Message from the Bishop

Dear Friends

Tomorrow is Ascension Day—a major feast day of the church which has, frankly, taken something of a turn towards “minor” status in recent decades. But in the history of Jesus Christ and therefore the history of our faith, Ascension is a pivotal moment: Jesus departs from the disciples who had enjoyed his resurrection appearances to them, he ascends to the right hand of the Father which transition includes themes of exaltation and lordship, and he is then able to pour out the gift of the Holy Spirit. In short there is much to celebrate on Ascension Day.

Ascension Day is also a starting point for two important missional and ecumenical initiatives: Thy Kingdom Come (in which we are invited to pray for five friends to come to know Jesus Christ) and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (in which we pray with Jesus his prayer “that they may be one.”)

Recently I wrote inviting ministry units to consider embarking on a Visitation Programme in Level 2—to connect with people in our local communities in order to see how well they are doing and whether the local church can do anything to assist. I am delighted to report that two ministry units are taking up this opportunity, in conjunction with Anglican Care, and thus following an initiative already underway in New Brighton. It is not too late to respond—please get in touch with Veronica Cross,

Congratulations to Gareth Bezett, Director of Theology House, on graduating Master of Theology with Distinction (Otago University). Gareth’s thesis was on “Lift up your guts: a liturgical anthropology in conversation with Schmemann and Calvin.” I am personally looking forward to reading this thesis which brings together outstanding theologians from the Eastern and Western traditions of Christianity.

The Reverend Nelson Kennedy has served many aspects of mission and ministry in our Diocese and the wider ecumenical life of Canterbury churches for many years. Sadly, Nelson died last evening. Please pray for Alison and their family as they mourn Nelson’s death.

Our condolences to Tina  and Alan Thorpe (Rangiora) on the death of Tina’s mother, Evelyn Fowler, in England and to Alan and Chris Cummins (Timaru Hospital Chaplaincy) on the death of Chris’ mother in Stoke, Nelson.

You have ordered this wondrous world, O God,
And you know all things in earth and in heaven;
So fill our hearts with trust in you that by day and by night,
At all times and in all season,
We may without fear commit those who are dear to us
To your never failing love,
For this life and the life to come,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I am concerned that our clergy who have worked very hard during the Lockdown are getting tired and I would like to encourage them to take a needed holiday. Do you have a holiday home you would be prepared to make available at an affordable-for-clergy rate in the months of July and August this year?  If so, please get in touch Veronica Cross, with the details re booking and cost. Thank you!

2020 Pandemic Relief Fund: In order to assist ministry units in our Diocese which are experiencing financial stress due to the effects of the Pandemic, we are setting up a Pandemic Relief Fund and inviting donations from individuals and ministry units which are not experiencing financial stress.

To make a one off or regular donation, the Diocesan bank account number is 06-0705-00540840-000 and please use Code:  574-00 and Reference: Pandemic Donation.

The fund is being set up in such a way that as needs arise, funds will be distributed and if there is any surplus on 31 December 2020, this will be transferred to the Bishop’s Mission Fund (for the development of ministry and mission in the Diocese). Decisions about assistance will be made by the Diocesan Manager, Edwin Boyce and by the Chair of the ADMSC Board, Dean Lawrence (whose alternate will be Vicar-General Mark Chamberlain). Requests from ministry units for assistance can be communicated to Edwin Boyce.

Last week I overlooked a significant Day of Prayer, Thursday 14 May, which sought to draw people of all faiths together to participate in a day of prayer, fasting, and acts of charity for the end of the coronavirus pandemic. To mark this worldwide day of prayer the religious faith groups here in Christchurch collaborated to pray for all people suffering as a result of the coronavirus. A video prayer resulting from this collaboration is at Included in the video are Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baháʼí, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Quaker, Latter Day Saints faith groups and more. It’s a great sign of inter-faith solidarity and compassion in our region.

Food for Thought—here are a couple of articles you may be interested in reading …

With respect to the second article, I continue to note things being said and written for and against the Government’s current limitation on ordinary church services being 10 or fewer people. My own bias is towards what Fr Joe Grayland writes. I think the Government got its messaging wrong when it restricted churches to 10 or fewer people but opened up restaurants to cater for 100 (etc re. other businesses). At the very least the Government should have owned the intrinsic unfairness of this inconsistency but made a specific plea to churches, community gatherings and the like nevertheless to patiently accept the restriction placed on us for the sake of the nation. But unfortunately the effective messaging has been “commercial enterprises matter, community gatherings not so much.” In a team of 5 million every individual and group counts!

So, now we look ahead to Monday 25 May and a hoped for announcement re a lift in the restriction to 10 or fewer. But what will the change be? This morning in a note to vicars, priests-in-charge and chaplains I speculated that it might be a lift to 50 and not to 100. This afternoon I read in the media that the Prime Minister is saying that the first lift might be to 20 and then 30 the next week and so on. Frankly, for many of our churches that effectively will mean we remain in “online worship” mode. While each ministry unit will be free following next Monday’s announcement to make a locally appropriate choice re resumption of physical worship services, it would be understandable if most ministry units felt we need to be at 50 or even 100 before it is worthwhile opening our churches for our largest services.

Patience is a virtue, hope springs eternal and let’s be thankful that most days now the announcement is of no new victims to the virus.