Message from the Bishop

Dear Friends,

If only our COVID-19 plight today was an April Fool’s joke and on the 6 pm news tonight our Prime Minister would tell us we can all go back to school, work, play and shopping for everything. But there is no joke and we are in a very serious situation. I notice, however, that some very helpful cartoons, quips and light hearted memes are making their way round the world – they help lift the burden of this time.

Also helpful I suggest, even in the darkest of times, is to continually thank God for our blessings. There are many and I suggest they begin with this country we live in and the leadership through this time of our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the boldness of our Finance Minister Grant Robertson and the bipartisan spirit of leadership in Simon Bridges. Then we can give thanks for the overwhelming willingness of our fellow citizens to conquer the Mt Everest which has been put before us. A week into the Lockdown, we are getting used to the behaviour expected of us (stay at home), the modest exceptions (local supermarket, local exercise), and generally the importance of living in our bubbles. We may also be experiencing challenges such as COVID-19 information overload and being socially connected while maintaining physical isolation.

I note that today’s media reports that our government’s strategy is shifting from “flattening the curve” to “elimination.” That is a very big ambition but I believe we New Zealanders can do this. But we need God’s help. I know we are praying in multiple ways. As we explore what it means to offer daily and weekly worship via online means, I am receiving reports of impressive numbers of people “tuning in” as well as anecdotes of non-Christians viewing. This suggests that people who do not normally pray are praying.

Intriguingly there is at least one active research project about prayer and COVID-19 going on. Danish researcher, Jeanet Bentzen has published a draft article which she will continue to update entitled, “In Crisis, we pray” and the abstract reads, “In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for stress relief and explanation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is no exception: The demand for religion has risen dramatically since the onset of the pandemic with political leaders and self-organized groups urging their fellow citizens to pray. I document that Google searches on prayer has skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when the COVID-19 went global. Using daily data on internet searches for prayer for 75 countries, I find that search intensity for prayer doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19. The results can be understood as religious coping: We pray to cope with adversity.” The full article can be downloaded here.

Speaking of prayer and worship. First, thank you to everyone who has been participating in online worship services across the Diocese. Remember that a list of opportunities (if none is available in your parish) is on our website. Secondly, as we uphold each other in prayer across the Diocese, the latest, 2020 version of our Prayer Cycle is available here.

Last week we mentioned the financial challenge Canterbury Youth Services find themselves in following the cancellation of Easter Camp. This week I draw your attention to our City Mission which is experiencing a 300% demand for food parcels but which cannot receive our donations of food during the Lockdown, and instead need to purchase food. Would you consider making a donation at this time? Their bank account number is 06 0831 0007713 00 or you can donate here. Matthew Mark, City Missioner, in communication with me says that he cannot see the high need for food parcels abating anytime soon.

I am sure many readers will be wondering about the financial challenges we face as a Diocese – our ministry units and our work from the Anglican Centre. There is no doubt that there are many challenges and my assurance to you this week is that we are working as best we can to respond to them in the light of what we know. (One of the challenges is what we do not yet know!) I thank all our churchwardens and treasurers, Edwin Boyce, Gavin Holley, their respective staff teams and the members of the ADMSC Board, Standing Committee, CPT Board for their work on these matters. But I especially thank all of you who remain generous and faithful in your giving as you support the work of God throughout our Diocese (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. There will be no processions of palms and we will each have to make our own crosses (patterns and instructions available on the internet). But we can pray and we can sing. We can still journey with Jesus our Saviour through the days from Palm Sunday to His death for our sakes on Good Friday, feel the solemnity of Jesus’ burial through Holy Saturday and rise to rejoice in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Pascha (Easter Day). Our Lectionary offers Scripture readings for each day of this important week.

I intend posting two video messages next week, for Good Friday and for Pascha (Easter Day). Details will be in next week’s e-Life. Stay safe. Be kind. Be thankful.