All posts by Clay Nelson

I am what survives me

with Rev. Clay Nelson

No recordings this week

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Opening words are ‘When I die’ by American poet and feminist May Sarton

Closing words are from The Book of Joy | Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu

Clay Nelson © 10 November 2019

I once had a rabbi friend who summarised life for me: “We spend the first half of our life accumulating stuff and the second half getting rid of it.” Well, one of the benefits of immigrating to a new country in my mid-fifties was getting rid of a lot of stuff well ahead of schedule. However, there were a few things I couldn’t let go of yet. One was a blown glass frog that is a work of art and the other is a large Wedgewood serving plate. While they are both beautiful and valuable, that is not why they now reside in New Zealand. They belonged to sisters. The plate was treasured by my maternal grandmother Flora Mae (AKA Granny) and the frog by my great aunt Velma Amanda (AKA Auntie).

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Here be dragons

with Rev. Clay Nelson

Here be dragons
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Clay Nelson © 27 October 2019

I’ve made no secret of my fascination with dragons. I’ve read a number of stories featuring dragons to the children at “Time for all ages.” A film depicting these flying fireballs armoured with scales is certain to entice me to watch. If you were to browse my extensive audiobook library at least one out of three are about the protagonists engaging with dragons. As you will see, these turn out to be theology textbooks. So, it was only a matter of time before I gave a sermon on them. That time is today. What captured my imagination, the required first step in writing any sermon, was encountering the phrase “Here be dragons.” It is associated with ancient maps, but before exploring why I realised I needed to learn more about them than the little I had gleaned from one of my favourite dragon movies, How to train your dragon.

Dragon tales are known in many cultures, from the Americas to Europe, and from India to China.

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The Gospel of Doubt

with Rev. Clay Nelson

The Gospel of Doubt
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Clay Nelson © 13 October 2019

In a sermon preached to the Oxford Unitarian congregation, the Anglican bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard, opens by quoting the writer Julian Barnes, “I don’t believe in God but I miss him.” Barnes goes on to say: “God is dead and without him human beings can get up off their knees and assume their full height; and yet this height turns out to be quite dwarfish. Religion used to offer consolation for the travails of life, and reward at the end of it for the faithful. But above and beyond these treats, it gave human life a sense of context, and therefore seriousness… But was it true? No. Then why miss it? Because it was a supreme fiction, and it is normal to feel bereft on closing a great novel.”

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The Moral Power of Memories

With Rev. Clay Nelson

The Moral Power of Memories
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Clay Nelson © 6th October 2019

I’m not sure why but I’m finding that with age I am spending more time in my long-term memory vault. The trade-off is I can’t remember why I went to the kitchen or where I left my keys. I think this is due in part because the memory vault is full to busting and almost anything my five senses encounter brings back a host of memories. For instance, I find colour to be a highly effective trigger for memories.

Institutional light green is one that brings back less than positive memories. It was the colour of choice in schools and hospitals, at least in America. Because we moved a lot when I was a kid, I associate it with the first day of attending a new school, which I always found intimidating.

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Where have all the Christians gone?

Where have all the Christians gone?
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Go straight to the bottom of the page for the Bob Dylan video that provided our closing hymn.

David Hines © 29 September 2019

I’m sorry to change my sermon topic at the last minute, but I just got a major shock last Tuesday to discover that the proportion of Christians in our country has crashed to 37%!! It was 48% at our last census, so that is a huge drop of 11 percentage points.

Many of my atheist friends are over the moon, but I think they’ve not read the figures right, because the proportion of atheists is only 0.15%, which also came as a shock to me. I am shocked, because it shows I didn’t really know my fellow-New Zealanders as well as I thought.

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