Dear Friends in Christ,

Our Covid situation remains unchanged after the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday: we continue in the Red Light mode, albeit with no requirements for contact tracing or for Vaccine Pass services (unless a local decision is made otherwise) and the possibility of up to 200 people present for an indoor gathering. (See our website for more details).

It remains my episcopal expectation that we continue to wear masks when gathering for worship and other meetings. Omicron is an airborne infectious disease and it is common sense to continue to mask. It is also strongly recommended that we ventilate our buildings (open windows and open doors) as far as possible.

I am aware that the question is being raised of how long we continue to hold Communion services with Communion bread only being distributed to worshippers. This situation is under ongoing review by myself and senior Diocesan leadership. It is also a matter on which I am in consultation with my fellow bishops. I know this situation is a trial but Omicron is not showing itself very receptive to our desire for it to go away! Before there is any change, we need to see the spread of Omicron in our Diocesan regions significantly diminished and with it anxiety levels about Omicron noticeably reduced. We additionally need the Prime Minister to declare that we have changed from the Red Light mode to the Orange Light or, even better, Green Light mode. I will be frank with you: I cannot see our situation changing before Easter.

Accordingly, it is opportune to remind ourselves that within our Anglican theological heritage we have a theological response supporting the idea of “spiritual communion” when the Sacrament of Communion cannot be received. It is found in the Preface to the Communion of the Sick in the Book of Common Prayer (in the language of its day):

But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, or for want of warning in due time to the Curate, or for lack of company to receive with him, or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood: the Curate shall instruct him that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore; he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.

In the updated language of A New Zealand Prayer Book, this theological response is expressed in this way in more inclusive language:

When people who desire to receive the Holy Communion are unable to do for any other reason, their desire and such prayers as they are able to offer ensure that they do spiritually receive the body and blood of Christ.

In the situation of Communion in One Kind only being received, we can bring what is known as the doctrine of concomitance to bear, in the light of the above statements. This doctrine teaches that the fullness of communion is experienced when we receive communion in one kind only because the body and blood of Christ is simultaneously present in each of the bread and the wine.

Announcements: I am very pleased to announce that

  • the Reverend Mike Hawke will be Interim Priest-in-Charge of the Parish of Sumner-Redcliffs from 1 May 2022 and that the Reverend Bob Tremewan will be Interim Priest-in-Charge of the Parish of Halswell-Prebbleton from 29 May, 2022.
  • Corinne Haines will be the Interim City Missioner, beginning this week. Corinne is an experienced chief executive, a parishioner of the Parish of Fendalton, a member of Standing Committee and Chair of the Crown entity, Ōtākaro Limited.

I continue to be appalled and alarmed by the support Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, is showing the brutal war Russia is waging against Ukraine. In the light of pictures this week from Bucha, this article underlines the frankly sickening (Revelation 3:16b) character of Kirill’s understanding of the Christian faith in relation to Russian self-interests. Of particular concern is the assumption that Ukrainians may not assert their identity as a nation and that killing Ukrainians in suppression of that identity is consistent with the way of Christ. It is not. I am heartened, however, by reading about signs that many Russian orthodox laity and clergy around the world, and in Russia itself are deeply opposed to the Patriarch’s leadership on this matter.

This Sunday, 10 April, Lent 6, Palm Sunday, we are encouraged to incorporate both the Liturgy of the Palms and the Liturgy of the Passion into our services. The Gospel of the Palms is Luke 19:28-40 which, ironically, is the only one of the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to not mention “palms.” The Gospel of the Passion is either Luke 22:14-23:56 or Luke 23:1-49. Perhaps the critical question this Sunday raises is how the cry ‘hosanna’ changes to the cry ‘crucify’ a few days later, well expressed within the opening lines of the recommended collect:

“God of saints and sinners, / These palms will dry and fade, / And shouts of ‘hosanna’ will change to ‘crucify’ …

Ngā mihi nui,