Dr. Ron Palenski ONZM was the Guest Speaker at First Church on Sunday 30th August 2015Special Service to Celebrate The 150th Anniversary of the Dunedin City Corporation’s First Meeting in August 1865. The talk that Dr Palenski gave at the service is published here:-

“Most of you will know of the comment by Mark Twain when he visited New Zealand in 1895. The Scotch, he wrote, were on their way to heaven and when they stopped off in Dunedin, they thought they’d arrived. A shipmate of Twain’s from Melbourne to Bluff was Michael Davitt, an Irish politician and Home Rule agitator … and he had similar words of praise. He called Dunedin a very prosperous, go-ahead city and that its low death rate made it the healthiest city in the world. So there was an American and an Irishman but an Englishman had quite a different view. Thomas Arnold, known as Thomas Arnold the Younger to distinguish him from his noted father, the headmaster at Rugby School, was on the John Wickliffe when it anchored in Otago Harbour in 1848. But he sailed on to Wellington. He wrote to his mother in horrified terms …
Had Arnold’s visit been even just twenty years later, still nearly thirty years before Mark Twain was here, his view would undoubtedly have been different. Dunedin had been transformed from the fringe of swamp at the foot of bush-covered hills that Arnold saw into a modern city, alive with the noise, commerce and ambition of a city that was increasing in size and grandeur almost daily.
The prophecy of Thomas Burns to William Cargill, that we may be instrumental in planting down in these favoured islands a well-ordered God-fearing community, had been fulfilled. Read the rest of this entry »

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Spring seems like it is finally here. I have seen blossoms and buds sprouting on bushes and trees reminding me of new life and fresh beginnings. With more sunshine and warmer temperatures, the season of spring usually generates a hopeful mood.
Hope is an important part of our life as people. Whether we believe in God or not, hope is that positive aspect that enables us to persevere in light of challenging or desperate circumstances. Despite some of the harsh winter realities, such as the flooding and damages to people’s livelihood a few months back, and the toll upon the health of our very young and old, hope provides the spark of life for a better outcome. Hope, therefore, can transform our situation.
As a faith community, we are always hopeful. But our hopefulness is not about wishful thinking or merely the Christian faith we uphold. It must also be about transformation. The Apostle Paul encouraged the church in Rome that their new life in Christ was about being “transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). We can see that transformation has to do with the way we think about God and God’s will for our life. In short, we are transformed for the purposes of God – God’s mission.
In last month’s newsletter, I touched on the matter of mission as being vital to our life as a congregation. Without repeating or labouring the point, I believe that as God has changed our life positively through Christ, we are called by God to be agents of positive change in our families, schools, work places and wider community. We are, in essence, to be signs of hope for others. We are a spring people. Shirley Murray captures this beautifully in her hymn “The spring has come”:
The spring has come, new people are the flowers of it.
Through wind and rain, new life is in the showers of it.
New bud, new shoot, the spring has come,
new people are the flowers of it.
So be an agent of hope and positive transformation for others this spring season.

On a totally different note, I’d like to say thank you for your endorsement of me accepting the invitation to be part of the Prime Minister’s delegation to the 50th anniversary of Cook Islands self-government in free association with New Zealand. Although the trip was for only two days, it was hugely memorable in more ways than one.

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10am Morning Worship,
12 noon Cook Islands Service
2pm Samoan Service
Sunday 6 September 10am Combined Communion Sunday