Message from the Bishop

Dear Friends,

Greetings in Holy Week!

“They schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him” (Matthew 26:4).

In Holy Week we make our way day by day from the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) to his Crucifixion on the outskirts of the same city (Good Friday) and then pause for a day before celebrating Jesus being raised from the dead (Pascha or Easter Sunday). At the front of this drama are the human faces of Jesus and his disciples. But further back on the stage are the shadowy faces of the religious leaders plotting Jesus’ death and of the anonymous people who help Jesus out, with a donkey, with a room for the Last Supper. Yet this drama goes beyond the social and political machinations in Jerusalem. It is cosmic in scope and has the unseen Actor in its midst, God who is working out a plan long ago foretold through the prophets, now coming to fruition through God’s Son (e.g. John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

As we journey through this week of holy and festival days, we are all conscious that we cannot do so in customary ways, especially in keeping the customs of commemoration of the Last Supper and celebration of the Resurrection through Eucharistic worship. Our suffering through this Lockdown includes suffering a lack of access to the precious Sacrament of the Eucharist. Yet this does not mean we need suffer any lack of spiritual nurture. In the history of the church lack of access to the Sacrament for reasons of “contagion” and other medical constraints has been often experienced (though never before on this scale). Both the Book of Common Prayer (see rubric at the end of The Order for the Communion of the Sick) and A New Zealand Prayer Book (foot of p. 729) encourage us when we cannot share in the Sacrament to make what is known as “Spiritual Communion”. Citing from the latter: “When people who desire to receive the Holy Communion are unable to do so for any other reason, their desire and such prayers as they are able to offer ensure that they do spiritually receive the body and blood of Christ.”

Nor does our Eucharistic “fast” mean that there are no other ways in which we might “journey with Christ” through these days. On our “Doing Church Differently” page, we offer both a growing list of opportunities to participate in “online worship”  and some specific suggestions for this week which are achievable “within your bubble.”

Our encouragement is always for you to connect with what your local parish is doing and only if it is unable to provide a service for you, to connect with other offerings. Noting that not all parishes offer a Maundy Thursday evening service, I commend to you a Tenebrae Service which has been organised by Spanky Moore, Our Young Adults Ministry Developer.

Teresa and I have really valued being able to “travel” to some of our parishes through these past weeks. On Sunday 29 March we were at St John’s, Parish of Highfield, Otipua and Kensington. This Sunday just gone we were at St John’s, Parish of Rangiora. In these and other experiences “around the Diocese” we are seeing —you will be seeing—both amazing creativity and awesome hard work. A big thank you to everyone who is contributing to daily and weekly worship through the Lockdown. We are all learning from our experiences. My sense is that we are asking and beginning to answer these three questions. What works? What gives life? What is sustainable? If you are like me, you will be finding that the longer the Lockdown goes on, the more tiring it is becoming. After a big effort for Holy Week and Easter it is going to be understandable if our enthusiasm wanes a little for Sunday 19th April. Let’s be kind and patient with each other as we work out how we sustain our efforts.

Last week I promised two sermons, one for Good Friday and one for Pascha (Easter Day). Clergy will have early access to these and may choose to use them on those days in services they are arranging. Nevertheless each message will be accessible for all from 3 pm Friday and 12 noon Sunday respectively, on the Doing Church Differently webpage.

We give thanks for the life of Betty Morris, mother of the Reverend Shirley Hawke, Vicar of Temuka and Te Ngawai, who died 7 April 2020. For Shirley and her extended family, as for many families in New Zealand during the Lockdown, grief is especially challenging because a funeral cannot be held in the usual way.

Nick and Tessa Laing, NZCMS Mission Partners in Uganda, are well known to many in our Diocese, their home Diocese. Their work with Anglican medical centres is especially challenging as COVID-19 spreads through Northern Uganda. Pray for them and for all mission partners who have chosen to remain in their field of service. A recent, heart-warming story of Nick and Tessa’s work is told further down in this e-Life.

Recently Jacinda Ardern our Prime Minister gave a shout out for the Easter Bunny and declared this source of chocolate coated happiness an “essential worker”. We can appreciate that such positivity helps us as a country—especially our children—to  keep motivated during the Lockdown. But it is a pity that fostering the work of the Easter Bunny silences the name of Jesus Christ in the festivities which have their origin in his death and resurrection. What if we all, as Christians who love the Lord Jesus, placed a cross in our front window, or on our ‘eggs’ drew a cross? And if we already have a teddy bear and an Easter Bunny in our windows, what if the cross was placed between them, to signify that Jesus Christ is the centre of our lives and of our homes?

Blessed commemorations and celebrations,