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"The Same River Twice."
By David Poultney in All Sorts
change is inevitable and there are new challenges, even when things may seem the same“The Same River Twice”
On Returning to Dunedin
It was Hereclitus who wrote “you cannot step into the same river twice. For other waters are ever flowing on to you.” He taught that change is of the very nature of the Universe, maybe a little more prosaically we
might say “the past is another country.”
Yet here we are again, Darren and I, are back in Dunedin. We are “in no strange land” and have returned to a group of people many of whom we remember well and fondly. However much has changed for us, for each of you and for the parish as a whole. This might be a familiar riverbank but in truth it is not the same river.
Of course there are obvious continuities. I recently read that Dunedin is a hidden gem, the next big thing in New Zealand tourism and the hills and sea continue; but even then is that completely true? It has become apparent how prone to the encroachment of the sea southern Dunedin is. Of course our handsome architectural heritage continues though Carisbrook (never a lovely structure) is gone and the Forsythe Barr stadium gone up.
We are all that bit older of course and the twelve years between our departure and our return have impacted on us all in various ways, or is it that ministry simply accelerates the greying process?
I left here for Trinity College as a beginner, one to be formed for the task of presbyteral ministry, I return as someone comparatively experienced, even as someone regarded as an expert here and there. I could never have predicted how my presbyteral career has unfolded; from giving a paper in Oxford University to resourcing worship leaders in Westport. There have been the surprising opportunities of convening the Faith and Order Committee and of serving as a District Superintendent. I never thought I would be one of “those people.” What no one could have predicted when I left for college was the Christchurch earthquakes and their impact on the churches nationwide. In both Hamilton and Nelson I had to help parishes face unwelcome change as a consequence of this.
So we come again to Dunedin, and I come as an experienced presbyter but can take nothing for granted. Each new ministry is a process of learning again, of finding how things are done in a new place and of the particular contours of a community. I am grateful for those who have begun my process of education in this familiar yet new place.
Let us see where the river takes us.