A new perspective
Setting the Scene
For many years we had the above screen print Towards Mana by Malcolm Warr on our bedroom wall. I had always assumed that the artist was showing the scene from Centennial Highway between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki. There are rocky outcrops along the road which look like the dark shapes in the foreground. The gray headland is south along the coast from Pukerua Bay. Mana Island is the low flat light gray feature in the distance.
We have passed this way by car many times. It’s familiar territory. I noticed that the foreground rocks in the print don’t exactly match any of the actual rocks you see from the road, and you can’t actually see Mana Island from Centennial Highway either. So, I assumed that the print was simply an artistic impression that beautifully conveyed the feeling of the scene. I was content with this understanding for years.
The photo below is taken from Pukerua Bay looking north to Paekakariki. The road hugs the shoreline. The steep slopes are an earthquake fault scarp. The yellow line shows where I thought the artist stood and the direction he was looking.
The terrain map below confirms that there is no line of sight to Mana Island from the road.
All is Revealed
At the end of 2008 we went on a family ramble. We caught the train from Wellington and got out at Muri, the stop for the Pukerua Bay township. We then walked down the hill to the beach and walked all the way along the coast to Plimmerton, where we caught the train home.
Along the way I had a shock. From the spot on the shore marked by the red line on the next map, we had a clear view of Mana Island and the rocky outcrops matched those in the screen print.
See the photo.
This is where the artist stood.
I put these images into a PowerPoint and projected them during a service I led at the small St Luke’s Methodist Church in Pukerua Bay in May 2009. The slideshow and commentary were how I introduced the theme for the service and led into the sermon.
The sermon was titled Surprising Things. One of the readings for the day was Acts 10: 44-48. I talked about how all the characters – Peter, Cornelius the Gentile centurion and his family and closest friends, and the Jewish men accompanying Peter – had a big surprise. The Holy Spirit comes to people. Peter accepted the Spirit’s leading that his mission was to both Jews and Gentiles. Cornelius and his family were baptised into the early church.
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Be wary of making false assumptions. Things might not be as they seem and you may need to change your viewpoint, ideas and theology, when better information comes to you.
The above presentation is a bit complex. But by breaking down the steps by which I came to a new realisation about the actual scene the artist depicted, the congregation were able to follow my train of thought.
Any personal experience you have can be used creatively in worship. Keep your eyes, heart and mind open. Keep filling your worship kete.
What is something you have been surprised about in the last few months? Unpack your experience by writing bullet point notes about it.
Is there the kernel of a message here for your congregation?
Keep all the computer files relating to the services you lead. You never know when you will want to use them again. The base material for this post is 14 years old.
14 February 2023