Dear Friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading for Advent 4, Luke 1:39-45, Mary and Elizabeth, both unexpectedly pregnant, meet one another and the baby in Elizabeth’s womb  “leaped” within her in joyful acknowledgment of the divine baby in Mary’s womb (NRSV). The joyfulness of the occasion, in Luke’s telling, flows from recognition that what God has promised is coming to fulfilment. There are many reasons to be joyful at Christmas: presents, trees, decorations, special Christmas foods and, especially in a year of forced separations, family reunions (where these are possible). Threaded through such joy is the overwhelming joy of God being at work in our world to bring to fulfilment all God’s promises which find their ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Jesus, born in Bethlehem and longing to be born in every human heart. In that same spirit of joyful celebration of God’s fulfilment, I wish every reader a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Orange Traffic Light—Christmas Services—Holiday Plans
A very big thank you to all ministry units which have responded to Jo Bean’s request for details about your Christmas services. The results are available from our Diocesan website. If you are heading to another part of the Diocese for Christmas, this information will assist you to find a church to worship in.

As we begin the holiday season, I imagine most of us will stay fairly close to home, perhaps not venturing beyond the South Island. If you are planning to head to the North Island, a plea being made by Maori church leaders is that we give consideration to not travelling into areas with low vaccination rates.

Through the next four to six weeks our country is going to change, as travel to and from Auckland is opened up. Here in the Diocese, we will remain in the Orange Light mode until at least the next major Government announcement on 17 January 2022. Will our amazingly high vaccination rate—especially in Canterbury—mean we have minimal spread of the virus through the summer? Will the Omicron variant hit our shores? There is a lot to take look out for through these pivotal weeks. I ask for continuing patient endurance and grace as we travel through the Orange Light mode and work out our life in Christ together according to Government regulations and Diocesan guidelines and expectations.

Ordination and Appointment
Last night we had a lovely ordination service in the Transitional Cathedral for Bernard Walker who is now a deacon in the church of God. Congratulations to the Reverend Bernard! A very big thank you to Dean Lawrence and the staff of the Transitional Cathedral for hosting the service, to the musicians and singers from the Parish of Northwest Christchurch and to the Reverend Jo Latham for a much appreciated sermon.

I am delighted to announce the following appointments:

  • Father Chris Orczy to the newly established position of St Luke’s Inner City Chaplain. Fr Chris will take this position up in February 2022. The delight in this announcement is, of course, tempered by the sadness that Fr Chris will leave his current position as Vicar of St Michael’s and All Angels—please pray for this parish as we make an appointment of an Interim Priest-in-Charge and begin the process towards an appointment of a new permanent Vicar.
  • Rev’d Dr John Fox to be half time Assistant Priest in the Parish of Avonhead alongside his role as Chaplain to the University of Canterbury. John will begin his new role on 16 January 2022. I know he’ll be much missed from the Parish of Sumner-Redcliffs.

Other News
This past weekend, Teresa and I were able to visit South Canterbury and Mid Canterbury. One highlight was a visit to a fabulous Christmas Nativity Exhibition at St Augustine’s Church in Waimate. Dozens of Nativity scenes, in a wide variety of styles, are on display. If you are in or near Waimate between now and Christmas, please visit this amazing exhibition.

Another highlight for the weekend was participating in the 10 am Eucharist at St Stephen’s, Ashburton on Sunday morning – a service shaped around the theme of “Remembrance” as we collectively acknowledged the loss of loved ones through this past year.

While at the exhibition in Waimate, I bought a copy of Rosie Staite’s latest book, Faith Bright Shining: A Personal Memoir of Faith and Leadership: Stained Glass Windows to Kitchen Tables. Details are printed elsewhere in this e-Life. Rosie’s personal story connects with a number of stories and histories within the recent life of our Diocese—in Christchurch, in South Canterbury and in Mid Canterbury. The conclusion to these memoirs is a searching and provocative reflection on what it means to be Christian and thus what it means to be church in our current society.

2022 Lenten Studies information is now available from Theology House. “Sentinels: Discerning New Life” will be available at the very reasonable price of $5 each. Order your copies today. The concept of “sentinel” will be new for some of us, but it is well anchored in Scripture—and, handily, the weblink above provides the answer to the question, “What is a sentinel?” I encourage all readers to either join or form a Lenten Bible Study group and to use these studies in your journey through the Lenten season. Ash Wednesday in 2022 is 2 March.

This is the last e-Life for the year—the next e-Life will be distributed on Wednesday 19 January 2022.

On Wednesday 2 February 2022 the new Anglican Centre at Cardale House will host an Open Day for all who wish to visit to see our new premises—10am to 4pm. We will give more details in e-Life nearer the time. But the address is 95 Tuam Street, Christchurch. Parking is best in nearby parking buildings. The Archives will also be open.

Finally, I want to share with you one of my favourite Christmas songs, Love Shone Down, via this beautiful recording in this video.

Believe it or not, this Sunday is the Third in Advent. This strange year is racing towards its end!