Friday, September 23, 2005


Another bus trip organized by my local church took us out into the countryside for some genteel sight-seeing. We went up over Collinsvale and down to New Norfolk before stopping at Glen Clyde House in Hamilton; we checked out the craft shop and gardens of this 19th century coaching inn.

Then on to Bothwell for lunch at the Castle Hotel. One of our group complimented the manager on the apple pie. Yes, he said with a smile, the deep freeze broke down yesterday and we had all this pastry so we started making apple pies at a great rate of knots.

The weather was fine and sunny, which was curious since we could still see traces of snow up on the mountains. If we had more time, the bus driver told us, we'd drive up to Collins Cap and you could see the snow up close. Maybe next time.

I don't actually remember a lot of the trip home through Campania and Risdon. Between the big lunch and the warmth of the Spring sun, I kept nodding off every few minutes. A sign of things to come as we enter the Australian summer.

One of the unchanging things about this world is the way sadness strikes us unexpectedly.

One of the old ladies who finds it hard to get to church lives near me and once or twice a month it's my turn to give her a ride in to the Sunday morning service. Dorothy is a frail little thing, but her mind is very sharp and alert.

Sunday evening I received a phone call which gave me a shock. Dorothy had apparently suffered a stroke at home, fallen and hit her head. She was in hospital unconscious. The prognosis.... well, you can probably guess the rest.

It rocked me. Just that morning we had driven in to church together and had been discussing her favourite Agatha Christie novels. She had seemed perfectly fine. Who would have expected it?

I had already been a little sorrowful because this week will mark the anniversary of my mother's death. Now I was confronted with an all-too-fresh reminder of how transient and impermanent a thing our lives are.

No man knoweth the hour.

(Dorothy died in hospital two days later; we shall miss her.)

Lovers of old radio shows should be aware that the website OTRCAT is offering free downloads of old programmes from their site. Worth a look.

An interfaith group released a new textbook Thursday aimed at teaching public high school students about the Bible while avoiding legal and religious disputes, reports Richard Ostling of Associated Press.

The nonprofit Bible Literacy Project of Fairfax, Va., spent five years and $2 million developing "The Bible and Its Influence." The textbook, introduced at a Washington news conference, won initial endorsements from experts in literature, religion and church-state law.

American Jewish Congress attorney Marc Stern, an adviser on the effort, said despite concern over growing tensions among U.S. religious groups, "this book is proof that the despair is premature, that it is possible to acknowledge and respect deep religious differences and yet still find common ground."

The colorful $50 book and forthcoming teacher's guide, covering both Old and New Testaments, are planned for semester-long or full-year courses starting next year. 41 contributors included prominent evangelical, mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish and secular experts.

Religious lobbies and federal courts have long struggled over Bible course content. To avoid problems, Bible Literacy's editors accommodated Jewish sensitivities about the New Testament, attributed reports about miracles to the source rather than simply calling them historical facts and generally downplayed scholarly theories — about authorship and dates, for example — that offend conservatives.

Educators know biblical knowledge is valuable — 60 percent of allusions in one English Advanced Placement prep course came from the Bible — and that polls show teens don't know much about Scripture. Yet few public schools offer such coursework, partly due to demands for other elective classes, partly over legal worries. (The U.S. Supreme Court's 1963 decision barring schoolroom Bible recitations dud say that "the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities" if "presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.")

The textbook follows detailed principles in a 1999 accord, "The Bible and Public Schools," brokered by Bible Literacy and the First Amendment Center, a nonpartisan program of the Freedom Forum devoted to constitutional liberties. That accord is endorsed by seven major educational organizations and Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups. Haynes says the only previous textbook, decades old, was inadequate because it treated the Bible only as literature, slighting its religious significance.

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