Dear Friends in Christ,

Last week I issued a call to prayer for Peace in Ukraine, next Friday 25 March 2022. In particular, I asked for each local church to consider opening their church doors between 7am and 7pm for people to enter to pray for Peace in Ukraine, and perhaps also organising a specific hour of prayer during the course of those twelve hours. It is good to hear of churches taking up this call. On Friday I will be at the Transitional Cathedral from 3-4pm to pray and invite any who would like to, to join me and the Dean for prayer during that hour. Wherever we are on Friday a range of prayers and resources to assist us can be found on our Diocesan website.

I am very pleased to announce that the Reverend Simon Cashmore will be the Interim Priest in Charge of the Parish of Hanmer Springs from 1 May to 30 September 2022. Welcome, Simon and Jen, to the Diocese of Christchurch!

The Reverend Jessie Moffitt has died. Jessie served in the Parish of Cheviot for many years as Deacon. We thank God for her faithful ministry and pray for her family in their sorrow. Jessie’s funeral is private but a livestream feed is available from 12:55pm, Thursday 24th March via Lamb and Hayward‘s website.

On Sunday it was good to be at the Transitional Cathedral, preaching at the morning services. One Covid effect at this time is that there is no singing in Cathedral services for a week or two. Another Covid effect (noting reports from other ministry units as well) is fewer people coming physically to services. As Omicron peaks in Canterbury, if not elsewhere in the Diocese, there is understandable anxiety about meeting people in gatherings. We will reach the peak. It will pass and we will feel confident again about participation in worship services and other church gatherings.

Speaking of Covid, this morning the Prime Minister made the following announcements (copied from Stuff):

  • From midnight Friday, there will be no limits on outdoor gatherings.
  • The number of people allowed to gather inside will increase from 100 to 200 under the red-light traffic setting.
  • Vaccine passes will no longer be required to be used from April 4.
  • All vaccine mandates removed from April 4, except for health and disability, aged care, corrections, and border workforces.
  • Face masks will continue to be used within the traffic light framework.

This means that from this Sunday 27 March onwards, the ceiling of 100 on Vaccine Pass services lifts to 200.

Please read my next sentence carefully: for Sunday services after 4 April, we need to think through what it might mean to shift to a mode in which we need not impose a vaccine pass requirement for our services, but we might choose to do so. The lifting of Government mandates is significant, but so is how we feel in our congregations about the continuing risk Covid poses to health. I will be consulting with our Senior Leadership Team and with my fellow bishops and will have more to say next Wednesday 30 March.

This year there is no Easter Camp at Spencer Park for youth groups. I applaud the initiative of Sammy Mould, our Diocesan Youth and Young Adults Ministry Developer, to encourage our youth groups to plan sleepovers, special events and to attend their parish church services over the Easter weekend. Special events being encouraged include Easter Day Sunrise Worship, Good Friday/Easter prayer stations, and a Graves to Gardens Project (also on their Facebook page). If you want to know more about plans for youth groups for Easter, please see our website notice or contact Sammy.

This Sunday, 27 March, Lent 4, Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32, presents us with a familiar parable, often known as the “parable of the prodigal son”. An important insight to the meaning of the parable comes if we rename it as the “parable of the waiting father.” Yet it is also a story of two brothers, at odds with each other and out of sorts in different ways with their father. The introductory verses lead us to reflect on the love of God which seeks out every person lost to God.

Nga mihi nui,