Theologian regards century of change

By Otago Daily Times | Posted: Sunday February 25, 2018

As he approaches his 100th birthday, former Dunedin Presbyterian minister and controversial theologian Sir Lloyd Geering is writing another book.

But this one is not a theological treatise.

''Rather, it's a small volume about how so many things changed during the 20th century,'' the 99-year-old told the Otago Daily Times from his Wellington home yesterday.

He thinks he will call the book ''How Times Have Changed''.

Because, as Sir Lloyd says, the past 100 years have certainly seen ''such a lot of change'', including the way we communicate and the way we travel.

For example, today's cellphones and the internet are a far cry from the limitations of 100 years ago.

''My parents never really came to grips with the ordinary old telephone,'' Sir Lloyd says.

As a child living in Southland, he saw electricity reticulated through much of the province. And for the first 25 years of his life, his family did not have electricity.

But today's technology seems to pose few problems for the almost 100-year-old who spends a lot of time using his computer, communicates regularly with family members by Skype and also uses Skype to play Scrabble with nine other people in various parts of the world.

Writing about the extent of changes in the past 100 years or so recalls how the former Knox Theological Hall principal's radical thinking so shocked and outraged conservative christians 50 years ago, he was accused of heresy, although ultimately acquitted.

Now, he says, the matters raised at that time had all become very familiar and seemed ''old hat''.

Through most of the 20th century, almost everyone believed in an afterlife.

''But by 2000, very few did.''

That was why funerals had changed so much. Rather than a ritual to celebrate someone's passing from this world to a better life in the next, funeral services were now more a celebration of a person's life and achievements and what the person meant to family and friends.

Sir Lloyd has very strong links to Dunedin and Otago, with two years at St Clair Primary School, five years at Otago Boys' High School and seven at Otago University and Knox Theological College. And, after his ordination, he served in parishes in Kurow and Dunedin and was also Knox College principal for some time.

''I spent almost half of my life in Dunedin and enjoyed it,'' he said.

While he is not 100 years old until Monday, Sir Lloyd has already received greetings from the Queen, the Governor-General and the Prime Minister.

And he is looking forward to a celebration tomorrow with 80 family members and friends, some coming from Australia, Germany and Singapore.

His son and two daughters and their families, including a great grandson, will be there - ''the first time all of the family will have been together''.

Sir Lloyd says his health is good, he is ''pretty fit'', keeps his brain active with puzzles and games, and walks for 30 minutes every day.

And he has good genes. His father lived to be 100.