the door, as we can not leave it open for anyone to walk in. I am there for 10 mins & enjoy observing locals going past. I say hello to them all, which surprises many of them. Mostly no-one joins me – but that is okay. I have been in the practice of saying the Morning Offices from the Breviary as soon as I get up (apart from the 18 years I was at St Mark’s, when they were said publicly in the church). I treat the chapel Office as a time of worship & if no-one turns up it is an opportunity for prayer & intercessions. The same in the evening. Tonight 3 people joined me for EP, so I may have a congregation all this week. I certainly hope so for the 2 Masses.
The weather has been crazy since I arrived – a heat wave on my 1st w/e, lovely sunny days last week & rain since Friday. Friday evening I had decided to take myself out to dinner. There are lots of interesting places to eat in the neighbourhood & I found a Mediterranean one with nice staff. There was light rain when I started out – but when I had finished it was a real storm & I got soaked! Today it rained all day, so I stayed indoors apart from shopping.
Tonight I went to an interesting lecture at a nearby RC church. I have not attended one of these for years & I really enjoyed it. The title was “4 Thomases at the forefront of English Christendom” – a’Beckett, More, Cromwell & Cramner. I was fascinated at the subject. The fact that the church was dedicated to St Thomas More & had once been an Episcopal church added to the interest.
The speaker was a South African priest with an amazing history. Trained in law, he worked with the Prosecutor at the Yogoslav War Crime Tribunal & is currently working for the Vatican at the UN. His talk lasted 1 hour & he showed an amazing understanding of Anglican history of the 15th cent – for which I complimented him afterwards. The theme running thru his talk was the importance of conscience & Faith in the political realm. There was an enjoyable supper after & I was impressed that about 80 people had braved the rain.
The past 7 days have been a write-off. Tues during EP my body started to ache & later I was shivering……..I had got the flu. This was no doubt due to the Fri night storm when I got drenched. Wed morning I felt terrible, so after MP I stayed indoors, except for going to get cold/flu tablets. I spent the day on the couch, covered in a blanket, watching B-grade movies on Sci-Fi channel! Thurs it was the same, except I watched Law & Order SVU. To my surprise, one episode was about a murder in Riverside Park, where I had walked last week, & the victim worked in the plant on Randalls Island, which I had walked around on Tues morning!
On Fri I felt better & at 2 pm walked up to Harlem to have lunch with my old friend, Dr Johan Johnson, rector of St Martin’s, Harlem, & Fr Derby, the rector of St Edward’s Church, just up the road in E 109th St. I first met Johan at an ECUSA conference in 1992. We hit it off immediately, being of the same no-nonsense temperament, altho from different theological ends of the Anglican spectrum. I had preached for him a couple of times in the 90’s at his African-American parish. I last saw him when I was on retreat at HoR in 2009. He is now married with 2 kids & it was good to catch up, & chat about his ministry.
Today Judi gave me a tour of the house that I had not seen. This included hidden staircases & mezzanine floors that are concealed. We started at the basement, where a lot of the original furniture, now in bad repair, is stored. The highlight was the library, which I had not really looked at before. It was originally in a 15th cent Italian castle & was brought to NY in 2 boats during WWI – just in case 1 boat was sunk, they would still have half of it! The library has a projection booth for movies & an organ. We finished on the roof, where there is a great view. Most buildings have balcony gardens on their roof & Judi would like this also. It all costs money, of course, & there is plenty to spend on the House.
I am almost over the flu, so have been out doing things that were planned for last week. Tuesday morning I caught the subway to the World Trade Center site. Then I went to Columbia Uni for a free organ recital in St Paul’s chapel, which was very good. At 5.15 pm Valerie Komor, the daughter of an All SS parishioner, came to the 5.30 pm Mass. Fortunately I had a good congregation. I then gave her a tour of the House, which she enjoyed. After drinks in my apartment we went for dinner nearby, choosing a French restaurant with a very engaging manager. We were not disappointed.
On Wednesday I walked over to the Hudson River & up the north side of Riverside Park. I finished up at the famous Riverside Church – a huge cathedral-like structure on a hill. It looks like a French mediaeval cathedral, but it was built as a baptist church & inside it’s very plain. Such a pity……they could be sued for false pretenses 😉
Wed evening I had dinner with Paul Nix. He works in the office of the Presiding Bishop & was one of the 3 who kindly took me out to dinner 2 weeks ago. It was good to catch up with him & meet another person who works for ECUSA. Thursday I went to the Museum of the City of NYC…….which wasn’t all that much. In the evening my congregation at EP was swelled by 12 people – a youth group staying here for a week. I guided then thru the Office, explaining its tradition, purpose & rhythm. & this was really appreciated. Afterwards one of them came up to tell me she had spent 3 months in Australia.
This morning the youth group joined me for MP. At 10 am I went to the Met – a short 10 min walk away. What a huge, amazing collection this is. The Egyptian & American galleries were particularly interesting – lots of Tiffany things in the latter. I have now seen enough art to last me until my next visit to NYC! Tonight I am going to a garden party at General Seminary. It will be a beautiful summer evening.
It was a hot day yesterday & I decided to go to Coney Island. I have always wanted to visit this beach as St Kilda’s Luna Park is based on it. Finally, after my 1st visit to NYC 26 years ago, I have done it. To fulfil my childhood ambition I went on the Wonder Wheel – a Ferris Wheel with swinging cars as well as stationary ones. I chose the swinging car, but it wasn’t that scary.
In the evening I was invited to have dinner with Judi & 8 guests. She cooked a marvellous dinner & I supplied some Aussie wine. We ate in the refectory at the Fabbri dinner table. It was a superb evening. My time here is coming to an end. It has been a gr8 experience, & I am wondering where the time has gone. I leave on the w/e for SD, then on to Australia on Tues.