Saturday, July 28, 2007


Recently during one of those peacefully romantic moments of marital contentedness, while enjoying a glass of Old Tawny Port/Late Harvest Riesling before dinner, a romantic song from the old musical Show Boat captured my mind. You know the one?

"Why do I love you
Why do you love me?
Why should there be two
Happy as we?
Can you see
The why or wherefore
I should be
The one you care for?"

Yes indeed. Why?
Young children plague their parents with the word, and as we with children have found out, an impatient "Y's a crooked letter and Z's no better!" does little to satisfy their curiosity. This stiffling of curiosity, this dampening of inquiry and the discouragement of the search for knowledge and answers is surely anathema to humankind's use of God's gift of rational thinking. And why should this happen?
Recently my lifelong friend, Jock, and I were talking over a single malt after twenty holes of indifferent golf. No, not why the out-of-bounds creek accentuated my slice on one hole but my hook on the next. Nor why his approach shots did the exact opposite. No, our topic was religion and we were discussing why Christianity can claim to be the one and only true interpretation of God's relationship with humankind. We, as Christians, see Christianity as something special, unique, the Truth. We are, as Peter writes to those early Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor, a chosen people.
"But you are a chosen race, the King's priests, the holy nation, God's own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
Why us? Why me?
Isn't it just a little bit arrogant, somewhat inconsiderate of others, bafflng, that we should reject the beliefs of others who are just as passionate about the correctness of their beliefs as we are? It is no wonder that this self-claimed superiority of Christianity has been rejected by others - individuals as well as other major religions.

As Christians we reject the others' claim of divine revelation. Why do we do this? The main reason seems to be that we are told to do so by our Pastors, Priests, religious leaders and theologians. We are told to accept our Bible as divine truth and reject all other holy books as contrary to the Word of God (our Bible). When looking around the world and seeing the sincere spiritual life of untold millions of members of other religions one has to ask "Why?" Why only us?

The Font at the Front

A frustrated photo opportunity in front of the Orvieto Duomo probably did more to cement this great medieval cathedral in my mind than a whole roll of my own film. But let's move on! Pull up your socks and get on with life. Consider what may be around the corner from the Duomo.
There's the evidence of millennia of human occupation interestingly displayed in various museums. This dates back to the Etruscans who lived here from 800 - 300 BC. A modern reminder of these people is the modern ceramic indusrty which colourfully reproduces many of the Etruscan designs which were discovered on unearthed shards.

Then there's the network of tunnels and rooms underlying the town, which have been dug out of the relatively soft volcanic tufa during the past centuries - water reservoirs, food cellars, secluded refuges, oil and grain factories. One on the most interesting underground structure is a series of rooms facing the open country-side, called columbaria, with thousands of recesses carved into the walls. These provided nesting places for myriads of doves which provided a source of food during sieges on the town. Fecund little beggers if the ones around my home are anything to go by. Five nests in my wisteria alone. No sooner has one set of little ones flown the nest than the oldies are coo-cooing and gathering straw for the repository of the next two fertile eggs.
And let's not forget to go inside the catherdral which does indeed contain masterpieces of medieval art and sculpture. Just inside the front entrance is a baptismal font designed in 1390 by Luca di Giovanni. What an appropriate position for this piece of church furnishing. Here it symbolizes a person's transition and entry into the Christian community (Family of God), depicted here by the congregation gathered in a place of worship. This location inside the front entrance brought to mind a font episode I had recently experienced. In my church the baptismal font was located in front of the worshipping congregation. This position can act as a reminder of one's baptism and a prompt for the renewal of one's baptismal vows. Martin Luther does maintain that one should daily renew these vows to serve the Triune God.
Our Church Council agreed that for a short trial period the font be placed near the entrance of the church to highlight the role that baptism plays. On hearing that the font was to be moved one member of the congregation stated that he would not set foot in that church again if the font was moved from its 'rightful' position.
Isn't it a fact that most disputes within a church congregation ( and between) arise out of peripheral matters? And isn't it also unfortunately a fact that bullies with intransigent attitudes on peripheral matters often get their own way?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Great Cover-up

Perhaps it's because I have just been reading an interesting book entitled Towers of Deception which suggests an official cover-up surrounding the 9/11 demise of the Trade Centre Towers or maybe because of the unusually cold weather we have been having, but for whatever reason, my mind has been going back to a great cover-up I experienced in Europe a few years ago. We were looking around Europe and with my Box Brownie polished and loaded I had planned to take some great photos.
We flew into Rome; not that we particularly wanted to see Rome again, but that's where our flight landed. As you know, all roads lead to Rome! We couldn't get an international flight to Orvieto. To where? ORVIETO. Orvieto is a hill-top village in Umbria where we planned to stay while exploring the surrounding vineyards. Actually, I don't believe any plane could purposely land in Orvieto for it is perched on top of what appears to be a volcanic plug.
I wanted to visit the cathedral there, a "glittering enchanted vision rising up skywards". The facade of this building was said to be particularly noteworthy with an especially beautiful arrangement of mosaics, bas-reliefs, marble and bronze statues and magnificent bronze doors at the centralportal. Yes one of the most beautiful facades....
But that was the next day. First a spare day in Rome. And hey! who can resist a day strolling through old Roma? Ah, the marvels of modern travel - Brisbane one day and on the next, one can alight from an international flight, stretch, struggle into an underground system, stop at an appropriate station, stumble up a few steps to be transported back to the time of the gladiators and the Colosseu... Oops! A colossal construction site!! But this was Rome and Rome wasn't built in a day.

Vino bianco, una pizza and then on to Orvieto. Up the steep tufa cliff face onto the plateau, through the narrow medieval streets following the Duomo signs, into the Piazza Duomo and .... Oh no! A facade of scaffolding and sheeting covering up what I had come to photograph. There was no doubt. This was a deliberate cover-up. The photos in the brochures never had scaffolding. OK, I suppose upkeep and restoration are necessary. And to give them credit the authorities are mindful of the inconvenience and always ask for patience and consideration; or at least that's what I believe the signs said.
A business hint: Get into scaffolding in Italy

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Hello! Or as our friend on the above photo would say,"Ciao!"
He was a permanent resident at our rural accommodation in Umbria, Italy, a few years ago. He, together with his partner, aimed to give an appropriate welcome to the visitors.
This is Grace Hill. Remember in Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet, Juliet asked, "What's in a name?" I'll tell you.
"Now that we've organized our Blog," said my wife, "What shall we call it?"
I was born in a location called Tent Hill (Upper Tent Hill, actually. Lower Tent Hill was further down the creek) so I suggested New Tent Hill.
"But this is our Blog and that's where you came from. I came from Graceville, so why not call it New Graceville?"
Our sensitive son was looking on and quickly interrupted and suggested, "Why not combine them?"
And so the two became one flesh - Grace Hill was conceived to the sounds of mutual endorsement.
"Grace" has a religious ring about it. That's fine.
"Hill" sounds very landscapey and will allow me to legitimately reminisce about here and there.
So Welcome to Grace Hill; Willkommen in Grace Hill; Benvenuto a Grace Hill. Or whatever.