Message from the Bishop

Dear Friends,
Just when we had gotten used to Level 4 life, now we are at Level 3, and vast vistas of new freedoms may now be enjoyed. Well, takeaways, coffees, and slightly enlarged bubbles! Many people are back at work in their usual work locations and schools and early learning centres are open again.
Importantly, in the life of the church, we can hold small funerals and weddings, and online worship can now be led from inside our church buildings. We also have a couple of weeks to work out what Level 2 means and what guidance we need to give ourselves about that level of church life. A Special e-Life on Monday 4 May will attempt to spell that out.
My continuing thanks goes to all who work on online worship through these weeks of L4 and L3. It is hard work but worthwhile. There is a lovely article in a recent Church Times by Gillean Craig which casts “a critical but sympathetic eye” over current online services in the Church of England, .
That thanks includes online services for ANZAC Day on Saturday. I was able to “attend” two such services – both high quality. Once again our larger thanks goes to all those who have served and presently serve in our armed forces. Our remembrance this year of past and present sacrifice has a special link to the two World Wars. Then as now, a national effort has been required to defeat our common foe.
The Lock-down period for church life is not all about worship services. It was very good, for instance, this week to learn from John McLister, Vicar of Lyttelton and Port Chaplain that “the Government has clarified that port chaplains/ seafarers welfare representatives are classed as  ‘Essential Workers’ and we can resume visiting ships. While our seafarers centres remain closed in NZ and world-wide, we will aim to shift our ministry to meeting seafarers needs to the dockside while the ban on shore-leave is in place.” Today, to give another instance, there is a site blessing on the former location of Churchill Courts and Hospital for the re-purposing of that site as a location for social housing in a project which is a joint venture between the Christchurch Methodist Mission and Anglican Care.
A fascinating question for NZ society and for NZ churches is this: six months from now, will significant change have occurred, or will we have resumed life as the “old normal” (minus international travel)? In my own mind I find the answer fluctuating from one day to the next. There definitely are challenges for us as a Diocese: can we become a regenerated Diocese if we do not transform the experience of the past month or so from an emergency response to something which is part of the normal experience of being church in the 21st century?
I draw your attention to an important letter from Dr Spencer Beasley (below) which encourages us, if we need medical help, to not hesitate to seek it. Our GP surgeries and hospitals are safe places for us as we seek treatment for the non COVID-19 ailments which affect and afflict us.
Please pray for the Reverend Ken Davy who is ill.
This coming Sunday (Easter 4) is sometimes known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The gospel reading is John 10:1-10. The second part of 10:3 reads, “He calls his own sheep by name.” A downside to news about COVID-19 is that victims of this illness become impersonal statistics as daily counts of those who are ill and those who have died are added up. Let’s remember that God through Jesus Christ knows each of us by name. We are much loved.


Encouragement from Dr Spencer Beasley

Dear Bishop Peter,


I am writing this because I am aware that many of those in your Diocese are facing unprecedented challenges at present. There is much fear and uncertainty, particularly among those of us who are older or have other medical conditions (called “comorbidity”). The media tell us daily of infection rates and death rates, and in some countries these have been horribly high. Sometimes it is hard to make sense of the often conflicting information we get in the news, and sometimes the messaging is confused and unhelpful.

In New Zealand we are particularly fortunate:  the Covid-19 virus arrived here relatively late, and we have had time to get ourselves organised to prevent its spread more effectively than has been possible elsewhere. We are helped because we have a border that has been easy to close (one of the advantages of geographic remoteness), and we are now getting better processes in place for quarantine, testing and tracing contacts. And above all, we have a compliant population who have shown themselves to be willing to sacrifice many freedoms for the sake of the greater good; very quickly we have adopted practices of safe distancing, hand washing and preserving our “bubbles”.   And to our credit, we have seen the numbers of new cases progressively fall to barely a trickle in a relatively short space of time.

In Canterbury we are lucky in that there are virtually no new cases appearing outside known clusters, and very little evidence of community spread. This does not mean we should become any less vigilant in following the guidelines for lock-down as instructed. But it does mean that the greater danger for many of us now is NOT seeking medical help for other conditions when we should. Sadly, one of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic is that the morbidity and death rate of many other conditions has increased dramatically. Research overseas shows that one of the reasons for this is that people have been scared to see their doctors or attend the Emergency Department, either because they fear picking up the virus, or because they do not want to add further burden to the health system.

Please let me reassure you that it is extremely unlikely that you would pick up the Covid-19 virus in our hospitals, and they are not overburdened at present. All of us working in the healthcare system want you to remain healthy, and the best way of doing that is to seek medical attention if you become unwell or become aware of any potential medical issue. Actually, now more than ever, it is really important that you remain as healthy as you can.

My emphatic message to you is that if you become sick with another illness, or have concerns about your health, you should seek medical advice exactly as you would have done had there been no virus.

Kindest regards
Professor Spencer Beasley ONZM, MB ChB MS FRACS