Tag Archives: Life and love

My two Christmas requests

My two Christmas requests; a little late, but it is not yet Candlemas, it is but the fourth day of Christmas: (1) May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. (2) The complete obliteration of Santa Claus and and everything to do with him.

Rejoicing with northern hills

On Thursday 8th December 2016, my local church, St Philip’s O’Connor welcomed Bishop Matt Brain, ministers and guests for the induction of Martin Johnson as its 11th Rector.

With Martin, we welcomed his wife Susan, and daughter Jemma. (Martin and Susan also have a son, Thomas, who lives interstate.)

We had long parcticed “Hills of the North”, which Martin had requested. I took some dodgy photos from the very back of the church, where I was ensconced in the choir seats as a bass—too far from the action for proper indoor photography.


After the processional entrance and opening greetings, Army Chaplain Sarah Gibson presents Martin
(who had previously also been an Army Chaplain)

Induction of Martin Johnson

Bishop Matt brings Martin to us, and leads in prayer
Induction of Martin Johnson

The three Parish Wardens welcome Martin,
after which Martin and the people make promises to God and each other.

Induction of Martin Johnson

The symbols of ministry.
Induction of Martin Johnson

Folks ready to present the symbols.
(Two young people are hidden from the camera!)

Induction of Martin Johnson

The symbols are presented

Induction of Martin JohnsonInduction of Martin JohnsonInduction of Martin JohnsonInduction of Martin Johnson

Archdeacon Erica reads Martin’s licence
Induction of Martin Johnson

As Bishop Matt presents the licence to Martin, we are ready to applaud loud and long.
Induction of Martin Johnson

The Rector of St Philip’s prepares to lead his congregation in prayer.
Induction of Martin Johnson

Parish Warden Rosemary, and Chair of Parish Council Ian, welcome Martin.
Induction of Martin Johnson

The service

Evening prayer, Second order, A Prayer Book for Australia.

The Right Reverend Dr Matt Brain (Presiding and Preaching).
The Venerable Dr Erica Mathieson (Archdeacon).
Chaplain Sarah Gibson, Australian Army.
The Reverend Linda McMinn (Area Dean).
The Reverend Robin Moore (Deacon).
Jemma Johnson and Jack Adams (Readers).
Denise Manley JP, Dr Rosemary Knight, Roger Sharp (Parish Wardens).
Ian Cousins PSM, Chair of Parish Council.
Visiting clergy and guests.
Choir and musicians, directed by Colin Forbes.
Parishioners of St Philip’s,
and especially … the 11th Rector of St Philip’s, the Reverend Martin Johnson.

Isaiah 7.10-14, Luke 1.26-38.

Lo! he comes with clouds descending. Charles Wesley (1707-88).
O breath of life, come sweeping through us. Elizabeth A. P. Head (1850-1936).
Psalm 98, setting by Rosalie Bonighton (Cantor: David Tscharke).
J.S. Bach. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, from cantata Herz und Mund und That und Leben (BWV 147). English words, R. Bridge.
Come, thou long-expected Jesus. Charles Wesley, 1707-88.
Hills of the North, Charles E. Oakley (1832-1865) and Martin Shaw (1875-1958).
Colin Forbes. The St Philip’s Fanfare.

Induction of Martin Johnson

What to do and what not?

I’ve long valued a list of tests by the late Professor Hedley Beare, published in the Melbourne Anglican years ago, that helps one assess what to take up that’s new, and what to stop doing—tasks to get rid of, to resign from, to give up or just quit. Each Advent I look at it again. This is a summary; a copy of the full article is here. Beare writes of the tests of:

  • Bliss: Is this activity something I really like doing, deep down? Is it something I really want to do?
  • Vocation: Is this something I am suited to doing, which appropriately makes use of my talents, and which is in keeping with my Christian and professional calling?
  • Uniquenes: Why me? Why have I been asked or approached? Is this something only I can do, for which I have unique competence?
  • Coherence: Does this activity harmonize with my current priorities and centres of interest?
  • Networking: Does (or will) this activity keep me in touch with significant people or activities, and will it do the same for my spouse or partner?
  • The Strategic: Is the audience or the target group for this exercise important enough to warrant the investment of my time and energy?
  • The Prophetic: Does this activity or assignment give me the opportunity to be prophetic (in the biblical sense)? Does the undertaking make me bold?
  • Remuneration: Who is meeting the costs of this assignment, literally?
  • Opportunities Foregone: Will this assignment prevent me from doing something else more important, or something which I must do, which I am already committed to do, or which I really want to do?
  • Peace: At the primal level, does this assignment leave me feeling easy in my mind?

Beare wrote: “One need hardly add that this review takes time; if I am not accorded that time, the answer is always ‘no’. Because such a review combines inner work and prayer, you don’t have to justify your decision or make excuses. ‘Simply let your Yes be Yes and your No, No’, Jesus advised (Matt 5:37).”

When to set up Christmas decorations

From the Vatican, an authoritative answer to a Really. Important. Question.

Actually, I rather like the answer, especially when Fr. McNamara urges circumspection when decorating churches and says that, “It is unnecessary … to fall under the spell of commercial enterprises which tend to anticipate the Christmas season.”

From Zenit – Code: ZE05112920; 29 November 2005.

When to Set Up Christmas Decorations, answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: What would you consider an appropriate time during Advent to put up Christmas trees, ornaments, lights and other decorations in churches and Christian homes?

poinsettiaThis question is simple only in appearance because customs surrounding the celebration of Christmas vary widely among different cultures.

From a strictly liturgical standpoint the preparations for receiving the Christ Child intensify from Dec. 17 onward and this is probably a good time to set up the parish crib, except for the image of the child, which is often added just before Midnight Mass in more or less solemn fashion. Other parishes prefer to set up the crib on Christmas Eve. There are no official rites regarding this widespread custom. In those places that use the Advent wreath, it is placed on the first Sunday of Advent. …e

Dec. 17 or the nearest Sunday might also be a good date to set up Christmas trees and other decorations in Christian homes, but it really depends on local custom and tradition. It is unnecessary, however, to fall under the spell of commercial enterprises which tend to anticipate the Christmas season, sometimes even before Advent begins.

Because some Christmas decorations have often lost their original religious meaning, churches should be rather circumspect about employing them and should do so with great discretion. If used at all, these decorations are best set up on Christmas Eve so as to respect the integrity of the Advent season.

Christmas trees are preferably located outside the sanctuary and church proper, and are best left in vestibules or church grounds. This has been the practice in St. Peter’s Square from the time of Pope John Paul II.

As far as possible, decorations should be religiously themed, leaving plastic reindeer, sugar canes and Santa Clauses in the local shopping mall or at least within the confines of the parish hall for children’s events.

Within the church proper, apart from the crib, Christmas may be evoked by using, for example, traditional poinsettias, holly and other traditional elements according to the culture. As I mentioned, different cultures celebrate Christmas in various ways.

Advent resolution

A Young Man at Prayer (mid 1470s), by Hans Memling (Oil on oak 39 x 25.4 cm.). National Gallery, London)

I’ll let this picture stand for my Advent resolution this year (the beginning of the church year). This portrait of an unidentified young man at prayer is likely to have formed the left-hand side of a small devotional picture. The open book, probably a Book of Hours or other devotional book, suggests that after a period of prayer and meditation the young man has looked up to see a vision of the object of his devotions.

John McKinlay (1923 – 2014)


My Dad, Alexander John McKinlay (John), died peacefully in his sleep early yesterday morning 28 February 2014 (my birthday) in Hobart. He was 91 and had been well up to the last two months or so of his life. He was a master teacher and had a deep and abiding confidence in the goodness and graciousness of God. Dad decided not to have any funeral: his ashes will be next to those of my mother, June, in Albury NSW. Thank you so much to friends who have supported my family and me with love and prayers.

James Kim OblSB

Yesterday (10 Nov 13) James became an oblate of the Jamberoo Abbey (the Benedictine Community of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple at Jamberoo NSW). Now James and I are oblates together; what a delight!

(An oblate is a lay associate who lives away from a monastery but offers her or himself to, as much as possible, live a Benedictine way of prayer, learning and work in affiliation with the monastery and its community.)