Dear Friends,

Covid Level 2 (Limit 100)

We remain in Level 2 (Limit 100) for—it would seem—at least another month. The light at the end of the tunnel is the rollout of vaccine certificates sometime in November. This development (I interpret) means we can look forward to a summer of festivals and fun at a new Level 1 (subject to control of outbreaks of the virus via regional Level 3 lockdowns). It is not rocket science to predict that a new Level 1 will include masking in public places, compulsory contract tracing and (for some events and locations at least) presentation of vaccine certificates to enter an event or place of hospitality.
Tonight Standing Committee will weigh up the pros and cons of planning for Synod to meet again, either at the end of October, or later in November, or, indeed, at another time. All members of Synod will be updated on our decision by the end of this week.
As some parishes plan for popular events such as parish fairs in coming weeks, we need to attend to how we manage such events. But today it has been observed that a rule change has been promulgated for Entertainment and Events, which removes the limit of 100 people but requires 1m social distancing between people at all times. Fairs are not worship services and care should be taken to apply the appropriate regulations regarding social events and hospitality to such events.  (Events and entertainment at Alert Level 2)
Meanwhile, to be clear about worship services, the rules as previously set down by the Government remain, that is, with a limit of 100 persons. (Faith-based gatherings at Alert Level 2) Thus previously issued Diocesan Guidelines for worship services and related activities remain in force.
Working on a Prime Ministerial response to a question yesterday, it looks like churches might be exempt from vaccine certificates as a requirement for attendees. Nevertheless we will have to wait for the official word on this, including whether there might be an upper limit to such exemption applying.

In the news this week has been the rally organised in Auckland at the weekend, led by Apostle Brian Tamaki, who has now been charged with offences in relation to this event. It is important that the police uphold Covid regulations, not least because doing so honours the vast majority of Kiwi church leaders and congregations who have worked hard to minister within the regulations and not against them. A. J Hendry, an Auckland Christian youth development worker engages with Apostle Tamaki’s action in a blogpost and writes, “Whenever we talk about freedom within a Christian context, it is always balanced by other values that are placed higher than one’s individual freedom.” (the blog post can be read here). Those values include our love for one another and our commitment to keeping each other safe in the midst of a Pandemic.

Thus I am committed to a Pro-Vaccination message to our Diocese. I acknowledge that to be explicitly pro-vaccination may have a consequence of some in the Diocese with a different view feeling nudged or even pushed to the edge of our life together by such episcopal leadership. I ask you to reflect on what it means to be part of a society striving for the best outcome for all through an aspiration to reach 90% vaccinated or higher. This aspiration can only be achieved through a shared commitment to vaccination being more valued than a shared commitment to (say) individual freedom. The ability of our whole society to reach a new norm re participation in social events such as church services, celebrations, concerts and sports events is now dependent on a willingness of 90% or more of us to being vaccinated. I encourage any who are hesitant about the vaccine to consult with a trusted medical professional.
An update on the recent Get One Give One appeal from the Anglican Missions Board: “End of September 2021 Milestone. A significant milestone has been reached at the end of September- Over $115,000 was donated by more than 1660 generous donors! This means more than 19,000 people will be vaccinated, who otherwise wouldn’t be. … Let’s go for more people!”
My final word this week on Covid is to acknowledge that this is a challenging time as all of us live with uncertainty, constraints and disruption to expectations and plans. It’s OK to be tired. It’s important to find ways to refresh our reservoirs of kindness towards one another. Let’s pray for one another, encourage one another and seek the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.

Ordinary Life of the Diocese

Last week Teresa and I were able to be in the Parish of the Chatham Islands. We are very grateful for the hospitality shown to us, for the opportunity to deepen relationships with parishioners there, and to join in fellowship and worship at St Augustine’s, Te One. During our worship together I was delighted to confirm Steve Joyce. I thank Vicar-General Mark Chamberlain for his message in e-Life last week during my effective absence from internet communication. (My next visit to the Chathams will be different—a mobile phone network is being established there!).

Through the weekend of 16 to 18 October, the Parish of Christchurch St Luke’s is concluding its life together with a series of services. Unfortunately Level 2 restrictions mean that these services are by invitation only. Please pray that current and past parishioners will be able to lament, give thanks and say farewell through these services.

A few weeks ago another tragedy occurred in Timaru, South Canterbury when three young children were killed and their mother charged with their murders. Our Chaplain at Timaru Hospital, Alan Cummins, has had a significant role in pastoral care in relation to these tragic deaths, as relayed in this news story .

I draw your attention to the development of our new national Anglican Ministry Standards Commission and the appointment of the Registrar for monitoring our ministry standards, John Priestley QC, as reported on Anglican Taonga and highlighted in the news links in e-Life last week.

It is tempting to think that somewhere in our Diocese with its historical links to the Anglican settlement of Canterbury is the oldest church in the South Island. In fact, the oldest church in the South Island is St John’s, Wakefield. This weekend the Parish of Wakefield is celebrating its 175th anniversary and you can read about it here.

Some interest is being shown in NZ in the forthcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow, particularly because of a James Shaw-led party participating in it. Whatever we think about the merits of travelling at this time to such a conference, the conference is an important part of the global conversation about tackling Climate Change. Something we can all participate in is Karakia for our Climate—a youth led inter-church initiative calling the church in Aotearoa to pray about climate change. You are invited to join prayer vigils during COP26 (31st Oct-12th Nov) both on-line and in person around Aotearoa New Zealand to pray for our global leaders and for God’s creation. See further on the Climate Intecessors website.

Our Gospel reading on Sunday is Mark 10:17-31. There is a case for proposing that this is the most challenging passage in the whole of the Bible!