Dear Friends in Christ,
In a meeting of Christchurch church leaders this morning, we agreed to a call to prayer for Peace in Ukraine, next Friday 25 March 2022. Given our Red-Light restrictions, we are unable to organise a gathering of Christians from across the city in one venue to pray. Accordingly, this call to prayer is a call, firstly, for each local church to open their church doors between 7 am and 7 pm for people to enter to pray for Peace in Ukraine. Additionally, local churches might consider organising a specific hour of prayer during the course of those twelve hours. Through this e-Life announcement today, I am calling all local churches across the whole of our Diocese, in Canterbury, Westland and the Chatham Islands to be open for prayer next Friday 25 March and, if possible, to organise an hour of concentrated prayer within the period between 7 am and 7 pm. That the situation in Ukraine is desperate and urgent goes without saying. Our Lord is the Prince of Peace and encourages us to pray for peace.
A week is a long time in politics and a lot has happened in this last week, not least the Government’s announcement of a temporary reduction in the excise tax on petrol and a halving of public transport fares. I see a lot of arguments on the internet about the wisdom of tax cuts and transport subsidies, but one reflection I suggest we do well to ponder is that the imminence of massive climate change affecting our lives means that, at some point, we need to shift away from combustion cars to other forms of travel. Clearly (at least to my mind), the past week has demonstrated that as a society we are not prepared to make such a shift under urgency. I hope our political leaders are reflecting carefully on what it means to have a whole society change its way of life joyfully rather than resentfully. We must change and we may not have time to do it through evolution rather than through dramatic, sudden change. Speaking of bus fares in Canterbury, ECan is consulting on options for changing bus fare structure. Option 1 is free for students, under 25s, community service and total mobility card holders. Details are on the Anglican Advocacy site Free Fares – Anglican Advocacy and there is a pdf submission guide. I encourage you to consider making a submission.
Next Wednesday 23 March, during the 10 am Eucharist at All Souls, Merivale-St Albans, I will commission the Reverend Dr Geoff Haworth as the Warden of the Community of Sacred Name. Supporters of the Community are welcome to attend this service (Vaccine Pass required). As Visitor to the Community, I thank the Very Reverend Lawrence Kimberley for his service as Warden and welcome Geoff to his new role.
Matthew Mark has advised that he is resigning from his role as City Missioner in order to relocate to the United Kingdom so that he and Sheila can be closer to their daughter and family, with the arrival of their second grandchild imminent. Matthew’s last day in the City Mission office will be 25 March 2022. In his five years as City Missioner, Matthew has set up and developed a much-needed change process for the Mission so that it, as much as possible, meets our community’s contemporary needs. Matthew’s work has included providing resources and care for looking after our city’s most vulnerable, as well as providing pathways to assist them to actively seek change in their lives through education, life skills, and supported living. One of the legacies of Matthew’s time as City Missioner is his initiating the redesign and development of the City Mission’s site on the northern side of Hereford St which, when completed, will provide opportunities to provide more choice and services in different ways into the future. I wish Matthew well in his future work and give thanks to God for Matthew’s vision, leadership and service to the work of the City Mission in Christchurch over the last five years.
On Saturday morning it was a privilege to participate in a Cathedral Chapter workshop in which we did some forward thinking and planning for the day when we open the Cathedral in the Square. Although that day remains about five years away, there is a lot to do now and in the years ahead to ensure our ministries of worship and hospitality are well prepared for the exciting opportunity of being back in the Square. In the meantime, work on the Cathedral building itself continues to make excellent progress. I encourage all readers, when in central Christchurch to take time to walk into the Square to see this progress with your own eyes.
On Sunday it was lovely in the morning to be with God’s people at St James, Harewood and St Timothy’s, Burnside (Parish of Burnside-Harewood). The original invitation to me to preach and preside was associated with a celebration of the 160th anniversary of St James. Covid put paid to that celebration which will take place at a later date.
Yesterday, Tuesday 15 March 2022, was the Third Anniversary of the Mosque Shootings here in Christchurch. One of the shortcomings in our society, highlighted by the tragic events of 15 March 2019, is the presence of racism among us, affecting the way we interact as Māori and Pakeha, Polynesian and Palagi, as people long settled here and as newcomers to our nation, as a people evolving away from European connections and embracing identity as a South Pacific nation whose future is with and not apart from Asia. Put more simply, there remains too much hate in our communities. We might also note in passing the extraordinary and horrible vitriol some people are using against our Prime Minister. How as the people of the God of love can we work for the real transformation of our society so that hate is rejected, and love is embraced?
This Sunday, 20 March, Lent 3, presents us with a challenging gospel reading, Luke 13:1-9. It is one of the few places in the Gospels where Jesus speaks directly to “the problem of suffering.” What he says there does not, of itself, resolve the problem of suffering, but the insights Jesus offers are profound contributions to the engagement his followers have with the challenge the suffering of others poses to our faith.
Nga mihi nui,