Dear Friends in Christ,

It was lovely on Saturday to share in the event organised by Cursillo at Holy Trinity Avonside, which featured a variety of guest contributors, including our Mayor Lianne Dalziel, along with opportunities to explore the environs of the church reflectively. We have a superb new church at Avonside and it was put to good use on the day.

Next week, Tuesday and Wednesday, our annual Clergy Conference will be held at the same venue. I am looking forward to contributions to the Conference from within our own ranks as we look at matters such as the DMAP, our response to lessons from the Royal Commission on Abuse and the impact of privacy legislation on administration and communication. Also very much looked forward to are contributions from two people who will bring a perspective from outside of ourselves: Dr Csila Saysell who will lead our Bible Studies, and Archbishop Paul Martin who will speak at our Conference Dinner.

I was due to be at the Transitional Cathedral on Sunday morning for preaching and presiding at services, at the Christchurch Nakba March at midday, and at The Cathedral Grammar School Founders Day service in the evening. Unfortunately, a positive RAT test on Sunday morning put paid to those plans. Fortunately, my texts were all prepared the night before (this is not always the case), and I am very grateful to Dean Lawrence for preaching my morning and evening sermons at the services, and to the Rev’d Brian Turner for giving my voice to my short speech for the rally.

A few days further on and I am doing well—I know this is not the case for everyone who gets Covid. Support from the Diocese has been appreciated, including a couple of care packages, one of which came from a local parish, Burnside-Harewood, which delivers care packages to all parishioners who get Covid—what a wonderful idea!

Back to RAT tests. Last week we learned of a plentiful supply of free RAT tests (ultimately provided by the NZ Government). We are making these available across the Diocese via our territorial archdeacons who, in turn, will make contact with the ministry units they are responsible for.

The work of hospital chaplains is much appreciated by patients, sometimes under appreciated by our health authorities, and mostly underfunded. Elsewhere in this e-Life is information about how you can support an ICHC appeal for the work of hospital chaplains.

This week in our news two of the greatest problems of our age have made the news. The widest coverage has been given to a Government announcement about its plans for reductions of emissions as part of our response to climate change. As a planet we have to make urgent changes and those changes need direction from each and every government. The scale of the problem is immense—just think, for example, of the number of cars on our roads and what it will take re use of public transport and cycling to make a significant and lasting reduction to the use of cars. This is one of the greatest challenges humankind has faced and there is a real question whether we understand what the solution is going to cost us re change to the transportation habits of a lifetime.

Less coverage has been given to an important report by noted Kiwi journalist, John Campbell, who has published a long article on the difficulty of solving poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand. His report makes the straightforward but ultimately tragic point that poverty in our country seems to be beyond solution—at least beyond Governmental solution. While no NZ government is beyond criticism, and clearly the present and past governments have fallen short of their good intentions in reducing if not solving poverty, I read his article less as a criticism of government and more as a recognition of the scale of the multi-layered problem poverty poses. The capacity for solution lies with the whole of society (we have plenty of everything in NZ) and the will to solve lies with all of us (but who can galvanise us to unite behind an agreed way forward?).

This Sunday’s Gospel passage, John 14:23-29, challenges us to reflect on what our profession of love for Jesus Christ means: are we willing to obey his teaching? Then, in the second half of the passage, we are encouraged (on the last Sunday before Ascension Day) to rejoice in the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives—the Spirit who is the “Advocate” or “Paraclete” or, in a phrase, the continuing presence of Jesus living alongside of us, his followers. With respect to the challenges of our day—whether facing Covid in our homes and workplaces, working to reduce our emissions or engaging in a new way to organise our economy—a Gospel reading such as this can nudge and prod us to ask Jesus through the Spirit to teach us again what it means to live worthily of the kingdom of God on earth.