Message from the Bishop

Dear Friends,
Every NZ family travelling on a long car journey with children has heard the plaintive cry from the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Lock-down is a similar journey (with “there” meaning resumption of most aspects of social and economic life). Last week we thought the answer to the question “Are we there yet?” would be either this Thursday 14 May or next Monday 18 May. Thus for churches, “Are we there yet?” in respect of resumed Sunday worship in our church buildings would be the Sunday following. But two days ago we heard from our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, that whatever tomorrow looks like for many people, “We (the church) are not there yet.” Confined to gatherings of no more than 10 people, most congregations are not going to be in our churches for at least two more Sundays.
Church leaders are making representations to the government about the restriction to 10 or fewer for services. It appears that cinemas, restaurants and (from 21 May) bars are being treated differently to churches in respect of organising safe gatherings. Perhaps something will change today as parliament debates the legislation for Level 2 regulations. (I see, as I write this afternoon, that the government has changed funeral and tangihanga regulations. I have also learned while writing that the government is listening to feedback from churches about church life in Level 2).

Nevertheless, even if we are being treated inconsistently, I know from feedback since Monday that many in our Diocese are grateful that the announcement on Monday keeps us very safe for a while longer. Moreover, we have a couple of weeks, at least, to grow in our confidence about going out of our homes and meeting with people not in our bubbles. I know we will all be grateful that our COVID-19 statistics continue to be encouraging in the aspiration to eradicate the virus from our shores.
Each ministry unit will make its own response to Monday’s announcement. Many will continue online worship. Some may resume small services. We have revised our draft guidelines for Level 2 in the light of the restriction to gatherings of no more than 10. They can be found here. (We will finalise our guidelines for Level 2 when we hear the government’s next announcement about Level 2, due 25 May 2020.)
It is important that we not only prepare practically for the weeks and months ahead but also keep asking theological questions. For instance, Where is God in a Pandemic? Join Fendalton parishioners at 7.30pm on Thursday 14 May to hear theologian and author Dr Nicola Hoggard Creegan discussing a Christian response to the current pandemic. Click on this link to join the meeting: are welcome.
(The event is also advertised later in the newsletter.)
Congratulations to Phil Trotter, well known to many in our Diocese. Through 2017 and 2018 Phil was studying at St John’s College, Auckland. He and Carol remain resident in Auckland where Phil is teaching at Laidlaw College and Carol is teaching in a primary school. Phil writes, “I received word last week that I will be awarded my Master of Ministry with Distinction.” That is a wonderful achievement!
There is going to be a change of clerical leadership at Christchurch St Luke’s at the end of May. Helen Roud will finish as Interim Priest in Charge and Peter Beck will succeed her as Interim Priest in Charge from 1 June 2020. Helen will continue was Vicar of Addington and use her new found time in order to focus on Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisory Training.
Yesterday was an important milestone in the Cathedral Reinstatement Project as Dean Lawrence Kimberley and Pihopa Richard Wallace led the blessing of the site, preparatory to work beginning on the first phase of reinstatement, the stabilization of the damaged building. Thank you to the more than 100 viewers who joined me and others involved in the project as we watched the live-streaming of the service. The recording can be viewed here
Please pray for two clergy families: for Thomas and Cheryl Brauer and family (Sumner-Redcliffs) as they mourn the death last night of Thomas’ mother, Ann (in Canada). Thomas and Cheryl and their children were able to visit Ann during her final illness and return here safely before the Lock-down began; for Chrissy and Kim Smith (Lincoln) as they mourn the death last Thursday of Chrissy’s mother, Joan Rowe.
This Sunday’s gospel reading, John 14:15-21, introduces us to the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete (the One called alongside usvariously translated as Counsellor, Advocate, Helper). Lock-down has been a season in our lives when we have needed people walking alongside usliterally or virtuallyto encourage us and support us in meeting the challenge before us. But the promise of the Paraclete is the promise of the ultimate companionthe Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. Jesus remains with his disciples today and forever. Whether we can or cannot meet together, whether we are “there” yet or frustratingly faraway from where we want to be, we have the Paraclete with us. We are not alone.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!