Dear Friends,

Today is 15 March, the fourth anniversary of the massacres in our two mosques in 2019. Reports this week continue to emphasise the ongoing trauma for survivors of the shootings. We also are struggling globally to contain extremist views being propagated across social media. As news this week—including about an Australian commitment to nuclear submarines in its fleet—highlights growing concern about the possibility of war in the Pacific Ocean, let’s be vigilant in our Jesus-ordained roles to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). In our prayers, let’s pray for those who continue to suffer from the trauma of 15 March 2019.

Thank you for your ongoing support for the Cyclone Gabrielle Appeal. (Note that these donations will be receipted and are eligible for tax rebates). Late yesterday afternoon the amount raised via this appeal was over $250,000. It is very pleasing to hear of at least one parish—the Shirley, Burwood, and Marshland Parish—organising a Quiz Night as a fundraiser for this appeal.

I am delighted to learn that everything went well in Suva at the weekend for the ordination of Sione Uluialakepa as bishop and installation as the Archbishop of Polynesia. Taonga has a great article with lovely photographs [where our lead photo above comes from]. Our Vicar-General, Archdeacon Mark Barlow was able to present a gift to Archbishop Sione on behalf of the Diocese. A big thank you Mark, and to the Reverends Leni and Kofe Havea for travelling to Fiji for this significant weekend. [See images later in this e-newsletter.]

This past week has been very interesting for me personally. Our House of Bishops meeting last week concluded with a day of consultation for the Tikanga Pakeha bishops as we move towards considering a nomination for senior bishop of our Tikanga at a meeting of the Tikanga Pakeha Council on 10 June this year. In our consultation we were conscious of the tireless dedication Archbishop Philip Richardson has shown to his role as our senior bishop through the past ten years.

On Sunday morning in Lyttelton—a beautiful, windless morning with a completely calm harbour—it was a privilege to confirm Eddie O’Connor and to acknowledge with thanksgiving his wonderful work as Warden of Sister Eveleen Retreat House. On Monday I returned to Auckland to visit our students at St John’s College—we have a wonderful group of students there! Then, yesterday, a couple of new experiences: I sat with the Anglican Roman Catholic Commission Aotearoa New Zealand (ARCCANZ) for a period—their meeting being hosted here by Bishop Michael Gielen. Then, in the early evening I spoke at a service for the combined boarding schools in Christchurch, held at the St Andrew’s School Chapel, organised by their chaplain, Paul Morrow. Some 700 boarders and teachers at Christ’s College, St Margaret’s, St Andrew’s, Rangi Ruru, St Bede’s, Christchurch Boys High School and Christchurch Girls High School combined for this occasion!

Fr Ron Smith died in the early hours of Friday morning 10 March 2023. His Requiem Mass will be at 11am Saturday 18 March at St Michael’s and All Angels. Clergy are invited to robe, white stoles. For those who knew Ron personally, he was and is an unforgettable character. Ron was born in 1929, ordained deacon in 1980 and priested in 1981. He served in the Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch Dioceses. In our case he has been a faithful priest in the ministry of word and sacrament in St Michael’s and All Angels since 1999. My own personal engagement with Ron began when he started commenting on my blog (and a few other blogs I read). It has been a delight since moving to Christchurch in 2010 to meet him in person, get to know him and become a firm friend with him (despite a number of differences of views!). Please pray for Diana, Ron’s wife, and their family as they prepare with Fr Jordan Greatbatch and other colleagues for the service on Saturday.

This Sunday 19 March 2023, Lent 4, the gospel is John 9:141 (Jesus and the Blind Man). Every encounter between Jesus and a physically blind person in the Gospels is always an encounter with surrounding people who are spiritually blind to the truth about Jesus. This story is just such an encounter. What do we see? What are we blind to?