Dear Friends,

The well-known Christmas Grotto in Christchurch is back after an absence of six years. The Press reported on its new location and renewed popularity. A note to church leaders in Christchurch this morning updates the numbers to 13,000 visitors so far. The Christmas story remains a live story for our society. May all our services through the remainder of this week and on Advent 4, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day bring glory to God and Good News to our communities.

I am delighted to announce that the next Vicar of Geraldine will be the Reverend Hugh McCafferty. Hugh is currently the Interim Priest in Charge of the parish. Hugh’s induction will be at 7pm, Thursday 25 January 2024 in St Mary’s church, Geraldine. Clergy are invited to robe—red stoles. All welcome.

The Reverend Heather Robertson died in Timaru this week. Heather was ordained deacon in 1993 and priest in 1994. She served initially in the Parish of Highfield Kensington and Otipua, becoming its Vicar from 1999-2002. Since then, Heather has ministered mostly in the Parish of St Mary’s, Timaru, but also served several parishes in South Canterbury as their interim Priest-in-Charge. Heather’s openness to helping out wherever and whenever needed has been much appreciated and she will be greatly missed in the South Canterbury Archdeaconry. Her funeral will be held in St Mary’s, Timaru, early in January 2024.

Last Friday, the Press carried a report on the Cathedral Reinstatement Project, correctly reporting that CCRL (the company responsible for the reinstatement) is undertaking a review of how the next stage of the project is to be completed and consequently work on the site is currently slowed down. Meanwhile, work on fundraising continues, and in e-Life, we have been advertising the launch of the “Anglican Campaign” (in Christchurch, 20 February 2024; in Timaru, 21 February 2024—please see the advertisement below for times and places)—which is our opportunity as individual Anglicans across Canterbury, Westland and the Chatham Islands to contribute to the funds needed to complete this great project.

Our last Synod, in September this year, included a resolution calling us to prayer as a Diocese—to be a Diocese which prays to God for the help we need in Regeneration of our Diocese. From 1-3 March 2024 (including the third Sunday of Lent) we are inviting everyone across the Diocese to participate in a Diocesan Prayer Pilgrimage which will begin in Timaru and move to Ashburton, Christchurch, Rangiora and Hokitika over the course of the weekend. Register here. Each of these ‘Waypoints’ will be an opportunity for us to come together in our various regions and offer our prayers to God for our own personal renewal, other topics of concern and of course the Regeneration of our Diocese.

All Anglican school events for me and Teresa are now concluded. The last of the events in my diary were to do with St Mark’s School, Opawa. Unfortunately, Covid among staff and students led to us not participating in any of these events. Covid’s latest wave is spreading through our communities, and I remind readers that we need to continue to take care not to attend church when feeling unwell.

Last Wednesday evening there was an especially enjoyable City Mission Carol Service at the Transitional Cathedral. On Sunday night, the annual Cathedral Christmas Carol service on Sunday, 17 December at 7pm once again demonstrated that in our Cathedral Choir, we have some of the finest choral singing you could hear anywhere in the world!

Also happening on Sunday evening: I have been delighted to learn that the newly re-opened St Paul’s, Glenmark was full to overflowing for a “Cakes and Carols” service. A Star report of the service can be read in this e-Life “In the Media” article.

Last week I announced that the Reverend John Sheaf will be interim Priest-in-Charge of the Parish of Opawa-St Martins. We are blessed in this diocese to have two priests with similar names: John Sheaf and John Shoaf. For clarity: the Reverend John Shoaf remains the Vicar of Halswell-Prebbleton!

Recently a sale process for St Saviour’s church, Colombo Street (Parish of South Christchurch) was concluded. The successful purchaser is Trinity South church, a member church of the Church of Confessing Anglicans/Aotearoa New Zealand.

The war in Gaza continues and it is far from clear that Israel can achieve its stated aim of destroying Hamas; even less so, of achieving that aim without further loss of civilian lives. I am becoming wary and weary of IDF claims that it does not target civilians in its operations when civilians are dying in this conflict, including three of Israel’s own civilians, hostages of Hamas who, having been released, tried to move towards Israeli lines. There must be a better way to secure a lasting and just peace for Palestinians and Israelis than what is now an interminable conflict. Conversely, what initiatives are Hamas and their Iranian-backers making towards peace? Despite a blockade, Hamas seems to have an unending supply of armaments. And the extent and quality of their tunnel network under Gaza begs the question why funds for such construction were not channelled into making Gaza a better place to live for its residents.

This coming Sunday begins as Advent 4 and evolves into Christmas Eve, then Christmas is on Monday. I won’t specifically comment on any of the gospel readings provided for these two days. Rather, let me express this thought: whichever gospel reading is read at a service or services we attend, what do we hear that is Good News—for us, for the whole world?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers!