Dear Friends,

This Friday, 22 October, we will receive clarity from the Government about the next weeks and months in respect of (it seems) any lifting of COVID restrictions, likely via a new “traffic lights” approach to management of the Delta outbreak, and possibility of movements out of current Level 3 regions. Most likely there will be “vaccine” conditions attached to any real change in our situation. Our current Diocesan COVID Guidelines will be reviewed in the light of Friday’s announcement and an updated version will be communicated on Tuesday morning 26 October 2021.

In the past week I have noticed on the one hand an increasing number of “end of year” events either being cancelled or significantly re-arranged seemingly on the presumption that “COVID is coming to the South Island” and, on the other hand, one after another, institutions and companies taking it on themselves to mandate “no jab, no entry” policies. A critical consideration is the safety of employees of those institutions and companies. If you are not vaccinated, please get vaccinated for the sake of our whole society. If you are hesitant about the vaccine, please seek professional medical advice. I am very concerned as Bishop of Christchurch how long we can sustain vibrant church life under current conditions and better days will come when we lift our vaccination numbers above 90%.

To those who see being vaccinated or not as a matter of “my right to choose” I offer the question George Bernard Shaw posed, “How can the smoker and the non-smoker in a railway carriage both be free?” The answer is that they cannot. All human rights eventually bump into each other and some kind of arbitration is required between competing rights in respect of benefits/harms to those exercising their rights. In a railway carriage or plane or bus, our society has determined that the right to not be harmed by smoke should prevail. We are in process of becoming a society determining that the right to not be harmed unnecessarily by the virus should prevail.

On Saturday the Parish of Burnside-Harewood hosted a Church Army training workshop on evangelism, entitled “Become a Disciple Maker” led by Brian Bullen. I encourage other parishes to consider organising to host this important training. Some of the feedback received includes:

Derek: I have learned so much in such a short time: For example, I know how to tell people in 6 words what it means to be a Christian: Love God, Love people, Make disciples!

Steve: A brilliant day, all the training felt natural and easy, anyone can do this! I feel like I now know how to share my faith, how to start a conversation about spiritual things, how to help interested people get to know Jesus, how to disciple them. It is great to have Monika, the National Director of CANZ, here in Christchurch now to help us with the next steps!

If anyone is interested to find out more, ring St Timothy’s on 03 358 8174 or Capt Monika Clark, National Director of Church Army NZ on 0274 700 279.

On Sunday Teresa and I were at morning and evening services at the Transitional Cathedral. It was good to be with the Cathedral regulars and visitors for the morning services. In the evening one of two final services for the Parish of Christchurch St Luke’s was held in place of the regular Evensong at the Cathedral. We were a full congregation (to the limit of 100) including a number of lay and ordained persons with past associations with the parish. Fr Peter Beck preached with Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Duncan Webb MP and Councillor Yani Johanson in attendance.

The second of the two final services was held in the Knox Church Hall on St Luke’s Day itself, Monday 18 October 2021. (Knox Church for a significant part of the post-quake period has hosted St Luke’s services and events). The preacher on this occasion was Fr David Moore, Melbourne (and a former Vicar of St Luke’s). I compliment David on his superb delivery via self-filmed video. The content was pitched perfectly for this concluding gathering of the St Luke’s congregation. Thanks be to God for 162 years of the ministry and charism of this parish in Christchurch city.

Our Gospel reading on Sunday is Mark 10:46-52. This is the second of two stories in Mark of the physical healing of blind men. In the middle of the sandwich, cleverly, ironically, Mark tells us readers about the spiritual blindness of the disciples who consistently do not “see” the truth about Jesus. Within this healing story Jesus asks the blind man a question he asks of all of us, “What do you want me to do for you?” What answer will we give?