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New Zealand Trip

Week 1 - 2  
October 30, 2009

Hello from New Zealand. We are disbelieving - it simply doesn’t seem possible that this dream has become reality.

A quick background of the events that helped us come to this beautiful land.

We have been in love with the writings of Shirley Murray for over 15 years and have had an “email” relationship during that time. We have offered musical settings for a few of her hymn texts, and, over the last few years, we have recorded 7 of them.

July 2008 we presented a workshop at the Hymn Society of United States and Canada Annual Meeting in Berkeley, and met John and Gillian Thornley (executive directors of the New Zealand Hymnbook Trust). They told us that their first New Zealand conference was to be held October 2009 and invited us to come. Over the next year, plans were formed, and we were asked to be one of three plenary speakers at the conference “Hope is Our Song: Peace - Justice - Creation.” That conference was the launching place for the new hymnbook of the same title that contains 160 new hymns by New Zealand composers. The four- day conference, held in Palmerston North on the North Island, has been a rich feast of learning songs, meeting writers and composers, and sharing vision for the church as leader in the quest to honor and protect all of God’s creation. We have been deeply blessed to be a part of this event.

So now, confession time. What with the travel (30 hours total) and time adjustment, and arriving just in time to start the conference, I (Jeanie) forgot to take pictures. So, I am relying on photos from other participants to give you a glimpse of these 4 days.

The following pics are from the banquet at the close of the conference. A special person flew in from the US to speak and make a surprise presentation at that dinner. Below you see Deborah Carlton-Loftis, the new Executive Director of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada, presenting the award of "Fellow" of the Hymn Society to Shirley Erena Murray (she is the first woman to receive this award).

In the next photo are Roy Tankersley, one of our hosts and a composer and workshop leader at the conference; John and Gillian Thornley, Executive Directors; Colin Gibson, plenary presenter and prolific and well-known composer; Marnie Barrell, workshop leader and composer; and Dr. Sarah Mitchell, our worship leader for the conference. The last photo is simply to prove to you that we WERE THERE - we are having a relaxing time listening to great stories around the table with Rob Ferguson (composer) and Deborah Carlton-Loftis.

Just as we are leaving the event, I find the camera: we are standing outside the Tankersleys' house with Pamela and Roy - they have billeted us plus Susan Jacob (next photo) - hymn writer from Chennai, India, and also Sarah Mitchell (see above). In addition to the rich experience of the conference, the six of us have had late night and early morning theological sessions, sometimes in our pjs with a glass of wine (or cup of coffee) and often choosing the fellowship over much needed sleep.

Supervising all this activity were Megatron (pictured) and her twin sister, Lilith. They were impartial in choosing laps and joined every conversation. Thanks to Pam and Roy for their great care of us in addition to their duties as minister (Pamela), music director (Roy), workshop leaders, and conference MCs and planners.

So we are loading into the cars of John and Shirley Murray, who are hosting us for a few days on the Kapiti coast. Fortunately, they are driving. We have wisely chosen to "leave the driving to others" so that we, and all who meet us on the road, may remain safely in one piece and in good health. Thanks for journeying with us again. We'll add another installment after we finish our work in Christchurch on Nov. 1.

Blessings to you all ~ Jeanie and Jim

Nov. 9 - Week 2 in New Zealand