Message from the Bishop

Dear Friends,

We are living in very strange times induced by the COVID-19 virus. On the one hand there are videos on social media of quite unnecessary panic buying of toilet paper. On the other hand we credit the Italian government with sound governance rather than panic as it locks the whole of Italy down in order to limit the spread of the virus. It is now becoming very clear that for a period ahead we will be in a worldwide recession as people simply stop spending money. Yet we might also observe in passing that if as a planet we were truly serious about climate change then we would dramatically decrease the amount of flying which occurs around the globe to a level which the virus has induced in the last week or so. There is no serious response to climate change which does not force costly change on what we have become used to as our normal way of life. However the strangeness of these times includes the paradox that petrol has suddenly become cheaper this week as demand drops.

In respect of church practice, especially at the Eucharist, I am inclined to not change the current advice until we have news of COVID-19 reaching Christchurch city – thankfully it has not yet done so. I am aware, as you will be, that church practices are changing around the world and even locally as (e.g.) people find ways to greet each other at The Peace without touching hands or hugging. When we do issue new advice we will be asking all parishes and schools to follow the same guidelines throughout the Diocese.

We had a very successful Wardens’ and Treasurers’ Conference on Saturday at St Christopher’s with over 70 in attendance. A repeat event will be held in Temuka this Saturday. I thank all who attended at the weekend and will attend this weekend. I especially thank Edwin Boyce, our Diocesan Manager for his organisation of the conferences and all Anglican Centre staff for their superb contributions.

It was a delight for Teresa and me to be at St Nick’s Barrington St in the Parish of South Christchurch on Sunday morning. While it is true that the delight included some lovely cream buns and custard squares for morning tea, it was lovely to be with the growing and enthusiastic congregation as we worshipped together. On Sunday evening we joined with a large congregation to share in Evensong at the Transitional Cathedral during which Gareth Bezett was commissioned as the Director of Theology House. Appropriately Gareth was our preacher and his sermon demonstrated that we have a fine communicator and theologian in this role.

 Gareth Bezett

This Sunday, 15 March there is a National Remembrance Service at 3pm in the Horncastle Arena (a change of venue from previously advertised Hagley Park, due to forecast of rain). As we approach the first anniversary of that tragic day last year, I want to share with you a suggestion which arose at a recent Inter Faith Hui, facilitated by our government. This suggestion is that we focus our remembrance on performing acts of kindness towards our fellow citizens so that we “keep alive the beautiful intentions that we saw last year to be as one, to come together in our diversity and to support all those in need.” To act kindly is to acknowledge our connectedness to one another, to demonstrate our desire to make the world a better place and to show that every person can make a difference to our world because all can choose to act with kindness. All major religions support kindness to one another. (See the advert and extra resources later this e-Life.)

Tonight I am attending a farewell for Ben Randell as he concludes his priestly ministry in the Transitional Cathedral – thank you Ben! Then, at 7pm Friday 20 March in St Mary’s, Timaru, I will induct Ben as the new Vicar of St Mary’s. All are welcome. Clergy red stoles please.

This morning it was a pleasure to meet twice with Jonny Baker who has been a well-known leader and guide for pioneer mission and ministry within the Church of England, including in recent years teaching and training for pioneer ministry with UKCMS. Within the focus on Regeneration of the Diocese, 2020-2030, I believe we must develop approaches which represent innovation in what it means to be church in the Anglican way.

Jonny Baker (3rd from R) with the Mission and Ministry team. Jonny is the Director of Missionary Education UKCMS.

Last week we sent out a special e-Life announcing the news that we have resource consent to proceed to the first phase of work on the Cathedral in the Square. This week we are able to invite all who would like to participate in a Workers’ and Site Blessing at the Cathedral, 7.45am Friday 3 April 2020. You are most welcome (see the advert later in this e-Life). This service will take about 20 minutes. Once the blessing is completed, the work can commence!

I am often embarrassed by how little I know but also pleased that I am still learning matters basic to our faith. A few days ago I learned that in our Year A lectionary readings through the middle Sundays of Lent (i.e. between the first Sunday focusing on Temptation and the last Sunday focusing on Passion and Palms) stem from an ancient tradition in which catechumens preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil were taught from four significant encounters Jesus had with disciples in the making. So last Sunday the gospel reading (if the Transfiguration reading was not chosen) was John 3:1-17: Jesus and Nicodemus. This Sunday we have John 4:5-42: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well. Then on Lent 4 it is John 9:1-41: Jesus and the Man born Blind and on Lent 5 we will read John 11:1-45: Jesus and Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Understanding the readings from this catechumenal perspective we see, first, that these readings might be more about our journey into discipleship and less about journeying with Jesus to the cross (as in Years B and C) and secondly, why these readings are so long: they give us the whole encounter between Jesus and these fledgling disciples.