Tainui Day Centre launched in OpunakeAnother 'first' for Taranaki and BAF
With a sprinkling of gentle exercise, a quiz, laughter and a delicious morning tea the official opening of the Tainui Day Centre at St Barnabas, Opunake occurred on Monday 17 July.
The Tainui Day Centre is focused on making a real difference combating the challenge of loneliness and social isolation facing many elderly people in our communities. The Tainui Day Centre provides an opportunity for guests to connect and enjoy the company of others while participating in social activities, games and gentle exercise and a morning tea. The programme already has 20 guests.
Martin Hook, The Tainui Home Trust Board CEO said: “The Tainui Day Centre is an exciting new initiative of the Tainui Home Trust’s outreach, and fills a real need in local areas in terms of providing invaluable social interaction and companionship to those who may be lonely or isolated. We are delighted to be working with The Bishop’s Action Foundation and the Diocese to bring the programme to the Taranaki region.”
The wonderful St Barnabas volunteers and coordinator who bring this mission to life.
The programme is for those of any religious or cultural background who may live alone or may be in need of companionship, help and support. The programme is funded by the Tainui Home Trust Board with operational support from The Bishop’s Action Foundation.
Archbishop Philip Richardson said: “It is wonderful to see the Tainui Day Centre providing support and fellowship to the elderly in the Opunake and coastal community. The companionship, activities and laughter provided by the Centre reinforce that it is often the smaller things that we can provide that can leave the biggest impression on a person’s life.”
The Bishop’s Action Foundation is having further discussions with the Tainui Home Trust Board about the implementation of more Tainui Day Centres around Taranaki. This is an exciting development as we know there is a growing need for the programme, especially with our ageing population.
For more information about the Tainui Day Centre contact Andrew at the Bishop’s Action Foundation 06 759 1178 extension 12.
Story Published: 19th of July - 2017
Taranaki Cathedral Remediation UpdateJenny Goddard - Remediation Manager
Jenny Goddard is an architect, parishioner of St Mary's Taranaki Cathedral, as well as the Remediation and Design Manager for the work required to strengthen and beautify our southern Cathedral. On Saturday morning she was interviewed by Brian Vickery on Radio Hokonui to explain the purpose of the work being undertaken and to share her enthusiasm for the project.
Story Published: 3rd of July - 2017
Better together?Bishop Helen-Ann reflects on Te Pouhere Sunday
Te Pouhere Sunday
A few days ago, I posted a reflection on the feast of Corpus Christi. In it I pointed out that one of the phrases that the Apostle Paul uses frequently in his correspondence with the early Christian communities that he founded is 'in Christ.' I said that 'Paul was well aware of the frailty of humanity and its tendency to divide rather than unite. His answer: that as long as we commit to being 'in Christ' then we can make progress in participating in God's mission.'
Today we celebrate Te Pouhere Sunday, the day when we give thanks for our constitution as a Three Tikanga church (the day when, let's be honest many ignore it, or don't want to give thanks for it). In this Diocese, our bi-cultural relationships in particular are key, but we also acknowledge the many connections that we have with our Pasifika sisters and brothers. In mid-July I shall be spending a few days in Tonga teaching clergy. I am looking forward to sharing with them, and learning from their insights. As we enter into a period of parish review and renewal in the Waikato, sowing new seeds which we and others will, God-willing water, we will be looking to deepen relationships with Tikanga Maori. Together we will be discerning how best we can be 'in Christ' with one another.
Now you won't be surprised that space features in this reflection too! Back to Mars again, or not quite. I recently finished reading The Wanderers, a new novel by Meg Howrey. It tells the story of three astronauts who are on a simulated mission to the red planet. More than that, it is a probing study of how their loved ones are affected by their prolonged absence, as well as the effect of isolation on the astronauts' sense of identity.
'So it will not only be Mars that they will discover for themselves, when they come here. It will be a discovery of distance. An understanding of what the word far can mean.'
Three individuals living in close proximity to one another on a journey which will stretch human appreciation of how far one can go. In the novel, the astronauts interact, but it is the journey of their inner lives and that of their families 'on earth' that gives the narrative a feel of the infiniteness of outer space.
The opportunity and risk in any relationship lies in the bringing together different identities to make something new. An opportunity because that something new is full of potential. A risk, because it takes hard work and failure may at times be the result. As the different Tikanga chart their course to infinity and beyond (to quote that heroic fictional astronaut Buzz Lightyear!) the opportunity lies in the ways in which our journeys can align and support one another. The risk lies in our choosing at times to go it alone and to forget the other exists. Put simply, we cannot afford to veer into the territory of the latter. This is why Paul's words are both important and helpful. Important because they remind us of the central focus of Jesus Christ, and helpful because they point us to the means by which we stay together: it through Christ's body that we are united.
That deeper sense of unity has been on display in the response to the horrific Grenfell tower fire in London. Communities that have already been affected by terror attacks have instinctively come together to provide support and relief. But divisions have also been highlighted, which underlines the all too real fragility within society. Scratch the surface here too, and you can see where the fracture lines run. These grooves of vulnerability lie in all our relationships, sacred as well as so-called secular. The key is not to become overwhelmed, and that is why we need each other. We cannot afford to walk alone, rather together we must speak out against injustice and pain, advocating for that cry of mercy that is always a breath away.
Our feet are firmly planted on earth, much like the astronauts in the story who are only pretending to journey to Mars. But questions about our direction of travel, and our capacity to sustain life on the way are mission critical for us at this time.
How will we respond, and plan for our future?
The Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia changed its constitution in 1992 to have three tikanga equally alongside one another, working together: Tikanga Māori, Tikanga Pākeha, and Tikanga Pasifika. 'Tikanga' is a Māori word which when translated means roughly 'a way of ordering one's life.' It allows each part of the church to attend to its life and growth according to its culture. Note that the Province includes the Pacific islands of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa. Pākeha is a Māori word referring to those of European descent.
Story Published: 18th of June - 2017
Do this in remembrance of me...Bishop Helen-Ann reflects on the Feast of Corpus Christi
I recently re-watched the film 'The Martian.' Based on the 2011 novel by Andy Weir, it tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney who is left behind on Mars by his fellow crew-members who, following an accident presume him to be dead. The narrative follows Watney's survival, his discovery and eventual recovery by his crew. Early on in the film, Watney manages to grow a crop of potato plants. He does this by using his own waste matter as fertiliser, with a flame-filled balloon providing the moisture. As NASA (for obvious reasons) banned all hazardous material from the mission, Watney is stuck for ideas until he discovers a wooden crucifix belonging to a crew-member, a personal item that was allowed to go on board. Watney takes the crucifix, and makes a comment that in the circumstances Jesus probably wouldn't mind helping him out. The wood provides the fuel that enables the flame to ignite and over time, the crops to grow. By the end of the film, Watney has lost weight, his body has taken the toll of months of poor nutrition and exposure to the radiation of Mars. But he survives.
Many people know that I am endlessly fascinated by space, something I have my father to thank for. He instilled in me a passion for astronomy when I was a girl. Even though science wasn't my forte in school, arguably I've charted a heavenly path of another variety, and my love of space hasn't lessened; if anything it has grown. On a clear night, step outside and look up. How can we not be moved by the sight of stars and planets, and by the tiny bright dot of the International Space Station as it flies overhead on its 90 minute orbit of our planet earth?
Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, when we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist. Jesus took bread and wine, gave thanks, and commanded us to do likewise in remembrance of him. The fragility of Jesus' body, broken on the cross, became the tool for salvation, the bold reality of his resurrection brought hope and life to the early church, as it continues to do so today. Ordinary things: wood, bread, wine took on new meaning. Like so much of the story of our journey with God, life in its rawness became life in its fullness.
It is that fullness of life that we remember today. Christ's body, in bread and wine, becomes part of us when we participate in the Eucharist. This being 'in Christ' is something that the Apostle Paul talks about a lot in his letters to the various communities who received his letters. Paul was well aware of the frailty of humanity and its tendency to divide rather than unite. His answer: that as long as we commit to being 'in Christ' then we can make progress in participating in God's mission.
At the end of the film, Mark Watney is safely back on earth; he sits on a bench and spots a tiny shoot coming out of the ground below; 'hey there' he remarks. The scene then shifts to an astronaut candidacy class. Watney tells the class that facing the reality of death in space is an inevitability. He tells them to accept it, to get to work, and solve one problem and then the next, and then you get to come home.
At the end of our lives we will 'come home' to God, and the mystery of our lives will reach a fullness beyond our understanding. This day as we remember Christ's body, we give thanks that we can participate in the continuing of his mission on earth. We pray for all those who are caught up in the distress of this world; may we reach out to one another in love and compassion. May we have the courage to notice the little things, the tiny signs of new life; in Christ may our brokenness become whole.
Story Published: 15th of June - 2017
$400 for a Serving of Spinach!?Please support the UW Chaplaincy team for Operation Refugee!
Five years ago, Abp David spent a week living below the Poverty Line to raise funds for CWS. This year, it’s Brother Andrew’s turn. He’s gathered a team round him from friends of the Ecumenical Chaplaincy at the University of Waikato to live on refugee rations for the five days from Friday 16 to Tuesday 20 June. As I write, the team has raised over $2,500 towards the CWS campaign target of $80,000. The funds will go to CWS’s partner DSPR (the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees) working with Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. They’ll use it to provide medical care, food parcels, education, etc. Click on the link for more information. The typical refugee rations that we’ll live off for the five days are 1kg of rice, 300g each of kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, and flour, plus 200ml oil, a 425g tin of tuna, and 40g of spices. We can have as much water as we want (a luxury that few refugees get) but we won’t see anything like fresh greens, etc. unless we meet various fundraising targets. $400 gets us only one serving of greens – spinach or silverbeet, and a single lemon. And we can kiss coffee and chocolate goodbye for the five days! I did have a friend (who shall remain anonymous) offer to sponsor me if she could come and eat a creambun in front of me. Some friend! So come on, Anglicans, let’s help CWS meet their target. Go to https://cwsoperationrefugee2017.everydayhero.com/nz/uwchaplaincy
to donate to any member of our team! Kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui!
Peace and all goodness,
(Waikato University Chaplain)
Story Published: 13th of June - 2017
When two worlds meet!Bishop Helen-Ann reflects on her time as Chaplain to the Magic netball team
Over the past few months, I've had the honour of being chaplain to the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic netball team. I used to play netball at school, but the sport doesn't have an especially high profile in the UK, so I hadn't given it much thought until I came to New Zealand. I had an indication of its relative importance here during a visit I made to the St Paul's Collegiate Tihoi campus. The co-director of the campus invited me to watch a Diamonds vs Silver Ferns match on TV (that's Australia vs NZ for those not in the know of the sporting names!), and I was quickly hooked! So when the invitation came to consider supporting the Magic, I said 'yes' without hesitation. Chaplaincy in this context is very much a ministry of presence. The incarnational aspect of priesthood asks us so often to simply stand alongside, witnessing to our faith. So that is what I have done. I have gone along to training when I can, and been there at home games, where the post-match debrief in the locker room (or shed depending on the term you use) can be uplifting and raw at the same time. It has been an immense privilege. I've carried water bottles, the bag of netballs, and even done centre pass during training when they needed someone to help! But more than anything I've been in a position of learning. And this has made me reflect on what I have observed and experienced, and how this might translate into the life of the church. Here are seven points for further thought and reflection:
Firstly, the culture of the team matters. Something you learn quite quickly is that each netball team has a different personality. I won't go into too much detail about this, as I don't want to give away what might be described as 'trade secrets'! However one thing I realised almost immediately with the Magic is that each player always said ‘hello,’ and made me feel welcome. As an outsider this was incredibly affirming. As church, how do we welcome the stranger?
Secondly, it's really important both to keep the ball moving, and to treasure it. Now this might sound like a contradiction, so bear with me while I try to explain it as best I can! In a game of netball you have three seconds before you have to pass the ball on. Three seconds is actually longer than you might think. But you need to be strategic about where you pass the ball! The ball needs to be kept in the team's possession (you don't want what's called a 'turn over' to occur where the opposition intercepts and takes the ball), but it also needs to keep moving towards the goal area as quickly as you can! As church, how good are we at treasuring our inheritance while at the same time keeping it moving?
Thirdly, and related to the second point is the frequency of the word 'hustle.' I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard the word 'hustle' shouted from the side-lines by the coaches! It means 'get a move on'; don't be lethargic, lift your game! I have been tempted to use the word when processions of choir and clergy seem to be stuck (as Bishop I am always last in the line!). As church, how do we respond when we seem stuck in our ways, unable to move? One of the things that strikes you when you read Mark's Gospel, is the frequency of the word 'immediately'! Mark is in a hurry to tell his story, and I wonder sometimes how eager we really are to witness to the good news about Jesus Christ?
Fourthly, it's really important to focus on one game at a time. Every game counts, so a loss is a loss, you can't dwell on it, but must immediately switch your focus to preparing for the next game. Equally if you win, that game also is the in past, and the next game is like starting all over again. As church, how good are we at focusing on one project at a time? How able are we to move on from failure?
Fifthly, when things go wrong, you don't point the finger of blame at one person, rather you figure out how the team can all work together to make things better. That doesn't need much explanation, but it represents a fundamental learning point for the church. How often do we rush to a culture of blame, rather than deciding to tackle challenging situations positively together?
Sixthly, there's a fine line between becoming resigned to loss, and thinking you can still push for the win. At a certain point in a game, the goal margin between the teams can begin to widen. The crucial thing here is for the team to consciously keep playing as if they could win. In netball if you come within five points of the opposition at the end of the game, you still secure a point, and that can have a crucial effect on where a team sits in the results table. I've spent a bit of time in conversation with the High Performance Sport Psychologist, and he helped me understand the importance of this insight. It's basically saying 'don't give up'! As church, are we too quick to give up sometimes?
Finally, every person matters in the team: the players, the coaches, the physio, the trainer, the video analyst, the manager, the friends and families. Each person is valued. Again, I don't need to say much more than that! In our church communities, how do we value the gifts and skills that we bring to the table?
Some of these insights above are echoed in the widely read book about the All Blacks written by James Kerr: Legacy. What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life, 2013, Constable. I’d recommend taking a look at that book if you are interested in building on what these reflections above might teach us.
As the netball season draws into its final weeks, I’ve been incredibly grateful for the opportunity to gain insights into another world. The world of sport might seem far from that of the church, but as the above suggests, we have much to learn from it. Equally, through the conversations that I have had with players and staff, perhaps they have learnt something about the way in which the church can support and uphold people and celebrate the gifts that God has given them.
Story Published: 12th of June - 2017
To speak out or stay silent?Bishop Helen-Ann reflects on the current euthanasia debate
Reflection is always a useful tool. Sometimes I wonder if it is God's way of helping us gain perspective on situations, both good and bad? That's the role of the Holy Spirit, cajoling us, nudging us always to be the people that God is purposing us to be. The end of a day gives us an opportunity to review and think back on the day, and commit it to God's mercy.
I've used social media now for a few years, initially Facebook (which I no longer use), and more recently since I became a bishop both Twitter and Instagram. New worlds have been opened up to me, and I have been amazed at the networks of people that I have connected with. I've made friends and contacts with people all over the world, and particularly closer to home through the #lovethetron movement, a group of people who have come to be amongst my most valued and key encouragers and supporters, most of whom are nothing to do with the church in any formal sense. As a rule, I stay away from engaging in debates on Twitter, however one issue has prompted me to dabble my fingers on the keyboard of engagement, which has caused me to reflect.
I've made no secret of my opposition to any move towards legislating for euthanasia. Earlier in the year I joined a much respected retired bishop in making a submission to the parliamentary select committee. It was a short but important stand in support of some of our most vulnerable members of society. I won't rehearse the submission we made here, but my views are clear, and my Christian faith underpins my perspective.
My impression here in New Zealand is that our media does not necessarily report on this topic in a balanced way. I'd go so far as to suggest that it is biased in favour of euthanasia. So when I listened to a report on Radio New Zealand which highlighted the issue's current prominence due to a private member's bill being drawn, my interest was piqued, particularly when that Member of Parliament, the Act Party leader David Seymour offered the opinion that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders backed a change in the law. There was no debate or discussion; what he said was left as fact, unchallenged. When I subsequently read an assessment of the submissions made to the Select Committee which suggested the opposite (that 77% of those who bothered to speak out and make a submission opposed euthanasia) I decided in the interests of balance to tweet about it.
The response was interesting, and resulted in a relatively brief exchange which has left me in this place of reflection. I accept that polls can result in different views, and I respect the views of those who hold different views than I do. But with this issue, I believe that even if a poll indicates a view in opposition to my own, I cannot agree that a potential fundamental change to society is wise and morally correct. That's a pretty basic argument, but I wonder how we might engage in debate with grace and humility? This is something I pray for daily, and I admit I don't always get it right (as my Twitter conversation partner told me)!
I will happily accept a poll that the majority of New Zealanders are in favour of euthanasia, but that won't change my mind on this issue. I wonder how many of those people know about palliative care? I wonder if they have considered the slippery slope that any change could lead to? I wonder if we have thought long and hard about what sort of society we want to live in? One that values life, that offers care and support to people in the most dire of circumstances, who promotes hope over fear, a willingness to place all things in the hands of the God who created us and loves us more than we will ever know? The God who has known suffering and pain, but who also promises eternal life? That's a story that millions of people across our world live and die by, in hope and a belief that is not stupid or ill-formed, but which is formed out of conviction and trust.
'The value we place on life is the measure by which we are known. May we have the courage to stand by that conviction.'
That's almost the length of a 140 character tweet. And I'll leave it there, with reflective grace, and hope.
Story Published: 11th of June - 2017
Fear or Hope?A reflection for Pentecost
Pentecost is a feast that makes perfect sense in the Southern Hemisphere. While our Northern sisters and brothers are heading into the warmth of summer, in the South, our trees are ablaze with Autumnal colour. What better evocation of the Holy Spirit is there than an image of the wind lifting up golden leaves, or a tree with red leaves glowing in the sunshine?
In times of uncertainty, it's always tempting to revert to type. Are you the sort of person who is inclined to anxiety, or to hope, whatever the circumstances?
Over the past 5 weeks, the LiFT course has began its journey of learning and formation in discipleship. It's amazing to look at the screen on a Tuesday night and see all the different groups logged in and ready to go, along with the 7 groups doing the course at other times in the week. With 128 participants, this is an encouraging and hope-filled sign of new life and new leadership.
In times of uncertainty, it's always tempting to revert to type. Are you the sort of person who is inclined to anxiety, or to hope, whatever the circumstances?
Each Tuesday session of LiFT ends with Night Prayer from our New Zealand Prayer Book. Within the liturgy is a prayer that is often quoted across the Communion. It contains these words:
'The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
In times of uncertainty, it's always tempting to revert to type. Are you the sort of person who is inclined to anxiety, or to hope, whatever the circumstances?
The words of prayer remind us that whatever the present trials, new life is always round the corner. Jesus tells his disciples that he came to give life, that they might have it abundantly (John 10.10). So while fear and anxiety are part of what it means to be human, because we have a new life in Jesus, we have every reason to have hope, and to share that hope with those around us.
There are always challenges to be faced in life and in sharing the Gospel. But all of this needs to be held in perspective. We must be realistic, and have courage to face up to decisions that must be made to give our engagement in God's mission a sustainable future. This will inevitably mean letting go of parts of our identity, but we do so knowing that we are being continually formed into the likeness of Jesus. Change can be confronting, but the Gospel confronts us with the overwhelming love of the God who always go before us.
My prayer is that we can be people of gracious hope, confident in our faith and in our capacity to share the good news with those around us, witnessing that in Christ there is a new way, a way for every person, in transformation and in the hope of the resurrection to new life. May be we bound up in the energy of the Holy Spirit, as the first disciples were, and may we together participate in the new creation that God is bringing into being.
Story Published: 7th of June - 2017
LiFTed upPilgrims gather - the journey begins
In the Bible, numbers are important; they generally carry more symbolic meaning than literal. So every time we hear "40 days" we might imagine cleansing, renewal, and transformation. Likewise it's difficult to dissociate the number 12 from the Tribes of Israel or the Disciples of Jesus. 'Three' is forever bound to the Trinity and the notion of perfection. And when we read numbers in the 10s, 100s and 1000s we know it means 'a whole lot'.
So it's difficult for me not to reflect on the fact that last night LiFT welcomed it's 120th pilgrim (10x12, 3x40, and an undeniable sign of the Spirit in action). This pilgrim joined us just as we began engaging with the idea of journey and journaling; and now she is our travelling companion.
One week after launch, LiFT has been broadcast live to 8 hubs across the Diocese and the recording has been viewed by another half dozen groups and individuals. Although it is still 'early days' we are delighted to say that the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and that each week the groups are developing their own unique culture - local, relevant and meaningful. We are grateful firstly to God for this new chapter of discipleship in the Diocese but we would also like to acknowledge the support of the St John's College Trust Board. We give thanks that they recognised our innovation and have enabled us to offer this formation free. Likewise, we are blessed to have Bishops who are not only committed to discipleship but who have the gifts and skills to deliver such a quality experience.
We ask for your continued prayers for all people involved in "LiFT: Living faith Today" and invite you to join in these words:
Our companion on the road,
As we journey together,
Draw us out of ourselves and into you.
May your Spirit move upon all your disciples,
May new vocations be uncovered,
and new meaning understood.
May we break your bread together,
And usher your Kingdom in.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The image above is taken from the video which is recorded each week and distributed to groups and individuals.
Story Published: 17th of May - 2017
How many rooms?Bishop Helen-Ann reflects on the imagery of John 14 and the challenges faced by a number of parishes at present
How many rooms does it have?
Over the past couple of years, my parents have been involved in quite a complex process of moving house. It has been a time of immense challenge, and I have been inspired by their resilience, as well as challenged by the distance between us: I haven’t been able to nip over to Durham and help. They are in the process of moving (we hope and pray) for a final time, and this time they are using the opportunity to de-clutter, because their new home has less room. Indeed, that is a question that is usually asked at the beginning of any house search, ‘how many rooms does it have?’ And of course, one of the most iconic phrases in any nativity play is: ‘…because there wasn’t any room in the inn.’
As we get older, we tend to want less, and to be content with what we have. The growing realisation that you can’t take possessions (including property) with you when you depart this mortal life can focus the mind upon what really matters: relationships, health, experience of the world around us. It is said that at the point of death itself, our senses can be acutely enhanced. As the brain shuts down, we reconnect with what we first experienced in life – sound, smell, touch, taste even. The stuff of life that we have carried with us becomes less important as the very essence of our humanity is exposed for a final journey.
In case you’re wondering if I am being unduly melancholy, it has a lot to do with our Gospel reading, which is a passage I have (aside from its appearance in the lectionary) exclusively encountered in the context of funeral ministry. I don’t do many funerals these days, but when I was a curate in rural Oxfordshire, most funeral families seemed to take great comfort from the image that the Gospel reading gives us: the image of a large abode with room for everyone. It’s a domestic picture that we can easily relate to, and because of that I think, we can absorb the enormity of what Jesus is really saying, in an almost unnerving way.
One commentator on this passage reflects that ‘the fascination of this discourse is that it shimmers or hovers between several different points in time. At times the real Jesus at the supper seems to be speaking about the future, at times the risen Christ about the future, at times Christ present in the Spirit about the current situation of the Church’ (Henry Wansbrough in The Fourfold Gospel Commentary, SPCK, 2006, p. 193).
I think that’s a really helpful reflection for us, and particularly for a number of our communities in the Diocese (specifically the Waikato bishopric) who are facing real issues of the possible conclusion of stipended ministry, and/or the capacity to function as worshipping groups. Even if the processes of consultation, reflection, prayer and discernment leads to the conclusion of Sunday gatherings week by week, to disperse and find new homes or rethink how engagement with God’s mission happens in a context, that is not something to fear. Jesus has gone away only to prepare a final place for his disciples, to which he will gather them at the end of time. Even now, during their time on earth, his disciples are in him just as he is in the father, and can do his works just as he does the Father’s works. This is the basis of the whole life of the Christian community. And right in the midst of it is the simple statement of the central position of Christ: he alone is the Way; he alone is Truth and Life (a reflection again drawn from Henry Wansbrough).
To follow Jesus is to be inherently hope-filled, even on a dark day and even in the midst of great personal pain. I often wonder if the end of this Gospel passage should have in brackets the words ‘but not necessarily in the way you might have expected.’ ‘If in my name you ask for anything, I will do it…’ That is not an invitation to frivolity: ‘Lord please help me find a parking space,’ rather it is an invitation to deep trust that God will provide and in so doing be woven into the fabric of our lives, warts and all, joys and sorrows, everything about what it means to be human. Even at the very end of life, God is present, and present in abundance.
But first, we need to be aware of the reality of the situation, and repent of our inability at times to engage in God’s mission. This is a raw honesty before God that as human beings we so often become caught up in our own agendas and challenges, rather than faithfully responding to real need in our midst: need that becomes opportunity for missional growth. I say that in the full knowledge of the real challenges within communities that have been faithful for many years and have dedicated themselves to following Jesus. That honesty is always the turning point; repentance has a clear sense of turning a corner and beginning again.
Bishop John V Taylor, a former Bishop of Winchester who died in 2001 wrote this:
‘If the earth in its planetary orbit swung even fractionally nearer the sun it would become a different kind of world in which, if there was any sort of life, it would be quite a new life system. If human consciousness became even fractionally more conscious of God we would become a new humankind. This happened in Jesus. He was the new man because his entire being was in continuous response to the Father’ (quoted in a book by +John Pritchard).
This is a useful gloss on the Johannine Gospel passage. Jesus’ relationship to God as divine being meant his humanity was transformed; and through that our lives. That is why we are to be hope-filled. And remember hope isn’t a headless joy; hope is a struggle at times, but its foundation is full of light and a sharpness of clarity that if we look closely enough we will be able to grasp a glimpse of the divine reality that enfolds us continually.
So, may we enjoy being alive to God; may we be certain of God’s presence as we discern our future in the knowledge that whatever the outcome, God will hold us and lead us into the path that lies ahead. In the words of one of my favourite poets, Emily Dickinson: ‘Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul/And sings the tune without the words/And never stops – at all…’
Thanks be to God.
(Photograph of an image by Daniel Chang, a pupil at Southwell School, Hamilton).
Story Published: 15th of May - 2017
LiFT OffBishops' Vision for Discipleship launched
Last week the prelaunch-checks were completed for the new LiFT (Living Faith Today) discipleship formation venture. At sites around the diocese new communities gathered (with cautious hopes and delicious desserts) to start a new journey together. After more than one year's planning LiFT has transitioned from ambition to reality. In excess of 100 people are now registered in 11 different locations across Taranaki and Waikato; technology has been sourced, purchased and installed; 30,000 words have been poured into the first two workbooks; and wild logistics have been tamed (mostly). This is extraordinary, and we pray that it will transform not just the participants but the whole Diocese. So please join us each week and pray the following that together we may see God's work done.
Our companion on the road,
As we journey together,
Draw us out of ourselves and into you.
May your Spirit move upon all your disciples,
May new vocations be uncovered, and
New meaning understood.
May we break your bread together,
And usher your Kingdom in.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
LiFT (Living Faith Today) is a weekly commitment to becoming a better disciple. It would be easy to get caught up in the teaching of LiFT and forget that learning is only a part of the process. However,
- Each participant is encouraged to establish a daily prayer routine;
- Every week the groups gather together over food and pray for one another;
- The teaching is interspersed with reflections and discussion points which are intended to be contextualised by each groupo;
- Every night concludes with Night Prayer.
These processes actually change who we are; they re-form us in the image of God.
"Grounded in prayer we are equipped for discipleship and connected to community."
Photo Credit: Dessert & Welcome Evening at Charlotte Brown House
Story Published: 8th of May - 2017
Trans-Tasman female bishops' gatheringBishop HA crosses the Tasman to meet with episcopal colleagues
Story Published: 1st of May - 2017
Bishop Helen-Ann's Easter sermonMay the force (of the resurrection) be with you!
Easter Sunday 2017
Now, tell me: what do you see?’
‘It’s so much bigger than that.’
These words may well be imagined dialogue between the angel and the women at the tomb early in the morning on Easter Day. They are in fact the opening dialogue between Luke Skywalker and Rey in the trailer for the new Star Wars film released on Good Friday, or Holy Saturday with the New Zealand time difference.
If the four Gospel writers were in a competition to pitch a narrative for film adaptation it is highly likely that our Gospel writer for today, Matthew, would be the winner. Matthew is far more Hollywood than Mark, Luke or John. His tendency towards drama and special effects lend themselves perfectly to a cinematic screen. We get an earthquake, and the angel of the Lord descends from heaven rolls back the stone and to make the point, sits on it. The state-of-the-art Roman security team demonstrate that they really aren’t up to much; they are like corpses: a play on the fact that the corpse that was put in the tomb, namely Jesus, is himself no longer lifeless. You can imagine the scene, the angel sat there on the stone with his arms folded, job done, perhaps with an air of satisfaction on his face: he has played his part, death is no more, only life is left, and life in its fullness. Jesus is not there, he is risen!
A few days ago, the largest non-nuclear bomb used in combat was dropped by the United States on a suspected IS target in Afghanistan. Growing tensions in global politics have been evident since Donald Trump became President in November last year. The crisis in Syria continues to appal us with distressing scenes a few days ago of chemical attack victims followed by a denial on the part of the Syrian President that such an attack took place under his orders. Coptic Christians in Egypt continue to worship in defiant fear following the murderous bomb attack on Palm Sunday. These are just a few examples; I could provide more. But this, like previous years is the global context within which our Easter celebrations take place.
Nearer to home, the clean-up following Cyclone Cook is ongoing, and the Auckland housing crisis continues. Look at our media, and all you see is brokenness and distress, juxtaposed with the latest celebrity crisis and the poor soul who has just been rejected by the Bachelor on TV3's cringeworthy annual love-fest (you do understand that I have watched a few episodes purely in the interest of market research!). The real greater love is that expressed so elequently in John’s Gospel: that Christ died for us, and that he rose again, and that all that is good in our world is an expression of God’s love for each one of us.
As with Mark, the women are the first human witnesses to the resurrection, as they have been witnesses to Jesus’ burial. They confirm the truth of the story, and are appointed as apostles to the apostles. They are sent to proclaim; that is what the word apostle means: one who is sent. The absence of the tomb is emphasised by the fact that Jesus remains absent in the narrative until near the end. Suddenly, in the midst of what must have been a chaotic scene, he appears and we can only imagine again what that must have been like to his surprised and probably slightly bewildered followers. Jesus meets them and tells them to ‘Rejoice’; our translation of ‘greetings’ doesn’t quite make the point of the Greek here: the word means an emphatic ‘exuberant cry for joy’ the most joyful you can muster, and the form is that of a command: the women are ordered to be happy; it’s not optional, it’s real. Now this could appear a little uncomfortable to us, rejoice, smile, shout out, in church, really? We’re Anglican and we are in the Cathedral! Well the point is yes, really, yes, because on this day of all days if we cannot do what Jesus asks of us and rejoice at the good news of his resurrection, we are not fulfilling that which we are asked to do. We too are sent out to proclaim good news, and it helps if we can do this with some degree of confidence that may encourage others that we do have something important to share.
To make the point that Jesus’ resurrection is real, the women grab hold of his feet, and, like the magi at the nativity right near the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, they ‘worship’; Jesus confirms the mission that the angel had given them, instructs them not to be afraid and to go to Galilee where the mission will be lived out.
So the lifelessness on the cross becomes the life-filled presence by the tomb; death is turned into life, and nothing will ever be the same again.
But the danger of the ‘same-again-ness’ of the resurrection lies in the inevitability of the supermarket version of Easter, which began months ago.
The resurrection of Jesus does not begin or end in economic transaction: chocolate eggs and bunnies and the like (much as they are quite tasty! I don’t if anyone here managed the deep fried and battered hot cross bun filled with a crème egg and covered in chocolate sauce, icing sugar [interestingly named Christmas dust] and mini eggs at Winner Winner?! sounds more effective when said in one breath!).
Our understanding of the resurrection is grounded in a religious narrative that is thousands of years old, and evokes the story of the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. It was and is a powerful narrative. So where and how do we begin to understand that, and articulate a radical belief in God who raised Jesus from the dead? What difference does this reality make to our city, and to our region? Are we talking another language entirely and are we able to help others appreciate its importance for their own lives? In our world of deep scientific exploration and the need for certainty, there is little room for mystery, wonder and events that turn everything upside down. But perhaps the challenge doesn’t lie in a focus on the mechanics of the empty tomb: there was no 24-hr news coverage after all. It’s what we do with that overwhelmingly good news now that really matters.
The power of the resurrection lies not only in the fact of it having happened, but rather in its reaffirmation of life in a world where God is now set loose and everything is turned upside down. Through Jesus’ birth, God enabled a connection between the ordinary and the extraordinary – something far more profound that the display of objects from the past alone can ever hope to express. Through the cross and resurrection, God affirmed a hope in humanity that brought us through the shadow of death into an eternal light.
If we take hold of the rejoicing, then we have good news for the journey. If we allow the joy to enfold every fibre of our being, then we have strength to hold and to share when the road becomes difficult.
That is the message of hope that must prevail against those who would murder our sisters and brothers in Egypt who gathered in peace on Palm Sunday; that is the message of peace that must prevail against warmongering global leaders whose only knowledge of diplomacy is destuction; that is the message of courage that we need today to be able to proclaim our faith, to stand alongside people in need and to respond in overwhelming generosity.
At the end of the Star Wars trailer we hear Luke again: ‘I only know one truth,’ he says, ‘It’s time for the Jedi to end…’
But what does ending really mean? Not a conclusion necessarily but a beginning of sorts. As the poet TS Eliot mused:
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
The cross led to the resurrection, and ending and a beginning. May we so have the courage to proclaim that in our own lives.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, alleluia!
May the force be with you,
Story Published: 16th of April - 2017
Disappointment and HopeBishop Helen-Ann's Chrism Mass sermon
Chrism Mass 2017
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Those of you with good memories may recall that last year, I began my Chrism Mass sermon by reflecting on the possible message of the temporary speedometer that had been parked outside Bishop’s House. You might remember that I reflected on the need in ministry to be patient, to slow down, to take time to take stock. This year there is no speedometer but there are 4 traffic cones, a large pile of dirt and great big hole in the middle of the drive-way.
It all began just over two weeks ago. It was a Saturday and I was up early because I had a meeting in the Diocesan office to discuss a new process of clergy reviews. I decided to get ahead of myself and put a wash on. I sat down with a cup of tea, and had a moment of feeling rather pleased with myself at having ticked off one of the domestic chores for the day. Half an hour later I went to check on the washing and found water sloshing around the garage. Several towels, mops and buckets later I managed to more or less salvage the situation, and diagnosed what the issue was: blocked drains. I couldn’t do much about it at that point because by that stage I was in danger of arriving late for the meeting.
The Saturday in question also happened to be the feast of the annunciation: and this took on a somewhat ironic tone when the reason for the blocked drains was discovered – it turns out that the ultra-fast fibre that was meant to enable speedy and smooth communication had been thrust-fired straight through the house drain! I dare say the angel Gabriel may had a few challenges in getting the message to Mary, but blocked drains and dodgy internet cable probably wasn’t on any angelic list of things to watch out for!
A few days after that, I was in a café and spoke with one of the mangers there who I know.
She told me that she had been having a conversation with her 7-year old son about some decisions she was having to make about their future. She asked her son what he would do? He said, ‘Mummy you need to get one of those hats and talk to God!’ Initially confused, she realised that her son was perhaps recalling his uncle’s confirmation in Putaruru and was in fact talking about a bishop’s mitre. We laughed together at this thought – a bishop’s mitre, an antenna for direct divine communication?! If only! But in all seriousness, the young woman told me she wasn’t religious, wasn’t sure about God, but would I pray for her? Of course I said, and off she went with a smile.
Ministry, to put it crudely, is a mixture of blocked drains and profound pastoral encounter, and this is true whatever our context: ministry unit, school, University, hospital, daily life and work, urban and rural. Yet how many of us get waylaid by the day to day challenges of maintaining body and soul and fixtures and fittings (and that’s not just personal aches and pains!), so much so that we either forget or have little energy for engagement in God’s mission? Dwelling on disappointment can block the path to hope if we are not careful. Equally unhelpful are avoiding critical issues of sustainability, the extent of missional and community engagement, our Tikanga relationships, and the greening of leadership.
For too long perhaps, we have parked difficult issues and decisions leaving them for others to fix. This cannot continue; difficult situations of conflict and dysfunction require careful consultation and management for change. Change itself must be embraced; the Gospel is all about opportunity and growth (however small), not about avoidance and decline. We have much to give thanks for, much to hope for, and much to lament for, much to repent for, and with all of that, much to live for in God’s grace and mercy.
In our Gospel reading, one commentator (David Bartlett in The Fourfold Gospel Commentary ed. Andrew Gregory SPCK, 2006 p.31) describes how 'the people who come to Jesus for direction and healing foreshadow those who will come to church leaders after his death and resurrection. They are to be shepherds for the sheep; they are to be workers for his harvest. And the first responsibility of the shepherd and the worker is to declare what Jesus, and before him, John the Baptist, have declared: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’' The mandate is for us to share the good news of the Kingdom: Jesus Christ is Lord and all are called to be faithful to him and to God’s word in this time. This requires courage as well as patience.
Jesus also says: ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.’ It’s easy to feel discouraged isn’t it?
This year our episcopal vision has as its focus: being connected to community. This third strand is woven together with prayer and discipleship. In a few weeks’ time we will be starting the Living Faith Today course (LiFT); I am delighted that nearly 80 people across the Diocese have signed up for this journey of learning, formation and discipleship. I am confident that from this new vocations to lay and ordained ministry may, God willing, flourish. I am thankful for those who have stepped forward to help, and those who have responded to the invitation to take part. Just at that point when we start to feel overwhelmed there are glimpses of hope. But prayer and faithfulness are key if we are going to get anywhere.
The Benedictine monk and director of the World Community for Christian Meditation, Laurence Freeman writes about his time as a young monk working alongside his mentor in the practice of Christian meditation Fr John Main. He says this:
‘About eighteen months or maybe two years later, I went with him as a young monk with simple vows from Ealing to start a small centre of prayer in Montreal. Five years later, Fr John died at end of 1982. The community was still very small, rather fragile, but it had ut down one very deep root. It was the root of prayer, and it was a root that began to spread. It spread to the extent that now what you might call a community of Christian meditators has come into being around the world…that expansion reminds us…that the whole people of God, all the faithful of Christ, are called to the fullness of their Christian experience; that there is a universal call to holiness’ (Laurence Freeman, OSB Why Are We Here? Convivium Press, 2012, pp. 22-23).
Jesus’ call to action is grounded in a life of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer being the key aspect of what connects heaven and earth, divinity and humanity. And this is a process that connects us with one another in this Diocese, but also with Christians across the globe. The harrowing news of 44 Coptic Christians murdered by Islamic extremists in Egypt on Palm Sunday is part of our story too. We cannot ignore their plight, we cannot forget our sisters and brothers who live in persecution at this very moment, nor can we ignore all those who suffer for their faith. Lord have mercy on us all!
This Holy Week I encourage us all to pray for those who live in fear, whether nearby or far away. As we walk the journey of the cross let us not lose sight of the simple reality of these words of the former Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins who confirmed me: ‘God is as he is in Jesus, therefore we have hope.’ Let us pray:
Thanks be to God for our creation, preservation and redemption. Strong in his love, may we never forget our weakness, busy about our tasks, may we always remember that God alone enables us day by day.
We have received so much: may we have grace to give as freely as we have received. Amen.
(Prayer adapted from Raymond Chapman Following the Gospel Through the Year, Canterbury Press, 2001)
Story Published: 11th of April - 2017
LiFT - become a more faithful Disciple of ChristLiFT registrations hit 70!
The new Diocesan discipleship course - LiFT - is due to begin on Tuesday, May 9. With over
50 60 70 people registered so far this is proving to be a hugely popular episcopal initiative.
LiFT is a weekly formation course taught and designed by Bishop Helen-Ann to encourage and equip us for ministry. For the first time we are gathering people from across the Diocese in many different locations: Hawera, New Plymouth, Te Kuiti, Hamilton, Tokoroa, Waihi and Taumarunui. We are able to do this with video conferencing technology, which means that everyone can benefit from sharing the teaching. In addition, time will be set aside every week for each local community to share hospitality with one another and direct the discussion slot to relevant local issues. At the end of the year there will be a celebration and graduation ceremony for all those who complete the course.
There is no cost for this course.
Story Published: 13th of March - 2017
Bishop Helen-Ann's sermon for Lent 1Wilderness: challenge and redemption
Bishop Helen-Ann preached in St Paul's cooperating parish, Putaruru for Lent 1. The photographic image is of a cross that depicts the challenge of Lent on one side but the beauty of the hope to come on the other side. It represents the wilderness as a present place of testing but always with the capacity to be transformed by God's grace.
Genesis 2.15-17, 3.1-7
Well, here we are in Lent! How is everyone doing? Anyone given anything up? Or perhaps taken something up?
Our readings this morning offer us a deep well of wisdom from which to draw refreshment for our journey. From Holy haberdashery as Adam and Eve manufacture the world’s first clothing line to (I have to say) a rather typically weighty Pauline exposition on sin, there’s a lot going on!
I’d like to spend some time reflecting on the theme of temptation which is front and centre in our Gospel reading, and which of course is also an important part of the Genesis reading. And so back to my initial question for you all: have you given up anything for Lent, and have you been tempted to break your fast yet?
In my Ash Wednesday reflection this year, I began by recounting the time a number of years ago when I was struggling with haven given up chocolate for Lent. One evening in a moment of weakness I remembered that in the fridge there was a Cadbury’s chocolate flake that belong to Myles. I figured that he wouldn’t mind if I had it because it could easily be replaced, so I opened the fridge, reached inside and took hold of the chocolate bar only to discover that it was wrapped in a post-it note which said: ‘don’t even think about it!’ I immediately put it back, and felt very guilty!
That of course is quite a trivial example, however it does rather go to the heart of what temptation is about: it’s all about me! In our consumer-driven way of living, we are constantly bombarded by messages about self-improvement in the false hope that if we had that thing, that home, that person in our lives things would be a whole lot better! Well of course, we know that not to be true, but human nature is a strong and irrepressible force at times. The devil knows that Jesus is human and divine, and presumably knows that Jesus’ human nature might fall short of his divine essence. Quite helpfully in writing about this passage, Bishop John Pritchard puts it like this: ‘What Jesus faced in the wilderness were the temptations that would constantly snap at his heels throughout his ministry – the temptation to focus on earthly needs rather than their heavenly roots; to be spectacular rather than consistent’ to take short cuts rather than to put God first in everything’ (Reflections for Sundays Year A, Church House Publishing, 2016, p.87). I find this immensely insightful, because it’s easy then to see things from Jesus’ perspective, and in that view see our own lives and struggles. In doing that of course we find a deep sense of reassurance because of God’s love and mercy, but only if we acknowledge the challenge for us in it all first.
One of the difficulties, as my culinary example suggests, is that for some, we use the word ‘temptation’ too freely and in so doing lose its deeper meaning. My desire for chocolate wasn’t really serious; it wasn’t a matter of life or death. As our Gospel tells us, the real meaning of temptation is about a testing of integrity and purpose. As the commentator Raymond Chapman puts it: ‘the very sifting of the soul to find how much truth remains’ (Following the Gospel Through the Year, Canterbury Press, 2001, pp. 43-44). That is serious stuff! I wonder what you make of that image of soul sifting? If it provokes discomfort then sit with that, don’t resist it but ponder its meaning for your journey through Lent.
Jesus’ temptations happen when he is driven into the wilderness. The length and location of this narrative is crafted so that we might make connections with the story of Israel: the 40 years of wandering; the miraculous provision of food; the taking of Jesus up to the high mountain just like Moses in Deuteronomy 34, right at the end of the journey who glimpsed the promised land but did not live to inhabit it. Here in Matthew, the vision is expanded so that Jesus sees ‘all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour’ (vs.8).
While the wilderness is the place of temptation, what might be overlooked is positive realisation that the response also comes from the wilderness. I have a card that sits on my desk which was sent to me by the wife of a former student of mine who herself was ordained deacon in July last year. On the front is a full flowing river with a quote from the American writer and theologian Frederick Buechner: ‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’
‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’
The wilderness, it seems, might just be a place of redemption as well as testing. Remember the angels came to minister to Jesus; they came into the wilderness to where Jesus was.
If that is the case, then that has profound implications for what it means to be church here and now, in Putaruru but also further afield. I was talking with Labour MP Sue Moroney earlier in the week, and was telling her that I was visiting Putaruru today, and was recounting to her some of the remarkable work of faith and discipleship that is happening here. She mentioned that Radio New Zealand’s panel programme were apparently waxing lyrical about Putaruru only the day before! Divine coincidence perhaps?! But it is the case that so often communities like Putaruru struggle with an outsider perspective that is more urban focused. Yet this is short-sighted and the temptation is to trust the stereotype rather than really see the detail of what is actually happening. Now I am not for one second calling Putaruru the wilderness (as if Hamilton were an oasis!), rather what I see here are some wilderness situations being transformed by grace and faithful discipleship, and that is the unnerving attraction of the Gospel is it not?!
‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’
In his Lenten book Wilderness Taunts: Revealing Your Light (Canterbury Press, 2016) Ian Adams places the temptation narratives into contemporary contexts using words and photographic images. For example, we might think wilderness looks like a dry and barren landscape; but what if we took an image of a regular street with shops and homes; some inhabited and busy, others empty and derelict? Where do you see the wilderness, and what might a God-shaped response look like? The temptation perhaps lies in a desire for a quick-fix, rather than playing the long game of discernment.
The first of Ian Adams’ Wilderness taunts centres on identity, which perhaps goes the heart of the Gospel this morning: Jesus’ very identity as Son of God is being tested. How does he respond? How with Him, might we respond? Can you imagine yourself ministering to Jesus in his place of vulnerability; can you hold out the possibility that Jesus might be ministering through you to those whom you encounter who are in need? Maybe you are that person in need? Always know that God desires to know you in good times as well as in testing times.
I leave you with these words from Ian Adams to ponder during your week:
Who are you?
No really, who are you?
You have no idea.
You know that you are not the person you aspire to be.
And you are rarely how others think of you.
Who are you?
Some recognition that you do not know who you are
may be a very good place to begin this wilderness journey.
Let go of all your accumulated conceptions
to clear the way for whatever may be true.
Knowing nothing is a humiliation.
It may also be a gift.
And perhaps, echoing a name from an old story
of how God describes God – I Am
- the gift may be a discovery that You Are.
And that You Are loved.
And that You are love.
Story Published: 5th of March - 2017
Remember you are dust and to dust you shall returnBishop Helen-Ann's reflection for Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday reflection delivered in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Hamilton.
The Anglican-Roman Catholic Cathedral communities' service for Ash Wednesday.
Matthew 6.1-6, 16-18
Thank you very much indeed Bishop Steve for your warm welcome. It is very good to be here. The visible signs of unity that our joint-Cathedral services in Advent and Lent give are a vital witness to our City. We are all richly part of the Body of Christ, and I rejoice in that!
I wonder how many of you might have given something up for Lent? I recall a number of years ago struggling with having given up chocolate (which still seems to be a fairly popular option). One evening I had almost given in as I recalled that in the fridge was a Cadbury’s Flake that belonged to my husband Myles. I reflected that he probably wouldn’t mind if I had it, so I opened the fridge, reached in and discovered that it was wrapped in a post-it note which said: ‘Don’t even think about it!’ Immediately I put it back and realised the error of my ways!
One of my favourite prayers in the Eucharistic liturgy is the Collect for Purity; you will be familiar with its words:
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden;
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
so that we may truly love you
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
This prayer, which we say regularly perhaps gives us a tool to help us understand what the Gospel reading is saying. I often find it difficult that here in the Gospel we are told not to show off our piety at the very point when we are about to receive a very public sign of ash on our foreheads! As with the desire to better ourselves through giving something up, there is a danger in being seduced by the need for human approval rather than taking hold of the realisation that what really matters is our relationship with God. Lent offers us an opportunity to reflect on where we are with God: what is working, and what needs to change. We aren’t alone in that of course, because God desires to be in relationship with us, God is there to hold us when we fall short. In that sense, the Collect for Purity speaks of an awareness of the importance of the inner life, that God knows the secrets of our hearts, and it is there that the real work needs to happen before the outer life of service can be applied. Many commentators rightly point out that this reading misses out an important component: the Lord’s Prayer (which comes in verses 9-13). The Lord’s Prayer itself presents us with the model to follow and the reason why it matters: to enable God’s Kingdom to flourish in the here and now. If we attend to those words then that too guards against the human tendency to demonstrate piety at the expense of demonstrating what is in actual fact the glory of God: we are made in the image of God, even in all our brokenness and frailty. It is not enough simply to pray, that needs to be matched with outward action.
I came across a quote from an episcopal friend and mentor of mine recently, which sums everything up about this day very neatly indeed, and why it matters for our lives as disciples. Bishop Michael Perham was Bishop of Gloucester until his retirement recently. He has been an immensely wise support to me since I became I bishop, and even though much of this has been conducted via email in recent years, his warmth and generosity always shine through. These words have an added poignancy given that he anticipates this will be his last Easter following the cessation of his treatment for cancer. I leave you with Bishop Michael’s words:
'It is the sign of the cross that is marked on our forehead. It is not, of course, the first time that the cross has been traced there. For, when new Christians come to baptism, they are signed with the cross, the sign that inspires them to confess the faith of Christ crucified. The cross on Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our baptism. In the innocency of our childhood, or in the ardour of adult commitment, we received in baptism God’s grace for our Christian pilgrimage. That pilgrimage goes on being a struggle, so often an upward climb, but we are engaged in it still, thankful for that grace without which the struggling would have long since lost. Symbolically, on Ash Wednesday, we put the cross back, in ash this time as we recognise our failure, but the cross nevertheless.’ (Michael Perham, The Sorrowful Way, SPCK, 1998, p. 44).
May we recall our baptism in Christ as we journey with Him through these forty days.
Story Published: 2nd of March - 2017
Licensing and installation of the new Vicar of St Aidan's, ClaudelandsWho are you? Why are you here?
On Sunday evening (February 26th), the Rev'd Peter Sampson was licensed and installed as Vicar of St Aidan's, Claudelands, a role he will share with being Mission Pastor at Anglican Action. Bishop Helen-Ann preached this sermon:
One of the advantages of time-off is the opportunity to indulge in reading fiction novels. It may not surprise you to know that your bishop spends a good deal of time immersed in theological tomes (that is, when I can get to one!), so spending a few weeks in January reading fiction was for me, wonderful. As is so often the case, sometimes the most profound theological reflections are found not in books that purport to be about faith, but rather in those that dabble in the seemingly trivial and mundane. Much like the unwieldy divide in our reading from Matthew's Gospel: the sheep and the goats; the boundaries of what is real and what is fiction can seem quite blurred. And after all, we now live in the era of post-truth, or 'alternative facts'!
Appropriately enough for this evening's Gospel reading, one of the best books I read over the summer (or winter given my physical location with family in England) was called 'The Trouble with Goats and Sheep.' Written by Joanna Cannon, the book begins with the following: ‘Mrs Creasy disappeared on a Monday. I know it was a Monday, because it was the day the dustbin men came…’ Welcome to a sleepy cul-de-sac in 1976 England. I grew up in a cul-de-sac in Sunderland, and although I was only 3 in 1976, I do remember the 1970s, and the adventures that I got up to with my best friend who lived two doors away, and who was only 4 days older than me! Although we have since lost touch, the two of us were inseparable as children growing up. Like the author I am an only child, and adventures dreamed up in my imagination were usually enhanced if my friend and I were together! The novel tells the story of Grace and Tilly who set out to discover just what has happened to Mrs Creasy, and in so doing the secrets of the cul-de-sac’ occupants are gradually revealed. But what really charmed me about this book was that Grace convinces herself and Tilly that everything might go back to normal if they can find God. Pretending to be Brownies trying to gain a skills’ badge, they visit neighbour’s homes in the hope that they might find God. I won’t tell you what happens, I recommend you read the book! (The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, Harper Collins Paperbacks). But look closely at our reading from Matthew’s Gospel: at its heart is a story of discovery and revelation. Much like Grace and Tilly go on an earnest journey to find out the whereabouts of God, so in Matthew we are forced to stand with the righteous asking the question of Jesus about when exactly did we see him as a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison? The answer is uncomfortable, and it’s meant to be. Peter as you begin your new role here, you are charged with bringing discomfort; while caring for those under your oversight you are asked to challenge complacency and bring this community into a new place in collaboration with Anglican Action. This is a bold and courageous adventure, and people of St Aidan’s thanks be to God for your willingness to be part of this new initiative!
As you begin this new season, it is worth asking two questions:
Who are you?
And why are you here?
These two questions resonated strongly with me earlier this month as I made my way back to NZ after visiting family in England; firstly before I even got to check in at Heathrow I was asked about my nationality; second, in transit through Los Angeles, a very aggressive immigration official shouted out the question 'why are you here?' to each and every person waiting patiently in line; such is the changing landscape of the politics of immigration that the shift in US politics has created; the anxiety two days after the executive order was palpable, equalled by the crowds of protestors outside the airport. Since I moved to Aotearoa, I've become acutely aware of my passport; people occasionally remind me that I'm foreign, I'm not from here. I offer this to you not to engender sympathy, goodness knows my skin is thicker than that! But to reflect that our own perceptions of otherness and foreignness can sometimes affect people who are literally on your own doorstep. Questions of identity go far deeper than name-calling and assumptions about what a person does or doesn't know simply because they haven't spent their entire life in one place. Questions of identity are ultimately about how we reflect the light of Christ to one another, nothing more, nothing less. When we see Jesus naked or a stranger, how do we respond? With compassion or with disdain?
So who are you? And why are you here?
Discipleship is all about living faithfully to God's promises to us in Jesus - that because of Him we are bound to enable both ourselves and all whom we meet to live life in all its fullness. When a sister or brother is diminished for what ever reason, then we all suffer. The Gospel holds out nothing less than love, hope and mercy to all who turn to Christ.
'If you are more fortunate than others, build a longer table not a taller fence' so reads a quote from a billboard at the Canadian Memorial Centre for Peace. Christianity is inherently about building tables for hospitality not about walls and fences that keep people out. While that can at times be difficult, nonetheless we must always remember the Eucharistic table around which Jesus invites us to join with him in ushering in the Kingdom of God. I have a photograph tucked away somewhere in a photo-album that I took 20 years ago standing on the Mexican side of the border in Nogales. This is a town divided in two by a corrugated iron fence; you literally stand in streets of poverty looking over the fence at relative affluence. It’s stark and deeply uncomfortable.
In Joanna Cannon’s novel, Grace and Tilly listen to the local vicar deliver a sermon on our reading from Matthew. The girls are very perceptive in that they conclude that it is not easy to tell who belongs in which group; ambiguity abounds and as always, appearances can be deceptive. ‘It’s the small decisions, the ones that slip themselves into your day unnoticed, the ones that wrap their weight in insignificance. These are the decisions that will bury you’ (quoted from the novel). The homeless person in the street, do we walk by, or not; the stranger, do we ignore, or not; the foreigner, do we embrace or do we reject? These are the markers of discipleship, the invitation to each one of us. How would we feel if we were hungry, naked or lost? Interestingly the author of this book writes about her experience as a psychiatrist that led to the story she published. She writes, ‘working in psychiatry, I meet a lot of people who ‘unbelong.’ Those who live on the periphery of life, pushed by society to the very edge of the dancefloor…There is a silent herd of unbelongers out there…stitched through the landscape of everyone’s day, walking around supermarkets and standing in bus queues…’ (from the author’s website joannacannon.com).
Peter as you begin your ministry here, may you with others build a table of hospitality around which all may gather. May this table be strong and wide, with room for all. May it offer the fruits of God’s kingdom in abundance; may it be a place of welcome, not judgement, and may you see Christ in the face of all who take a place around it.
I close with these words by George Herbert, whose day is observed tomorrow in our Liturgical Calendar:
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.
‘A guest,’ I answered, ‘worthy to be here.’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat:’
So I did sit and eat.
(George Herbert, Love, 1633).
Story Published: 26th of February - 2017
They longed for me to speak ...Discerning the future
As we ask God to guide us into future ministry there is a great longing - a longing that can only be satisfied by the work of the Holy Spirit. At St John's College on Sunday afternoon we saw the next phase of the Spirit's work enacted as students from across Aotearoa attended the Powhiri. It is enormously encouraging to see the calibre of students gathered to be formed for ministry, and we in the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki have every reason to be excited.
In 2017 we have three young families and two single students under 25. Each is called to service in our Diocese but the detail and manner of their specific ministry are yet to be revealed. They represent a generation of young leaders who are community-oriented and passionate about participating in the Kingdom. They also represent the changing culture of the church. As we explore news ways of delivering parish ministry and serving others these students will discover that they are tasked with helping to make it happen. The future of the Anglican church depends upon its willingness both to honour our faithful patterns and allow new paradigms to be tested.
And so we ask you to pray for these students and their families: for Tim (Yudi, Tikva and Jonathan), Dan (Mai, Tom and Bobby), Natha, Lydia, Matt (and Leah). May they be inspired. May they flourish. May God be always with them. Amen.
Story Published: 14th of February - 2017
Reflections on Dr Hirini Kaa's ChallengeWhat does three-tikanga partnership look like in your ministry unit?
Last week a diverse crowd of about 100 people attended Rev Dr Hirini Kaa's presentation "Why Cringe at Waitangi?" at Just Food (Anglican Action, Hamilton). Dr Kaa is the son of the late Rev Hone Kaa and a professor of history at Auckland University. He was invited by Anglican Action to engage with our Prime Minister's comments around Waitangi day - particularly the "cringe" factor. However, he also raised a significant challenge for the Anglican Church. Although he celebrated the "struggle for liberation" and the "prophetic" move the institution made with respect to its constitution in 1992 he has challenged us to reflect on what that means 25 years later.
Te Pouhere (The Constitution) was an extraordinary event in the life of the Communion. It sent a message beyond our shores that our Province was serious about its pursuit for equality and justice. It enabled Tikanga Maaori and Tikanga Pasefika to explore their unique identity as indigenous South Pacific Anglicans. Nevertheless, Hirini argues, it allowed Tikanga Pakeha to forget and to become comfortable in its own culture.
So we urge you to reflect on where you and your ministry unit is at with respect to the way it honours our partners - our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. What efforts are you making to understand what your obligations are under our constitution. We are a people who profess reconciliation - but how is our 'profession' reflected in our practice? Can you be proud of your efforts to honour the Treaty; and do you value the contribution that our Tikanga partners make to revealing new aspects of God?
As you celebrate 25 years of Te Pouhere we invite you to prayerfully reflect on these questions and to explore the answers in partnership. Furthermore we encourage you to listen to Dr Hirini Kaa's presentation and read the resources he recommends.
May God be with us all as we seek to discern what we are called to be and do.
Story Published: 8th of February - 2017
Death of Archbishop Brown TureiDeath of Archbishop Brown Turei
Bishop Helen-Ann and Bishop Philip are deeply saddened to have to inform you of the death of Archbishop Brown Turei ONZM, Bishop of Tairawhiti, Bishop of Aotearoa and Primate of this Church.
The following has been released by Archbishop Philip and Archbishop Winston:
Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand – Media Release
Death of Archbishop Brown Turei
Media Release January 10 2017
Archbishop Brown Turei, one of the leaders of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia, has died.
He passed away peacefully in Gisborne Hospital last evening, surrounded by his family and loved ones. He was 92.
Archbishop Brown, who had Ngati Porou and Te Whanau-a-Apanui ties, signaled his intention to retire from ordained ministry earlier last year.
He had planned to step down as Bishop of Tairawhiti, and also to resign as Archbishop and Pihopa o Aotearoa – or leader of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, the Maori arm of the Anglican Church – in March this year.
“Maoridom and the Anglican Church have lost a leader of enormous stature. A gentle and wise leader, who brought grace, compassion and insight to all that he did and said,” says Archbishop Philip Richardson.
Archbishops Philip Richardson and Winston Halapua, who have shared the leadership of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia with Archbishop Brown, say they have lost not only a colleague but also a dear friend.
Archbishop Brown was ordained a deacon in 1949 and a priest the following year. He was chosen as Archdeacon of Tairawhiti in 1982, and has had a long association with Hukarere Maori Girls' College.
He became the chaplain there in 1984, and he also served as chaplain of the Napier Prison for four years.
His election as Te Pihopa ki Te Tai Rawhiti in 1992 followed the reforms of the Anglican church here in 1990.
In 2005 he was elected Te Pihopa o Aotearoa, and in 2006 he was installed as Primate and Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa-New Zealand and Polynesia. Last year he was made on Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for his services to the church.
Archbishop Brown was highly respected for his ability to relate to people across all races and cultures and was the oldest Primate in the Anglican Communion.
The church is being asked to pray for Archbishop Brown’s wife Mihi, and his children, grandchildren and extended whanau. Funeral arrangements are yet to be finalised.
Rev’d Jayson Rhodes
Communications Advisor Anglican Church
(Editor’s note: The term primate denotes a chief archbishop or senior bishop of a province in the Anglican Communion. Te Tairawhiti is the tribal region on the eastern seaboard of the North Island.)
Article and image from Anglican Taonga.
Story Published: 10th of January - 2017
Building a Home Together?Bishop Helen-Ann's Christmas sermon
Bishop Helen-Ann preached at Midnight Mass at the Waikato Cathedral of St Peter, Hamilton.
I have experienced many unusual things since I became bishop of Waikato, but last Sunday I found myself on all fours with a rather unlikely episcopal scenario trying to fix Joseph’s head back on his body. I had my suspicions about this nativity scene when I first saw it: Jesus was disproportionately huge when compared to Mary and Joseph, and had such a startled look on his face that he looked like he should be in another genre, perhaps a zombie nativity? Mary, as I discovered was actually a statue with two individuals, the other head was covered in a blue cloth giving Mary a somewhat alternative sort of look with a mysterious bulge off to her left; but clearly with Joseph there was a major problem. I stood surveying the scene with Eric, church stalwart from a farming background, a man of choice words.
‘Hmm, Joseph doesn’t look too good’, I said,
‘yep’, replied Eric, ‘he’s lost his head’.
‘Yes’, I replied, ‘I wonder what’s happened there?’
‘I don’t blame him’, said Eric, ‘if I had gone through everything he had, I’d have lost my mind’.
‘Oh’, I replied, ‘well shall we have a look for his head?’
‘Yep’, said Eric, ‘I can’t get down there because of my hip, but you go ahead bishop’.
Me, on all fours, sound muffled as I was by this stage rooting round in poor lighting underneath an altar.
‘I think I’ve found it! Oh hang on, that’s the tea-towel…wait a minute, ah got it!’ And up I came victoriously holding Joseph’s head aloft!
‘Right’, said, Eric, ‘can you put it back on?’
‘I’ll try’, was my reply.
After a very careful balancing effort of head on shoulders with a strategically placed tea-towel, Joseph seemed ok, though his head maintained a very off-centre lean towards giant zombie baby Jesus.
‘Good as gold’, said Eric.
There is something quite reassuring about depictions of the nativity because you can almost always guarantee that something is not going to go quite to plan. Whether it is an appearance by spiderman guarding the holy family, or a wise man or two going on strike, or maybe even the presence of starfish and crocodiles by the crib. Or the vicar trying to talk to a classroom of children about the true meaning of Christmas: and a small boy insisting that Jesus’ name was in fact Wayne because we all know the carol ‘A Wayne in a manger’, or slightly problematically with said carol, unfortunate rumours that someone has gone away with the major. On the other end of the spectrum are attempts to make Jesus’ birth somehow fit modern culture (however that may be construed). One of the more interesting depictions of Christ’s birth that I saw recently was a nativity scene known as ‘Hipster Jesus’ featuring Joseph taking a selfie with Mary and Jesus (Mary incidentally looking like she had given birth in a private hospital and showing no signs of the reality of labour and birth), the wise men delivering amazon boxes on Segway scooters; and a cow feeding on gluten-free cattle feed. The reality is that Jesus’ birth was probably more bogan than hipster. Jesus was born into the politically complex and messy world of the 1st century Roman occupied province of Judaea, and we might say, what has changed? How can this birth that we celebrate this night bring hope to the desperate and needy, to the streets of Aleppo, Berlin, and places of terror and displacement? A year ago I reflected that the birth of Jesus reflected a new hope for the galaxy; this year, we might say indeed that a long time ago in the Roman Empire far far away a rogue one was born to herald hope in the midst of terror and anxiety.
So how can we truly say that Jesus’ birth is good news to a broken world? ‘The word became flesh and lived among us’ John tells us in his grand narrative of faith that takes us right back to the very origins of life itself, and here perhaps lies a clue that gives meaning to the hope promised through this most wondrous of births?
I live in the north of our city, and on my morning walk I pass houses being built. The expansion of Hamilton is rapid. Increased house building raises questions about what it means to make communities. A house alone doesn’t make a community; it needs more than a building. Our identity is bound up both with where we born but also where we live, and with a sense that both are expressed in an understanding of life as a journey or a pilgrimage. When John tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us he is actually saying that the Word tabernacled or pitched its tent in our midst. Identity through place but always open to both movement and new understanding.
In his book ‘The Home we Build Together’ the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth Jonathan Sacks asks readers to imagine three different scenarios each involving the arrival of 100 strangers who have been wandering around the countryside looking for a place to stay. The first 100 are greeted warmly. Their host gives them empty rooms and tells them to stay as long as they wish. Everything is done for them, but they remain as guests in someone else’s home. The second 100 wanderers have plenty of money and they are welcomed at a hotel. Theirs is a purely contractual relationship with the hotel’s owner; but so long as they don’t disturb the other guests they are told they can stay for as long as they wish. The third 100 are welcomed by the mayor and civic leaders. There is no house or hotel available but the community does offer some land, building materials and help with the laboring. Their offer is: ‘Let us do this together.’ These three parables offer three different ways of thinking about society and identity. The first 2 lead to isolation, the third to integration and the sharing of gifts . Rabbi Sacks wrote this book in 2007, well before the current crisis of displaced peoples and refugees seeking welcome and a place to call home. The challenge for each of us is how might we encourage a more open and inclusive society that is genuinely interested in a sharing of gifts, with all the vulnerability that brings?
Jesus’ birth is traditionally depicted in a stable because there was no room in the inn. But a more accurate reading of that narrative is in fact that Jesus was born in a family home, albeit not in the usual guest accommodation (because that was full) but the room in the lower part of the house which would have been reserved for animals . The point is that Jesus was not born in isolation, but right in the middle of the messiness and complexity of family life. That puts the incarnation in our midst, and challenges us out of comfort and complacency into a profound recognition that our lives are bound up in the lives of others: the least, the last and the lost.
Love Trumps hate; may the force be with you, and Happy Christmas!
 Jonathan Sacks The Home We Build Together. Recreating Society’ Continuum, 2007, pp. 13-15.
 I am grateful to the Rev’d Dr ian Paul for this reminder on his blog post ‘Preaching Christmas without a stable’ (www.psephizo.com).
Story Published: 25th of December - 2016
Living Faith TodayLiFT - Discipleship Formation Programme
From May next year Bishop Helen-Ann will be offering a discipleship formation course to the whole Diocese. To find out more about this excellent opportunity please take a look at the new online demonstration and video introduction from Bishop Helen-Ann.
Story Published: 21st of December - 2016
Press ReleaseUpdate: Diocesan Office Relocation Review
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Recently we communicated with you regarding our exploration of the location of the office of the Bishop of Waikato and the Hamilton-based Diocesan administration. We said that we would provide a further update in December. We continue to engage in a review of our assets, as indicated in the Road Map to Synod. As such, this update is simply to say that the review is ongoing, and no decisions have been made as yet. We are hoping to share some proposals regarding a possible move of the office of the Bishop of Waikato and the Hamilton-based Diocesan administration with Diocesan Standing Committee at its first meeting of 2017 in February. We ask your continued prayers for this important work discernment as we seek to find the best way forward to engage in God’s mission.
In Advent hope,
Story Published: 14th of December - 2016
Waikato Cathedral celebrates its 100th birthday!A day of feasting and hope!
Archbishop Philip, Bishop Helen-Ann and Bishop Ross, the Bishop of Auckland. Bishop Helen-Ann holds the crozier that was symbolically returned to the Diocese by Bishop Ross during the Centenary Eucharist.
It is perhaps fitting that the 100th birthday of the Waikato Cathedral of St Peter fell close to the third Sunday of Advent. Traditionally known as 'Gaudete' Sunday (reflected in the rose or pink coloured candle of the Advent wreath), the third Sunday of Advent is a Sunday of rejoicing and hope amidst the rather stern imagery of this season that leads up to the birth of Christ. Following a year of celebrations and occasions to mark the 100th anniversary of the church's opening, including an exhibition in the Waikato Museum, and various festivals, today's Eucharist was a jubilant conclusion to the festivities as we also looked forward in hope. Local MPs David Bennett, Tim Macindoe and Sue Moroney joined Hamilton City Mayor Andrew King and members of the City Council in an acknowledgement of the important relationship that a Cathedral has with the city in which it stands. Clergy and people from across our Three Tikanga church joined in worship that was enhanced by beautiful music of the Cathedral choir who had recruited a very special new member: Dame Malvina Major. Dame Malvina graciously agreed to come out of retirement to sing in public during Holy Communion. She has also agreed to be the patron of the new Cathedral foundation, which in due course will seek to raise funds for choral and organ scholarships, restoration of the Cathedral organ, support for the Cathedral's city facing ministry, and earthquake strengthening.
The service was started by a mihi from Waikato Missioner the Rev'd Ngira Simmonds, representing the Hui Amorangi Te Manawa O Te Wheke. We acknowledged the interwoven relationships of our pilgrimage in faith, and the importance of the sacred hill of Pukerangiora upon which the Cathedral stands, a place of prayer over hundreds of years. Dean Peter Rickman was joined by Dean Peter Beck, the Dean of Taranaki, and previous Cathedral Deans. Archbishop Philip preached a sermon in which he challenged the Cathedral community to use the Beatitudes as a lens through which to view the next season of its engagement in God's mission. Towards the end of the service, Archbishop Philip blessed a new Cathedral welcome banner, a beautiful and intricately woven tapestry of colour and story crafted over many months by the Ladies of the Order of Fine Things (LOFT).
When the Cathedral was opened in 1916, Hamilton was still part of the Diocese of Auckland. The Diocese of Waikato was not founded until 1926. During the Eucharist, a very special crozier was symbolically returned to the Diocese by Bishop Ross Bay, the Bishop of Auckland. Some years ago, the previous Dean of Waikato, the Rev'd Jan Joustra discovered the 'hook' of the crozier in a cupboard. It was in poor repair, and it was not until recently during restoration and cleaning by Canon Dr Bryan Bang and Cathedral Sacristan Daryl Smart that a Latin inscription was revealed. The inscription described how the crozier was gifted by Waikato clergy in 1922 to the Bishop of Auckland in the hope that he might gift it back when a new Diocese was formed. Although this occasion must have taken place, the crozier was lost, and so today Bishop Ross handed it back to ensure that it would be used once more. It was a fitting reminder to us of our wider links particularly to the Diocese of Auckland, but also of our whole church. This was a point well made by Archbishop Philip in his opening remarks of his sermon: that a Cathedral is part of a much wider Diocesan, Provincial and ultimately worldwide Communion family.
To quote words from former UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarsköld (1905-1961), 'For all that has been, thanks. To all that shall be, yes!'.
Story Published: 11th of December - 2016
Bishop Helen-Ann reflects on her recent visit to Fiji with the Youth CommissionBuilding the church on hope and resilience
Bishop Helen-Ann shares some reflections on her recent week in Fiji, as Youth Liaison Bishop to the Three Tikanga Youth Commission.
If you travel three hours’ drive north from Suva, you reach the turn-off that leads to the village of Maniava. This was a journey I took last Saturday, along with Archbishop Winston and forty young people from across our Anglican church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Forty slow minutes passed on a dirt road, occasionally encountering cattle and horses tethered by the roadside. Thankfully the condition of the road meant we couldn’t travel very fast, which was just as well, as some of the animals looked as though they might have taken a step or two directly into our path! On occasion the road dipped, and a narrow bridge enabled us to cross a river; it became painfully obvious that any small amount of flooding could mean that whole communities would be cut-off completely from the outside world. Yet for all its remoteness, here we were journeying into the heart of our faith community, the Body of Christ, part of the rich and often complex tapestry that makes up our Three Tikanga church. The ‘outside world’ for a few hours at least was far from my mind, as I struggled both to comprehend the reality of what I was seeing, and the overbearing intensity of the heat. When the photograph was taken that accompanies these reflections, I was forced to bend over slightly, not because of any particular intention of mine to reach the height of the amazing and resilient children that were helping me, but because I was about to pass out due to the heat; the spade was literally holding me up! My water bottle was empty, and I desperately needed shade. Thankfully both came eventually, and I recovered. But it was a stark reminder to me of our sheer vulnerability as human beings.
Vulnerability was in many ways a constant theme of our week on the Tikanga Youth Exchange. Every two years, young people from across our church come together in a particular context, for a week’s worth of shared work, reflection and prayer. In many ways this is about the temporary formation of community for a (hopefully) longer-term gain; an intentional way of coming together. With a focus on following in the footsteps of Jesus as his disciples, there is rawness to the time spent in one another’s company: openness and honesty, joyfulness and tears, and sheer wonder at new, shared experiences. Rawness can come though a response to the glimpsing of a magnificent view; the beauty of a tiny but vibrantly coloured flower; the incredible aroma of frangipani placed round necks in a welcome gesture. This is surely what lies at the heart of being human: to recognise and marvel even just for a split second at our place in the world; to sense the beauty of God’s creation; to see Christ in the eyes of the one we share the peace with during the Eucharist; to struggle with people and situations we find intensely difficult. For all the politics of our church, and the messiness of our broken relationships, when it comes down to it, the simple assertion that God is a God of love is all we need at times to be able to put one step in front of another.
Vulnerability shone through, not least because our focus for the week was on climate change. We preferred to use the phrase ‘climate action’ with a hope that we could somehow remember that beyond the talk and obvious science, at some point we do need to do something about it! When we arrived in Maniava, I for one was glad of the ceasing of the bumpy journey. The cool air conditioning of the car however was replaced by the heat and humidity of the mid-point of the day. It was clear to me, that we had arrived into what looked like a temporary place, there were no homes as such, rather tents and precarious looking tin-structures. It turned out that the tin that made up the homes was what was recovered scattered across the surrounding valley and hillsides. Maniava was virtually destroyed in 2015 by Cyclone Winston. One of the effects of climate change is increased everything: increased heat, increased sea levels, increased intensity of tropical storms. The effects are real, and they are happening now.
The people of Maniava were, in spite of their immense obvious struggles with a lack of adequate and safe shelter, filled with joy at their welcome to us; they sang praises to God; they even provided a chair for this bishop so I didn’t have to sit on the ground (just one of so many examples of gracious hospitality that I found deeply humbling). Following our welcome, we left the relative comfort of the shade and headed outside and up a hill to the site where the new church was to be built. My task was to help Archbishop Winston dig the first soil for the foundations, and bless the land. The children from the village eagerly gathered round to help me, two of them spent the whole time clearing ants away from my toes, and others put their hands with mine as we pushed the spade downwards in the dry and dusty soil. It was heavy and hot work, the heat and humidity ever present.
My abiding reflection on this whole experience is that we cannot ignore the plight of the most poor and vulnerable, those who inevitably suffer the most when weather systems form, and wreak havoc. The increasing intensity of tropical weather systems are most likely a direct result of humanity's misuse of the earth and its resources. We all have a part to play now in safeguarding the future for generations to come. It is our ignoring our stewardship of God’s creation that is the issue here; and with that I emphatically condemn Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki in his irresponsible and utterly abhorrent comments about the earthquakes and other natural disasters that have affected both islands. Religious leaders have a duty to speak out when bad theology is at play, and there is no basis whatsoever for what he says in the name of God. The only sin here is our sin of forgetting how we are called to nurture creation with God. Hence the urgent need to act on climate change, and act now. While nation states work through detailed and continued political negotiations on reducing carbon emissions, we can start by simply using less plastic, recycle more; be kind to one another, and the land we live on and amongst. Kindness and compassion are active aspects of human nature; Paul is quite intentional in his naming of the fruit of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians. Bearing the fruit of God’s Kingdom has to start with a change in attitude from selfish gain to seeking the welfare of our neighbour, wherever and whoever that might be. It is only when we do that that real transformation can be enacted. This season of Advent, let us commit and recommit to our calling as disciples that all may be transformed through the life of the Holy and Blessed Trinity, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Above all, let us be people of hope, since above all, faith is so often hope in things unseen, yet sustained by the God who goes before us so that we might never be alone.
Story Published: 5th of December - 2016
Episcopal Vision Exploring FutureAsset Review considers relocation of Diocesan Office
The governance body of the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki, led by Bishop Helen-Ann and Archbishop Philip, is seriously exploring the possible relocation of the Diocesan Office. This is part of the major asset review that was announced at Synod 2016. While finance is a significant factor in the decision-making process, the location of the Bishop of Waikato, and the space in which her team’s ministry is offered is also critical.
2017 represents the third year of our Episcopal Vision with its special emphasis upon connection to community. As a way of celebrating and honouring that connection the Bishops propose that a stronger relationship with a regular worshipping community in a parish with higher social needs is most appropriate. One of the locations being considered as a new home for the Diocesan Office is the Parish St David’s and St George’s, Dinsdale, Hamilton. We are deeply grateful for the hospitality and grace extended by that parish as we explore this exciting opportunity together.
Therefore, although no final decision has been made we feel it is important to be transparent about our vision, and desire to be good stewards of our resources. It is hoped that a final decision will be reached later in December, and ask for your prayers as we discern God’s will in this matter.
Story Published: 1st of December - 2016
Piako Archdeaconry Quiet day AddressGospel Truth
Bishop Helen-Ann led a quiet day for Piako Archdeaconry clergy today at the Riches' Retreat near Morrinsville. The theme was Preparing for Advent, and her first address is below.
The image of Jesus is by a Southwell School student, produced in 2014 for The Southwell Gospel of Mark.
‘What is truth?’ asks Pilate, failing to recognise that the question should in fact have been ‘who is Truth?’. The answer of course, was standing right in front of him.
I am sure we have all been in that place, of posing a question not realising that the answer is staring us in the face?
Today in our quiet day I want to explore some themes that I hope will help us to engage us with the season of Advent which is almost upon us. I want to begin almost where this Sunday begins, with the image of Christ the King and the powerful question that Pilate asks: ‘what is Truth’? In my second address, which will come as part of midday prayer, we will ponder the theme of waiting. Advent is all about waiting. Then finally, with our Eucharist this afternoon, we will think about beginnings and endings, and the image of home-coming which Jesus gives us in John chapter 14 (a passage that I certainly have encountered most of all in funeral ministry).
The images that accompany each reflection were made by pupils at Southwell School, originally for the Southwell Gospel that I commissioned for Advent 2014: the Year B Gospel of Mark that I carried around with me on my travels. The first is an image of Jesus; the second, a star, that points the way to birth but for which we must wait until the right time in hope; and finally, a home. As you listen to the Scripture read and to the words of reflection which follow, you may have your own images that you bring, or that resonate with you strongly. Let those images rest with you and inspire your thoughts and your ongoing reflections over the coming weeks towards Christmas.
This is a quiet day, and so I invite you into a space of silence for the next few hours. When it comes to lunchtime, we will be observing the monastic discipline of being read to. Above all this is a day for you to ‘be’ and to encounter God’s presence in Word and in Sacrament.
So let us pray:
On the edge
Christmas sets the centre on the edge;
The edge of town, out-buildings of an inn,
The fringe of empire, far from privilege
And power, on the edge and outer spin
Of turning worlds, a margin of small stars
That edge a galaxy itself light years
From some unguessed-at cosmic origin.
Christmas sets the centre at the edge.
And from this day our world is re-aligned;
A tiny seed unfolding in the womb
Becomes the source from which we all unfold
And flower into being. We are healed,
The End begins, the tomb becomes a womb,
For now in him all things are re-aligned.
(Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons, 2012, p.15)
Earlier in the week, various news sources reported that the wordsmiths at Oxford Dictionaries had declared ‘post-truth’ as their 2016 international word of the year, reflecting what it called a ‘highly-charged’ political 12 months. ‘Post-truth’ is ‘defined as an adjective relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals. It selection follows June’s Brexit vote, and the recent US presidential election’ (BBC News website report). In other words, we ignore the plain facts and take our lead purely from emotional appeals.
It’s easy to see how this happens, and maybe we even can relate to it. Sometimes you might know something to be true, or likely to be so, but your head is overruled by your heart. In fact we need both.
Pilate’s question to Jesus is deeply ironic, he fails to recognise that Jesus is the Truth. There is a fundamental Johnannine theme at work here: Jesus is Wisdom Incarnate: sent by God into the world with the message of life and truth. This in turn is picked up by us today: as Jesus’ disciples we are charged with bringing that message of life and truth into our communities and our world.
If post-truth politics is the new normal, then the church has an obligation to speak out. Emotional appeals that fuel hatred and mistrust run counter to the Gospel message of love, hope, justice and mercy. The self-appointed Bishop Brian Tamaki take note! One commentator writes: ‘Post-truthfulness builds a fragile social edifice based on wariness. It erodes the foundation of trust that underlies any healthy civilization. When enough of us peddle fantasy as fact, society loses its grounding in reality. Society would crumble altogether if we assumed others were as likely to dissemble as tell the truth. We are perilously close to that point’ (Ralph Keyes).
Advent offers us an opportunity to correct this post-truth with a declaration that the one born on Christmas Day is the way, the truth and the life. If we fashion ourselves after Jesus then we become bearers of truth. If we follow the way of Jesus then we become bringers of compassion and justice.
The process of being conformed to Christ requires us to participate fully in the life of the Triune God. One of the greatest dangers is actually forgetting that God is Three in One; the Holy, Undivided and Blessed Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So while we participate in the particular story of Jesus, we do so knowing the revelation of the Holy Spirit will constantly bring us into new encounters with the divine. In that sense, truth is never final, never absolute, because each one of us is being constantly brought into a deeper communion with God. So let today be for you an opportunity to journey deeper into the mystery of God. For truth also lies in the beyondness of things, we constantly reach for it. Glimpses, when they come reveal that truth to us, often in surprising and unexpected ways. So may today be a day of surprises as well as affirmations. May God speak to you afresh this day and all days.
Let us pray:
Ready or not, you tell me, here I come!
And so I know I’m hiding, and I know
My hiding place is useless. You will come
And find me. You are searching high and low.
Today I’m hiding low, down here, below,
Below the sunlit surface others see.
Oh find me quickly, quickly come to me.
And here you come and here I come to you.
I come to you because you come to me.
You know my hiding places, I know you,
I reach you through your hiding places too;
Feeling for the thread, but now I see –
Even in darkness I can see you shine,
Risen in bread, and revelling in wine.
(Malcolm Guite, Sounding the Seasons, 2012, p.50).
Story Published: 18th of November - 2016
Decade of Mission 2015-2025Te Kare o Nga Wai
The vision with a Decade of Mission is "To mobilise the whole of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to take the whole Gospel to the whole world." To support that mission the Church has developed a new website with resources and stories that enable us to spread the gospel.
We encourage you to explore this site and be a part of the mission of God.
Story Published: 9th of November - 2016
Don't stop believing!Waikato Diocesan School for Girls Leavers' Service 2016
As the onset of public examinations looms, all our schools are very busy with prize-giving ceremonies and leavers' events. With Waikato Diocesan School for Girls awaiting their new chaplain, Bishop Helen-Ann took the helm for the 2016 Leavers' service. Inspired by a blog post written by Welsh triathlete, Non Stanford, Bishop HA talked about overcoming the the fear of not succeeding. The reading that accompanied these words was Psalm 121.
"This is a significant day, and whether you are students or staff leaving, or indeed parents of girls leaving this is a day that perhaps you have anticipated for some time, perhaps looking forward to it, perhaps dreading its inevitability? So wherever you are on the emotional spectrum, that’s ok. Life is a marathon and not a sprint, and we are all at different points in our journeys. But one thing is certain: you will always be connected to this school. We were reminded of that so wonderfully on Tuesday with the presence of 50 old girls at our Founders’ Day service. I’m pleased that Mrs Pacey (who is also leaving) has said that if I ever find myself in a tight spot (like literally wedged in a cave on Year 10 camp again) I can always call her for advice!
I left high school a quarter of a century ago (which sounds way more epic than 25 years!!), and when I was thinking about what I would say this morning, I wondered what would I have wanted to know when I 18? All sorts of things of course, but I reflected:
What is the worst thing that you think could ever happen to you?
There are a million ways to answer this question, but one answer might be this: not succeeding.
We stand poised on the cusp of a new season of your journeys: leavers, families, friends, staff, new prefects, each of us in different ways prepares for something new to happen.
And what’s the worst thing that could ever happen to you? It’s not not succeeding (yes I know I’ve just used a double negative which is not good!). Rather it’s stopping believing in yourself, and stopping realising that no matter what, you are never alone.
Like many of you here, back in August I kept an eye on our Olympians and Paralympians competing in Rio. As usual there were many stories of triumph and success, but perhaps less so about those who didn’t quite make the medal podium.
But I recently came across an inspiring blog post by the Welsh triathlete Non Stanford. She writes:
‘Just under 2 weeks ago I officially became an Olympian. Life-long ambition achieved. Precious memories that will stay with me for the remainder of my days...suddenly, you stumble out the other side, tired and bleary eyed and wonder if it did just happen or if it was all some weird dream. Everything is so quiet and calm. You have time to sit on your sofa with a cup of tea and reflect.
Fourth is the worst place to finish at an Olympic Games.
We've all heard it. We've probably all said it. Remarked at that poor person who just missed out on a medal. But you never think it's going to be you in that situation. It never crossed my mind anyway. But I was fourth at the Olympic Games.
I think it's human nature, or maybe a flaw, to never be satisfied. To always want more. As an athlete it can be a strength and a weakness.
The need to be better, to continue achieving, it's what gets you out of bed, it's what makes you push harder, push limits. It also makes you vulnerable to the highs and lows of sport. I wonder if I had held on for bronze, would I actually be satisfied? Or would I be wondering what it feels like to be one or two steps higher? I don't need to wonder; I already know the answer.
As you prepare to leave this school, to whatever next adventure you undertake, always remember that each of you is amazing inspiring in different ways. When things don’t work out as planned, that’s ok. Never give up, and never lose hope.
The Psalmist writes: ‘The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.’
Bishop Helen-Ann is pictured in the photo with the Dio Missions' Team just before the Leavers' service.
Story Published: 4th of November - 2016
Scholarships for 2017Our St John's College Students
We are delighted to announce and celebrate our new St John's College Students for 2017. We give thanks to God for these new vocations and for the future they will help define. Please take a moment to find out a little about them and add them to your prayers.
Nathan and Lydia were blessed to receive two of the six one-year under-25 lay scholarships offered by St John's College to the whole province. The Franks, Landers and Pickerings are exploring different ministries within the church and have been offered conventional full residential scholarships. We are very proud of all of them.
In the generally fascinating world of Theology, it is the study of our ancestors in the faith that has caught Tim’s attention, particularly the people of Ancient Israel. How did they live, the people who first heard the words of the Prophets and first prayed the Psalms? Tim has studied their times and participated in many archaeological excavations in Israel. After studying in the USA and Switzerland, the family has now come (back) to New Zealand. Leonilda (Yudy) is an IT professional and currently looks after the couple’s two lovely children.
Hello! Kia Ora! I am Lydia Burnett and I am very excited and feel very humbled to be attending St John’s College in 2017. I grew up in the South Waikato on a Jersey dairy farm and later attended Waikato Diocesan School in Hamilton. On leaving school I have been working and doing a little bit of travelling. Later in November friends and I are travelling to Thailand and Vietnam. I am 21 years old and I really enjoy theology, New Zealand bush, people, and food. I trust in God’s sovereignty for the coming year and would like to thank all who have been praying faithfully towards it. Thanks!
Hi there, we are Dan, Mai, Bobby and Thom. We have recently returned from Kolkata, India where we spent the last five and a half years working in a business community that provides an employment alternative to women either in the sex trade or at risk of entering. Now back in Aotearoa I (Dan) have the opportunity to attend St John's College and begin training for ministry. We are excited to see where this opportunity leads us all next. As a family we love the beach, hanging out with friends and family and coffee (not the kids yet, they have enough hype without the caffeine).
Hello there! My name is Nathan Burnett. I am 17 years old and I grew up on a dairy farm in the South Waikato. I am currently in my last year of school at Putaruru College. There are two things in my life that are very important to me, Family and God. I am very grateful that I have been offered with this opportunity and blessings to those who have made it possible. I’m so excited for next year, being able to stay at the campus with an awesome group of people that love God. Again, thanks heaps!
Matt, born and bred in New Plymouth, and Leah, hailing from Hastings, have been happily married for 3 years, meeting in Wellington before moving up to Auckland to be part of St Paul's on Symonds St. So they've got the North Island covered! Matt is finishing up a Graduate Diploma in Applied Theology at Carey Baptist College, with a particular interest in the intersection between theology and the arts. Leah works as a functions coordinator by day and blogger of all things weddings by night. They both love folk music and play together in both the St Paul's worship team and their own band, Handful of Arrows, and are really excited about being part of the St John's community.
Story Published: 2nd of November - 2016
St Andrew's Day and Ordinations ...Ordinations
Here's another word to wow your friends and family in November: protokletos.
It's Greek and has been used to describe St Andrew as the 'first-called' - the fisher who followed Jesus. Although he does not play a huge role in the Gospels he has been firmly connected with vocations. For that reason dioceses across the communion have celebrated ordinations at the end of November to coincide with St Andrew's feast. This year we are delighted to announce the ordinations of Mele Prescott, Stephen Bright and Geoff Lamason. We invite you to join us at the Cathedral Church of St Peter (Hamilton) on November 26 at 2pm; and further we ask you to pray for them and their ministries.
My name is Mele Prescott. I am of Tongan descent, born and raised in Aotearoa. I have been a student at St John’s Theological College since 2013. I recently graduated in a Bachelor of Human Services (youth work major) at the University of Auckland and hope to complete a Bachelor of Theology in November at the University of Otago. I have always had a heart for the Church, particularly in youth ministries both in the Church and wider community. I am delighted that my first steps into ordained ministry are in Taranaki and with the people of the mountains.
Kia ora my name is Stephen Bright and I grew in Palmerston North, attending All Saints church where I was baptised and confirmed. I have been an educator for most of life, working in high schools, polytechnics, Private Training Establishments and currently at the University of Waikato. I am Deacon Assistant at the parish of Holy Trinity, Hamilton and my intention is to be involved in ministry in a non-stipendiary role in the foreseeable future. Thank you for your prayers.
I was born in Napier and raised in Northland. I have taught in a range of schools from Sole Charge to large intermediates. My career has included missionary teaching in PNG. My wife and I are proud grandparents of nine. We are members of St Matthew's Morrinsville.
Story Published: 1st of November - 2016
Small Working Group to progress Motion 29 mattersPrimates Announcement
The Archbishops and Primates
of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
25 October 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are delighted to announce the members of the Primates' Working Group to be established following the passing of Motion 29 at General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui in May of this year.
This group is charged with seeking to find ‘structural arrangements within our Three-Tikanga Church to safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same gender relationships.’
We have been humbled by the opportunities we have had to meet and speak with many individuals and groups from across this Church reflecting the wide range of views on these matters.
What has stood out is the grace, the compassion and the goodwill reflected in these discussions. A very high proportion of those who have spoken with us are so clearly genuinely seeking to step into the shoes of those they disagree with. There is a clear determination to come around the table and work for mechanisms that allow us to move forward together in mission without minimising or denying our differences.
Our proposal for a two tier approach has been widely welcomed:
1. A small three (or max 6) member working group with responsibility for facilitating the process to develop possible structural mechanisms for discussion across the Church and ultimately to bring them to GSTHW 2018.
2. A panel of consultants, available to the working group, made up of people identified by interested parties (for example Affirm, FoCA, young people, Changing Attitudes, LGTBI, legal advisors etc) who can provide an immediate point of contact for the working group and who will ensure consultation with their own constituency.
We have received a significant number of submissions for the Working Group to consider. Because of this it is hoped that the Working Group will still be able to achieve the timetable we established in our letter to the Church dated 2 June 2016.
The members of the Primates’ Working Group are: The Right Reverend Richard Ellena (Bishop of Nelson), Mrs Jackie Pearse (a former General Secretary of this Church), The Reverend Learne McGrath (Vicar of Massey, Auckland), Mr Jeremy Johnson (Chancellor of the Diocese of Christchurch), Mr Fei Tevi (Diocese of Polynesia) and The Reverend Katene Eruera (Dean Tikanga Māori St John’s College).
Archbishop Winston Halapua Archbishop Philip Richardson Archbishop Brown Turei
Bishop for the Diocese of Polynesia in Senior Bishop of New Zealand Bishop of Aotearoa
Aotearoa New Zealand Dioceses
Story Published: 26th of October - 2016
Southwell School welcomes their new HeadmasterWelcome to Southwell Mr Jason Speedy!
On Monday morning this week, Southwell School welcomed their new Headmaster, Mr Jason Speedy, along with his family (wife Janine, daughter Jessie and son Judd) in a special pōwhiri and service of Commissioning. The whole school stood round Southwell's famous Oval as the pōwhiri took place in its centre. Representatives from the local community, including Southwell's Board, and MPs David Bennett and Tim Macindoe received Jason and his family who were accompanied by members of the St Peter's, Cambridge community. They were joined by the Principals and Chaplains from St Paul's Collegiate and Waikato Diocesan School for Girls. Mr Speedy was previously an Assistant Principal at St Peter's. Southwell Chaplain, Canon Neale Troon began the pōwhiri with karakia. Following the pōwhiri, the gathered crowd moved into the School auditorium for the Commissioning Service. The reading came from John's Gospel, 15.12-17, and Bishop Helen-Ann gave an address which reflected on the importance of love, joy, perseverance and hope in leadership, giving thanks that God had called Mr Speedy to Southwell to be its new Headmaster.
Following the service, morning tea was served in the dining hall, and before they departed, the St Peter's kapa haka group perfomed some final songs.
Bishop Helen-Ann returned to Southwell for her usual Tuesday morning Morning Prayer, and at that service, Mr Speedy was installed into his seat in All Hallow's Chapel by the Head Boy and Head Girl.
The new school term is now underway for all our schools, and we wish all the staff and students, particularly those preparing for exams, prayers and best wishes! We pray too for Mr Speedy and his family and they settle into their new home.
Story Published: 11th of October - 2016
Walking together in MissionArchbishop Philip reflects on the historic meeting between Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby
It would be hard not to be a little overawed by the size and the reach of the Roman Catholic Church when you are in the Vatican. It is also easy to see why Francis, Bishop of Rome would choose to live in simpler and more communal surroundings than the Apostolic Palace.
The gathering of Anglican Primates in Rome was in support of the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to met with Pope Francis in celebration of the progress that has been made in our relationship since the historic meeting between Archbishop Michael Ramsay and Pope Paul VI in 1966.
The message from the Pope and the Archbishop was clear, we have to walk together in mission.
Whatever might be our differences the challenges are too great to let them get in the way of promoting the way of Christ in a broken and needy world. Walking together we will talk, and in the walking and talking we will build friendship in Christ, and in that friendship we will discover unexpected ways through our differences. We will learn from each other and we will be changed for the better by the experience.
That walking and talking together has been given new impetus in the establishment of formal covenanted partnerships in mission between Bishops’ Conferences and Houses of Bishops in 19 regional areas including our own. In our case we were represented by Cardinal John Dew and Bishop Ross Bay who met for a week in Canterbury and in Rome developing strategies for joint mission. This practical working together which is the focus of the work of IARCCUM (the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission for Unity in Mission) would not have been possible without the years of diligent work on doctrinal differences undertaken by ARCIC I (Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission) and ARCIC II and now ARCIC III. But, say both Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury, now is the time for acting and working together in faith. This will inform further doctrinal conversations.
It will be important that our walking and our talking become even more honest, more robust. Because the experience of these few days of celebration raised some significant challenges.
The first morning we were invited to an excellent Symposium where the theme was “50 Years of Walking Together, developing new directions in Anglican Roman Catholic relations”. The three main sessions were led by pairs of speakers. In two of those sessions the pairs of Roman Catholic and Anglicans were gender balanced. But while Professor Anna Rowlands and Dr Paula Gooder were key note speakers the lack of all sorts of balances was obvious. In-fact some 11 people addressed us of which only those two were women. When the poor gender balance was raised Paula Gooder responded in a polite but firm way. We have a long way to go she said.
The whole Symposium however also felt extraordinarily euro centric. There were no non-European or non North American presenters until the last two who spoke from the perspective of the middle east (Lebanese) and a Canadian who has lived and worked in the Horn and Africa for some years - speaking on the refugee crisis and living with Islam. They had to speak rapidly and in bullet points because a previous speaker had gone over time. In front of a demonstrably multi cultural and multilingual audience these imbalances jarred for me.
I was struck by how different the perspective is when you are from a society that has been colonized and where the proclamation of the Gospel and the establishment of the Church has been an arm of that colonization and where you have to work daily at the consequences of that in relationship to the indigenous people of the land. That perspective was entirely absent. There was a polite condescension that was palpable to me. There was also a complete absence of urgency around global warming - a tweek here, a little careful recycling there - seemed to be the order of the day. Several primates - Africa, Bangladesh, Pacific have communities who are running out, or have run out of time to preserve their homes.
To be fair Archbishop Welby sought hard at the end of the Symposium to redress some of this, speaking compellingly of Africa, Asia, South America and the Pacific.
And, over the next two days, Pope Francis and the Archbishop certainly placed weight in their various homilies and addresses where it needed to be; on the urgent needs of a suffering world.
Much to celebrate and much to do as we seek to live authentically into the challenges of the Gospel.
See more at:
Story Published: 8th of October - 2016
Synod 2016Report from Diocesan Synod 2016
‘In the Kingdom of God, the rule is trust’
Words taken from the Bishops’ Charge to the Synod of the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki which met in Hamilton last weekend. Synod began with the Eucharist in St Peter’s Cathedral, in the midst of which Bishop Helen-Ann and Archbishop Philip delivered the third Charge of their episcopal partnership. This year saw the launch third strand of their episcopal vision: that grounded in prayer, we are equipped for discipleship and connected to community. Bishop Helen-Ann described the foundation for our connection to community: ‘We are hard-wired for relationship, with God and one another. The dynamic union that is represented in the life of the Trinity gives us a model of relationship to follow. Drawn into community we celebrate what we hold in common whilst acknowledging that we are all different too…God calls us to know God more, and we respond through becoming disciples. The first disciples were called to follow Jesus and to fashion their lives after him…We are each given tasks and responsibilities for the purpose of increasing and strengthening the community of faith.’ Joining the Diocese for this Eucharist and participating in it were the Archbishop of Melanesia, Archbishop George Takeli, and our own General Secretary Michael Hughes. Archbishop George had attended the meeting of the House of Bishops, also held in Hamilton and remained for the opening Eucharist of Synod. Cathedral kaumatua, Canon Pine Campbell gave a mihi, and the Reverend Ngira Simmonds, Missioner of Waikato from the rohe Hemi Tapu in Hamilton brought greetings from the Hui Amorangi o Te Manawa o Te Wheke and their Bishop, Ngarahu Katene. Pihopa Ngarahu challenged Synod to remember Māori in all their discussions and debates. He gave thanks for the deepening of relationships between Tikanga, and prayed that new opportunities for collaboration may be created.
The theme of community was echoed throughout the Synod, as representatives debated a variety of important social justice issues: refugees, natural disaster response, social and affordable housing, inequality and poverty and trans people in prison. That last motion was moved by Karen Morrison-Hume, Missioner of Anglican Action. Based on the agency’s thirty years of experience in supporting people reintegrating back into the community after prison, the issue of the treatment of LGBTI people was brought before Synod. The passing of the motion included a statement, part of which reads: ‘(That) this Synod supports the human rights of all people to be free from sexual assault, violence, and discrimination and implores the Government to ensure the safety and dignity of trans people imprisoned in New Zealand.’
Presentations at Synod came from students at St. Paul’s who spoke about their school’s ‘Over the fence’ initiative, which draws volunteers from the St. Paul’s community to spend time with children at neighbouring low decile schools. This initiative has brought national recognition for the school, and is an inspiring ministry. The Reverend Mike Hawke from the Anglican Missions’ Board spoke about their work in supporting disaster relief in Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. Bishop Helen-Ann spoke about the new Diocesan LiFT course (Living Faith Today) which will begin next year and will form the basis of all lay licensing, as well as encouraging everyone to become more confident in their faith so that they might share that with others. Diocesan Director of Vocations, the Reverend Stephen Black spoke about new vocations initiatives that have already started to bear fruit which some remarkable stories of young vocations to ordained ministry. The Bishops also presented a 'road map' to Synod, outlining some key strategic areas of focus over the next six months.
Throughout the Synod, which was held at St. Paul’s Collegiate, the presence and ministry of the School chaplains was prominent. Morning and evening prayers were led by pupils from Southwell School, St Peter’s, Cambridge, and St. Paul’s Collegiate. On Saturday evening, the combined kapa haka group of Waikato Diocesan School for Girls and St Paul’s Collegiate performed for Synod with inspiring and uplifting waiata.
A Synod concluded, Bishop Helen-Ann reflected: ‘the Diocese is in good heart. We have experienced considerable change and transition in the past two years, and we face the future with hope and realism about the challenges that lie ahead. Thanks be to God for all his grace and mercy in sustaining us.’
Story Published: 27th of September - 2016
In the Kingdom of God, the rule is trustBishops' Charge to Synod 2016
DIOCESE OF WAIKATO AND TARANAKI
SECOND SESSION OF THE THIRTY EIGHTH SYNOD
Kia Whakakororia ki Te Atua i Runga Rawa, Kia Mau Te Rongo ki Runga ki Te Whenua, Kia Pai Te Whakaaro ki Nga Tangata Katoa.
Honore ki Te Arikinui Te Kingi Ko Tuheitia. Ki Te Kahui Ariki Katoa, Ma Te Atua Ratou E Manaaki E Tiaki i Nga Wa Katoa. Ki Te Waka Tainui Tena Koutou. Ki Te Iwi o Ngati Maniapoto, Tena Koutou. Ki Te Pihopatanga O Aotearoa ki Te Hui Amorangi Ki Te Manawa O Te Wheke, Tena Koutou.
E Te Maungatapu e tu ra, ko Taranaki, Tena Koe: Ki Te Waka Tokomaru, Te Waka Aotea, Te Waka Kurahaupo Tena Koutou. Nga Mihi Nui Ki Te Pihopatanga O Aotearoa Ki Hui Amorangi Ki Te Upoko O Te Ika.
We have glorified God with the first language of this country.
We have honoured the Maori King and his household, we have greeted the Tainui tribal confederation, including Ngati Maniapoto, as well as our partners in mission from the Maori Bishopric of Te Manawa O Te Wheke.
We have acknowledged the presence of the sacred mountain of Taranaki. We have acknowledged the Taranaki tribes as well as our partners in mission from the Maori Bishopric of Te Upoko O Te Ika.
Welcome to our special guests here tonight, especially our ecumenical partners. In particular we are delighted to welcome back to the Diocese our brother in Christ the Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the Most Reverend George Takeli. Archbishop it is a deep honour to have you with us tonight. Also welcome to the General Secretary of this Church, and a son of this Diocese, the Reverend Michael Hughes. Michael is an outstanding servant of this Church and it is lovely to have you with us tonight.
Thank you to all of you who gather for this synod. We want particularly to acknowledge that many of you are here having been chosen by your communities to be their representatives, and while as members of Synod we gather together we wish to express our particular thanks to the senior leadership team of the Diocese who shoulder specific responsibilities: our Chancellor, our Vicar General, the Deans, Archdeacons and our Ministry Educator.
Thank you to our Diocesan Manager, to the members of Standing Committee, our Trust Boards, Management Resources Sub-committee and Ministry and Mission Resources Sub-committee and the other task groups in the life of the Diocese.
To our colleagues working at Charlotte Brown House and Tikituterangi house, and to colleagues at Trust Management Limited; thank you for your warmth, your humour, your vision and your commitment.
Thank you to the many volunteers who work so tirelessly and faithfully in different ways to support our life together. Your diverse contributions are of immense value and we are so deeply grateful.
And finally to our families, especially to Myles and Belinda, we want to acknowledge the cost, and the unfailing love and support you offer us – thank you.
We remember those who have died since the last time we gathered to transact our business as the Diocesan Synod, some we will record in this Charge; some are written on our hearts.
Brother Brian SSF, Geoff Hyde, Reverend Lesley Hyde, Tilly Campbell, The Venerable Bruce Dale, Reverend John Hoar, Brian Haskell, Reverend Mary Mould, Joan Harrison, Diana Smith.
Please stand with us in silent thanksgiving.
May they rest in peace and rise in glory.
2017 will see the third year of our episcopal vision: that grounded in prayer, we are equipped for discipleship and connected to community. Throughout the process of the working out of the vision, we have been keen to stress that the three strands are interwoven. They will each have a life beyond this three-year period, and will continue to inform and shape our engagement with God’s mission.
As we stand on the cusp of the launch of our vision for community, we wish to acknowledge the positive working relationships which as bishops we have enjoyed with two city mayors, each approaching the end of their terms of office. Mayor Andrew Judd of New Plymouth, and Mayor Julie Hardaker of Hamilton, we are profoundly grateful for the positive working relationships we have enjoyed and for the high level of good will between our roles. We thank you both, and wish to assure you of our prayers for this next season of your lives. As bishops we consider the many connections that we have between church and wider communities to be essential, mutually challenging and life-giving. Opportunities abound for community links to be forged and strengthened throughout the Diocese. We applaud those connections already made, and we encourage each one of us to seek new ways to support and enable our ministry and mission units, chaplaincies and other ministries to serve the many lives they interlink with.
We are hard-wired for relationship, with God and one another. The dynamic union that is represented in the life of the Trinity gives us a model of relationship to follow. Drawn into community we celebrate what we hold in common whilst acknowledging that we are all different too. This is the mystery of creation: each one of us is a unique child of God; each one of us shares the desire to know God more fully. We cannot escape that profound sense of reach and longing. God calls us to know God more, and we respond through becoming disciples. The first disciples were called to follow Jesus, and to fashion their lives after him. The coming of the Holy Spirit provided energy and inspiration for the increase of the community of faith that would become the early church, the first Christians, followers of The Way. The Anglican Church honours the Apostolic Succession through our three-fold ministry of deacon, priest and bishop. Yet all God's people are called, each has a vocation to be what God is purposing them to be. Ministry is for each and every one of us, lay and ordained. We are each given tasks and responsibilities for the purpose of increasing and strengthening the community of faith.
In the first Charge of this episcopal partnership in 2014 we outlined our three-fold vision.
By beginning our focus on prayer, we acknowledged that prayer is essential for our relationship with God. Without regular prayer, we cannot communicate with God; without regular prayer we lose connection with God’s will and purpose in our lives. To wait patiently on God in prayer, in silence, in meditation, while out walking, with other people, alone, in worship, in celebration, in despair, all of these are held before the God who hears our cry and sustains us always. When Jesus’ disciples asked him how they should pray, Jesus’ response as told in Luke’s Gospel was the command to pray The Lord’s Prayer. This prayer is a mandate for discipleship, both in its being and in its doing. As disciples, we give glory to God; we seek God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven; we ask not solely for our provision but for that of others, sufficient for the day ahead; we forgive the sins of others as we ourselves are forgiven; we seek protection from all that prevails against us, whilst upholding the need for protection of our most weak and vulnerable members of our communities. The journey of discipleship is characterised by a desire to deepen the understanding of our faith, in the company of others. None of us can place God in a box, and all of us must seek continually to grow in humility and openness to God’s constant capacity to surprise and shock us out of prejudice and complacency.
This year our focus has been on discipleship, and the launch of the new Living Faith Today course and Bishops' Certificate next year will form the basis of all lay training in the Diocese, and represents a significant raising of the bar of our expectations and valuing of lay ministry. We have been encouraged by the many signs of focus on discipleship over the course of this year, but equally we feel that there is always more that we can each do to intentionally celebrate and engage with God's mission as disciples of Jesus Christ. We continue to seek for a culture in this Diocese that is joy-filled and hope-filled, and which rejects negativity and ill-feeling towards our neighbours.
Next year, 2017, our focus will be on connecting to community. As Christians, followers of Christ, we are committed to vibrant, healthy, attractive servant communities and we are also committed to building the ‘Kingdom of God, here on earth – as it is in heaven’.
So as we gather here as the church to make decisions for and about the life of the church, but the basis of our decisions cannot be, “Is it what I want?” or “Is it good for the Church?” The criterion for our decisions must be, “Will this enhance or inhibit the spread of the Kingdom, the ‘new community’ of God?” or to put it another way, “Is what we are doing true to the nature of the Kingdom of God?” In a book of essays published in the 1950s, called “Soundings”, John A.T. Robinson wrote, “You can have as high a view of ministry as you like as long as your view of the church is higher, you can have as a high a view of the Church as you like as long as your view of the Kingdom is higher.”
A good portion of the Gospel is taken up with Jesus’ teaching about the nature of the Kingdom of God. It is an upside down community - Jesus reversed the general value system by pronouncing blessing on the poor, the hungry and those who weep.
As the Church we are called to be this sort of community, a sign, a glimpse of what God is calling the whole creation into being; a community that lives for others. Seeing the needs around us; responding, healing, accepting, forgiving, reconciling. A sign of the God who is in our midst.
Jesus was open to the world around him, in dialogue with it and yet standing in contrast to it - so the church must also be. We need to be clear about the Gospel that we proclaim. This Gospel argues the health of a community is measured not by the relative comfort of the majority but by the experience of its weakest member. It is a Gospel that expresses power through servanthood. It is a Gospel that proclaims a community in which loving is more important than winning, being vulnerable is more important than having power and where helping someone to find the best in themselves is better than managing peoples lives.
The manifesto of this community is seen clearly in the Sermon on the Mount and pre-eminently in the Beatitudes. This is a high vision of community, it is a demanding manifesto, it almost seems impossible – Jesus recognises this - you will notice that each beatitude begins in the present tense and moves to the future tense.
The present tense indicates that the beatitudes are expressions of what is already true about the Christian community. Of course, not every member of every part of the Christian community can claim to be meek, merciful and pure in heart, but the beatitudes are addressed, not initially to individuals but to the whole household of faith. Among every authentic Christian community can be found persons of meekness, ministers of mercy and workers for peace. Their presence and activity among us is a sign of God’s blessing and a call to conform our common life more and more to these kingdom values. But the move to the future tense challenges and reminds us of how far we have to go.
In the world, the way is power; in the Kingdom of God, the way is love. In the world, the focus is self; in the Kingdom of God, the focus is others. In the world, the rule is law; in the Kingdom of God, the rule is trust. In the world, the practice is get; in the Kingdom of God, it is give.
We are all citizens of both the Kingdom, the new community of God, and this world. This needs to characterize every interaction we have both within our faith communities, across the Diocese and in the way we relate to, and serve the communities in which we are set.
This understanding of community works on a number of levels:
Parish or Ministry Unit, School, Hospitals, Prisons, Agency and Foundation; Bishopric; Diocesan; Provincial, and across the Communion. Each of these foci are enabled by the connection we have with God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s Holy Spirit that inspires us in action, and calls us to minister in God’s name. We are greatly encouraged by positive developments in the field of vocations. We are extremely grateful for the innovative and inspiring work being undertaken by our Diocesan Director of Vocations, to foster and encourage vocations among some outstanding young people.
We pay tribute also to the outstanding work done by our school, tertiary and hospital chaplains, and those working in secular employment. We all need to realise that all God’s people, lay and ordained live and work 'in community'.
Our vocational deacons minister so often on the edges of society, with those in the greatest need, in our cities and rural environments; our priests embody incarnational and sacramental living wherever they are located.
Lay ministers and many others who volunteer tirelessly do so because they recognise the call of God to be Christ to all whom they meet, whether that is seen or unseen, we know how much goes on that is unheralded, and we wish to offer our profound appreciation and gratitude for all that hard work and commitment shown by so many.
At General Synod Te Hinota Whanui in May, the theme of Climate change was prominent, not least by motions and presentations by our Pacific sisters and brothers. Care for creation must be a priority, for it affects so many other aspects of our daily lives. We cannot afford to see it as someone else’s issue, it belongs to each of us too.
A few months ago many of us in Taranaki and from beyond, joined with our Mayor Andrew Judd on a walk for Peace from his office in New Plymouth to the village of Parihaka it was a potent expression of the hope we have in us – believing that we can find a way of dialogue across great difference, pain and suffering and that we can heal the past and forge a positive future. As we walked, men and women, old and young, maori and pakeha, the affluent and the afflicted, we talked and we listened and we were changed by the experience.
There are many, many examples of excellent community engagement initiatives already across our Diocese, and here we want to highlight just a small number in the hope that this may inspire others to realise that it is possible, but that you have got to heed God’s call to start small and aim big, and you need to think deeply about the culture you inhabit currently – how welcoming are you?
From Putaruru – vicar Jan Tarrant reports: ‘Messy Church is not simply an opportunity to engage in craft activities and have a ‘free meal’, but a time when families can come together to enjoy being together and making things together, eating together and celebrating God together through his word, through music and through prayer. It is different from a children’s activity programme because it is an event for children and their carers or parents together, and an element of worship underpins it all. Leader Mary Addison has found it to be an opportunity to invite people into an experience of Christian community that is friendly, hospitable and fun. It provides us with an occasion to engage with our wider community, where people are invited along not only to participate in the ‘messy activities’ but where their often ‘messy life’ is not a barrier to them or to us.
We begin the afternoon gathering in the church by setting the theme, and then move on to about an hour of craft activities; thematic to the story we are engaging with. We then celebrate in the church, retelling or acting out the story, and enjoy music, singing and/or participation with simple musical instruments.
Next, we share a hot meal together. This is a proper ‘sit down meal’ where the dining space has been prepared creatively, and the children and their carers sit at the table, learning table manners and the pleasure to be gained by sharing a meal with others. This is the Eucharistic part of the session. Relationship building (as in any church service) is an important part of the gathering. It has not only enabled gathering with new people at St Paul’s, but with old people in new ways.’
Selwyn Centres have been established in several parishes in the north of the Diocese. Andrew Brock from the Bishop’s Action Foundation captures something of this vision for building community among older people in our suburbs, towns and villages.
From Huntly, vicar Peter Sampson reflects on his initiative to hold photographic exhibitions in the community: ‘The occasional photography exhibitions in town began out of my desire to meet people and to contribute to the life and well-being of the town. And as the clergy, to model the mission focus I was talking about to the members of the church. I wondered how my growing interest in photography and my desire to connect with people related? I put posters around town to gauge interest in an exhibition and developed an adhoc collective called 'elevate'. A few emerging photographers contacted me to participate. In the spirit of Luke 10, I knocked on doors until I found that 'person of peace' who was sympathetic to my idea and provided exhibition space in the main street. At the opening, I spoke of celebrating creativity, participation and being local. Each time we've had an exhibition we've met and included new people.
The simple idea of seeing if others wanted to participate in a photography exhibition has had numerous positive outcomes. Seeing the pride on the faces of those who never imagined they would have their work displayed in public is wonderful. Creating a little buzz around town is fun. And developing relationships with others prepared to take a risk for the sake of bringing a little light into the town has been a joy.
A couple of people connected with during the exhibitions started coming to church. Unfortunately, welcoming these newcomers into our existing congregation has been more difficult than I expected.’
Judy Wood the Coordinator of the Seasons for Growth speaks about a programme that has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of children who have been traumatized by grief, loss and abuse.
Later on during Synod we will listen to and engage with students from St Paul’s Collegiate who have started an inspiring ministry with local low-decile schools, called ‘Over the Fence.’ We look forward to that presentation, and commend these young women and men as role models to us all. Our invitation for 2017 is for each ministry unity, however constituted and expressed to create a new initiative or share an established programme with neighbouring parishes to engage directly with their immediate surrounding community. We would do well to stop and think for a moment, if as churches and other related bodies we weren’t here, would we be missed? We want to build a different culture throughout every part of our Diocese to engage in God’s mission at a local level.
By the time we reach 2020, which will see the tenth anniversary of this Diocese as it was renamed, we want to see visible growth and strengthening in all areas of prayer, discipleship and commitment to community service. This then is our 2020 vision. Our vision and commitment as Bishops is to lead this Diocese towards sustained growth, for the flourishing of all God’s people, known and loved by God without question or discrimination.
Grounded in prayer – we are equipped for discipleship – and connected to community.
Story Published: 24th of September - 2016
Koinonia Kiwisaver SchemeEthical investment: Mark Wilcox talks to Radio Rhema
There has recently been significant media interest in ethical investment issues – in particular, coverage about KiwiSaver Schemes investing in munitions manufacturers.
Mark Wilcox, General Manager of the NZ Anglican Church Pension Board, was recently interviewed on Radio Rhema on the subject of ethical investment. The Koinonia KiwiSaver Scheme, which the Pension Board administers, provides Christians with an opportunity to invest in a KiwiSaver scheme that is founded on ethical and responsible investment principles that reflect Christian values.
Mark discusses what makes Koinonia different from other KiwiSaver schemes, the Pension Board’s investment philosophy, financial stewardship, the challenges of ethical investment and the importance of starting a savings plan early. The full interview can be found at koinonia.org.nz/misc/JPKiwiSaverEthicalInvestment.mp3
Note also that Mark speaks about fossil fuel divestment in the latest Anglican Taonga magazine. You can learn more about Koinonia at www.koinonia.org.nz.
Story Published: 23rd of September - 2016
Hamilton Mayoral HustingsWaikato Cathedral hosts hustings event for Hamilton City Mayor candidates
The Waikato Cathedral of St Peter in Hamilton hosted an afternoon hustings event for the Hamilton City Mayoral Elections. The seven candidates for Mayor answered questions put to them by Bishop Helen-Ann before an audience of 260. Dean Peter Rickman welcomed those who gathered from across the city, and Cathedral Kaumatua Canon Pine Campbell gave a mihi. The candidates had been sent three core questions in advance: (1) what is your vision for Hamilton?; (2) what do you see the role of faith communities to be in a healthy city?; (3) what is your response to the title given to the theme of this hustings event: 'Seek the welfare of the city?'. In addition, candidates were asked a series of unseen questions which had been submitted by faith leaders from across the city. Questions asked included: 'who are the most influential voices in your world, because those voices will determine largely the thoughts you have and bring?' And 'how can the city strengthen neighbourhoods?' Those attending the event had a further opportunity to meet and talk to candidates over refreshments in the Cathedral Centre following the hustings event.
Bishop Helen-Ann, Dean Peter, and Canon Pine are pictured with Hamilton City Mayoral candidates Andrew King, Arshad Chata, Chris Simpson, Jack Gielen, Rob Pascoe, James Casson, and Paula Southgate.
Story Published: 18th of September - 2016
Taranaki Cathedral may reopen sooner than expectedTaranaki Cathedral may reopen sooner than expected
Preliminary estimates give rise to cautious optimism
Bishop of Taranaki, Archbishop Philip Richardson has expressed cautious optimism that St Mary's cathedral in Taranaki may reopen sooner than expected as initial estimates based on preliminary engineering design work indicate that the cost is much less than originally expected and the time required for the work will also be less than anticipated.
St Mary's was closed on January 31st 2016 when a Detailed Seismic assessment found that it ony met 15% of New Building Standards, making it a serious risk in an earthquake.
See the full Taranaki Daily News article here.
Story Published: 11th of September - 2016
Bishop Helen-Ann pays tribute to the Bishop who confirmed her, who has died.With thanksgiving for the life of the Rt Rev'd Dr David Jenkins, former Bishop of Durham
Bishop Helen-Ann pays a personal tribute and thanksgiving for the life of the Rt Rev'd Dr David Jenkins, former Bishop of Durham, who confirmed her in 1986. In the photograph, Bishop Helen-Ann is pictured in the cloisters of Durham Cathedral.
One of the most enjoyable things that I do as a Bishop is to confirm people. On Sunday, in St Mark’s, Nawton I confirmed Sheryl, a remarkable older lady whose journey through grief has brought hope in unexpected ways. She chose to be confirmed as a way of declaring publicly her commitment to her faith, and to her walk of discipleship. Next Sunday, I will baptise and confirm 20 young people at St Paul’s Collegiate. These young women and men have chosen to declare their faith before their whole school, a remarkable and inspiring act. Reflecting on all of this, I recognise that part of the reason why I value confirmation so highly (and I why I spoke against the discussion to consider removing it from our Liturgies at General Synod in May), is because of my own confirmation, and more particularly the Bishop who confirmed me.
May 8th, Ascension Day, 1986 was indeed a significant day in my Christian journey. I was 13, and on this day I was confirmed in St Matthew’s church, Silksworth, Sunderland in the North-East of England. Today, I recall that occasion upon receiving the news that the Bishop who confirmed me, The Rt Rev’d Dr David Jenkins has died, aged 91. I celebrate the length of his years, whilst acknowledging his more recent journey with Alzheimer’s.
The BBC news website reports: ‘‘Unbelieving’ former Durham Bishop Dr David Jenkins dies.’ Yes, he was a controversial figure, yet let it not be unsaid that he was a man who had a tremendously positive influence on the lives of many people, not least my own. Media reports that seek to focus solely on what a person said, usually out of context, are aimed solely at heightening controversy. So let’s just pause for a moment, and give thanks for his life and ministry.
My parents and I moved to Sunderland when I was 2. I had lived the first two years of my life in the Scottish borders, where my father was Minister of Coldingham Priory. The move south of the border led us to become part of a worshipping community in the United Reformed church. We were Presbyterians, and happily so. Our journey into Anglicanism is a personal story, and it affected each of us in different ways. For my father, it led him to be ordained deacon and priest, and a move away from his ordination in the Presbyterian denomination. And the Bishop who supported and counseled him in that journey was Bishop David Jenkins. By the time my father was ordained, I was already confirmed. I had begun my primary school education in a Church of England school, Benedict Biscop in Sunderland. So arguably I had been formed quite gently in Anglicanism for several years. I recall the first Sunday service I attended in our parish church, St Chad’s in Sunderland. The Bishop was visiting, and I marveled at what Bishop David was wearing! I have an exceptionally vivid memory of that. Being someone who now wears a cope and mitre, I smile at the thought of this memory, whilst remembering the need to explain (if appropriate) why Bishops wear the vestments we wear!
But let me get to the point. I became a teenager in Sunderland in the 1980s, a decade that saw Government policies remove the ship-building and coal mining industries. I remember driving past picket lines, and I remember how often Bishop David was present right in the midst of the pain and hurt of the miners. Whatever you make of the strikes, and the politics of the day, he represented exactly what priestly ministry is about: to be incarnationally present where people are hurting; to be an advocate for those who seek justice; to be a voice for the welfare of all people in their time of need. This has remained a great influence on me today, and while I often struggle to live up to those attributes, I have and now had a role model in Bishop David.
It was profoundly moving for me to be invited by the present Bishop of Durham, Bishop Paul Butler to assist him in the blessing of the banners at the Miners’ Gala service in Durham Cathedral on July 11th, 2015. During that service I prayed a prayer that linked the mining communities of my own heritage, with those of my present episcopacy:
Lord God, as we remember before you the Durham miners,
we give thanks that we are bound together by our common heritage.
With them, we remember mining communities throughout the world,
and all who face danger and adversity.
There is much more that I could say, but at this point I simply want to pay tribute to a Bishop who has so influenced my Christian journey, giving thanks for his life and witness. Indeed, we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, that our lives are always inter-twined with those who have gone before us.
Thanks be to God for Bishop David. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.
Story Published: 5th of September - 2016
Bishop John PritchardBishop John Pritchard - Discipleship Training (May 2016)
I am delighted to announce that Bishop John Pritchard's two-part teaching on discipleship is now available.
Bishop John delivered this superb lecture to clergy and has kindly agreed to make it available for the whole Diocese. We strongly commend Bishop John's teaching to you.
If you enjoy this recording then you should check out THE FEAST recordings as well!
Story Published: 25th of August - 2016
Chillax - Chill out and relax into GodA creative multi dimensional, experiential worship extravaganza in Taranaki
There is one thing you can be sure about anything Archdeacon Jacqui Paterson leads, - it will be full of surprises, energy and creativity.
Chillax (one of the young women from St Mary's School came up with that name) brought 160 people of all ages together from across Taranaki to share in a worship experience that allowed everyone in their own time to explore the various elements of the Eucharist. But this was worship as you have never experienced it!! Just Cill out and relax into God.
Diverse worship stations around the Church and hall complex at St Chad's West New Plymouth allowed us all to worship at our own pace, and to explore aspects of the Eucharist in many different ways, using all our senses. Energy, laughter, lots of conversation and fellowship.
Real coffee from a coffee truck and sausages cooked as a fundraiser for the Down Syndrome Foundation just added to the total value of the day.
Tell Jacqui what a star she is and her response is always to say what a team effort it has been. True but every team needs a leader with vision and creativity. Thanks Jacqui!
Story Published: 23rd of August - 2016
King Tuheitia celebrates the 10th anniversary of his coronationBishop Helen-Ann participates in the Ecumenical Service to celebrate the King's coronation anniversary
Bishop Helen-Ann with Archbishop Brown and Bishop Ngarahu before the service began on Sunday at Turangawaewae Marae.
A gorgeous bright Waikato Day heralded the 10th anniversary of the Coronation of Kiingi Tuheitia, August 21st. Celebrations began at the start of the week on August 15th with a special prayer breakfast held to commemorate the anniversary of the death of the King's predecessor, his mother the Queen, Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. Thousands of people had attended events at Turangawaeware Marae throughout the week, and thousands gathered on Sunday for the final day of celebrations, with the Ecumencial Service at its heart. The Tongan King and Queen were present, along with Governor General Sir Jerry Mataparare and Lady Janine, and other royalty and representatives from Pacific island nations, and New Zealand parliamentarians. Bishop Helen-Ann was honoured to be invited to lead a prayer as part of the service, broadcast live on Māori TV:
Lord, you who are as close to us as our own breath,
You have given us this day:
A day of expectation and joy;
A day of solemnity and happiness;
A day of certainty and hope.
We thank you for this auspicious occasion - the 10th Anniversary
of His Majesty Kiingi Tuhetia's Coronation,
Which we celebrate together.
So, loving God, we ask that you will hear our prayers,
Know our thoughts,
And enable us to fulfil your tasks, care for each other,
And to grow in Grace and Love,
All the days of our lives. Amen.
Also participating in the service were Bishop Ngarahu Katene, the Bishop of Te Manawa O Te Wheke, and Archbishop Brown Turei, Primate, and Bishop of Aotearoa. Director of Vocations, the Rev'd Stephen Black was also in attendance joining clergy from Te Manawa O Te Wheke. Archbishop Brown's retirement was announced yesterday, following the service. Bishop Helen-Ann paid tribute to him: 'What a wonderful thing to have Archbishop Brown present in our Diocese and Amorangi on the day on which his retirement was announced. His inspiring and lifelong dedication to following God and to uplifting the mana of Māori is a legacy that will be keenly felt, and built upon in the years to come. It was an immense privilege to sit alongside him today, something that will remain with me for a long time yet. Thanks be to God for his life and witness, which continues.'
The Ecumenical service was followed by a feast, during which there was entertainment from different island nations present, and finally the blowing out of candles on the 10 celebration cakes! A truly magnificent day!.
Story Published: 22nd of August - 2016
Thank you to Barbara Jolly!Barbara Jolly steps down from her role as Honorary Lay Registrar
On Tuesday, at St Luke's Te Kuiti, members of the Mission and Ministry Resourcing Subcommittee joined the Bishops in paying tribute to Mrs Barbara Jolly for her lifetime of dedicated service to God's mission in our Diocese. While Barbara will continue in her role supporting ministry in Orakau, she is stepping down from her role as Honorary Lay Registrar. Barbara was joined by her husband Dick and their daughter Megan. During a special lunch, there were several tributes paid to Barbara, and she was presented with a letter of recognition by the Bishops, the text of which read as follows:
On behalf of the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki, we write to convey our profound and grateful appreciation for your many years of active service in this Diocese. In particular we wish to express our considerable thanks for your role as Honorary Lay Registrar.
In order to do that however, we must recognise and honour you for your extraordinary dedication to the Parish of Christ Church, Orakau. Your many years of devoted service to that community has been the foundation of your ministry in this Diocese. It is your life as a Lay Minister that has shaped your contribution to our statutes, structures and strategies. Your experience and contribution continues to benefit generations of lay people.
Thank you for your vision and energy. Thank you for your considered analysis and review of lay ministry over so many years. Thank you for your careful administration and management of the licensing process. You have left an indelible mark on the face of lay ministry in this Diocese.
You have responded to Christ’s call on your life and we celebrate your vocation.
Thanks be to God.
There will be further tributes paid to Barbara at our Diocesan Synod next month, and Bishop Helen-Ann announced to the gathering that Barbara will be the first recipient of the new Bishops' Certificate in Living Faith which will be awarded next year as the new LiFT (Living Faith Today) course takes flight!
Story Published: 10th of August - 2016
ConsequencesLiving a life of discipleship
The feast of St Stephen (transferred from August 3rd)
A sermon preached at St Stephen’s, Tamahere on the occasion of the Confirmation of Alix, Ella and Rowan.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
Rt. Rev’d Dr Helen-Ann Hartley,
Bishop of Waikato.
You may have heard the joke:
How does Good King Wenceslas prefer his pizzas:
Deep pan, crisp and even!
Most of us will be familiar with the Christmas Carol that tells the story of the Good King, and which references the feast of Stephen as the day when Wenceslas looked out and saw a poor man, and then set out to help him, along with his page, travelling through the deep snow.
We don’t have deep snow here, but we have had rather a lot of rain recently; but the invitation remains for us to mark the footsteps of Jesus and follow them in our daily lives.
Which is exactly what Rowan, Ella and Alix are seeking to do today. Confirmation is a moment in our Christian journeys when we commit to marking the footsteps of Jesus and try to follow them in our lives, to wherever that may lead us.
I worked out that, if I was to have walked from England to New Zealand it would have taken me 24,273,480 steps! That’s quite a long way. But it is helpful to me in thinking about where following Jesus has taken me in my life.
Which is all a way of helping us to think our way into our readings for today, because they don’t make for an easy read. The passage in Acts describes the martyrdom of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, your patron saint;
our Gospel speaks of trials to come in quite a dramatic fashion: ‘brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.’
The steps we take will have consequences (I have Darcy [Waikato Bishopric Youth Ministry Coordinator] to thank for giving me that word: it’s all about the consequences!). Thanks Darcy ☺
Let’s reframe this in another way. I wonder if anyone here saw the Olympic Games opening ceremony yesterday? While there has been a lot in the media about the amount of money spent on the Games, all set against the backdrop of the inequality and poverty in Rio, and indeed the photographs of raw sewage in water in which the athletes will compete?
Seeing that as a given, I nonetheless was struck watching the ceremony how much there was about consequences. The indigenous history of Brazil was very briefly referenced, as was the consequence of colonization. The rise of urbanization overstepping green lush rainforest was portrayed in such a way as to send a message to the world about the consequences of climate abuse. At several points, reference was made to the years of hard work of the athletes competing in the Games: the consequence of which was an opportunity to compete for a gold medal. The Olympic flame that had made its way over 95 days from Greece to Brazil was lit into a cauldron, the consequence of which was the illumination of an amazing and eco-friendly kinetic sculpture by the artist Anthony Howe, designed to represent the sun – that life-giving star that enables us to live and breathe.
Right at the end of the ceremony, the camera showed a beautiful view of the Maracana stadium lit up with fireworks, and the equally illuminated famous statue of Christ the Redeemer which overlooks the city of Rio de Janero. The consequence of God’s love for the world was the giving of Godself in Christ, who gave his life for all of us in the hope that we too might give life to others through the power of the Holy Spirit – that same Spirit that we envoke today in confirming Rowan, Ella and Alix.
There is a remarkable and profound beauty in all of that, as much as there is a shadow side – fear, mistrust, poverty, all those things that make for the very worst of human nature.
By that I mean, that we cannot ignore these things, for to be a disciple of Christ, to be a follower of Jesus means that we both hold all that makes us in the image of God as well as all that mars that image in us and in others around us.
The consequence of Stephen’s faith in Christ was death, our readings make that very clear. But we cannot be captured by the fear that lies behind that, rather I think reminded that we participate in that great cloud of witnesses that are all God’s people past, present and future. In whatever paths we take, whether they be good or not-so-good at times, expected, and unexpected, we are charged with bearing the Christ-light, we are literally vessels of hope. And we must hold on to that.
We are fortunate that here we are free to celebrate our faith in God without fear or persecution. But we have sisters and brothers in faith who do face that on a daily basis. Yesterday during the Olympic Opening Ceremony, there was a huge cheer and a standing ovation for the small team of athletes who make up Team Refugees. A reminder in the midst of that most magnificent of sporting events, of lives bound up in fleeing from war, terror and persecution, overcoming great odds to compete as equals in the Games. However cynical you might be about all of this, surely they send out a powerful message to us all. As the President of the IOC declared in his speech of welcome to the refugees’ team ‘we welcome you as an enrichment to our unity in diversity.’
Confirmation is about recognising the consequences of our faith, and this is for each one of us too. Think about our gestures, our language, our thoughts, think the consequence of a smile over a frown. Think about what it could be for a church community to be so consumed by love of Jesus that a consequence is a radical outpouring of inclusive love to all people, no questions asked, no presumptions made, no list of attributes to be reached before acceptance. For we are all one in Christ Jesus.
The priest-poet Malcolm Guite writes a sonnet for St Stephen, and I close with his words:
Witness for Jesus, man of fruitful blood,
Your martyrdom begins and stands for all.
They saw the stones, you saw the face of God,
And sowed a seed that blossomed in St Paul.
When Saul departed breathing threats and slaughter,
He had to pass through that Damascus gate
Where he had held the coats and heard the laughter
As Christ, alive in you, forgave his hate,
And showed him the same light you saw from heaven
And taught him, through his blindness, how to see;
Christ did not ask, ‘Why were you stoning Stephen?’
But, ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
Each martyr after you adds to his story,
As clouds of witness shine through clouds of glory.
Story Published: 7th of August - 2016
Bishop HA joins the Bel Suono choir from Waikato Dio in SydneyWaikato Dio choir excels in international music festival
For the past week, the auditioning choir 'Bel Suono' of Waikato Diocesan School for Girls under the direction of the Head of Music Maria Colvin have been participating in an International Music festival in Sydney, Australia. Twenty-seven school-age musical groups from five countries (New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Taiwan and the People's Republic of China) gathered to perform in adjudicated concerts, to participate in workshops with professional musicians, and to showcase their musical abilities in Festival Concerts at venues across Sydney. A highlight for the girls from Dio was performing on the stage of the Sydney Opera House, where they demonstrated their exceptional musical abilities with a wide-ranging repertoire. Bishop Helen-Ann, along with Principal Vicky McLennan joined the choir for a few days, and were delighted to hear the girls perform. Bishop Helen-Ann said 'watching the girls perform was inspirational; they are amazing ambassadors both for the school, and for the wider life of the Diocese. The girls exemplify qualities that are a testimony to the highest quality of the educational and formational development that they receive at Dio. The staff too, joined the girls on stage, and seeing them all performing the waiata on stage left me bursting with pride at our school.'
The girls' performances wowed the adjudicating panel, and resulted in them being selected along with two other musical groups out of the total of twenty-seven groups as 'adjudicators' choice' winners (and the only choir). The standard across the board was incredibly high, so this is a fantastic achievement, and one that we should all celebrate!
Congratulations Bel Suono!
Update: On Saturday evening, the choir found out that they had been awarded a Gold medal by the adjudicators for their performance!
Story Published: 9th of July - 2016
Reflecting on the atonementBishop HA attends the ANZATS Conference in Melbourne
Bishop Helen-Ann is currently in Melbourne, at Trinity College, where she is participating in the annual ANZATS conference (Australia and New Zealand Association of Theological Schools). The theme of the conference this year is 'The Atonement', and delegates have been enjoying three days of worship, fellowship and papers on this important topic. The key-note speaker has been The Rev'd Dr Serene Jones who is the President of Union Seminary in New York City, and also the current President of the American Academy of Religion. Dr Jones is the author of numerous books, notably 'Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World' (2009). Bishop Helen-Ann delivered a paper entitled 'AtONEment theories and the unity of the Church? Reflections on the call of discipleship.' This paper explored whether a more pastoral approach to the atonement, taking into the account the whole story of Christ and the whole journey of discipleship might offer a more helpful way of engaging in God's mission. While we cannot avoid confessional or devotional approaches, through our creeds and our liturgy and hymnody, Bishop Helen-Ann raised the problems inherent in an approach that relies purely on propositions (saying you must believe 'this') rather than enabling people to come to the story with their own often ambiguous stories of faith and relationship with God. Reflecting on the pastoral contexts of the rural economy of our Diocese, and the wider issues of human sexuality, Bishop Helen-Ann posited that the church often moves forward precisely because it accepts variegated views of AtONEment (with both sacrificial and participatory perspectives that are part of the Pauline narrative of faith). How might we continue to grow together in our faith with a deep sense of 're-with-ment' (to use a word of theologian Sam Wells).
Bishop Helen-Ann found the presence of two bishops in the Conference (the other being Bishop Stephen Pickard the Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture) was well received, with one of the conference organisers, Dr Mark Lindsay of Trinity College Melbourne saying that this was a hopeful sign of strengthening connections between academy and church leadership.
A copy of the Bishop Helen-Ann's paper will be uploaded to the Diocesan website in the coming weeks.
Story Published: 5th of July - 2016
Bishops call for "responsible honesty"The Archbishop of Papua New Guinea asks for all Christians to pray for God's wisdom to be revealed
The Church in Papua New Guinea has released two notices.
At the recent meeting of the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea spoke in support of our Melanesian brothers and sisters of West Papua. The constitution of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea affirms the dignity of human life and the need to show respect for all people. (Article 3).
The bishops wish to express on behalf of the Anglican Church the hope that the Governments of Papua New Guinea and of West Papua will make every effort to give freedom.to the many displaced people of West Papua to settle and re-establish their sense of livelihood; their homes and gardens.
We appreciate the Papua New Guinea Government’s initiative to provide citizenship to West Papuans who are living in PNG.
We are clear that it is a Gospel imperative that we must “To love the Lord our God and secondly to love our neighbours as ourselves” (Matthew Chapter22 vs 37-39). Therefore we stand in solidarity with the people of West Papua.
Archbishop and Primate
Archbishop Clyde has also called for responsible honesty and has asked all Christians to pray for God's wisdom in this situation.
A CALL FOR HONESTY AND INTEGRITY
“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6: 8
Bishops of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea call on all political leaders, public servants and others who are implicated, to be responsibly honest in the current political climate, because dishonesty will bring severe destruction to our nation.
We call on those Union leaders, Student leaders, Political leaders who are responding to the current situation to be honest and be sure that what they are doing is in the best interests of the common people, so that children and students do not become the victims of reactions to crises for self-centred motives
We ask all Christians to earnestly pray for God’s wisdom to be revealed in this situation.
++ Clyde Igara
The Anglican Communion News Service has more information (see their front page here).
Story Published: 4th of July - 2016
125 years for St Paul's Cathedral, MelbourneBishop Helen-Ann preaches in Melbourne Cathedral
On Sunday, Bishop Helen-Ann preached at the choral festival Eucharist in St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne. The occasion was their 125th patronal festival. The service was followed by a lunch, and later in the day, a Provincial Festival Evensong, attended by choirs from across the Province, along with other bishops. The text of Bishop Helen-Ann's sermon is below.
(photo: Rob Deutscher)
20 years ago, while I was in Israel for an archaeological dig, I took a bike-ride from Tiberias north to Tabhga, just west of Capernaum; this is the place where it is thought Jesus stood on the shoreline on the morning our Gospel reading describes.
From my recollection, the bike-ride was a lot harder than I had thought it was going to be (in fact my whole experience in the Holy Land ended up being not what I thought it would be –
I was digging in a 10th century BC domestic dwelling in the ancient city of Megiddo, but a discovery of falafel wrappers had revealed a significantly more recent rubbish tip that needed clearing before anything else could be discovered – I had embarked upon my first archaeological experience full of Indiana Jones’ type potential adventures in my mind, I was bitterly disappointed).
On this particular morning, remarkable only for the fact that I was in Tiberias, I remember setting off on my bicycle in very heavy traffic (we don’t tend to think about traffic when we imagine Biblical scenery); I remember several hill climbs, and I remember one of my friends got a puncture. But I also remember the sense of peace in that place when we reached it, and the beauty of the spectacular sunrise as we set out – ‘the day dawns full of new beauty and possibility’ (as one commentator describes it); and if you read the beginning of John 21, you might notice how in verse 4 John draws our attention to the fact of the daybreak.
Why this story appeals to me so much, is because here we have the disciples, post-Easter unsure of what to do next, so much so that their initial response is to return to their original identity as fishermen. The answer to their question, ‘what are we to do?’ lies in a reforming of their identities so that the question might more usefully be put as ‘who are we to be?’. As it was then, and as it has been throughout history at different times, questions of identity are front and centre for us here this morning, as we celebrate 125 years; questions of identity were also at the forefront of my own Cathedral last Sunday, celebrating 100 years. But between last Sunday and this Sunday, a lot has happened.
When you arrive in a place for the first time, you will probably be asked where do you come from? I suspect that, for most of us, this can be answered in different ways. In my context, when Maori are asked that question, or indeed even without being asked that question, they articulate identity in relationship to their mountain, their river, and their people (their tribal descent). When I am asked that question I respond by saying (and this comes in handy when I am speaking to someone who follows rugby, particularly here at the moment) that although you can’t tell from my accent I was born in Scotland, but have lived most of my life south of the border in England.
When I filled in my departure card to travel here yesterday, I wrote that I am a British Citizen, but then I looked at my passport which also says ‘European Union’. I voted remain in the referendum. Yet, as the former Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries said on BBC Radio 4 on Friday: ‘The problem with all identities…is that they are potentially divisive. If I am English, I am not French, if I am Christian I am not Muslim... And as we know so well this divisiveness can lead to war between nations, violence between football crowds and foul abuse on social media…
We are not just fellow citizens, we are from a Christian point of view made in the Divine image and called to grow into the Divine likeness.’ And that changes everything.
The Gospel writer John presents this passage as an epilogue to his Gospel. An epilogue not an after-thought. And here, contained within this passage, we have a remarkable exchange of words between Jesus and Peter; Peter betrayed Jesus, denying all knowledge of him; here as an act of forgiveness, Peter is given a job to do: his work of discipleship is re-purposed and re-invigorated. Jesus’ three questions: ‘do you love me?’ correspond to Peter’s three denials. There is a command and a challenge, and Peter is tested to the limit: he feels hurt; Jesus is addressing the pain, not wiping it clean, but tackling it head on in order to bring about the transformation that discipleship holds out for each of us. And what lies at its heart: love, nothing more, nothing less.
All of this says something very important about identity and formation, and what it means to be ‘Church’, particularly at this time.
In a chapter in a book on doing called Exploring Ordinary Theology, Nicholas Healy talks about the relationship between leadership and the so-called ‘person in the pew’; he writes that, given huge diversity in congregations and in leadership on a number of levels, ‘it cannot be enough for the average Christian to attend church once a week, listen attentively (or not!) to the sermon, and be passively guided in Christian living by their priest. Christians have little choice but to think things through for themselves at times if they are truthfully to ‘embody’ the narrative of Jesus.
Each of us will need to engage – as we do – in an ongoing, ad hoc correlation between our personal experiences and knowledges, and what we know of Christianity’ (pp. 16-17). The danger is, so Healy goes on to discuss, that we reify the Church: it becomes an object rather than a reflection of the Body of Christ in all its richness and diversity. To counter this, we need to hold a doctrine of grace as the condition for the possibility of the Church – and note that deliberate future vision – we live in the possibility of the Church; and that is exciting, because it points to the future, a future as yet unknown; it means, that whatever our current pains may be, there is always the overwhelming reality of grace.
It means that as we give thanks for 125 years, we look forward to the next 125, and beyond that, in hope. And we are called to be bearers of hope, a task even more important in our communities and in our world today.
And this is all formed firstly through recognising our identity as disciples richly part of the Body of Christ; and secondly recognising the love of God in our midst.
These two things: identity and love are front and centre to this epilogue of John’s Gospel.
While today we remember saints Peter and Paul, those giants of the faith, we must also hold to the thought that they were souls whose lives were bound up unexpectedly perhaps undeservedly you might even think in the case of Paul, into the mystery of God. Saul the persecutor became Paul the believer; Peter the fisherman became the foundation for the church. This capacity for restoration and repurposing lies at the very heart of the Gospel – people who are labeled as refugees, immigrants, foreign, other – these are all precious children in the eyes of God, each unique, each worthy of love because from love they have been created, by love they are redeemed, and in love they are to be received by us just as we ourselves would hope to be received.
That, in essence, is the headline of John 21. With all that has gone before particularly in the relationship between Jesus and Peter; the love that Jesus holds out to Peter, that is demanded from Peter, is the love that being a disciple requires. If, as Cathedral, as Diocese, you can continue to focus on that, then we despite our diversity at times, will always live in the possibility of Church – the people that God is shaping us to be. Poetic words crafted by T S Eliot put it like this:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
For God’s love, mercy and grace, unmerited and freely given to each of us, for the life of this Cathedral Church these past 125 years and for the years to come,
Thanks be to God.
Story Published: 29th of June - 2016
Poverty in New Zealand - the 'New Normal"Charitable Sector under increasing pressure to support most vulnerable.
Poverty NZ's 'new normal' - report
Radio New Zealand 1:24 pm on 23 June 2016
The government is dumping responsibility for desperate people on the charitable sector, say New Zealand's Christian social services.
A new report from the NZ Council of Christian Social Services, released today, says demand on social service organisations has soared, while government support has shrunk, particularly in the form of food grants.
Executive officer Trevor McGlinchey said like many of the people they served, social service organisations were under huge financial stress, with government funding staying largely static for the last eight years.
Desperation to find housing, food and sufficient income to survive had become "the new normal" for many families, he said.
There was "a real contradiction" between government support and the experience of organisations working at the front-line.
More and more people were relying on food parcels from community food banks, yet Work and Income's special needs grants for food decreased by 28 percent between December 2009 to December 2015.
The report also found that in the same period, Housing New Zealand waiting lists dropped from over 10,000 to 3500, even while overcrowding and homelessness increased, and emergency housing providers were being swamped with people asking for help.
"Government has relied too heavily on the response of community organisations, charities and service providers to meet the needs of those with the least in our communities," Mr McGlinchey said.
"Government must provide greater income to poor families, whether they are in work or on a benefit."
A spokesman for the Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said food grants peaked in 2010 at the height of the Global Financial Crisis and were now at "similar levels" to 2011. While the number of applications had declined, the percentage granted had increased, he said.
"As far as community investment is concerned, we invest over $330 million of taxpayer money in the social services sector - and there is little evidence it is effective in helping vulnerable people which is why we are revamping the system through the community investment strategy to ensure it is targeted and results-based, and that it makes a real difference for those who need support the most.
"On top of this funding, Budget 2016 invested an additional $347 million as part of the overhaul of care and protection for vulnerable young people and $46 million for a new nationwide system to support victims of sexual abuse system, while the $790 million child material hardship package in Budget 2015 represented the first rise in benefits for 43 years."
The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services is the umbrella organisation of the churches' social service agencies in Aotearoa. Members include the Anglican Care Network, Baptist Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand, Catholic Social Services, PresbyterianSupport New Zealand, the Methodist Church and the Salvation Army.
Link to Media release and full Report
Story Published: 26th of June - 2016
Bishop Helen-Ann's sermon for the Patronal festival of St Peter's CathedralThe place of hope in the midst of despair.
The Waikato Cathedral of St Peter, 100th Patronal Festival.
June 19th, 2016.
On Thursday of this week, I did something that I didn’t ever think I would do: I took the wheel of a Fonterra milk-tanker. Before we all get carried away, I didn’t actually go anywhere! The milk-tanker was in the Fonterra marquee at Fieldays. I had a long conversation with the man on duty and found out some fascinating things. Did you know that milk-tankers each travel on average 700km a day? That’s quite a lot. But I was most intrigued to hear that when a driver gets takes the wheel, they don’t know where they are going. Their journey for the day is programmed into a GPS inside the cabin, and they follow it.
I wonder how many of us start the day wondering where we are going? I wonder how many of us at the end of day and look back with surprise? Whether it be a conversation, a person met, an unexpected encounter; good news, bad news? I suspect it was a bit like that for the disciples.
Given our own time zone, it was well into our Sunday last week when the horrifying news came through about the mass shooting in Orlando. As I sat in the comfort and safety of my home checking the news mid-afternoon, I stared at my phone screen in disbelief. The problem is that we are becoming so used to shootings, we are desensitised to their horror. Which is possibly how I felt over the next few days. That was until the British MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered on Wednesday.
This time I woke up to the news on our Thursday morning, and I wept. A woman, just a year younger than me, by all accounts a courageous and compassionate campaigner for social justice, an advocate for the last, lost and least, wife, mother of two young children, dead, just like that. With every fibre of my being I shouted at God: why?
It’s the age-old question isn’t it? Why do bad things happen to good people? And I don’t have the answers. In fact I think the best response is to stand in silent solidarity proclaiming in our hearts that there is a better way; that violence and evil have no place in a world of beauty and love. I suspect that clergy the world over are today in their Sunday sermons trying to make sense of that which makes no sense. So I suppose I confess to a good deal of inadequacy at this point.
Our reading from Acts begins, ‘About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.’ James was killed, and Peter thrown into prison; but Peter gets out, because an angel helps him. It’s interesting that Peter is told to fasten his belt and put on his sandals. This is a prison break with some style, but the result is for Peter at least a renewed sense of his vocation; perhaps he thought back to Jesus’ words from our Gospel: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heave, and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven.’
But before we get distracted by images of fluffy clouds, and Peter standing at the Pearly gates, let’s remember that Jesus was talking about a new community that Peter would help to build, a community that certainly wasn’t perfect, a community that was made up of the least likely people, a community founded on love of neighbour, and even love of enemy. There’s no denying it: the call upon our lives as Christians asks us to pray for the persecutors and to forgive those who perpetrate evil. That is a really hard thing to do, but I suggest at least for now, that we cannot do that before we acknowledge that evil is real and hatred is real, and violence and death are real. If you have stared into the face of evil then how much more must we recognise that love is a far more powerful force?
Questions of identity are important on the day of a patronal festival. It’s significant that Matthew, arguably the most Jewish of the Gospel writers, adds the name ‘Jeremiah’ to the list of prophets whom Jesus is said to emulate. The prophets of course stood up and spoke God’s word fearlessly against wicked and rebellious Kings. Jesus, likewise, spoke God’s word against evil and injustice. And a few verses later we have the first mention of the word ‘church’ – it is this new community, formed as the Body of Christ who are to be the fearless voice of God against violence, despair, persecution and injustice. And I wonder then how well the church measures up to that responsibility?
Perhaps the comment would be ‘good in parts, but could do better…’?
I’ve been thinking quite a lot about identity this past week, not least because at the end of this week, I will cast my vote about whether or not the UK should leave Europe. It’s an odd sort of question to be asking when I am located so far away, and when my own perspective on the issue has been inevitably textured by things I have learnt here. We live in a global context, a small world; at one touch of the screen we can be overwhelmed by tragedy on a distant shore. But we are also called to be people of hope, and maybe just maybe to hold onto hope is the most important attribute we can display here in this Cathedral Church in its 100th year on this Pukerangiora Hill in Kirikiriroa.
Faithful women and men have climbed this hill for hundreds of years, before this building came into being; God has been at work in this place for longer than any of us can imagine, and God will continue to work in this place long after our mortal journeys are completed.
Philip Larkin, a gritty north of England poet who spent a lot of his life in the city of Hull, almost a straight-line an hour east from Jo Cox’s parliamentary constituency of Batley. One of his poems is called ‘The Mower’:
The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.
I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help.
Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.
Story Published: 19th of June - 2016
Ordinations at Raungaiti MaraeAcknowledging the importance of our Tikanga relationships
On Saturday morning, Bishop Helen-Ann participated in the commissioning of three new Kai Karakia, and the ordination of a deacon and a priest for Te Manawa o Te Wheke. The ordination took place on Raungaiti Marae, and it also marked the first official visit by the Bishop to Ngati Haua. Bishop Helen-Ann had been invited to participate by Bishop Ngarahu Katene, and the people of Te Manawa o Te Wheke. It was a joyful occasion, and Bishop Helen-Ann was delighted to be joined by the Rev'd Amanda Bradley, who has a close link to the church of Hemi Tapu (where new Deacon the Rev'd Jacqui Raiti is based), and by the Rev'd Ellen Bernstein and members of St Stephen's, Tamahere. The Ven. Bruce Dale was also present, representing the Archdeaconry of Piako. The whole day was a vibrant and powerful reminder of the vital importance of our Tikanga Rua relationships, and how we must be intentional and active in maintaining our visible links as part of the rich heritage of the Body of Christ in Aotearoa New Zealand.
We pray for Tau Waetford, Whineray King, and Henare Waaka commissioned as Kai Karakia; the Rev'd Jacqui Raiti ordained Deacon; and the Rev'd Hohua Matauhati ordained priest.
Story Published: 19th of June - 2016
Bishop HA at FieldaysFrom pastor to pasture
Bishop Helen-Ann returned to Fieldays again this year, and had an excellent day exploring the vast site, and speaking to many different people. A particular focus for her conversations with various exhibit-holders was the pastoral care of farmers, their families, and all those who work in agriculture. She spent time in the Fonterra marquee in conversation with staff, and contributed to the giant wall mural ('painting by numbers'). It was good also to connect with some of the individuals and groups that the bishop interacts with on Twitter. Bishop Helen-Ann acknowledged the important work that may of our parishes do to support rural communities, and the financial support also that many farmers bring to the life and work of the Church through stock schemes. Two of our Anglican schools were also present: St Paul's Collegiate, and St Peter's, Cambridge, who are both offering specialised courses in agribusiness. Given that Anglicans brought the first cows to Aotearoa, it was good to be reminded of the links between the labour of agriculture, and the labour of the mission of God in which all creation participates!
In the photograph, Bishop HA is pictured with Farryn and Jason on the Rural Support Trust stand within the LIC marquee.
Story Published: 19th of June - 2016
Walking the TalkHundreds join Peace Walk to Parihaka
New Plymouth’s mayor, Andrew Judd – who describes himself as a “recovering racist” – stepped out today on a three-day walk from the centre of his city to Parihaka.
He’s calling his hikoi through Taranaki a “Peace Walk”.
He’s not walking alone, either.
Archbishop Philip Richardson strode out at his shoulder today, and at least 500 others joined the hikoi as made its way through New Plymouth.
The numbers dropped off at the city limits – but at least 100 folk, including Archbishop Philip, completed today’s first leg of the journey, a 15km hikoi to Oakura.
The back story: Andrew Judd won the 2013 election for New Plymouth’s mayoralty with a landslide majority. In 2014, under his leadership, New Plymouth’s councillors voted in support of establishing a Maori ward.
That vote, in turn, led to another landslide – a citizens’ initiated 2015 referendum in which 83 percent of the voters rejected the proposal of a Maori ward for New Plymouth.
Mayor Judd then decided that the costs of his stand on Maori representation – both to his family and to New Plymouth’s reputation – were such that he wouldn’t stand for re-election again this year. He’d go out as a one-term mayor.
But he also decided he’d embark on this Peace Walk, as a way of “walking into a new conversation”.
The Peace Walk’s organisers are at pains to say their walk is not a protest, but a chance to create different ways to talk about issues that affect the community.
Hundreds of people were at the briefing outside of the New Plymouth District Council Civic Centre this morning.
Some have come from outside Taranaki to support the peace project. Pat McGill, for example, who is 90, travelled from Napier and said he hoped the walk would help create the change necessary to address social inequality.
“When people walk, they talk, and in time they listen,” he said.
Archbishop Philip has also been happy to walk and be counted.
He told the Taranaki Daily News that the Peace Walk was not only a way to honour the Treaty of Waitangi, but an invitation to Pakeha and Maori to create better ways to relate to one another.
The walkers have so far been treated to toots from passing motorists, high fives from pedestrians and a haka outside New Plymouth’s Spotswood College.
Community forums were to be held this afternoon in Oakura and Thursday in Okato, which will give people a chance to talk about different issues.
 Archbishop Philip walked today – and will rejoin the walk on Friday.
Story Published: 15th of June - 2016
Lean Refugee quota shames New ZealandArchbishop Philip - refugee quota increases are shameful on the world stage.
Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia
Media Release – June 13 2016
Lean quota rise shames New Zealand
The Anglican Archbishop of New Zealand says the country remains on the wrong side of the ledger when it comes to accepting refugees.
Archbishop Philip Richardson says the Government’s announcement that adds 250 refugee places to our annual quota fails to show New Zealand acting as a responsible global citizen.
He welcomes the news that 250 more people will be offered refuge in this country, and that 600 Syrian refugees have come via the emergency intake, but says those increases are shameful on the world stage.
“In the past five years, there has been a 76 percent increase in people displaced due to war and persecution: from 34 million to 60 million people.” he said.
“Although the stories of terror play out far from our shores, we need to respond as global neighbours and step up to offer as much as we can.”
“I believe we are a compassionate and a caring country, but in the face of the current crisis, this increase almost says the opposite."
New Zealand lags well behind comparably-sized countries like Ireland, says Archbishop Philip.
With less than a third of New Zealand’s land area, and a slightly higher GDP per capita, Ireland has taken in four times our national refugee quota since 1976.
In a submission on the refugee quota presented to government earlier this year, the Anglican Church offered to raise its national commitment to supporting refugees and contribute more resources to enable larger intakes.
Story Published: 13th of June - 2016
A new chaplain for Tamihere EventideWelcome Rev'd Carol Hancock!
Rev'd Carol Hancock has been officially commissioned as one of the chaplains at Tamahere Eventide retirement home and village. Carol shares the role with a chaplain from the Methodist Church. Carol began her chaplaincy role in February, having previously been vicar at St Luke's, Te Kuiti. Over 70 members of the Eventide community gathered to share in the service, joined by the Rev'd Ellen Bernstein, vicar of St Stephen's, Tamahere, and the Rev'd Daniel Sitaram, Anglican chaplain at Waikato hospital. Music was provided by Carol's husband Laurie, and the Rev'd Pere Pou from Te Kuiti. Bishop Helen-Ann shared a reflection on the importance of the chaplaincy role as a bearer of God's love, and a balm to counsel anxiety. We welcome Carol, and pray for her in her new ministry.
Story Published: 2nd of June - 2016
A Budget means more than numbersBudget fails to address critical needs in society
Budget means more than numbers
A budget is a moral document as well as a fiscal one — and this budget falls short in three areas critical to New Zealanders' wellbeing, says Archbishop Philip Richardson.
TAONGA NEWS | 27 MAY 2016
Archbishop Philip Richardson believes the budget does not adequately address three critical issues: the housing crisis, the increasing casualisation of work, and the growing inequalities between wealthier and poorer New Zealanders.
“A budget is both a fiscal and a moral document that frames the priorities for our common life as a society,” he says.
“And in this budget the government has not recognised the level of the crisis that church social services groups see every day.”
The Archbishop says the church was hoping to see more in terms of housing and he describes the measures in the budget as “palliative” rather than seeing housing as a priority for society.
“We were looking to this budget to see some greater investment in social housing – and this investment is minimal. Fifty million dollars per year for four years does not recognise the magnitude of the housing crisis.”
“While it is important to help those who need emergency accommodation and to insulate homes, too many New Zealanders are living in cars and in overcrowded conditions.
“New homes are not coming on fast enough,” he says, “and what is planned to be built will not be affordable for low-middle and low income families.
“Increasing land supply may lead to more houses – but the construction industry currently doesn’t have the capacity to build the number of houses that are required, and the houses that are currently available in Auckland are not affordable to the families who need them most.”
Archbishop Richardson says there is little in the budget to address growing inequalities in New Zealand. More and more New Zealanders find themselves trapped in poverty, he says, because their families don’t have adequate income to live minimally decent lives.
“This budget does not recognise the increasing casualization of work, the minimum hours people at the lower end are given to work, and the number of jobs they often have to hold to keep their families together.
“That, combined with the huge increase in housing costs, creates a crisis for low-middle and low income households. If there is not a corresponding increase in income for them, either through tax credits or a direct increase in incomes, then they are in serious financial trouble.”
Social service workers in the church say while it is pleasing to see an acknowledgement of the level of debt accumulated by low income families, this budget fails to address the underlying affordability issues that will prevent this type of debt in the first place.
Story Published: 28th of May - 2016
Mind the GapBishop Helen-Ann explores the gaps in our discipleship
Another large crowd gathered in St Peter's Cathedral Centre last night as we celebrated week 2 of The Feast winter lecture series. On this occasion we were delighted to welcome Bishop Helen-Ann to present her thoughts on the gaps we encounter in discipleship - the 'underdetermined' spaces that we are so often called to.
Through a combination of art, poetry and humour the Bishop challenged us to be more aware of the gaps in the world and the spaces in which we feel disconnected. These are the gaps not only between us and the world we live, but also the perceived gap between us and God. Sometimes that is felt as isolation or abandonment, but it is always an invitation to get closer to God; for indeed, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nevertheless, the infinity and the "inscrutability" of God underscore the mystery we are confronted with in trying to know. So there is always a dynamic tension in our relationship with God. For while we encounter God through Jesus Christ (the ultimate "gap filler") we are always conscious of the "unknowability" of God. And yet Jeremiah 23 adds: "23 Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth?"
God you call us to the gaps,
Not because you are not there,
But because we should be.
Give us the desire to go into those gaps,
Knowing that you are either side of us.
Noli timere - Do not be afraid!
For your God is with you.
Always and forever.
* All of The Feast presentations are being recorded and will be made available in the fullness of time.
Story Published: 25th of May - 2016
The Feast begins!Professor Douglas Campbell speaks
The annual Diocesan festival of prayer and spirituality 'The Feast' got off to an inspiring start last night, as over 100 people packed into St Peter's Cathedral Centre, joined via video-link with Waihi, to listen to Hamilton-born and raised Professor Doug Campbell speak about his experience of prison ministry. Douglas is Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School in the United States, where his research interests focus on the life and thought of the Apostle Paul. However, as an article in the Waikato Times reported last week, 'a phone call from a sobbing teenager jailed for killing his parents started Douglas Campbell's journey to prison ministry.'
Those present were challenged by the thought that we are an 'incarcerated church' - there are many Christians in prison, both as people who have been sent there having committed crimes, and those who work there too, as corrections officers and staff. We are challenged too by words of Jesus in Matthew where the righteous say: 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' Professor Campbell reflected that this is not a multi-choice list! As Christians, we are to answer the deep needs around us. But, as we were told, prison ministry has to be a calling, and some will be called to visit, others to write letters, others still simply to pray. The basis for our response is, as theologian Sam Wells writes, that we are deeply convinced that God is already at work in the person whom you are connecting with, and you desire to know that person because they are valued as a human being, a child of God. Visiting someone in prison is not about saving them, it is about restoring something of their identity that has been lost, and thus the language we use about people is so important; 'each of us is better than the biggest mistake we have made,' so Douglas reflected.
Professor Campbell inspired and challenged those present very profoundly. We were reminded that as Christians we need to do more than listen to the words of Scripture, we are to walk as disciples with our whole hearts and bodies.
The Feast continues next Tuesday (24th) with Bishop Helen-Ann; Archbishop Philip on May 31st, and the Rev'd Peter Osborne from Anglican Action on June 7th.
7pm refreshments in St Peter's Cathedral, Hamilton; 7.30pm start for the lecture.
Story Published: 18th of May - 2016
Bishops' pastoral letter regarding A Way ForwardGeneral Synod Te Hīnota Whānui
Over the past few days, GSTHW has met in Ahuriri, Napier. Prior to Synod convening, we spent a day in a General Conference between Tikanga Māori and Tikanga Pakeha. This day of conversation reminded us again of our vibrant life and hope that we hold together in the Gospel that we seek to live out and proclaim. We acknowledge that we have not always lived up to the standards that God would ask of us through the example of Jesus Christ. As we welcomed Tikanga Polynesia, and as GSTHW 2016 got underway, we experienced the warmth of relationship that our three Tikanga church demonstrates. Despite our differences, which are often a source of pain as well as joy, we are all part of the Body of Christ.
Before we say a word about the discussions and resolutions around the A Way Forward report, we do want to share that equally high on the agenda, and occupying an equally substantial period of time, were the challenges facing us with the reality of climate change. We heard our Tikanga Polynesia sisters and brothers describe the very real impact of rising sea levels, and extreme weather events. It is clear that on this topic, our Church has a real opportunity to give voice to the cries of God's creation, and to call each one of us to account about how we treat that creation of which we are a part. We also spent an evening hosted by Hukarere Girls' College; members of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui witnessed the breaking of ground on the site of the new chapel, and shared a delicious meal as we listened to kapa haka performances by the young women of Hukarere, and young men from Te Aute College. A rich and inspiring reminder of the vibrancy and energy of faith that is contained within our Anglican Schools.
As expected, there was considerable discussion of the A Way Forward Report. These discussions were lengthy, honest, hard-going at times, and raw. There was not a person who was untouched by the range and depth of emotions that are held, silently and out loud by so many across the range of views on the matter of same-sex relationships. Aspects of this discussion have been reported on the Anglican Toanga website, and we encourage you to read these reports very carefully.
What became abundantly clear was that while Tikanga Māori and Tikanga Polynesia were (even with their own internal differences) prepared to accept Motion 4 and its recommendations, Tikanga Pakeha needed more time. The focus of this request was to ask for further work to be done on our structural life to explore how we might live with two integrities.
Therefore, GSTHW 2016 resolved through the passing of Motion 29 to:
- Receive with thanksgiving the A Way Forward Report;
- That the report and its recommendations do lie on the table until GSTHW 2018, with a firm expectation that a decision to move forward will be made there;
- Establishes and commits to pray for a working group to be appointed by the primates to consider possible structural arrangements within our three Tikanga church to safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same-gender relationships;
- That this working group to report by the end of July 2017.
In the moving of this motion, we cannot adequately convey the depth of manaakitanga and aroha that was extended to Tikanga Pakeha. We are profoundly blessed in our relationships, and we wept tears of gratitude because of this.
We are acutely aware that within our Diocese, a range of views on the blessing of same-gender relationships exist. We are not resolved on this matter. However we are committed to finding a way of journeying together, and as your Bishops we take this immensely seriously. We will continue to listen prayerfully to those views, and over the next period of time we will be inviting parishes into an Indaba process of intentional conversation and listening to one another on this topic. We will be sharing details of this in coming weeks.
In the midst of all of this conversation and careful discernment of God's will for us at this time, we remain profoundly committed to leading our Diocese in our threefold vision: that grounded in prayer, we are equipped for discipleship, and connected to community. We rejoice in God's call to us as your Bishops, and we are deeply inspired by the privilege that it is to be in this role. We commit to praying for you all, as we are grateful for the prayers you lift up for us.
Holy and ever-living God,
by your power we are created and by your love we are redeemed;
guide and strengthen us by your Spirit,
that we at give ourselves to your service
and live this day in love to one another and to you;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Our Diocese has the honour of hosting GSTHW 2018, which will be held in New Plymouth. We look forward to that with anticipation and hope, grateful of our need for God's grace at all times.
In Christ, crucified and risen,
Story Published: 13th of May - 2016
THE FEASTWinter Lecture Series - Discipleship
"Grounded in prayer we are equipped for discipleship and connected to community."
For a long time we have thought that a disciple is someone who follows Jesus, but that is simply too passive. Jesus did not ask us to follow him to the cross, but rather to take up our cross. We are not called to amble benignly in the shadow of our saviour - but to actually become like him. As Dallas Willard says, we should be "apprentices": pupils completely focussed on emulating the master.
And that requires a lot of hard work.
This year's winter series called THE FEAST, tells the stories of those people who do the hard work and aspire to be like Christ. Our presenters are people who have had the courage of their convictions and made their theology their reality. So we invite you to come and be a part of their story and see how they have apprenticed themselves to the master. Come and find out how a world-renowned professor found himself in US prison ministry. Hear what it means to work with Anglican Action as they support the men we exclude from our society. Listen to our bishops as they explore what it means to be faithful disciples in our parishes.
St Peter's Cathedral, Victoria St, Hamilton
(Also delivered live by video conference to St John's Waihi and St Luke's Te Kuiti.)
May 17 Prof Douglas Campbell
May 24 Bishop Helen-Ann
May 31 Archbishop Philip
June 7 Rev Peter Osborne
Story Published: 13th of May - 2016
The Urban DeaneryWhat is an urban deanery?
The Hamilton Urban Deanery is the creation of a cluster of parishes and ministry units in the south of the city for mutual support, collaboration and resource sharing. It is a model of individual ministry units working together which is well established in Taranaki and indeed in many parts of the Anglican Communion. At present the relationship is largely informal, with one representative from each ministry unit involved. Most of us are clergy, but we do have one lay member, meeting together every three weeks and supported by the Waiakato Bishopric Educator. As we talk, share and pray together we will have a better understanding of each other, of our giftings and the churches and communities in which we work. It is our belief that from these foundations we will have a new sense of priorities and begin new undertakings in mission and ministry, which separately we would not have been able to envisage. It is interesting to reflect that this form of collaborative ministry was promoted by George Selwyn when he was in Cambridge, UK, prior to him being ordained a Bishop and arriving in New Zealand.
At the moment the Urban Deanery consists of the Cathedral, St. Luke’s Melville and Ohaupo, St. David’s West Hamilton and St. James Nixon Street. In the future others may join us and they will be very welcome. This is an initiative which rejoices in a voluntary response from clergy and people and has at its heart a willingness to work together. The model does not replace or indeed tamper with any other existing structures and each ministry unit remains autonomous. Of note is the fact that a similar model is being piloted in the south of the bishopric in a rural setting and led by the Venerable Christine Scott.
It would be fair to say that we are being led by the Holy Spirit and we are not quite sure where this journey will take us. However, for those committed to it there is a strong sense of being “better together.”
Ven Paul Weeding
Story Published: 11th of May - 2016
Bishop HA takes part in Waikato Dio's Year 12 CampTrekking the Tongaririo
Bishop Helen-Ann has spent this week taking part in the Waikato Diocesan School for Girls' Year 12 camp, to National Park. Each year the 120 girls of Year 12 spend four days in National Park mountain biking, tramping, caving and undergoing a Search and Rescue simulation exercise, all with a focus on developing leadership skills. Bishop Helen-Ann joined the Year 12s two years ago for their Year 10 camp at Raglan. That camp brought a new experience for Bishop HA: surfing; this time it was mountain biking that taught Bishop HA a new set of skills, as she joined the girls on a challenging course through the Erua Forest.
The camp itself began with a visit to Pāpākai Marae by Tongariro, where the girls heard stories from the local iwi about the mountains and the surrounding area. This was followed by a hangi at the Marae and an opportunity for the girls to demonstrate the work that they had done in small groups to illustrate important aspects of the talks that they had listened to. On Thursday morning, the Bishop was with a small group who trekked part of the Tongariro crossing. Although the weather was rough, this accompanying photo suggests that a good time was had by all! The girls (and the Bishop) learnt invaluable skills about undertaking a search and rescue exercise, from professionals in the field who had set up a real-life scenario for the girls to work through: two missing German tourists in the forest. As the girls worked to find the missing couple, the staff present were given roles to play (based on real experiences) to distract from the task at hand. Bishop HA found herself portraying the German Ambassador, and a TV reporter. Over the course of the three-hour exercise, the girls worked as a team to cover a wide search area, communicating back to base with the search management team.
Bishop HA said of the camp: 'it was an absolute privilege to join Waikato Dio for their Year 12 camp. Two years ago I was with the same group of girls in Raglan, and it was wonderful to see how they had developed both as individuals and as a year group. They are remarkable and inspiring young women, and I was deeply moved at how they worked together, looking out for one another, and ensuring that everyone was included. I was inspired by the dedication of the teaching staff, who worked tirelessly to put this camp together, and ensure its smooth running. It was so good to be able to also spend time with the staff, and they made me feel absolutely part of the team! The girls are current and future leaders in society, and I know that at Waikato Dio they are being instilled with the attributes of discipleship and care for others and for our world. Our Anglican schools do a magnificent job, and it is right that we give them all the support that we can.'
Story Published: 6th of May - 2016
Welcome Dean PeterA new Dean for Taranaki!
The Interim Cathedral of St Mary's, New Plymouth was full to bursting on a beautifully sunny afternoon last Saturday for installation of the new Dean, the Very Rev'd Peter Beck. Invited guests and dignitaries from near and far joined our Bishops Diocesan clergy to celebrate this new beginning in the life of one of our Cathedrals. Dean Peter was supported by his wife Gay and their families, and by Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, and the current Dean of Christchurch (a role previously held by Dean Peter) the Very Rev'd Lawrence Kimberley. Bishop Kito Pikaahu and Bishop Jim White also made the journey to New Plymouth, an indication of how widely Dean Peter is held in regard by so many in our whole Church. We were delighted also that representatives from the Diocese and Nelson and the Te Wai Pounamu Amorangi were present. Prayers of thanksgiving included a tribute to the ministry of the previous Cathedral Dean, Jamie Allen.
Dean Peter preached an uplifting sermon, mindful of the challenges that lie ahead in tackling the seismic strengthening project for the Cathedral, but full of hope and joy in God's love.
Now we have our full complement of two Cathedral Deans again, both called Dean Peter!
Welcome Dean Peter Beck!
Story Published: 1st of May - 2016
A new Archbishop for Melanesia++Philip attends installation of the new Archbishop of Melanesia
Guests from the UK, PNG, Australia, Polynesia, the US and Canada were collected from hotels at 6.30 am to be ready for the start of the installation service at 7.30 am.
By the time we arrived over 3,000 people were already gathered for what proved to be an extraordinary day of celebration, marked by hope and joy.
The familiar words of Anglican liturgy were garnished with cultural elements of deep significance. None more so than the Gospel procession where the Holy Scriptures were carried down the aisle by four Melanesian brothers in a canoe surrounded by traditional dancers. The Gospels were then lifted out and taken to the newly installed Archbishop to be sensed before being placed back in the canoe which acted as the lectern for the reading of the Word.
Dancing, vibrant singing, and lots of laughter meant that the 4 1/2 hours of the service flew by. Never before have I seen an altar laden with 14 flagons of wine, all of which was blessed to ensure that the multitudes received the sacrament. There was none left over!
After the service there followed a luncheon for the thousands and hours of gift giving and entertainment. Weary but happy we returned to our hotel at 5 pm for a brief respite before attending a celebratory dinner with the Governor General of the Solomon Islands at the Archbishop's residence that evening.
A day of meetings followed as well as visits to the Melanesian Brothers, Bishop Paterson Theological College and the Christian Care Centre, a remarkable ministry led by two orders of Anglican nuns caring for children, adolescents and women who are the victims of sexual abuse.
Our relationships with our near neighbours are very strong and are set to become stronger as we look to the establishment of regional networks across many mission initiatives between Aotearoa, New Zealand, Polynesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Melanesia. Thanks be to God!
Story Published: 25th of April - 2016
Bishops reunited!++David and +Denis awarded Honorary Doctorates by the University of Waikato
It was a day of reunions and celebrations on Thursday, as Archbishop Sir David Moxon and Bishop Emeritus Denis Browne were awarded Honorary Doctorates by the University of Waikato. This saw the rare coming together of both Bishops and their successors: Bishop Steve Lowe, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hamilton, and Bishop Helen-Ann. Archbishop Philip was also in attendance, along with many friends and whanau of the honorary graduands. The University bestows this highest of honours upon distinguished individuals, and indeed each in their own merit, for commitments to education, community building and engagement, and social justice. But both Bishops were also honoured as a mark of recognition of their many years of ecumenical witness and ministry in the City of Hamilton and across the region far and wide. The day began with a liturgy in the Lady Goodfellow Chapel on the University of Waikato's campus, overseen by the Ecumenical Chaplain, the Rev'd Br Andrew McKean, and the Roman Catholic chaplain Fr Andrew. After the graduation ceremony, there was an afternoon tea held in Anglican Action, to mark the vital work of both Bishops in the establishment of Te Ara Hou village.
Many congratulations indeed!
Story Published: 22nd of April - 2016
Young leaders showing the way!Bishop HA attends the Anglican Schools' Leadership Conference
Over this past weekend, the Diocese was honoured to be host to the first Anglican Schools' Leadership Conference, for students in years 12 and 13. The gathering took place in St Mary's School in Stratford. The genesis for the conference came from the Anglican Schools' Conference which was held in Christchurch last year. During this conference, a parallel programme ran for selected students from year 12 from all over the country. One of the suggestions that came from the young people was for a more intentional gathering to focus on developing young leaders in our Anglican Schools. The Director of the Anglican Schools' Office, the Rev'd Anne van Gend worked with Tikanga Pākeha national youth advisor, Phil Trotter, to put together a programme based on the theme of 'Making a difference'. How can year 12 and 13 students make an active difference to their schools and to connected parishes and the whole church? Bishop Helen-Ann was able to attend part of the conference, both in her capacity as Bishop of the Diocese (representing Archbishop Philip also who has been in Melanesia at the installation of the new Archbishop of that Province), and as Youth Liaison Bishop, a role which links the House of Bishops to the Tikanga Toru Youth Commission. The 3TYC Youth Commissioner, the Rev'd Michael Tamahere was present, along with several school chaplains. We were delighted that we had excellent representation from St Mary's School, Waikato Diocesan School for Girls, and St Paul's Collegiate. Presenters at the conference included World Vision and voices from within the schools themselves, sharing stories of discipleship at grass-roots level. Added to this were opportunities for worship and the outstanding food at St Mary's (which we experienced at our Diocesan Synod dinner last year!). Delegates were welcomed to St Mary's during a pōwhiri in the recently built school gymnasium, which saw all the girls of the school welcome the manuhiri.
On the Friday evening, Bishop HA was grilled during a 'Bishop on the sofa' session, during which the Y12 and 13s asked her all sorts of questions, to which she did her best to respond! You will have to ask those present whether she passed the test!
One of the delights of the conference was that it was very much a Three Tikanga event, with Hukarere and Te Aute Colleges, and Basden College in Suva represented. All in all, a superb way for our schools to be at the forefront of developing present and future leaders in the whole life of our Church.
Story Published: 19th of April - 2016
Ordinations++P and +HA ordain two new priests for our Diocese!
Over 150 people gathered in St Francis, Tokoroa on Saturday evening for the ordination to the priesthood of the Rev'ds Wynne Bowers-Mason and Diane Hopping. Family, friends and supporters gathered from across the Diocese for this joyful celebration: in particular from All Saints' Matamata (where Wynne had served during a formational year) and St Bride's Otorohanga (where Diane will be Priest Assistant; Diane is also Chaplain to the Selwyn Foundation in Hamilton, at Wilson Carlisle). Archbishop Philip and Bishop Helen-Ann presided, and the Rev'd Bruce Dale preached. Bruce had led the ordination retreat, with help from the Rev'd Stephen Prebble, the vicar at Matamata.
We give thanks for this new thing that God has done, and we pray for Wynne and for Diane in their ministries.
Story Published: 10th of April - 2016
'Love generously, so that you might be generously loved'Bishop H-A preaches in St Margaret's, Te Kauwhata
About 21 years ago, while I was in Israel for a month on an archaeological dig, I along with a group of friends took a bike-ride from Tiberias north to Tabhga, just west of Capernaum; this is the place where it is thought Jesus stood on the shoreline that morning.
From my recollection, the bike-ride was interesting: and was a lot harder than I thought; I remember setting off in heavy Tiberias traffic (we don’t tend to think about traffic in Biblical scenes); I remember several hill climbs, and I remember one of our number got a puncture. But I also remember the sense of peace in that place when we reached it, and the beauty of the early morning light as we set out; the spectacular sunrise – ‘the day dawns full of new beauty and possibility’ (as one commentator describes it); and note how in verse 4 John draws our attention to the daybreak.
Why this story appeals to me so much, is because here we have the disciples, post-Easter unsure quite what to do. John presents this passage as an epilogue to his Gospel; an epilogue not an after-thought. And here, contained within this passage, we have a remarkable exchange of words between Jesus and Peter; Peter who has so horribly betrayed Jesus, denying all knowledge of him; here as an act of forgiveness, Peter is given a job to do: his work of discipleship is re-purposed and re-invigorated. Jesus’ three questions: ‘do you love me?’ correspond to Peter’s three denials. There is a command and a challenge, and Peter is tested to the limit: he feels hurt; Jesus is addressing the pain, not wiping it clean, but tackling it head on in order to bring about the transformation that discipleship holds out for each of us. And what lies at its heart: love, nothing more, nothing less.
All of this says something very important about identity and formation, and what it means to be ‘church’. In a chapter in a book on doing theology entitled ‘Ordinary Theology, Theological Method and Constructive Ecclesiology’ (pp. 13-22 in Exploring Ordinary Theology eds. Jeff Astley and Leslie J. Francis, Ashgate 2013), Nicholas Healy talks about the relationship between governance and leadership and the so-called ‘person in the pew’; he writes that, given huge diversity in congregations and in leadership on a number of levels, ‘it cannot be enough for the average Christian to attend church once a week, listen attentively (or not!) to the sermon, and be passively guided in Christian living by their priest. Christians have little choice but to think things through for themselves at times if they are truthfully to ‘embody’ the narrative of Jesus. Each of us will need to engage – as we do – in an ongoing, ad hoc correlation between our personal experiences and knowledges, and what we know of Christianity’ (pp. 16-17). The danger is, so Healy goes on to discuss, that we reify the Church: it becomes an object rather than a reflection of the Body of Christ in all its richness and diversity. To counter this, we need to hold a doctrine of grace as the condition for the possibility of the church – and note that deliberate future vision – we live in the possibility of the church; and that is exciting, because it points to the future, a future as yet unknown; it means, that whatever our current pains are, there is always the overwhelming reality of grace.
And this is all formed firstly through recognising our identity as disciples together and richly part of the Body of Christ; and secondly recognising the love of God in our midst.
These two things: identity and love are front and centre to this epilogue of John’s Gospel.
Some of you may have seen or at least heard about Taika Waititi’s new movie ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’. If you haven’t, go and see it; it’s a brilliant film: funny, poignant, beautifully filmed, and with many layers to consider. It tells the story of what happens when the young Ricky Baker is given into the care of his foster aunty and uncle; the film narrates what happens with Ricky and Uncle Hec go on the run from Child Family Services. It is a story of pilgrimage, of identity, of love and grace. Like a Gospel, the film is divided into chapters, and at its end an epilogue. I won’t give it away; but what happens in the epilogue is if you like a closure that points to a renewed possibility of relationship, one that sees Uncle Hec renewed by the re-gifting of the title of relationship to Ricky: Uncle. That connection becomes the condition of relationship; and forgiveness is textured by what that relationship will now mean, and indeed is what we see hinted at in the closing seconds of the film.
And what about love? That all-important essence that binds all relationships. Interestingly, in the Greek of John 21, there are two words for love that are used. While scholars have concluded that the reason for variation is probably stylistic on John's part, I wonder? The two words, philein and agapein are significant: the former implies the love of friendship, of being with one another, whilst the latter implies a deeper kind of sharing. Perhaps part of Jesus' challenge here (to us) is that to truly love means we need to engage in both?
Earlier in the week, I was going through a pile of papers in my study at home and I happened upon an old copy of Taonga. It was the edition of Taonga that profiled ++Philip as our new Archbishop. I skimmed through the interview that he gave and my interest spiked somewhat when I read his answer to the question: ‘what advice do you have for the new Bishop of Waikato’. I must have read it at the time, and not given it a second thought; now however, looking back at this I am obviously invested in the answer, which was: ‘Love generously so that you might be generously loved.’
That, in essence, is the headline of John 21. With all that has gone before particularly in the relationship between Jesus and Peter; the love that Jesus holds out to Peter, that is demanded from Peter, is the love that being a disciple requires. If we, as Church, as Diocese can focus on that, that indeed being the essence of Christ, then we despite our diversity at times, will always live in the possibility of Church – the people that God is shaping us to be.
For God’s love, mercy and grace, unmerited and given freely to each of us,
Thanks be to God.
Story Published: 10th of April - 2016
Farewell to Southwell Headmaster, Royce Helm'In praise of famous men'
On April 8th, at 1.30pm, a packed All Hallows' Chapel in Southwell School held a formal service of decommissioning for Mr Royce Helm, the 7th Headmaster of the school. Royce has held this role for the past 13 years, and he and his wife Rhona are headed to Melbourne, where Royce will become part of the leadership team of Melbourne Grammar School, as Head of Grimwade House. During Royce's decommissioning service, he symbolically returned the school keys and the school roll. Bishop Helen-Ann gave the Address below, on the text Sirach 44:1-15.
There are two occasions in any given year when clergy up and down the country, and probably all over the world get anxious. Only two, I hear you ask?! Well ok, let me rephrase: there are two occasions *in particular* during the year when clergy get anxious. If you'd visited our home last Saturday, you may have seen various post-it notes around the house, even in the fridge:
Don't forget clocks go back tonight!
The fear of being too early or especially too late for church gives me the chills even as I speak!
We live our lives by the clock, and nowhere is this more evident than in the life of a school. Bells ring, time-tables are ordered, lessons begin and end, and at some point in the day, everyone goes home, only to get up the next day and do it all again.
The narrative of the Bible is very good at ordering time, and if you wanted to, you could spend a good deal of time ‘number-crunching’ various statistics. An appreciation of time in the Bible is often accompanied by what has been achieved or learnt in that time, and this is a particular feature of the Wisdom Literature of which our reading derives; more about that briefly in a moment.
Today, we mark the end of a season of time in the life of this school, a season that has witnessed the gracious and remarkable leadership of one man: Royce Helm. I don't say that lightly, for it is right and proper to speak in the tone of the author of our reading: ‘Let us now sing the praises of famous men,’ not least because this is not praise for the sake of praise, it is ultimately about giving thanks to God for this season here at Southwell. We give thanks to God because of Royce, and all that has flourished here because of his gifts and skills. We entrust Royce and Rhona to God's care during this time of transition, as much as we continue to entrust the life of this school as we search for a new leader. As our reading concludes: ‘the assembly declares their wisdom, and the congregation proclaims their praise.’
The book that our reading comes from stands in the tradition of Proverbs, which itself stands in a tradition of wisdom instruction that is best represented in Egyptian literature. The notable departure in the book of Sirach is the role and place given to an acknowledgment of the broader history within which the individuals are praised, and the hint made that praise is due both for the things we see, and for the things we do not see; both are a measure of the debt of gratitude to individuals named and unnamed in our reading. We might say then, that our debt of gratitude to Royce is both for what we know he has done, and for the many things and hours unseen that he has given in dedicated service to the life of this school.
The verses of our reading set the scene for the kind of people the author is going to praise: these reflect major categories of the Hebrew Scriptures: kings and rulers, prophets and sages. Those who composed musical tunes (perhaps a nod to Royce’s own musical abilities?!). Verse 6 talks about ‘rich men endowed with resources’ – now I know that balancing the finances of a school can be challenging, but take heart that in the Hebrew that lies behind the Greek text that we have today, the word ‘rich’ is more accurately translated as ‘stalwart’. To be stalwart is to be loyal, reliable and hard-working. Royce, that sums you up absolutely! It is also a word that is best understood in the context of a team or an organisation, and nowhere is this more real than in the life of a school, and this takes on a particular character in the life of a school that has faith as its foundation. Headship has been and is for Royce both a vocation and a ministry. The school in its entirety is wholly implicated in what its leadership does and is. Leadership exists to inspire and coax human hearts and minds into the fullness of life that is the Kingdom of God, asking in effect ‘Do you see what I see?’ Wisdom looks for what God intends for the good of his whole creation: it doesn’t always look to a utopian future but rather speaks into a reality that ebbs and flows. It is no coincidence that, in the New Testament tradition, Christ is described in terms that echo this Wisdom tradition. This is the kind of leadership praised in our reading today.
Which leads me to my final thought. Royce, during your speech last year at Senior Prize-giving, you quoted from James Kerr’s book ‘Legacy,’ about another group of famous men – the All Blacks. In his book, Kerr discusses briefly the well-known All Blacks’ saying: ‘Leave the jersey in a better place.’ Kerr writes: ‘understanding this responsibility creates a compelling sense of higher purpose. It’s a good lesson for us all: if we play a bigger game, we play a more effective game. Better people make better All Blacks – but they also make better doctors and lawyers, bankers and businessmen, fathers, brothers and friends.’ And to this I would add better school principals.
Royce, thanks be to God for your life and ministry in this place, and may God continue to bless you as you begin this new season of your career.
Story Published: 8th of April - 2016
State Highway 3 gets the MessageSt Mary's School Stratford proclaims its special character
The busiest stretch of road in Taranaki has been getting the message from our small Anglican school over the past few days. That the Easter message is at the heart of the education of the young women at this school. Forming Successful learners, Resolute Women, Courageous Leaders in the context of God's unfailing, inexhaustible love for every person is the distinctive character of this Anglican Christian school in central Taranaki.
Story Published: 28th of March - 2016
Easter at the edge of the DioceseWaverley and Ngamatapouri celebrate Easter day
Christ is risen, Alleluia!
Easter Day saw Archbishop Philip in Waverley, South Taranaki for the mid morning service. A combined churches service gathered over 40 people of all ages together to celebrate the resurrection. An historic split in the Waverley congregation 25 years ago led to the establishment of the Waverley Baptist Church. So it was profoundly moving to be joined by significant numbers of the Baptist congregation for the Easter Eucharist. An ongoing commitment to quarterly joint services gives witness to the wider community of the priority of mission over historical divisions.
Then it was on to the tiny community of St Hilda in the Wood, Ngamatapouri, an hours drive land. The small congregation represented a high proportion of the population of these isolated valleys. They are resilient and resourceful people who are still in recovery mode following the devastating floods of several years ago. The land shows the marks of this devastation and it is even harder to eke out a living from this demanding land. The people of the valleys do so with hard work, humour and hope.
The day was imbued with lots of laughter and joy. The service concluded with an Easter egg hunt around the Church. A wonderful community afternoon tea at the Larsen farm rounded off a special Easter Day in this, the most isolated corner of our widespread diocese.
Story Published: 28th of March - 2016
Not an idle taleBishop Helen-Ann's Easter Day sermon
What is the strangest thing you have ever heard about that was true?
Earlier this week, I received several emails from family and friends in the UK. They were excited that the city of Hamilton had made world headlines, and included a link to the story as published on the BBC news website. The link as it appeared on my computer included a series of numbers, with no clear indication of what the story was actually about. One email asked me whether this might make it into my Easter sermon, followed by a series of exclamation marks.
In the few seconds it took for the story to download, I fired up my imagination about what it could possibly be about? Hamilton doesn’t make international headlines every day, so it must be impressive. I frequently use the #lovethetron on Twitter, and proudly so. I thought ahead to how I would promote this story about the city we live in.
Then the story appeared, and I sat looking at a photo of a rather beautiful and somewhat pleased looking Hamilton cat called Brigit, with the headline ‘New Zealand ‘cat burglar’ caught stealing men’s underwear’.
Now I know why my friend’s challenge to make this part of my Easter sermon was followed by multiple exclamation marks!
I read on: in 2 months, six-year-old Tonkinese cat Brigit from Hamilton city brought back 11 pairs of underpants and more than 50 socks. Brigit’s owner had clearly positioned the cat in the midst of the haul, and the cat looked rather approving of all the publicity.
Easter sermon? I thought to myself: how? I thought about it for a brief (!) second – and got as far as the general Gospel theme of what was lost is now found, what had gone astray had been reunited, what was missing is now whole again. Then I spent a few moments on the Gospel according to Google to track down some information about the cat Brigit’s name-sake, St Brigid of Kildare in Ireland, who was born in the year 451. As a child she apparently was very keen to help those less fortunate than herself, and once gave away her mother’s entire stock of butter, which was miraculously replenished by prayer just before her mother found out. Admittedly that is a rather tenuous link, missing butter rather than missing clothing. Brigid also happens to be the patron saint of dairy workers, possibly helpful in this time of uncertainty in the rural economy. I even stopped to consider that mysterious story in Mark’s version of the Holy Week narrative – the young man who runs away naked – maybe one of Brigit’s feline forebears was responsible?
But running the distinct risk of getting rather carried away, I thought I better stop as I would like you to take away from today more than a sermon about missing laundry. I can well imagine: what did the Bishop preach about? Missing underpants. True, but there is method in the madness here, if you will bear with me!
Which leads me to the question posed at the beginning: what is the strangest thing you have heard about that was in fact true?
In our Gospel reading, please note the apostles’ reaction to the women who brought them news about the empty tomb and the encounter they had had with the men in dazzling white?
‘These words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.’
But sure enough, and being a rather curious and adventurous type, Peter went for a closer look and saw for himself the linen cloths that had been wrapped around Jesus’ lifeless body, without the body.
What seemed unbelievable was real.
But note also that if you keep reading Luke’s Gospel after this point, we have the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who initially fail to recognise Jesus in the stranger who joins them on their journey. It is only later, in the evening, when in the breaking of the bread their eyes are opened and they see Jesus again.
There are many headlines in our country and in our world that seem so impossible and hard to bear, that are brutally true; this is especially true in the light of the terror attacks this week in Brussels. This makes preaching the good news about the resurrection today all the more challenging yet all the more urgent. But we would be wrong if we thought that Jesus’ context was any less brutal than our own global situation today. Indeed crucifixion was the most horrid form of Roman torture, and the most shameful. Jesus’ death on the cross was agonising. We cannot airbrush that out of the story. And yet also, we would be misguided if we assumed that Easter was all about the cross or the empty tomb. It is more than that.
In order to get to the Cross we journey in discipleship; by that I mean, each of us in our daily lives walks the way of the Cross. Whether we recognise that fully or not, whether we consciously engage with what that means or not, does not matter. What matters is that we hold to the truth that death does not have the last word; love is stronger than death; and life itself in all its forms, more to be valued if seen in the new light of the resurrected Christ.
The resurrection of Jesus does not begin or end in economic transaction or in the bounds of supermarket advertising: with shoppers competing to secure the chocolate egg of choice from rapidly clearing shelves.
Our understanding of the resurrection is grounded in a religious context that is thousands of years old, and carries a deep connection to the Jewish observation of the festival of Passover: the story of the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. All those events happened a long time ago, in a context very different from our own. So where and how do we begin to understand and articulate a radical belief in God who raised Jesus from the dead? What difference does it make to our city, to our region? In our world of deep scientific exploration and the need for certainty, there is little room for mystery, wonder and events that turn everything upside down. But perhaps the challenge lies ahead rather than a focus on the mechanics of the empty tomb: there was no 24-hr news coverage after all. It’s what we do with it now that really matters. As we leave this place, we literally begin again.
‘Beginning’ is a good place to start, because although the resurrection might be viewed as the triumphal climax to the story of Jesus, in actual fact, it marks more of a beginning than an ending. Alistair McGrath describes how the need to see things afresh, from the beginning, has been an important theme throughout history. In order to appreciate something for how it really is, we need to empty our minds and remove memories of things we already know. If we can do that, then we can allow ourselves to be taken by surprise when a beginning takes place, especially when that is something routine that we would otherwise take for granted. We might then be better prepared when someone tells us something so strange we find it hard to believe it. We might be more able to share that news with others whom we meet.
The power of the resurrection lies not only in the fact of it having happened, but rather in its reaffirmation of life in a world where God is now set loose and everything is turned upside down. Through Jesus’ birth, God enabled a connection between the ordinary and the extraordinary – something far more profound that the display of objects from the past alone can ever hope to express. Through the cross and resurrection, God affirmed a hope in humanity that brought us through the shadow of death into an eternal light, a hope that will defiantly have the last word in the face of terror and anxiety.
If we take hold of the hope, then we have good news for the journey. If we allow the joy of Easter to enfold every fibre of our being, then we have strength to hold and to share when the road becomes difficult. And that is not an idle tale, it is the most incredible truth ever known.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, alleluia!
Story Published: 27th of March - 2016
Chrism Mass 2016'This is not a time for safe hands and faint hearts'
‘This is not a time for safe hands and faint hearts’.
I’m grateful to a friend of mine who is a school and a priest, for pointing me to these words of Archbishop Justin Welby. He said them recently as part of an address given to a New Wine conference; referencing the words of Jesus to the disciples during the calming of the storm: Do not fear, but looking beyond that to what discipleship demands.
(My thanks indeed to Fr. Richard Peers, head of Trinity All Through School, Lewisham London, for drawing attention to ++Justin’s speech. Fr Richard used these words to frame a talk he delivered to a gathering of the Sodality of Mary on March 12th, 2016).
Uncertainty abounds in our world; the free market rules; dog eat dog; every man, woman and child for themselves; who dares wins. The slogans are all around us, pressing in on us, threatening to overwhelm us, if we aren’t careful. It’s at times like that, the church can go into panic mode: we need new people; we need more money; we aren’t getting any younger; who cares anyway?
“This is not a time for safe hands and faint hearts”.
Over the past year of so, at regular intervals, one of those moveable speedometers has appeared in our street, right outside our drive-way, to be precise. The first time it happened I found it quite a novelty, as I watched how my speed got slower and slower right to the point I turned into my drive-way. Then the speedometer went; but then it came back; then away again, and so on; and so it returned last week. Since its initial appearance, Bishop’s House has become something of a transport hub in Flagstaff, since the City Council in its wisdom decided to place a bus-stop right outside. In this past week, groups of children waiting for the school bus have a go running at it and compete to see who hits the highest speed. While you won’t see this bishop sprinting down the pathway, it has made me reflect on my own busyness and speed during any given day when I am literally going from one thing to the next. Because the speedometer has appeared outside my drive-way I have taken it quite personally (in a good way!). Slow down, you move too fast; well sometimes anyway!
Jesus in his ministry had times of intense busyness; in our Gospel ‘Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and sickness’. But we know also that he had times of retreat, of prayer, and of being apart from his companions the disciples. The reality is we actually need both these things in our lives, in balance: proclamation and prayer. Whatever ministry we inhabit in our various roles, we must be giving attention to teaching and preaching the good news about Jesus Christ, and we must also nurture the inner spiritual life, if you like, we must kindle the Christ-light within us if we are to allow it to shine into the lives we connect with daily. There’s a reason why both supervision and spiritual direction are requirements of holding a bishops’ license!
“This is not a time for safe hands and faint hearts”.
Karen Morrison-Hume, the Missioner at Anglican Action recently allowed me borrow an icon by Robert Lentz – the icon is of Christ the Good Shepherd, but he isn’t holding a sheep, he’s holding a goat. Karen and I struck up a deal that the icon would live it’s life in transit, in an itinerant ministry of care, sometimes I would have it; but there would be times it would return to the Mission, to Karen’s office. Our Gospel reading starts with the crowds, and Matthew does something really interesting here: instead of passing over their presence with a brief comment, we are invited to look at the crowds, maybe even finding ourselves amongst them. They (we) are lost, like sheep without a shepherd; Jesus’ response is compassion, expressed through a very rural metaphor of a harvest with not enough reapers. The response to that is the call of the ‘Twelve’, and after that, a reality check on the difficulties of discipleship. Which is why the goat of the icon that hangs in my office currently is important. Following Jesus is not meant to be easy, not at all, not one bit in fact.
“This is not a time for safe hands and faint hearts”.
The goat, stares out of the icon, almost poking its head out into my space. The icon painter writes: ‘The goat is my favourite part of the icon. He took a week to paint, and I sweated blood until I got the hang of painting his hair. I wanted him lustful and full of energy…I hope others understand the goat as the smelly, life-filled symbol of ordinary sinners, embraced by a Christ who came not to call the virtuous, but sinners.’
Ministry calls us to be in risky places; certainly places well beyond our comfort zones; it demands much of us; we need to be courageous, with a sense of overwhelming love and outrageous hope. We travel together, even when it seems impossible, we do not give up on one another, or go our own way. Our focus is on Jesus, and if we manage that, then we are being faithful to his calling. Jesus does not ask us to have safe hands or faint hearts; we are to have hands that will take the hands of those who are unloved, unwanted, considered unclean – for who are we to judge? Our hearts must be strong, and bursting with love for each other, for all whom we encounter (even when that seems like too much to ask), and for the creation entrusted to our care.
Kathy Galloway, former leader of the Iona community and now head of Christian Aid Scotland writes:
“Jesus modeled a different kind of giving and receiving of service, one rooted firmly on mutual acceptance, respect and love for one another in all our frailty. This embodied act of grace, more clearly than any other in Scripture, awakens, confronts, embraces and transforms our fear of loving and being loved”
Jesus washes the feet of his disciples to remind them that they are called to be his feet in our world. Jesus takes the hands of sinners to remind us and them that all are beloved of God.
So let us go, do, and be likewise.
Story Published: 23rd of March - 2016
A day of celebration at St Peter's CathedralAcolytes, crucifers, youth leaders commissioned by Bishop Helen-Ann
In our journey through Lent, it is sometimes pointed out that the 40 days of Lent don't include Sundays. Sundays are meant to be days of joy, as we recall the resurrection hope that is almost upon us with Easter. This particular Sunday was Passion Sunday, the day we recall the suffering of Christ, suffering which, in the Gospel from John, was brought into relief by the outrageous hope of Mary anointing Jesus.
This sense of overwhelming love and courage was brought into sharp focus by the commissioning of new acolytes, crucifers and youth leaders at St Peter's Cathedral in Hamilton. Darcy Perry was commissioned as the new youth co-ordinator for the Waikato bishopric; and Nicole Jeune, Zavier Searle, and Melanie Black were commissioned as children and youth leaders at the Waikato Cathedral, following a mihi whakatau by Matua Pine Campbell. Dean Peter Rickman pointed out that acolytes were perhaps the oldest form of youth ministry. Bishop Helen-Ann was able to affirm that, as she recalled becoming an acolyte at Durham Cathedral in her early teens!
Critical to the future of our Church is an acknowledgement of our children and young people as not only the church of tomorrow, but the church of today. The appointment of Darcy (who along with his wife Deb, and daughters Ella, Riley and Jade, worships at St Stephen's, Tamahere) is a key strategic part of the development of an episcopal team in the north of our Diocese. In her acknowledgment of the significance of the day for the life of the whole Diocese, Bishop Helen-Ann also welcomed amongst the clergy, Canon Neale Troon, chaplain of Southwell School, and Warden of the College of Chaplains. Our school chaplains are key contributors to our Diocesan life. Bishop Helen-Ann also pointed out to the congregation that a new choral scholar, Jonathan Mayer, a 1st year student at the University of Waikato, had just finished at St Paul's Collegiate. Many and various are the ways in which we celebrate the tamariki and rangatahi of our Diocese, and today was a joyous sign of fresh opportunities and new life. Thanks be to God!
Story Published: 13th of March - 2016
Te Manihera and Kereopa rememberedMaori and Pakeha Anglicans gather to give thanks for the first martyrs of this land.
Discipleship is a costly business.
As has been the custom for the last twenty years a small group of Maori and Pakeha Anglicans from Taranaki gathered at St Peter's Purangi in the isolated valleys of Pukemahoe, East Taranaki to remember the sacrifice of Te Manihera and Kereopa the Martyrs of Tokaanu - near what is today called Turangi.
We gathered to remember their sacrifice and give thanks for their witness to the Gospel of love and its transforming power. This year descendants of both Te Manihera and Kereopa were present. Archbishop Philip welcomed people and led the first part of the simple liturgy of remembrance. The Reverend Canon Robert Kereopa offered a reflection and presided at the Eucharist.
At the heart of the liturgy we listened again to their inspiring story.
Te Manihera was determined to go on a mission of peace from the people of Ngati Ruanui in Taranaki to their traditional enemies on the shores of Lake Taupo. At a hui of some 2000 members of Ngati Ruanui on Christmas Eve 1846, he had vowed to proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation and peace. Kereopa offered to accompany him.
Their journey of peace was ultimately to be successful, but it cost them their lives. They were buried with great solemnity and honour by their traditional enemies. They now lie in the church yard close to St Paul's Church Tokaanu. Their actions and their sacrifice brought the peace they sought.
2017 marks the 170th anniversary of their martyrdom. We will gather again to remember them and we hope to journey as pilgrims to the site of their martyrdom. Our prayer is that future generations will continue to remember and honour Te Manihera and Kereopa.
Story Published: 10th of March - 2016
Partnerships and New BeginningsSt David's, Dinsdale welcomes a new partnership and a new beginning
On Sunday afternoon, 35 or so members of the congregation at St David's with St George's, Dinsdale welcomed 300 members of the City Link church community during a pōwhiri in the main worship space at St David's. This marked a new chapter in the life of that church community. Nearly two years ago, there was a very different picture: the congregation split over Motion 30, and the majority left the Anglican Church and ventured into pastures new. The small group that remained were left with debt, and a legacy of deferred maintenance, not to mention great uncertainty about their future. Courage, commitment and determination have turned that around, and the result was revealed on Sunday. Debt has been turned into increased giving and income, along with creative opportunities for community engagement, and a new partnership with City Link church, a partnership that had come about through a series of remarkable conversations and God-inspired coincidences. Matua Pinē Campbell spoke on behalf of tangata whenua in welcoming the City Link community; the two communities shared the hongi together, and then joined in worship and in food and fellowship. It was a remarkable occasion. Bishop Helen-Ann spoke to those gathered saying that it was significant that this was happening during the season of Lent. 'So often we think of our salvation beginning and ending in the Cross; but really the story of the Cross begins in the journey of discipleship. This new partnership is a journey of discipleship, and we give thanks for all that God is doing in our midst.' Ministry Educator, the Rev'd Stephen Black, together with the Rev'd Phil Wilson (who has done a magnificent job of caring for the community at St. David's during this challening time) welcomed the new partnership, which was described by the leadership team at City Link as very much a weaving together of two communities, to find new ways of engaging in God's mission in the city and in the suburb of Dinsdale in particular. The City Link community prioritise bi-culturalism, and seek to uphold Te Ao Māori in all their work and ministry. Given that Anglicanism in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia started in partnership, this new expression of our identity is firmly rooted in the whakapapa of our faith journey in these islands.
We look forward to all that lies ahead, and give thanks to God for courage, resilience and commitment to our Anglican identity, rooted in our journey of discipleship.
Kororia ki te Atua!
Story Published: 8th of March - 2016
Clergy Dinner at Te Awhina Bishops HouseTaranaki Clergy and families gather for annual Bishop's dinner
It was hot and windy, but the gathering was relaxed and happy.
As with previous years Taranaki clergy and families gathered at Te Awhina, Bishops House for hospitality and fellowship.
Belinda, Archbishop Philip and their extended family and friends cooked up a storm and welcomed fifty people beneath the clip-on marque that extends Bishops House on such occasions.
Archbishop Philip spoke briefly about his visit to Myanmar earlier in the year and how important these visits are for building relationships across the Anglican Communion.
Story Published: 6th of March - 2016
Bishops announce new Dean for Taranaki CathedralThe Reverend Peter Beck is to take the helm at St Mary's
Story Published: 6th of March - 2016
Bishop H-A attends the Tikanga Youth Synod 2016Learning to walk together in Christ
The gathering of the Tikanga Youth Synod, brings together young people, youth leaders of our Church, and members of the Tikanga Toru Youth Commission for a weekend of prayer, discussion and building relationships. Celebrating the life of our Three Tikanga Church often takes intentional face-to-face encounters, and this weekend was a deeply moving example of that. It was especially poignant and uplifting to hear from our Pasefika sisters and brothers who have been so affected by Cyclone Winston. Our theme for the Synod was climate change and refugees, which seemed particularly apt given that recent weather event, and the arrival on Friday of the first Syrian refugees to Aotearoa, the same week that our Archbishops called on the government to increase the refugee quota into our country. We listened to Jolyon White (social justice enabler in the Diocese of Christchurch) speak about advocacy; we were moved and inspired by Fei Tevi’s challenge to us to make a covenant with one another with regard to climate change and its impact on Polynesia; we were reminded to think globally and act locally by Sarah Morris, UNICEF Advocacy Director for New Zealand. And we benefited greatly from the insights of our two keynote listeners: Dr Rosemary Dewerse (Mission Educator at St John’s College) and the Rev’d Tony Brooking from Te Pihopatanga.
As Youth Liaison Bishop, my primary role is to represent the House of Bishops to the Youth Commission, and with that, to help, support and encourage the life of the Commission in its expression of our Common Life together. Attending events like Tikanga Youth Synod reminds me of the vital importance of the voice of our youth, who are our present and future leaders. Finding ways to remind our whole Church of their voice is a key strategic goal moving forward for the Commission. As is so often the case with such gatherings, mealtimes and break-times created space for new friendships to be formed, and for stories to be shared and understood. It was an enriching and challenging experience for us all.
It was particularly good to have the new youth coordinator for Waikato with us, Darcy Perry; along with Molly and Tyne from St Mary’s Diocesan School, Stratford, and Ella from Waikato Diocesan School for Girls in Hamilton. Molly and Tyne were joined by their School Chaplain, the Ven. Jacqui Paterson.
On Sunday morning, we shared the bread and wine of Eucharist together, with vibrant song and praise, and moments of silence and reflection. On the Friday night, Bishop Richard Ellena of Nelson had reminded us to walk together, to get to know our communities: in order to bring the Gospel to others, we must walk in our contexts, and be inspired to action, always keeping Jesus at the centre. This was the starting point for my sermon reflection during the Eucharist.
I often like to go out for an early morning walk, which is generally quite fast-paced. Recently I came across a copy of a book called ‘The Art of Mindful Walking’. Written from a Christian perspective it explored the joys of walking in different contexts, but also the pain of those who have to walk because they have no other means of getting about. Walking together, and being aware of one another’s steps, requires action at times, but also depth, time and patience with our walking so that we might notice things that we would otherwise miss. I was reminded of a line from Kiwi poet Glenn Colquhoun poem: ‘the art of walking upright here is the art of using both feet. One is for holding on. One is for letting go.’ This morning’s Gospel contained the parable of the fig tree. Jesus told parables as stories to capture the imagination of his listeners, that they might recognise ordinary things and encounter deeper truths. The parable in Luke 13 is about holding on and letting go, and for discernment in that process.
In my reflection, I shared four short stories of my own experiences with plants, which illustrate different aspects of holding on, letting go, and where understandings of growth fit in all that. Firstly the ‘non-starter’ story, how I managed to carefully ‘nurture’ a plant in a house I lived in as a student, only to discover the ‘flourishing’ plant was in fact, not real! Secondly, the ‘fast and unexpected’ story: I recently returned from leave to discover a vibrant tomato plant growing in my vegetable box. I hadn’t planted a tomato plant, so wondered if my neighbour had, or the gardner? When the gardener visited, he was equally surprised. Neither of us had planted this plant, and we wondered how it had got there and managed to grow at such a rate?! Thirdly, the story of the ‘fragile flourishing’ kowhai tree, which I was given at the opening of the new wing at Hospice Waikato; a small seedling, planted in vulnerability, and now growing steadily. And final, the story of ‘growth over thousands of years’; my reflection on encountering a young kauri tree on a recent retreat, and comparing it to the mighty 2000-year old Tane Mahuta, an indication of fruits of growth that may not be seen for hundreds of years.
As a Church we are very good at holding on, but perhaps less good at letting go; our task is to discern when the ‘one more year’ of the fig tree parable is enough, and when we need to move on to a new season. As disciples, we know that urgent action is needed on climate change so that future generations will flourish in their homes, and not be displaced. The time to act on that is now, not in a year’s time. Similarly, with the mass displacement of peoples throughout the world, and with proven capacity to help, the time for receiving refugees into our own context is now, not in another year’s time.
Sometimes when we talk about mission, we forget that God invites us to join in; we should not be anxious, but rather seek to faithfully follow God in our lives. We plant, yet God gives the growth, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes in ways where it is hard to see results. But always, God goes before us.
May we help the Church with our voices, know how to both hold on and to let go, into an unknown, but knowing that God has gone before us. May we walk together, may we offer our lives in love and service with compassion to one another, seeking the face of Christ in one another.
Story Published: 28th of February - 2016
Archbishops Call for Refugee Quota IncreaseArchbishops call for substantial increase in refugee quota
Story Published: 27th of February - 2016
Anniversaries and looking aheadBishop Helen-Ann reflects on the past two years
Early this morning, I received a phone-call from Sue Halapua, Archbishop Winston's wife. Sue was ringing from their home in Suva, Fiji. I was greatly relieved to hear her voice, as we have all been praying for the Fiji islands as they have been subjected to the terrible power of Cyclone Winston. She wanted to reassure us that they were safe, that there is much damage, and that she is waiting to hear from the low-lying areas of Suva, especially the village of Wailoku, which I happened to visit two weeks ago. The photo that accompanies this reflection is of a children's play-ground near the school. It was built by girls from our own Waikato Diocesan School for Girls, and is a reminder of the bonds that tie us together as a three tikanga church.
Today marks five years since another dreadful natural disaster forever affected the people and places of the Canterbury region and the city of Christchurch. Two years ago, we marked that as a Diocese, with 185 tolls of the Cathedral bell at St Peter's Cathedral in Hamilton, and 185 minutes of silence, at 12.51pm, the time the deadly 6.3 earthquake struck. We stood together as a Diocese to remember and to honour the memory of those who lost their lives on that day. Minutes after that, we worshipped God in the service during which I became the 7th Bishop of Waikato. Bishop Victoria of Christchurch was with us on that day, and played an important part in the liturgy where Archbishop Philip and I committed ourselves to dual-episcopacy.
Yearly anniversaries are important ways of marking what has gone before, but also for looking ahead. I am constantly challenged by words of the former UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold: 'For all that has been, thanks; for all that shall be, yes!' Whilst those words make immediate sense if we feel genuinely like giving thanks, they become challenging when we say them in the light of situations that have cause us pain and distress. Herein lies the challenge and the reassurance of the Christian Gospel, particularly during this Lenten season. While we journey in the shadow of the Cross, the light and hope of the resurrection is stronger. Our task as disciples is to constantly give heed to that reality, and to make that hope active in our daily lives.
As I look back over these past two years, I rejoice and give thanks for all that has been; and I utter a resounding 'yes' to all that shall be, mindful that whatever the circumstance, God goes before me.
Story Published: 22nd of February - 2016
Approaching LentRemember you are dust...
‘Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return, turn away from sin and believe the good news of the Gospel.’
These are words from the service held in many Christian churches at the start of the season of Lent. It is traditional to receive a sign of the cross on the forehead made in ash by burning crosses from the previous Palm Sunday: an outward visible sign of our weakness within. So what is Lent, and why is it important? The word Lent comes from an old English word meaning ‘Lengthen’, which makes sense in the northern hemisphere where the days are gaining more daylight in the period before Easter. Lent marks the period of 40 days which lead to Easter, days which ask us to remember Jesus’ time in the wilderness in prayer and fasting before he started his ministry. It also recalls the time (in years rather than days) that the Israelites spent in exile. In the southern hemisphere of New Zealand, Ash Wednesday confronts us in a different way; we are heading slowly out of summer towards autumn. As a teenager, I remember feeling pretty safe in the world: I was secure at home, had good friends, a sense that world peace was achievable, and life was good. For sure, I also experienced a heady mix of anxiety, self-doubt and peer pressure. But I do recall one Ash Wednesday, receiving the sign of the cross marked in ash on my forehead and being stunned into silence by the words quoted above.
It was but a momentary silence, perhaps no more than a breath, but I remember it because it put me firmly in my place. I came from dust, and one day, dust would be all that was left of me, but in that unknown space in-between I had an opportunity to place my life in God’s hands and to experience the adventure of the Gospel.
Ash Wednesday presents us with the invitation to journey once more with Jesus in the wilderness. But this is not a journey that goes on and on without end, it is a journey in the shadow of the cross towards the light of the resurrection. And at its end, we are in place where we can look forward in that resurrection light, surely knowing that next year we will be here again, but somehow different – different in age, different in the experience of the weeks and months of our lives, and different because we have lived in the light of Jesus who is always transforming our lives even when we do not know it or cannot even see it.
This reflection was first published in 'Come Alive' Magazine, a New Zealand online resource for youth ministry.
Story Published: 9th of February - 2016
Bishop HA goes back to school!A place at the table
It is a happy accident that the photo that accompanies this reflection features a refreshments trolley quite prominently! The photo was taken after Mass at Trinity School in Lewisham, south London. Having got to know its headmaster, Fr Richard Peers through the medium of Twitter, and having explored the possibility of one of our Diocesan school chaplains spending part of a sabbatical at the school, Fr Richard invited me to preside and preach at the school’s Mass for the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul while I was in the UK visiting whanau. I was delighted to accept this invitation. Our Anglican schools have been, and continue to be, a priority in my episcopal ministry, and the opportunity to experience Anglican special character articulated in another Province of the Communion was a welcome one.
Trinity school tells a rather remarkable story. A Church of England failing school, it was decanted temporarily to another site, and has experienced an inspiring rebirth. The local community did not want the school back, and so Fr Richard faced a patient uphill process to birth something new and different in its place. Lewisham is a borough of London with a mixed socio-economic demographic. The majority of children at the school are of Afro-Caribbean background. While this reflects the borough, it does not reflect the immediate neighbourhood of the school. It is fair to say that many white British families opt to send their children elsewhere to school. One of the things that Fr Richard did quite early on in the process of developing the new school, was to show different groups: parents, governors, children and staff, Rublev’s icon of the Trinity. If you are not familiar with it, you can see it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_(Andrei_Rublev)
He showed them the icon and asked them what they thought it told us about God? The answers given were both thoughtful and inspiring, and they became the Trinity values. Indeed, when it came to choosing a new name for the new school, Trinity seemed like the inspired choice.
I can only say that walking into the school, and spending time there, felt like I was immersed in the life of this icon, and that was a truly remarkable experience. The new build enabled some particular and intentional decisions to be made about the design of the building. Space was limited, so height became important. With the idea in mind that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, the school reflects this: a light-filled atrium becomes the ‘village green’, the hall is used as a worship space (the village 'church'); classrooms and corridors become 'streets' and 'homes', places of nurture and learning. But the most remarkable thing is the way in which the senses are drawn into the mystery of the icon. The colours used throughout the school reflect the colours used by Rublev; everywhere the smell of incense creates a sacredness (apart from the rather delicious aroma of the spaghetti bolognaise being cooked by a food technology class where a pupil greeted me with ‘the Lord be with you’!). The worship was Anglo-Catholic in tone, the children, respectful and gracious (even coping with a pupil taking ill with measured calm), joyous and filled with life.
What does all this say? One of the comments made to Fr Richard about the icon was the profound yet simple observation that Rublev’s Trinity was all about offering ‘a place at the table.’ This is beautifully depicted in Trinity Primary school’s corridor display where the icon is placed at a cloth-coloured table with gold plates reflecting the image of the one who looks into them.
On my visit, I was offered ‘a place at the table’. My thought is then, how can we offer a place at our tables: in our churches, homes and communities, to all people, with no questions asked or conditions laid down? As ++Rowan Williams writes in his poem entitled 'Rublev', which is about the Trinity icon:
To the white desert, to the starving sand.
But we shall sit and speak around
one table, share one food, one earth.
Thanks be to God for all our Anglican schools, and what they can teach us about the image and identity of God, yesterday, today and forever.
Story Published: 30th of January - 2016
'Walk? Or stay? We chose to stay'Archbishop Philip Richardson reflects on last week's pivotal Primates' meeting in Canterbury
The images we see from Syria each week underline the reality: we live in a world racked by violence, hatred and extremism.
We live too in a world of instant communication, where a decision or action taken in one place has a direct impact tens of thousands of kilometres away.
When the archbishops of the 38 regions or provinces that make up the worldwide Anglican Communion met in England last week, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, that was the reality that framed our gathering.
The presenting issue was a crisis in the Communion over widely-differing views on human sexuality and same-gender relationships – and on marriage.
The Anglican Church in the United Stated had recently changed its definition of Christian marriage to be gender neutral; describing Christian marriage only in terms of faithfulness, fidelity, mutual commitment and love – with no mention of a man and a woman.
In other parts of the world, Anglican Church members strongly believe that gay and lesbian orientation and behaviour is fundamentally wrong – and in a few cases have even been complicit in harsh and violent persecution of gay and lesbian people.
In reality, therefore, there is much that divides us.
Before our meeting there was intense media speculation that the Anglican Communion would split, irrevocably, and that there would be a walk out early in our meeting.
There were rumours of cars waiting outside the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral, with motors running, poised to whisk schismatic archbishops to an undisclosed venue, there to proclaim an alternative Anglican Communion.
The media waited outside the gates in anticipation. And waited…
The reality inside the room was quite different.
We faced a simple choice: to stay inside the room and work with these enormous differences of view – or to walk away from each other.
We chose to stay.
We were invited to place ourselves in the shoes of the other. We did so imperfectly, hesitantly.
The listening was intense. Exhausting. Hour after hour, day after long day.
We listened not just to pleas about sexuality.
We listened, for example, to Primates from Bangladesh and the Pacific describing the impact of rising sea levels on their peoples, millions of whom eke out lives mere centimetres above the high tide level; we listened to African Primates as they described the desertification of vast areas of Africa, and the stripping of the rain forests.
No clinical or academic exercise
We heard too, from Primates who represent Arctic communities which are losing their traditional ways of life.
This was no clinical or academic exercise. These were stories of real people, usually the poorest of the poor, who are most profoundly affected by global warming. Every archbishop who spoke was describing communities under their care, people they visit and know.
We tried to understand the experience of colleagues living and working in parts of the world stricken by religious extremism and violence – and where the decisions made in another part of your church, in another part of the world, lead directly to the intimidation, beating and, in several documented instances, killing of innocent believers.
We heard stark accounts of human trafficking. And we heard of the abuse of the most vulnerable, especially women and children, including by church members.
We listened to stories of corruption and croneyism, of totalitarianism and torture.
We also saw and heard of great courage, compassion, humanity and faith in the face of these challenges.
We tried, too, to grasp the pain of exclusion and the dehumanisation of people, simply on the basis of their sexual orientation.
As we listened so long and so hard, we found our understanding deepen, and our own categories and assumptions challenged.
In the end, on the issue which was to split us, we stayed together. And we recommitted ourselves to meeting, regularly, so that we might continue to build trust and understanding.
Looking for the winners...
In the end, the 80 journalists and 15 TV crews who gathered for the final press conference looked for winners and losers.
In reality, though, we were all losers – because we are still fractured, broken, still inclined to mistrust.
But we are committed to staying with each other.
We are committed to walking together, to trying to see through each other’s eyes, to stepping into each other’s worlds, and to keeping on keeping on until mutual understanding grows.
In simplest terms, I think we learned that we are all of us interdependent, and that we need each other. And when we put the needs of our most marginalised brothers and sisters first we can see this more clearly.
At our final gathering for worship we were addressed by Jean Vanier, a remarkable Catholic philosopher and humanitarian who, in 1964, founded the L'Arche communities, which are a worldwide network of communities for people with developmental disabilities and for those who help them.
At the end of his address Jean Vanier invited each of us to wash the feet of our neighbour. We were then asked to lay our hands on the head of the one who, kneeling before us, had washed our feet.
We were praying for their life and work and asking for the blessing of God upon them. We were archbishops from widely different worlds, some with views at extreme ends of a spectrum on various issues, serving and praying for each other.
Would that such humility were a constant in my Church and our world!
This article, including the image, is reproduced in whole from the Anglican Taonga news release, Stay.
See the statement from Primates 2016 here.
Story Published: 21st of January - 2016
Bishop Helen-Ann becomes Honorary Fellow of Worcester College, OxfordBishop H-A's sermon preached at Evensong
Each term, the Chaplain of Worcester College chooses a theme. For Hilary Term, which runs from January until Easter, the theme is The Lord's Prayer. This sermon was the first in the series and was asked to introduce the Prayer for the series ahead.
A sermon preached at Worcester College, Oxford at Evensong on Sunday, January 17th.
Chaplain, when you decided the theme for this term’s sermon series, you would have had little idea of how topical it would be become. For a moment in time, this most ancient of prayers became global news via an attempt by the Church of England to show an advert featuring it prior to screenings of Star Wars. This attempt to awaken another kind of force (not the kind that involves light-sabers) backfired when the advertising Empire struck back to ban it.
For a while, I wondered if I could make Lord’s Prayer fit a Star Wars theme; an Oxford education (particularly at the finest College, Worcester!) after all, surely prepares you for any adventure, literary or otherwise. And so I reflected briefly that although Jesus would have likely taught the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples in Aramaic, our record comes to us in the form Greek of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Greek has a habit of placing verbs at the end of sentences. This would make a literal rendition of the Lukan version sound something like this: Father, your name hallowed be; your kingdom come; each day our daily bread, give us; our sin, forgive us…to the time of trial do not bring us. Uncannily close to that most noble of Star Wars languages spoken by the wise sage Yoda who also placed verbs at the end of sentences.
Realising that a whole Star Wars related sermon on the Lord’s Prayer was probably not what you were expecting this evening, but nonetheless seeking an Oxford connection, I sought inspiration closer to my present home in the north island of New Zealand. 40 minutes away from where I live, and within my Diocese, is the parish of Matamata, which contains the farm on which the film set of Hobbiton is located. Tolkein himself translated the Lord’s Prayer into Elvish, and specifically reflected on the line ‘and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’ in connection with Frodo’s struggles against the power of the One Ring.
This perhaps provides us with a useful connection to the Gospel context of the Lord’s prayer: namely that the landscape of faith is filled with challenges and trials, but the disciple’s quest is for a Godly kingdom that scripts how we are to live in relationship to one another and to God in a way that is as relevant now as it was 2000 years ago when the disciples first asked Jesus: Lord, teach us to pray.
So what can you look out for over the coming weeks in your quest to ponder this prayer?
Firstly, for all its apparent familiarity, the Lord’s Prayer requires us to slow down and dwell with its words and phrases, so that the prayer may dwell in us. In his book ‘How to pray’, the former Bishop of Oxford John Pritchard says this: ‘A naval officer was once praying the Lord’s Prayer with a friend in a remote corner of Iceland. ‘Say it slowly’, he said, ‘each phrase weighs a ton.’’
Secondly, the Lord’s Prayer tells us something important about the nature of discipleship. The disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, as John taught his disciples. You cannot be a disciple if you are not open to being taught something new; that is the very meaning of the word ‘disciple’: one who is a pupil or an apprentice. Remarkably resonant with this are words from the new vice-chancellor of this University, Professor Louise Richardson who in her inaugural speech on Tuesday called on students to be open-minded: ‘how do we ensure [she said] that they appreciate the value of engaging with ideas they find objectionable, trying through reason to change another’s mind, while always being open to changing their own?’ To be a disciple is to be open to learning something new, that our lives may be enriched and in so doing be more fully formed into the likeness of Christ. The life of discipleship is all about the company you keep, those from whom you are willing to learn, and more often than not, it was and is about keeping the company of those with whom we are most unlike.
Thirdly, there is an intimate connection between our prayer, and our care for the world that is our home. The prayer that Jesus taught begins with the hallowing of the name of God, giving praise for the unmerited gift of life in creation, and immediately turns to pray that the kingdom of peace, justice and righteousness might be a reality here and now. Communities in which human beings flourish, creation is treated with respect, and the resources of the earth are sustained for those who are to follow us. A message perhaps, for the life of an Oxford College, where traditions are honoured, and buildings, grounds, and indeed human souls are tended with care knowing that we are entrusted with handing them on to generations to come.
Fourthly, the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer just for the individual. It only achieves its fullest meaning when it is prayed together by the whole body of Christ, or with an awareness that even if we pray it on our own, we are joining in a chorus of languages and cultures around the world: E to matou Matua i te rangi, kia tapu tou ingoa, kia tae mai tou rangatiratanga. Kia meatia tau e pai ai ki runga ki te whenua, kia rite ano ki to te rangi. So begins the Lord’s Prayer in Maori, the indigenous language within the context in which I live and work. Most days, I pray the Lord’s Prayer in that language, and it forces me to raise awareness of my relationship to the land and people around me.
Finally: while the Lord’s Prayer is very here and now focused, the present always stands under the scrutiny that is possible when the light of the Gospel and the Kingdom it proclaims, is shining on what is happening. We are constantly called to work for the new community of peace, justice and righteousness which the Lord’s Prayer assumes and which the Gospel sets out.
While it is true to say that Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples a long time ago in a Roman Province far far away, we are invited to learn, re-learn and live this prayer out here and now, in this place, and on into the places where we go. May you so be inspired as you journey with this prayer throughout these coming weeks, and, may the force be with you! Amen.
Story Published: 20th of January - 2016
Primates' Meeting in CanterburyArchbishop Brown Turei calls the Anglican Church to prayer
The Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury
Statement from Archbishop Brown Turei
January 7th 2016
Archbishop Brown Turei is asking the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to hold in prayer the upcoming meeting of the Anglican Primates.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has invited the 38 Primates to Canterbury, in England, to reflect and pray on the future of the Anglican Communion. The Primates are the leaders of 38 autonomous national and regional churches that make up the Communion. They will determine the agenda, and the way the meeting proceeds, once they arrive.
The gathering of the Primates begins on Monday 11th January. Archbishop Philip Richardson and Archbishop Winston Halapua, as Primates of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia will attend.
Archbishop Brown was invited as a Primate but is not attending. “All three of us, as Primates, speak for each other and so Archbishops Winston and Philip carry my voice to Canterbury next week and I wish to hold them in prayer with the work they have to do,” says Archbishop Brown Turei.
The Archbishop recalls attending previous Primates’ Meetings where there was division, rather than seeking a future together to address what he calls the reality of diversity.
Archbishop Brown says the three-tikanga model of the church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia puzzled the Anglican Communion when it became a reality. “The fact that the invitation to Canterbury was to all three of us as Primates demonstrates an appreciation of a model that reflects diversity and I hope that can emerge from Canterbury in the next week.”
The Rev’d Don Tamihere has prepared collects and a form of Intercession and Thanksgiving as ways the Province can hold the Primates’ Meeting in prayer.
See more at the Archbishop of Canterbury's Primates 2016 webpage.
Story Published: 11th of January - 2016
Unity in DiversityBishop Helen-Ann shares a personal reflection on the forthcoming gathering of Primates of the Anglican Communion
As someone whose life and ministry has encountered different denominations, and different provinces within the Anglican Communion, I have been reflecting quite a bit of late on the forthcoming gathering of Primates of the Anglican Communion in Canterbury. I have been struck by the ease with which anxiety and fear over division dominates any attempt at discussion of God’s mission. It seems to me that this is not a particularly Gospel-led way of viewing the current state of Church politics, and I have been thinking quite hard about the personal experiences that have shaped my identity as a disciple of Christ. I am not a ‘cradle Anglican’, to coin a phrase that is often used by those who have been born and raised within the Anglican Church. However we would do well to note that Baptism is a universal sacrament: you are welcomed into the Body of Christ when you are baptised, not into a particular denomination. Baptism, in that sense, represents a particular expression of unity in diversity: one body, many parts.
When I was born, my father was a Church of Scotland minister in the Scottish borders. I was baptised in his church, Coldingham Priory which exists on the site of an earlier monastery founded by St Ebba. Ebba lived in the 7th century. She was the daughter of King Ethelfrith of Bernicia and Acha of Deira. The somewhat turbulent political goings on of that period in the various regions that now make up the British Isles, Ebba and her famly were forced into exile to western Scotland, a place steeped in the early growth of Christianity in Britain. During their exile, Ebba and her family converted to Christianity. Ebba ended up Abbess of Coldingham Priory, which was a double separate monastery of both monks and nuns. She was known as a great teacher and a politician and was frequently called upon to resolve disputes. Although the community she founded did not last much beyond her death, her name remains linked with the landscape of which she was a part to this day. The refounded Priory did not survive the Reformation, and was finally destroyed by the troops of Oliver Cromwell. However a new church was built around the ruins, and was renovated in the 19th century; the surviving archway in front of the modern church serving as a reminder to its past. This was the church in which I was baptised.
Family life soon took us south of the border to Sunderland, and while we initially worshipped as part of the United Reformed Church (akin to the Scottish Presbyterian Church), I attended a Church of England Primary school, followed by a Roman Catholic Girls’ Convent school. In the midst of all that, we became Anglicans and my father was ordained into the Anglican Church as a deacon and soon afterwards, as a priest. My tertiary education took me back to the country of my birth: to St Andrew’s University in Scotland, and thence to the United States to a Presbyterian Seminary, and finally to Oxford University. It was while I was at Oxford researching Paul’s perspective on manual work for my doctorate, that I was ordained myself into the Anglican Church.
I offer that somewhat lengthy and personal part of this (I hope relatively short!) reflection, because it has taught me quite a lot about unity and diversity, and what it means to experience faith in different contexts. One of the great joys of my current ministry as Bishop of Waikato, is the working relationship that I have with my Roman Catholic equivalent, Bishop Steve Lowe, the Bishop of Hamilton. We are pleased to be able to continue the relationship in ministry that both our predecessors worked hard to enable over their long tenures as Bishops. This was never going to be a given for me, because of my gender, but I have been overwhelmed by the sense of gracious hospitality that Bishop Steve and I have shared. We have far more in common in the issues that we face as bishops, than we might think. Unity and diversity then, are constants in our work.
As I have made the move from one province of the Anglican Communion to another, from the Church of England to the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia, I have discovered more layers to what it means to live with unity and diversity. Our unique Three Tikanga* structure has been oft-critiqued, but I was recently pleasantly surprised during an exchange in Twitter with a Bishop’s chaplain in England, how quickly they grasped what opportunities our structure could afford, and how respectfully they spoke of it during our brief and somewhat limited interaction (remember tweets are only 140 characters in length!). More still, the experiences I have had as a Bishop, encountering other Bishops from over 20 difference provinces during the Canterbury course for new Bishops held annually and which I, along with Bishop Andrew of Waiapu attended a year ago, have taught me that we have far more in common than what we may disagree over. The photograph that accompanies this reflection is made up of the hands of some of the Bishops present.
Finally, I have gained an immense amount of wisdom from my father who, as I mentioned earlier has experienced active ministry in two different Christian denominations. I vividly remember the period of his transition from Presbyterian minister to Anglican priest, a transition that was not without its challenges, but which was one which inevitably forms part of my own formation towards and in ordained ministry. I asked him recently what he thought unity was, and he replied as follows: “Unity is not about managing the church but discovering each other. Abel replies to God’s question ‘Where is Cain?’ with ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Perhaps it would be good for us in our sense of unity to ask: ‘How am I my brother’s brother’ (as the Archbishop of York has said) – and brother/sister here is those outside the church as well as fellow-believers. Thus mission and unity are inseparable. Unity is God’s destiny for the church and the world.”
Unity is not uniformity. Disagreements have always been part of Christian life, and before that, of our Jewish heritage. Which is why I frequently turn to the Jewish rabbinic tradition. Ultimately, we are called to turn our faces to God and to allow ourselves to be drawn ever closer into the fullness of a unity that we may only catch a glimpse of, but is that which the triune God holds for us in grace, love and mercy. So my prayer for the Primates’ gathering in Canterbury is that they may be held in grace and love, and discover what it truly means to be their brother’s brother? (I can say that because I don’t think there will be any women present!). To those thoughts, I add the prayer that the Anglican Communion Office has published:
Lord, this is a part of Your Church Militant.
You called us after redeeming us through Your Son's
sacrificial death, triumphant resurrection and glorious Ascension.
Help us as a Communion to hear clearly
what You are saying to us in this age,
grant this gathering and meeting Your Spirit
that it may lead in such a way as to bring
honour and glory to Your name,
peace and better understanding to Your church,
growth and development to every part of the Communion.
We ask in Christ's name.
*Tikanga is a Maori word which, when translated, means culture or protocol. The Three Tikanga structure of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia enables Maori, Pakeha ('European') and Polynesia [the Province includes Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, American Samoa] autonomy in ordering their affairs, whilst held firmly in the life of the whole Church (through our 'common life').
Story Published: 4th of January - 2016
The visit of the MagiA new year's message for Epiphany from Bishop Helen-Ann
Just before Christmas, I was asked by Radio New Zealand to provide a 20-second pre-recorded answer to a question that members of the afternoon show ‘The Panel’ were to discuss. The question was: ‘what did the 3 wise men know?’ My answer (as I recall) was to say that we don’t know how many wise men there were (Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t give a number; it has become popular to say there were 3 on account of the number of gifts), and that all they probably knew was that they were following what may well have been a comet. What I didn’t say is that it is probably because of what they didn’t know that they were led to a far deeper knowing: the incarnate God, the helpless baby in a manger. That sounds a bit too philosophical perhaps, so let me put it another way.
A recent report in the NZ Herald talked about how a fog canon was used as a deterrent for would-be thieves in a service station in Auckland. When the break-in took place, the fog canon produced so much fog that those intent on committing the crime were put off by the fact they couldn’t see anything, and so bid a hasty retreat. We know quite a lot about fog in the Waikato; one Sunday morning, I sailed right through Kihikihi. Realising my mistake (because the journey seemed to be taking too long), I did a U-turn (in a safe place) and headed back. Thankfully I had allowed extra time for my journey that morning, and so arrived in plenty time for the service and the congregation were none the wiser (of course now they know!). It is often in the things we don’t see at first, that we have an opportunity to set the course right and head in a different direction. The wise men were students of the stars and planets; they knew that they had to follow the celestial phenomenon, but perhaps it was because of their sheer curiousity that they set out, not knowing what they would find along the way?
The word ‘Epiphany’ literally means in Greek “light over”. Often people will speak about times when they have had a personal ‘epiphany’ or revelation; a deeper understanding or perspective on an issue that they had not seen previously. Perhaps you can think of such a time in your own lives? I have spoken and written often about my love of the night sky. I love spotting the International Space Station, and always have that ‘wow’ moment when I see it. And yes, I follow its course, as it speeds across the sky at a speed of almost 28,000km per hour! Its visible time is limited to a matter of minutes, and as I move from the back garden to the front, I marvel at the fact that there are 6 fellow humans up there!
For me, personally, the past few years have meant a shift in Hemisphere and a new understanding and experience of Christmas-tide. Gone are the cold and short days of winter, and now I experience long days of light and warmth. Christmas and Epiphany feel very different indeed. So too with the wise men, who journeyed from one context to another and encountered something utterly transformative. As they journeyed, they would have encountered new sights, sounds, smells, and stories of place and purpose. No matter whether we have lived all our lives in one place or not, we always have the most to learn from the people and places we are most unlike. This sense of unknowing was beautifully captured by Thomas Merton, who lived in the first half of the 20th century. Drawing upon a 14th century work of spirituality, written anonymously and called ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’, Merton developed the technique of centering prayer. The contemporary Franciscan writer Richard Rohr says this about it: ‘the author believes that the spiritual journey demands full self-awareness and honesty, a perpetual shadow-boxing with our own weaknesses and imperfections. While physical withdrawal from the world is not essential, letting go of attachments to people, expectations and things is. This requires contemplative practice, a true spiritual discipline. Rather than teaching passivity, the path into the cloud of unknowing requires active intent, willingness, and practice – knowing enough to not to need to know more, which ironically becomes a kind of endless, deeper knowing’ (Daily Meditation, July 23rd 2015).
In his Lambeth Lecture delivered in October, the Bishop of London Richard Chartres spoke about how Church must be ‘vision-led not problem-led.’ Although a huge and cosmopolitan city like London is thousands of kilometres away from our context, there is some epiphanic wisdom in this idea. Put simply, it encourages positive thinking and cheerfulness in all that we do. What would it be like if every conversation over morning tea, every vestry meeting, every Synod, every General Synod, every interaction we have with one another was overwhelmed in joyful confidence in the Gospel? Yes, there are challenges, but we are all guided by the same light that drew the wise men to the Christ child over 2000 years ago. A ‘can-do’ attitude is far more Gospel focused than a ‘yes, but’ attitude. It is our hope and prayer as Bishops that this year, 2016, will be a year of joyful discipleship, facing challenges and hardships with the hope and determination that upheld the first apostles.
Finally, a word about the photograph that accompanies this reflection. It was taken by my mother just a few days ago in the village of Brancepeth, near Durham in the NE of England. We have had a long family tradition of attending a New Year’s Day lunch in Brancepeth castle near Durham. Typically the castle is absolutely freezing; it is not Downton Abbey! However, the warmth of the welcome and hospitality is typically overwhelming, and the large roaring fire provides some relief from the cold. The lunch raises money for local charities, and is a wonderful opportunity to catch-up with people you only see once a year. Nearby is the beautiful Brancepeth church which was originally built 1000 years ago, and was severely damaged by fire in 1998. A period of rebuilding and restoration brought new life into this place of ancient worship. This photograph is of their nativity scene. What I find so wonderful about it is the perspective of the cluster of knitted nativity figures (knittivity!) and the face of Mary in particular as she looks upwards to the proportionally enormous baby in the manger. This is surely a reminder of the epiphany of Christ’s birth that is at the heart of our pilgrimage today. Emmanuel, God is with us. Alleluia! Amen.
Story Published: 3rd of January - 2016
The power of a storyChristmas sermon from the Bishop of Waikato
Yesterday morning, during a live interview with Karen Kay on Radio LIVE, I was presented with a question texted in by a listener:
"My 5 year-old wants to know if God was Jesus’ father, what does that make Joseph? Help!"
My answer was you might say a text-book summary in roughly 140 characters (I often like to think in tweet-lengths) outlining the essential aspect of Christian belief and thus the Christmas story, that we believe that God was and is indeed Jesus’ father and that Joseph fulfilled the earthly obligations of parent-child. Sooner or later, the question of the parent-hood of Jesus is going to come to the fore and the honest answer to that is sometimes God can do some pretty neat stuff that we don’t understand. To be able to sit comfortably with mystery and the unknown tends to feel awkward in a world where certainty and complete understanding dominate.
The comment back to me was something along the lines of: I hope that makes sense to a 5-year old.
I reflected somewhat on that brief and unexpected inter-change. Two thoughts came to mind: first, is that really top priority for a 5-year old, or was that a cynical listener trying to catch me out? I know a few 5-year olds and that isn’t the sort of specific question that is typical. My second thought started off a series of sentences that go roughly like this:
A long time ago in a Roman Province far far away, the force awakened and a new hope was born. But the Empire was striking back. The Emperor ordered every person to return to their base to be counted. Members of the rebel alliance, along with their woolly associates received news from winged messengers of light sent from Obi Three-in-Wan(One) Almighty, that the new hope had arrived and could be found in an unlikely location nearby. At the same time (but you will have to wait for another episode) inter-planetary experts observed some unusual celestial movement and set out on a journey to discover its meaning. Initially they headed to the dark side in making contact with a King called Herod but that appeared not to be the king that they were looking for. They eventually did manage to locate the new hope, a young baby called Jesus in whom the force was strong, and the rest, well, is history you might say though in reality it is more than that.
Whether or not you have seen the latest and long-awaited instalment of the Star Wars films, you may recognise the play on that grand narrative in my words. Sometimes I think we are a bit closer to Star Wars than we might think. I drive a Falcon (hopefully better than Han Solo flies the Milennium Falcon at times); and if you send me a text message I will hear Darth Vader’s distinctive breathing. Just occasionally when I have forgotten to put my phone on silent it can cause an unsuspecting visitor to my office to raise an eyebrow of perplexity, particularly as I usually have the volume turned up quite high. I have gotten used to pretending all is quite normal, like why wouldn’t I have Darth Vader on hand to help me out of a tricky situation?! Of course, I need to clarify that he was a much better person before he turned to the dark side, and perhaps that is why Anakin Skywalker is often misheard as ‘Anglican Skywalker’?!
Lest you think this is an entirely Star Wars-related Christmas message, let me point this light-sabre in the right direction. For that is ultimately what we are talking about: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light – those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined…For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’.
We are far closer to that story that we know; but why else do we gather here this night, but to recognise that maybe, just maybe there is a bigger story to help make sense of our lives? A bigger story that gives texture and language to how we relate to the person sitting next to you, and the wider world of which you are a part? The helpless child in the manger invites us to consider what it means to be human now, and this is the message of Christmas that is as relevant here in Hamilton in 2015 as it is in countless communities across our world over 2000 years. To discover what it means to be human now is the reason we follow this star, words of the wise men as recorded in WH Auden’s Christmas Oratorio. The whole point of that is the observation that the Christ-child comes to us not so much in the warmth and effervescent excesses of this time of year, as in the difficult and dark times in our lives; for Auden writing at the height of the Second World War, that was an overwhelming reality, and that is the whole point of God becoming human – that is the answer to the question what does it mean for Jesus to be the Son of God. In Auden’s poem Joseph argues with the angel: ‘All I ask is one important and elegant proof that what my love had done was really at your will and that your will is Love? The angel Gabriel replies: ‘No, you must believe – be silent and sit still.’
If we are silent, and sit still just for a moment, perhaps we too can glimpse the mystery revealed on this night? Joseph’s very human response finds itself bound up in the tapestry of divine Love, and how often in the face of love have we been rendered speechless and amazed? None more so perhaps, than in the face of a new born baby? That is the gift and the invitation of the child whose birth we remember on this night.
He is the Way writes WH Auden
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.
Happy Christmas! Oh, and may the force be with you!
Story Published: 25th of December - 2015
A Christmas Message from the ArchbishopsA Christmas Message from the Archbishops
What images from 2015 remain fixed in your mind?
We’ll hazard a guess: for most of us, it’ll be the images of refugees fleeing from tyranny and war.
Images of the innocent, suffering.
Images, too, of brutal extremists hiding behind the miserable pretence of religious justification.
History, including Church history, is littered with testimony to human evil, selfishness and greed.
So often this has been done in the name of what is “right”, the way of absolutes and certainty.
“I am right. You are wrong. You must conform to my way of thinking – or suffer the consequences .”
We have heard the rhetoric of the extremist and been confronted, again and again, by the images of this tyranny of the “right”.
But violence just begets violence, and hatred begets more hatred. It does not provide solutions; it just creates more problems.
The Christ child, the one whose birth we celebrate, born to an unwed mother who had no place to shelter– the family then forced to flee to a foreign land for fear of a tyrant.
This child, Christians believe, shows us the simple but improbable way God, who is love, reaches out to us.
It is the way that begins by placing yourself in the shoes of another. And by trying to see the world through that other person's eyes. We do not have to agree with that other person. We might not even like what they stand for.
In fact, we may profoundly disagree.
But we need to see in every other person, even our enemy, someone beloved of God.
This is the way of costly, sacrificial love.
This way has the ability to redeem and transform even the most hardened of extremists, and the very worst of situations.
It is the way of compassion, in the true sense of that word; sharing in the suffering of the other.
It is the way of dialogue. It is the way of reconciliation. Only love can transform an enemy into a friend.
This way is demanding. It requires faith, courage, perseverance, fortitude, and commitment. It defies convention and opens you up to ridicule; it is the way of the infant born in Bethlehem.
We instinctively know the truth of this way, and we long for it.
We know that the world is, despite these awful images, overwhelmingly a place of goodness and beauty.
We know that love wins because of the promise and the hope of the Christ child.
And never has the message of this child, and His way, been more needed.
May the God who takes the risk of reaching out and being vulnerable, who really loves us, deeply bless you and your families this Christmas.
Archbishop Brown Turei , Bishop of Aotearoa;
Archbishop Philip Richardson , senior bishop of the New Zealand dioceses;
Archbishop Winston Halapua , Bishop of Polynesia.
Story Published: 23rd of December - 2015
Trees at the MeteorHoly Trinity Forest Lake wins prize!
FLY Youth Group from Holy Trinity, Forest Lake has taken the winning spot in the Gadgetree category at the annual Trees at the Meteor exhibition.
Their tree, entitled Journeys is an interactive “buzz-wire” depiction of the nativity story. The artist statement reads “On that first Christmas, Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem to be counted; the shepherds and the wise men journeyed to Bethlehem to find Jesus. What journey are you on this Christmas?”
The making of the tree was a real team effort, utilising the artistic and electronic talents of the youth in the group.
The judges’ comments were that the tree had an electronic component, it depicted the Christmas story in a novel way, and provided a challenge.
The team received a $200 Backdoor voucher for their efforts.
Trees at the Meteor is an exhibition of 80 creative Christmas trees, a festive forest! The exhibition is about helping to make Christmas more about “Compassion not Consumption” by proudly donating to the Hamilton Men’s Night Shelter and Women’s Refuge. Check it out at the Meteor Theatre, Victoria Street, Hamilton from 15 – 19 December, 7-10 pm and a matinee show on Saturday 19 December at 1-3 pm. $6 entry ($20 family) includes complimentary coffee/hot choc/chai.
Congratulations to FLY!
Story Published: 17th of December - 2015
Christmas Message from Bishop Helen-AnnA long time ago...
A long time ago in a Roman Province far far away...
I wonder what we notice about that introduction? If you're a Star Wars fan, or are at the least a little bit aware of how that story goes, then you might have picked up the allusion to that grand narrative of good versus evil? This year, the story of Christmas unfolds once more amidst the competing agendas of the free market...and the newest instalment of the Star Wars franchise.
It's a well known fact that I love watching the night sky. On a clear night you'll often find me in the back garden with my telescope (on loan from a member of the St Peter's Cathedral choir, thank you Ann!) studying the intricate detail of the moon, or perhaps spotting the International Space Station as it whizzes across the sky on its 90-minute orbit round our precious and beautiful planet. So maybe not surprisingly, I am a Star Wars fan too!
What amazes me is the ability of that narrative to capture the imaginations of millions. It is also a deeply theological story, which leads me to seek connection with the greater, more ancient, and far more radical story that we celebrate next Friday: the birth of Jesus Christ.
Or perhaps the issue is more profoundly and more acutely and urgently this: the foundational narrative of our faith: Jesus' birth, presents an opportunity to remind each and every person of the outrageous hospitality of God made possible by the incarnation. How will we respond? It is this outrageous hospitality that motivates us to do good in our communities, to welcome the stranger, the persecuted, the refugee (for surely that is precisely what the Holy Family became when they fled to Egypt), the marginalised, the outcast and the forgotten? Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.
I use that phrase 'outrageous hospitality' quite deliberately. It is a phrase used by St Stephen's, Tamahere parishioner and Anglican Action Board member, Jane Manson, to describe the Tamahere Country Market in an article in the 2016 Life and Leisure Annual. St Stephen's recent Twilight Market attracted over 4000 people from far and wide, with the church offering outrageous hospitality to all with incredible witness and joy.
The poverty of Jesus' birth offered outrageous hospitality to the shepherds who visited, and to the Magi who brought gifts for a King. How ironic that a place fit for animals gave warmth and protection to the Saviour of the world. We have much to learn from creation when it is at its most vulnerable and most beautiful. The fragility of that birth sustained the past, present and future of the whole universe. An event that happened a long time ago, in the words of the poet UA Fanthorpe, the moment when 'before became after' (in her poem BC/AD).
So this Christmas, we rejoice in the outrageous hospitality of God who became one of us in Jesus Christ. And while we enjoy all that is good in the company of friends and family (and maybe catch the new Star Wars film), let us also not forget that, as Eugene Petersen says: 'God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves'.
Because of that, we must continue to find ways of sharing that God story to all whom we encounter. The Gospel about Jesus Christ is good news for each and every person.
Story Published: 17th of December - 2015
UN Conference on Climate ChangeHouse of Bishops' statement on climate change
On November 30th, at least 147 Heads of State and Government will gather in Paris for a ten-day summit to discuss the critical issue of climate change. This will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Climate change is an issue that affects all of us, and is one that each of us can so something about. It is of critical urgency in our Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia where our sisters and brothers in the Pacific are already affected by loss of homes, land and income.
The House of Bishops in our Province have issued the following statement:
For the sake of all people and other species on Earth, we pray for an ambitious, fair, and legally binding agreement to be reached at the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris this December.
As Christians we believe that “the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” Teeming with abundant life and magnificant diversity, the symphony of creation gives glory to its Creator. We believe that God is reconciling to himself not only human beings but “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” through Jesus Christ.
The Earth is God’s gift to humanity and to all creatures. In unity with Pope Francis we “forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.” As humans endowed with reason we are not the controllers and possessors of nature but its servants, just as we are servants of each other and of God. We affirm this in the mission statement of the Anglican Church, which commits us to “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”
Sadly, however, we are failing to live up to this calling. There is no longer any doubt that human activity has upset the delicate balance of physical and ecological systems upon which all life depends, and we are beginning to reap what we have sown. Air and water are becoming polluted, and the soil depleted. The ocean is becoming more acidic. The food chain is being compromised. Species are dying, and the climate is changing.
In particular, climate change threatens to undermine the health, prosperity and social stability of all nations. Unchecked, it will precipitate food shortages, conflict, and forced migration on a global scale.
Already the impacts of climate change are being acutely felt in the South Pacific. This year we have witnessed firsthand the devastation that climate change will visit upon our region through more intense cyclones, severe storm surges, saltwater intrusion, coastal erosion, and the bleaching of corals.
Jesus teaches us to love our neighbour and especially to show practical love to the poor and vulnerable, declaring that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” In this spirit, we believe that the needs of the Pacific Islands and other communities acutely vulnerable to climate impacts should set the terms for what is agreed at the Paris climate negotiations.
Therefore, we urge the representatives of New Zealand and of all nations at the Paris climate negotiations to work intently to secure a legally binding international agreement that limits global average temperature increase to below 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels by requiring rapid and deep decarbonisation.
Mitigating the worst effects of climate change is achievable if we act collectively and immediately. We have hope that a more sustainable and more just world can be created through strong and urgent global action. May God be with the delegates to the Paris climate negotiations in their vital work.
The pounamu cross shown here was gifted by Bishop Helen-Ann to Bishop Graham Usher, the Bishop of Dudley in the Diocese of Worcester, UK. Bishop Graham and Bishop Helen-Ann were both participants in the 2015 Canterbury course for Bishops in early years of episcopal ministry. Bishop Graham, an ecologist by training, is one of the Church of England's environmental bishops. He will travel to Paris to join a group from the Church of England who have walked in pilgrimage to be present during the Climate summit, and is taking the cross made in our Diocese (at Te Kauwhata) and blessed in the waters of the Waikato river with him to Paris.
(Photo thanks to +Graham @bishopdudley).
Story Published: 27th of November - 2015
Anglican Schools' DinnerFarewell to Steve Robb
On Tuesday evening, Principals, Chaplains, and students gathered with Bishop Helen-Ann at Southwell School to mark the end of the school year and to offer our deep gratitude and say farewell to Steve Robb who for the last 20 years has led St Peter's School, Cambridge. This is the first time in recent memory such a dinner has been held and came as a result of the Anglican Schools' Conference held in Christchurch in September. At that conference, it was agreed that the intentional work that the Bishops have done to support the work of our schools invited further opportunities for gathering and sharing our common lives and work in education. Southwell School in Hamilton offered wonderful hospitality and in a relaxed atmosphere there was much joy and laughter as we reflected on the year past, and paid special tribute to Steve, and to his wife Claire for the commitment and leadership they have shown in their time at St Peter's. Bishop Helen-Ann offered words of thanks to Steve before presenting him with some gifts on behalf of the Diocese. This was followed by heartfelt tributes from Royce Helm, Headmaster of Southwell, Vicki McLennan, Head of Waikato Diocesan School for Girls, Ainsley Robson, DP at St Paul's Collegiate who also spoke on behalf of the students present (Ainsley had himself been taught by Steve!), and the Rev'd Canon Neale Troon, chaplain at Southwell and Warden of the College of Chaplains, on behalf of the chaplains present.
In her short speech, Bishop Helen-Ann made particular mention of Steve Robb's humility, graciousness and integrity in his leadership. After 20 years at the helm, Steve and Claire are looking forward to travelling next year, and to all that the future holds in this next season of their lives.
We were particularly grateful for the presence of the students, who all remarked how good it was to meet together from different schools. Some of them are still sitting exams, so our thoughts and prayers go with them for that!
We all wish Steve and Claire our sincere thanks, best wishes for their travels next year, and to all our schools, congratulations on another excellent year!
Story Published: 25th of November - 2015
Meet the Bishop's buddy!Buddy Day 2015
Today (November 13th) is Buddy Day 2015!
Buddy Day is an initiative of the Hamilton-based charity Child Matters. It aims to bring to attention issues around child welfare, neglect and abuse. Some of the shocking statistics regarding child abuse in New Zealand can be found on the Buddy Day website (www.buddyday.org.nz). You can also find out about how Buddy Day works, and perhaps think how your community might be involved next year, as indeed many are already within our Diocese!
Bishop Helen-Ann started the day by attending the Buddy Day breakfast at WINTEC (pictured, along with two young women from Waikato Diocesan School for Girls taking part in the day), where over 200 people collected their buddies! Bishop Helen-Ann was drawn to her buddy by its tartan, and was amazed to discover that her buddy's name is Salita MacLachlan, and although Salita comes from Glendowie Primary School in Auckland, she originally comes from Scotland, where she lives on a farm with her parents. Salita visited the Cathedral for morning prayer; met up with other Twitter buddies in Dora's for coffee in Hamilton; attended the St Paul's Collegiate Junior Speech competition; helped Bishop Helen-Ann give a talk to the St Peter's Cathedral Social Club, and then enjoyed dinner out in Hamilton later in the day!
Salita will be in the Charlotte Brown House for a while, so do come in and say hello and leave a message in her Buddy diary!
Story Published: 13th of November - 2015
Prime Minister visits Southwell SchoolBuddy Day on the map!
Last Friday there was considerable excitement at Southwell School as our Prime Minister, the Hon John Key paid a visit! The whole school were packed into the auditorium, together with staff, teachers, Board members and one or two parents. The Prime Minister's visit came as a response to a letter sent by an 8-year old pupil at Southwell, Jack (who you can see in the photograph of the PM's arrival at the school). Jack's father is involved in the Buddy Day initiative, which takes place annually, and this year is happening on Friday November 13th. You can find out more details about it here: http://buddyday.org.nz/. Buddy Day is organised by 'Child Matters', a Hamilton-based charitable foundation started in 1994 by Anthea Simcock, who also spoke during the assembly.
Jack decided to write to the Prime Minister telling him about important Buddy Day is and how vital it is to support children. As part of the assembly, Jack delivered a passionate speech about hearing children's voices, and about valuing childhood, and the vulnerabilities that children often face through neglect, violence and indifference from society. Needless to say, Jack's speech impressed the PM to the extent that he wondered if Jack would be free to deliver all his speeches around the country! The assembly was framed in prayer, with the whole school beginning by singing the Lord's Prayer; the Chaplain, the Rev'd Canon Neale Troon delivered some prayers; and Bishop Helen-Ann concluded with an interactive hand blessing where she asked everyone to hold up their hands. The thumb, being the closest finger invites us to ask for blessings on those closest to us (family and friends); the pointing finger invites us to ask for blessings on those who point us in the right direction (our teachers, mentors, guardians, parents, and spiritual guides); the middle finger (the tallest) invites us to ask for blessings on those who govern and lead us; the ring finger (the weakest) invites us to ask for blessings on those who are struggling; and the little finger invites us to ask for blessings on ourselves. The school choir sang 'Pokararekare Ana' beautifully, before heading north on their choir trip to Paihia after the assembly had finished. The Prime Minister also handed out ties and badges to pupils at the school, and Headmaster Royce Helm presented Mr Key with a headmaster's tie. The PM then visited Jack's class, after a quick coffee to go from the school's new '1911 cafe', and headed answered questions about politics from the children.
It was an honour to have the Prime Minister visit one of our schools, and no doubt the children will remember it for years to come!
Next Friday, which is Buddy Day, will see Bishop Helen-Ann adopting a buddy for the day. Report to follow!
Story Published: 8th of November - 2015
Farewell to Brother Brian SSFBishop Helen-Ann's sermon preached at Br Brian's funeral in Hamilton.
(photo taken by Lloyd Ashton, Media Officer for the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia).
2 Timothy 4:1-9
Amongst the many messages that have been received in recent days, one contained in an email sent to Archbishop Philip and myself by a member of our Diocesan staff, stood out. The email reported to us that Brother Brian had recently remarked that lately his life revolved around three ‘Ps’:
Many of my more recent encounters with Brother Brian included each of these ‘Ps’: in the times of prayer that I shared with him both in the Friary, and particularly during his hospital stay earlier in the year. An abiding memory is watching Brother Brian instruct my husband Myles in saying the Jesus Prayer. Brother Brian and Myles shared a special bond ever since they discovered that they had both been pupils at Radley College in Oxfordshire. Although they were from different generations, this common experience shaped their interactions from thence forward, and Myles knew that when he was with Brother Brian something unspoken was shared between them that only they could understand. As much as prayer can link people across different communities and contexts, Br Brian’s life was surely an example of that in the bonds of connection and affection others held him in throughout the world. In his own quiet and understated way, Brian brought people together. Indeed, last night, Br Damian remarked that Brian didn’t like to blow his own trumpet, we all smiled of course, because Brian did in fact play the trumpet and loved hearing it in concert, often in this Cathedral church.
Brother Brian was infinitely patient; the last time I saw him was in his room in the Friary, where I shared the bread of the Eucharist with him. He sat in his chair with a serenity that comes from deep and profound meditation and stillness in the face of God. Indeed, in his patience, Brian reflected the light of God’s peace to all whom he encountered. Being with Brian demanded that you take life at a slower pace. When Br Brian acquired his walker in recent months, which increased his mobility greatly, I used to tease him about watching out for the speed bumps in Te Ara Hou village! But there was a serious side to that too: Br Brian’s visible presence in the village was a patient but persistent reminder to the whole church that its priorities were so often to be found wanting in the midst of the realities of struggle and indifference that the agencies of the village face each and every day in their work.
And then there are indeed the prunes, which would often feature as part of a meal. I have never been a great fan of prunes, but I came across a report recently that gave me hope in that it informed me that women aged between 25 and 54 apparently reacted so strongly to the word ‘prune’ that the California Prune Board once pressured the Food and Drug Administration in the United States to change their name to the more appealing ‘dried plums’ which resulted in a great increase in sales. So I thought to myself maybe I should think of them as such. No doubt that story may have appealed to Brian’s very sharp sense of humour, which he never lost even in the face of his more recent pain and struggles.
This is not however, a eulogy; that will come in a short while. It is the task of the preacher at a Christian funeral to proclaim hope in belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed, this was the abiding hope and belief that Brother Brian bore witness to throughout his life and which in his death is given even greater clarity. Although we mourn his death, words from our first reading remind us of the perspective that is needed: ‘the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace’ (Wis. 3.1-3).
In fact each of the readings that give texture to the canvas upon which we paint a reflection on Br Brian’s life in this service have at their core the theme of journeying: of comings and goings; arrivals and departures that point to the place beyond the horizon, the distant shore where the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and where they and we share the hope of the resurrection in glory, preempted by Wisdom in its hope of immortality. We rightly struggle at times with the idea of resurrection, but this struggle is surely an invitation and an opportunity in life, in death, and life beyond death to constantly see things anew. When you go forth from this Cathedral notice the sky, the grass, the beauty of creation, the important details of a creation so often taken for granted that are part of the Franciscan way that Brother Brian was called by God to follow.
Several months ago now, I found one of Anglican Action’s youth team, Murray Riches wrestling with a goat outside the Friary, as you do of course. I will spare you the details of why Murray had the goat; but it called to mind the challenges inherent in the parable in Matthew chapter 25; it’s all very well that the shepherd would separate the sheep and goats, but this is surely a task that would require much skill if it were to be performed successfully? It is not easy.
The kaupapa at the heart of this Gospel is one that is lived out each and every day in the village context of Brother Brian’s home in recent years: the struggle of life where the hungry are fed, the thirsty are refreshed, visitors are welcomed, the naked are given clothing, and those in prison are visited, valued and are given support and care when released. The constancy of the rhythm of prayer that Brothers Brian and Damian, Phil and others maintained and continue to maintain was and is the heartbeat of the Gospel message that Anglican Action and the other agencies in Te Ara Hou bear witness to each day: te ara hou, a new way: the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers just that, a new way of seeing the world around us because of what God has done in Jesus Christ. Simply to know that prayer was happening created an aura beyond the horizons of daily life. Br Brian was at the heart of that, and even in his frailty there was a strength that you knew was sustaining and at times, life-saving.
The journeying comes to a conclusion of sorts in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, where the author knows that death is almost upon him; he wants Timothy to be clear about the task that lies ahead as he picks up the baton from Paul. And yet, for all its urgency, the teacher is to make things clear ‘with all patience and explanation’. Here again is a reminder that to truly understand and live out faith takes prayerful patience, loyalty and perseverance; that is why Paul favours the use of athletic metaphors in his letters: you cannot achieve a favourable outcome without investing constant training and attention to self-worth, self-growth and self-discipline that ultimately self might give way to the well-being of others. That is what love is about: not, what’s in it for me, but what do you need that will enable you to flourish and be valued? Only in doing that, and particularly at times we feel less inclined to do so, will we gain the eternal reward.
On more than one occasion, Br Brian spoke to me about his time in the Royal Navy, and so it is very fitting that here in Second Timothy, the Greek word used for departure is in fact a nautical metaphor, referring to the activity of untying the ropes and casting off. This is beautifully illustrated in Seamus Heaney’s poem in his series ‘Lightenings’. He describes the monks of Clonmacnoise who were:
…all at prayer inside the oratory (and)
A ship appeared above them in the air.
The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,
A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
“This man can’t bear our life here and will drown,”
The abbot said, “unless we help him.” So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed
Out of the marvellous as he had known it.
Brother Brian, dear holy man of God, you have been released from this mortal life to journey in the place beyond the horizon. Well done, good and faithful soul for a life well lived. May you rest in peace, and rise in glory.
Story Published: 8th of November - 2015
Welcome to Chee!Bishop Helen-Ann installs the Rev'd Chee Keong Yong as co-vicar of Chartwell.
At a special service on Sunday evening, the Feast of All Saints', Bishop Helen-Ann installed the Rev'd Chee as the new co-vicar of the co-operating parish of St Alban's, Chartwell. Bishop Helen-Ann was joined by the Rev'd Dr Susan Thompson, Methodist Superintendent of the Waikato Waiariki Methodist Synod, and the Rev'd David Gordon, Kaimai Presbytery Moderator. Chee has served in the parish of Ellerslie in the Diocese of Auckland, and most recently as senior pastor of the Wesley International Congregation in Sydney, Australia. Chee was ordained deacon and priest in the Diocese of West Malaysia.
Bishop Helen-Ann preached at the service on the passages Chee had chosen: Jeremiah 29.10-14, and 1 Cor. 13.1-13. In addition, Chee had requested a painting entitled 'Hope' to be displayed on the front cover of the order of service, which may be found here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/3563194/Barack-Obamas-favourite-painting.html.
Bishop Helen-Ann's sermon is reproduced below:
When I began thinking about this reflection for this evening I, like most other clergy in this nation I expect, felt I needed to leave the opening sentences in 2 versions, depending on the outcome of this morning’s Rugby World Cup final. Before I continue, we do need to remember that your new co-vicar, Chee, has come to us from that other place over the ditch, so we need to be kind!
Version A says something like this:
Well, how are we all feeling? I expect you are sharing the mood of the nation in feeling disappointed and sad about this morning’s result. But cheer up, get a sense of perspective and let’s move on and celebrate all that was and is great about the All Blacks and their remarkable and inspiring team spirit. It’s only game after all.
Version B says something like this:
Wow! What an amazing game; we are the best in the world and don’t we all feel fantastic? Or thereabouts.
Well by now of course, we know the outcome of the game; whether we are winners or losers, the saying goes that it is the taking part that matters.
This is a joyful evening, and we have waited a long time it seems for it. Chee, we are delighted that God has called you to Chartwell, and I share with my colleagues a deep sense of excitement and anticipation at this beginning point in your ministry. We look forward to the journey that lies ahead, and all that you will contribute and enable in God’s mission in this place. This is a day of celebration, of looking forward and of remembering our own vocations to be disciples of Christ, welcoming all without question or discrimination. All are welcome in this place, come just as you are, and just as God is purposing you to be.
That is an important message to proclaim, because too often the church can be a place of exclusion rather than welcome. I know for certain that Chartwell is a place of rich hospitality and invitation; you can sense it the moment you enter its doors. If you could bottle it, undoubtedly it would be a best seller; but you can’t, and therein lies the challenge or, as I am often heard to say, the opportunity. To be disciples of Christ is a calling that takes time and patience to grow into, and you have to work at it, each and every day.
Our readings this evening say quite a lot about perseverance, resilience and hope. You may have noticed the painting, chosen by Chee on the front cover of our order of service? It is by the 19th century artist George Frederic Watts, and is entitled ‘hope.’ Now a first glance might lead to ask the question, what is hopeful about it? A woman sits on a globe, blindfolded, clutching a wooden harp-like instrument with only one string left intact. You might think, as indeed the philosopher GK Chesterton did, that the painting should better be described as ‘despair’. However, look again. The painting was the subject of a lecture by a certain Dr Frederick G Sampson in the United State in the late 1980s. At that lecture was a man named Jeremiah Wright who was inspired to preach a sermon in 1990 on the subject of hope, and he said this: ‘hope, with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God…To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope…that’s the real world God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt’s painting.’ Listening to this sermon was a man named Barack Obama who later adopted the phrase ‘audacity of hope’ in his speeches and as the title of his second book.
The audacity of hope then, is I think the spark of discipleship that each of carries within us, that we seek to nurture and grow, allowing God’s Holy Spirit to inspire us into action. The audacity of hope is that which is represented in our reading from the prophet Jeremiah, written in a time of exile when hope you might think was lacking. God promises that through trials and tribulations, as long as we continue to seek God and search for his presence, our fortunes will be restored, even if those fortunes are not at all what we expected, or how we expected them to come about. Hope comes from a place that looks hopeless – you cannot hope without first experiencing what it means to lose everything.
Paul’s words to the Corinthians add texture to the picture: because Paul introduces faith and love into the palate of available colour, creating a blend of beautiful optimism which allows the lens of faith to be of multiple dimensions. The affirmation that God is love lies at the very heart of our faith, and so whenever people love each other we believe that God is part of their love, whether that be intimate love between two people or the love that helps a community work together. We need love; all you need is love (so the song goes)! The love that is of God however, is more than just good chemistry! The love that Paul describes, is demanding; it is agape, charity, the love between God and humanity, the love we see first and fully in God. This reading describes what that love is like: patient; kind; not envious, boastful or arrogant or rude; not insisting on its own way; not irritable or resentful. It tells us that love never begins with the question: “What’s in it for me?” Instead love starts by asking: “What is best for you? What do you need?” Love’s nature is to seek not its own needs, but the needs of others. And this love enables us to bear and endure whatever life may bring us.
When I was younger I used to quite like this passage, because I used to have music lessons at school in percussion. It may surprise you that your apparently calm and measured bishop used to take great delight in hitting things and making lots of noise! In fact I once bashed a gong so hard that it fell off its stand; thankfully this was in a rehearsal and not the actual orchestral performance! And then of course the anxious moments when you have counted an impossibly large amount of bars’ rest waiting for the one time you have to crash the cymbals at exactly the right moment. Time is indeed everything if you play percussion in an orchestra. One moment too soon: disaster; one moment too late: also disaster! So I rather liked that Paul spared a thought for cymbals and gongs, and reminded us that you needed a bit more than brute force to produce a loud noise: you needed love; and in an orchestra that really does mean working together to produce profound and beautiful music.
So as you all begin to paint a new picture of hope in this community under the leadership of Chee and Ken who also must learn to work together in a new way; I pray that you will all remember the vision of hope that the Christian Gospel invites us to proclaim; but not just to do that; to actually bring about, to make real in this community and beyond. Chee, we rejoice with you and because of you, but most of all, we share your joy and love of God and of his son Jesus Christ who with the power of the Holy Spirit we give all praise, glory and honour, now and always.
Story Published: 2nd of November - 2015
Courage!Bishop Helen-Ann's address to Waikato Dio Founders' Day
Readings: Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44.
If you had the power to be able to bestow upon humanity a characteristic or attribute that you think the world needs more of at the moment, what might that be?
You might think: kindness. The world needs more kindness.
You might think: compassion. The world needs more compassion.
Or maybe, love?
While you are thinking about it, I am going to share a story. Now many of you will have heard this, but Y9s won’t have, and Y10s might want to pay closer attention than normal, because this may be you in a few weeks’ time. Y11, some of you were there, and those who were, will know exactly what I am describing as we venture below the earth into the Karamu caves near Raglan.
I learnt quite a lot about myself on the Y10 camp last year, and lots of practical things like what is the correct way round to put on a wet-suit, note to self and others – the zip goes on the back, not the front.
But my greatest test was not on land or sea, but rather under-ground in the caves, and it is here that I learnt about the attribute of courage – which is why I think that courage is actually the most important foundation of all.
After our instructor had asked us to turn off our head-lamps, the complete and total darkness gave way to pin points of light, particularly after we had screamed quite a bit – turns out glow-worms are woken up by noise, and if I were a glow-worm I would be wide awake after a group of Y10s and an enthusiastic bishop had screamed and yelled at the top of their voices. But we weren’t meant to stand still in the darkness when we were asked to assist the person immediately behind us to move up and over a rock (which honestly seemed like Mt Everest) and splash down into the water on the other side. Being the good bishop that I am, I of course was at the back – but honestly I have never felt so out of my comfort zone and in a state of panic. I don’t think I displayed a great deal of courage, it was rather more my companions in the cave who through their encouragement and calm patience guided me safely, led by Chloe whose task it was to get the bishop up and over the rock.
I tell that story quite often to groups and parishes that I visit, because I want them to know how remarkable all of you are; and how absolutely hopeless and vulnerable I felt. Courage. Each of you has that, in abundance, and each of you are amazing and inspiring because of it.
Maybe you can think of a time when you needed courage; maybe you can recall a situation where you managed to succeed against the odds?
Today, as we give thanks for the foundation of this school, we also give thanks for all the saints that have gone before us. Women and men whose life stories display great courage and resilience. Saints are not spiritual super-stars, they are human beings like you and I, and because of that, each one of us has the potential to be inspired and to reach out beyond where we thought possible.
Much like in our reading from John’s Gospel: Mary and her sister Martha reached out in courage, and because of their persistence, something utterly extraordinary happened. In the face of death, new life emerged. I know that this story seems strange and unbelievable, and difficult. How many of us have lost loved ones and wished it wasn’t so? But what I will say is that faith itself takes great courage, and that is a good place to start from, that is what this story is about. Courage enables a vision of new things, much like our first reading: ‘I saw a new heaven and a new earth…’
Which is rather what I saw when we eventually emerged from the caves; the sky seemed way bluer than it had been; the grass much greener; the mud, well, muddier. A situation that looked hopeless (and you need to understand that for me, the drama got even worse when I later found myself totally wedged between two rocks), anyway it all finally came right.
The French monk and spiritual writer, Thomas Merton once said this: “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognise the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
Thanks be to God for the foundation of this school, and may we all have the courage we need to grow in faith and commitment to one another and to you.
Story Published: 31st of October - 2015
Bishops' Charge 2015A Vision of Discipleship
One year ago the Bishops launched the new Diocesan Vision:
Last weekend at Synod we received the second instalment of this charge which encouraged us to see discipleship through the lens of the Lord's Prayer.
As disciples we must be willing to:
- learn from one another with perseverance and humility, being always mindful of the call to engage with the vulnerable and marginalised;
- be good stewards of God's creation giving thanks for the unmerited grace we receive and responding to it by extending that same grace to all we encounter;
- remember our place in the body of Christ: always in relationship with God, creation, and one another;
- expose ourselves to the light of the Gospel and consider how effectively we are creating communities of peace and justice.
All of this is to be grounded in prayer and sensitive to our context. We must continue to look beyond our church walls to see how we can serve our communities; and look beyond our own shorelines to support our brother and sisters overseas.
The Bishops concluded with the words:
May we all embrace that vision through our dedication to learning, stewardship, self-reflection and a life shared together in the body of Christ.
Photo credit: Ian Harrop - a powerful welcome from the young women of St Mary's Diocesan School, Stratford.
Story Published: 15th of October - 2015
Dean Jamie and Archbishop Philip talk about the Taranaki CathedralTaranaki Cathedral video
In this video , Archbishop Philip talks about the significance of the Cathedral building and carrying the St Mary's spirit into the future.
Dean Jamie is committed to the ministry the Cathedral has to the wider community continuing unaffected as far as possible. He says it is much more about the people and Jesus, whom they honour and worship, than where or how they gather. He adds that we have the opportunity to offer a legacy ourselves by making the building secure and safe for our children and our children's children.
Story Published: 5th of October - 2015
Media Release 2nd October 2015St Mary's Cathedral to temporarily close to the public
St Mary’s Cathedral in New Plymouth is to be temporarily closed for earthquake strengthening to take place.
The Taranaki Anglican Trust Board has made the decision to close the building for safety reasons. This follows an engineer’s report and an extensive parish consultation.
Archbishop Philip Richardson, Bishop of Taranaki, says the news, even though expected, brings a sense of sadness. “The trustees have taken enormous care in this decision and considered all options but the beautiful building is seriously compromised and we should not use it or allow others to use it.”
The Cathedral is the oldest stone church in New Zealand, opened in 1846.
“The Cathedral has significance for Taranaki and the history of Aotearoa New Zealand. It is a national treasure with elements of Taranaki history and national history. It stands at the interface of Maori and Pakeha relationships and has been a place to reconcile that history and so it speaks of our past and for our future,” says Archbishop Philip Richardson.
The building has a %NBS of 15. The diocesan policy is that such buildings are closed for safety reasons. The Trustees anticipate the temporary closure will be a matter of years. The timing is dependent on further engineering reports, consideration of options for the future and fundraising.
Dean of the Cathedral, Jamie Allen, says the ministry of the cathedral will continue as much as possible and it will need to be in creative ways.
“I am sure Taranaki people will be able to meet the challenge with an interim worship space. We are also determined that the support the cathedral is privileged to offer to our community - for example, counselling and the community cafe, will continue unaffected," says Dean Jamie.
“We’ve all experienced some deep sadness as well as anger and denial and we are working together and to find a sense of resurrection in this. This taonga was gifted to us; we didn’t build it, however it is our responsibility to do everything we can to make this building stronger for generations to come,” says Dean Jamie.
The Trustees have decided for a gradual closure that begins with general public access to the cathedral building stopped from Monday 5th October. Specified services will continue until the end of January 2016.
Media inquiries please contact:
Rev’d Jayson Rhodes
Media Advisor to the Anglican Church
Story Published: 3rd of October - 2015
Reflections from an island in the PacificBishop Helen-Ann writes about the recent House of Bishops' meeting in Fiji
I woke up in the middle of the night to the ebb and flow of the waves of the Pacific ocean close by, palm trees swaying in the breeze and rain falling upon the thatched ceiling. A drip of water landed on my nose. The crack of coconuts that fell to the ground nearby added texture to the sounds of nature as I sought my rest. At midnight, the generator was turned off (with the exception of an early morning switch on to allow the viewing of the Fiji vs Australia in the Rugby world cup [this Bishop opted for rest]); any attempt to venture outside would require the assistance of the torch we had been issued with alongside our room (bure) key, and careful navigation across the island avoiding the beach volley-ball net to the ablution blocks. On this particular night, as I lay awake listening to the sounds around me, I became acutely aware of my vulnerability on this tiny island of Leleuvia that took ten minutes to walk round. I felt grateful for the sanctuary the land offered me, and for the first time I became profoundly aware of the very real impact of climate change on the lives of our brothers and sisters in the Pacific. This is not just an issue for them, it is an issue for each one of us, and it is an issue that goes to the very heart of social injustice, inequality and poverty. It is the most vulnerable who suffer because of the greed of others, and our Gospel mandates us to stand alongside those who cry out for mercy and refuge. Listening to Archbishop Winston talk about rising sea levels as we lived together for a week on that island brought new perspective on this most urgent of issues.
Climate change and its impact on our Pacifica whanau featured heavily during the week-long discussions shared amongst the Bishops as we met for our meeting. Spending time in prayer and worship, sharing food and conversation enabled a deep level of mutual engagement and support in our work together. We were richly blessed by having Bishop Cameron Venables with us representing the Australian House of Bishops. Bishop Cameron brought his musical gifts to us and along with Bishop Ngarahu lifted our worship in tuneful praise. His reflections, observations and insights brought a gift to us that only someone meeting us for the first time could do, and I was incredibly grateful for that. His gift to us of a Queensland chestnut holding cross to each of us, a lasting symbol of our relationships across the Tasman.
The week was one of restoration and retreat, a real reminder of the gifts of God's grace and creation, and our place in that. Kororia ki te Atua i runga rawa!
Story Published: 30th of September - 2015
We can host 300 families, say Catholic and Anglican archbishopsA response of the heart
With 650 parishes between them, the Catholic and Anglican Churches can make a significant difference. The Synods of the Anglican dioceses of Auckland and Christchurch have unanimously agreed to support many more refugees than the quota.
“If those representative bodies are stepping up in that kind of way,” said Archbishop Philip, “then that underscores and undergirds our optimism that we can support a larger number than is being talked about at the moment.”
“It's about breaking it down to a single family, a single family in one community and how you would support a single family.
“That is not a difficult thing, that’s just a response of the heart, a response of compassion. New Zealanders are good at that.”
Cardinal John Dew of the Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop Philip Richardson of the Anglican Church held a joint press conference at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Wellington yesterday morning. Video footage can be viewed from the Taonga website.
Story Published: 8th of September - 2015
Church leaders plead for refugeesNew Zealand Church leaders plead with the Prime Minister
"Our country has been enriched for generations by the arrival of migrants", Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders state in their letter to the Prime Minister, John Key, "and we have the capacity as a community to respond to this global crisis at a greater level than we are doing now. There is a clear moral imperative for us to do so".
Church leaders have urged the Prime Minister to offer more refugees sanctuary in New Zealand and have pledged their support for the newcomers.
At the same time, the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement on the migrant crisis. The Most Reverend Justin Welby reminds us that “as Christians we believe we are called to break down barriers, to welcome the stranger and love them as ourselves (Leviticus 19:34), and to seek the peace and justice of our God, in our world, today".
Photo courtesy of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia website,
The Archbishops' full letter reads:
As senior leaders of the Catholic and Anglican Churches in Aotearoa New Zealand, we write to urge you to facilitate an immediate and urgent increase in the number of refugees our country offers sanctuary to as a response to the crises in the Middle East and North Africa.
These are global crises which require a global response. Our country needs to play its part and to respond with the compassion and the hospitality for which we are renowned.
We know that Catholic and Anglican Christians throughout the country will step up to provide support and assistance to those our country offers refuge to.
We have done so in the past, we continue to support newcomers and we commit ourselves and our resources into the future to this task.
Our country has been enriched for generations by the arrival of migrants, and we have the capacity as a community to respond to this global crisis at a greater level than we are doing now.
There is a clear moral imperative for us to do so. Yours in Christ,
Archbishop Philip Richardson, Archbishop and Primate;
Archbishop Brown Turei, Archbishop and Primate;
John Cardinal Dew, Cardinal Archbishop of Wellington.
Story Published: 4th of September - 2015
Prayer from our Bishops for the global refugee crisisLet us pray...
God of compassion and mercy,
Your children cry out in their distress.
We pray for your guidance in bestowing wisdom upon
our leaders. May their hearts be attuned to Your will.
May they respond with open arms to welcome those
who flee terror and war.
We ask your protection on all those without homes,
and we who have shelter give us a hunger for justice.
May the power of Your Holy Spirit inspire us to speak out for those without voice.
In the name of Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour we pray,
Story Published: 3rd of September - 2015
Prayer from our Bishops for our farming communities in current troubled timesWe pray to you, O Lord
God of all comfort,
We pray for all those who are affected by the current challenges facing the dairy industry,
For farmers, and their families,
For farm workers,
For all places affected, near and far,
For all your creation groaning in pain.
We pray especially for those seeking to provide support,
For those who are isolated and fearful.
May they know the encouragement of your loving presence.
Abide with them Lord, both now and in the days to come.
In Jesus' name we pray,
Story Published: 17th of August - 2015
The Taranaki FeastTaranaki Digs into The Feast
Our community is gathering, in small and large groups, for a Feast of Prayer and Spirituality.
This has (so far) included a small gathering around a table for informal Eucharist and dinner; Taize-style worship and bread-making - during which a young homeless guy found refuge; the community cafe on Tuesday spilling into the cathedral, with people spending time at prayer stations celebrating each of the thirty nine communities around the mountain; and... Feast INDEED - a night of worship prepared and led entirely by our teenagers. This was a most moving and beautiful opening of a thin space, where the Holy Spirit was pouring through stations of prayer and joy which the rangatahi had created... The chapel, converted into a beautiful garden space of prayer, with flowers and soft music; The senses station - in which we drew closer to God through the five senses; the PRAISE ROOM - where people (it is still set up) can switch on the bubble machine and CHUCK MASSES OF STREAMERS into the air, to worship Jesus.
Arohanui, Dean Jamie
To see the schedule of events for The Feast in Taranaki click here.
Story Published: 12th of August - 2015
Tough times for our farming communitiesThe importance of rural ministry
On Wednesday 5 August we saw whole milk powder prices drop to their lowest point since 2008. We await Fonterra’s 2015/16 forecast following their Board meeting on Friday with some trepidation. There is a general feeling in the farming community that we may not yet be at the bottom, and low prices may be a long term reality for some time. We are potentially looking at farm incomes currently at the lowest for 12-15 years.
For those of us engaged in rural ministry, this has immediate ramifications in our church and wider communities. As Vicar of the Anglican-Methodist Parish in the township of Putaruru, South Waikato, I have been well aware of the situation and actively engaged in connecting with our farming community at this time. At the suggestion of a local dairy farmer, I supported his own desire to gather the Christian farmers of the town together to talk about their current situation and be reminded of the source of their hope.
We offered the farmers (and their wives) a meeting place at St Patrick’s Church Lounge one evening, and about 28 of them attended. (Only one wife attended). Father Jones welcomed farmers from the local Catholic, Anglican-Methodist, Presbyterian, Open Brethren and Baptist churches. We prayed The Lord’s Prayer together, and then the floor was open to discussion. All participated, and various stories emerged. It helped to hear the history of some of the older farmers of the district who had been through difficult times in the past and what had helped them then. One chap encouraged his fellow farmers to keep working, and just to face the daily tasks before him, not to dwell too far into the future. “If the financial situation were suddenly to change overnight, then you would be in no position to take advantage of that if you hadn’t done the work today.”
Of particular concern is that this enormous financial pressure has hit at the time farmers are at their busiest, calving. Fatigue, hard physical work, winter illnesses, the use of machinery and vehicles and financial and family pressure can be a deadly combination in farming.
We endeavoured to make the evening enjoyable and positive not a “pity party” and there was a great deal of camaraderie and laughter. There was also an opportunity for me to remind the men to listen to their wives and friends and to see their GP if the people who loved them thought this was indicated. I shared with them something I heard on a recent radio programme where a Central Hawke’s Bay farmer had a complete mental and physical break down. He raised the other issue we face in our rural towns, the loss of the “old country doctor” and the reality that visiting the local medical centre often meant seeing a different locum doctor every time you visit. This fellow fell into the trap of starting anti depressant medication, feeling better, and having the next locum doctor agree with him that he could discontinue it. That had a devastating impact on his health, and this farmer now travels from Waipukurau to Hastings in order to see the same doctor offering him continuity of care. He suggested it is well worth travelling an hour to ensure this, and interestingly, he recommended the men see a woman GP if possible, as he personally found a woman easier to talk his emotional difficulties through with.
We have a further meeting planned this Monday evening in Putaruru, and are endeavouring to get representation from the Rural Support Group to talk specifically about the risk of suicide and where to turn to for help.
I believe we addressed this in some measure at our last meeting in talking through the resources in the town (the doctors, the ministers, the mental health service at Waikato Hospital). The men talked about how ”boiling the billy” and talking to a mate can help. One farmer related how helpful he had found it many years ago when an older farmer in the district called on him to see how he was managing in the drought. He realises that he is now the “older farmer” and has a responsibility to do the same for the younger men struggling.
We also had a representative from a top dressing firm concerned about job security in the wider industry attend, and heard some stories of difficult situations our young veterinarians are facing on the farms. The local vet practice has adopted a buddy system to accompany younger vets in their farm visits.
The ramifications are going to be widespread throughout our regional communities. I am pleased, as Church leaders, we have instigated this point of connection, that it was deemed a helpful night by the farmers who attended, and at their request we have a follow up meeting planned for next week. This will be timely, given the Fonterra predictions we anticipate on Friday.
I grew up in a country town, my late father and late brother both rural accountants. I believe the farmers beyond my own congregation sense my genuine concern for them, and my understanding of their lifestyle and current challenges. As a priest/pastor speaking and praying into this situation, I have been greatly assisted by the Reverend Bill Bennett, Waiapu Priest, in his publication Seasons of the Land: People’s prayers for Town and Country, Church Mouse Press, Palmerston North, 2001.
Since writing this, Fonterra have released figures which, by their own admission indicate that the milk price is not sustainable. Our thoughts and prayers are with all who work in the dairy industry, and all whose lives are affected by the current challenges (Ed.).
Jan Tarrant (Rev)
St Paul’s, Putaruru.
Story Published: 8th of August - 2015
Welcome to the newest member of the new College of Chaplains!Rev'd James Stephenson installed as Chaplain of St Paul's Collegiate.
On Sunday evening (July 26th) The newly established Diocesan College of Chaplains was inaugurated and blessed at a service of Choral Evensong at the Waikato Cathedral of St Peter, in Hamilton. Also at that service, the Chaplain of Southwell School, the Rev'd Neale Troon was installed as an Honorary Canon and was commissioned as the first Warden of the College. The College of Chaplains aims to gather clergy licenced by the Bishops, working in a variety of chaplaincy sectors. It seeks to offer them collegiality and resources to help strengthen their ministry. In her sermon preached during evensong, Bishop Helen-Ann reflected:
Chaplains are commissioned to minister in places of education, of care and healing, of respite and retreat. Chaplains bring God’s grace and blessing to people at the beginning of life and at its ending. Chaplains, together with all who minister in God’s name are called to bring all people to know the unique love of God in Jesus Christ. Chaplains work at the interface between gathered church and all of life.
The following morning, the College welcomed its newest member, the Rev'd James Stephenson (pictured above with Bishop Helen-Ann), who was installed and licenced as Chaplain at St Paul's Collegiate School. James arrived in Hamilton from the UK last Thursday, together with his wife Abbie, and their children Theo and Abbie. James and his wife have both worked extensively in diverse educational sectors, including more recently in Zambia, where they helped establish a new boarding school. James was also a former student of Bishop Helen-Ann at Ripon College Cuddesdon, where he trained for the priesthood. As well as his energy and commitment to teaching and chaplaincy, James is an accomplished sportsman: a former member of the GB rowing team, and the winner of a world triathlon competition.
Chaplaincy is a vital ministry, and the College of Chaplains will be sharing news of their member's work and ministry in the forthcoming issue of the Diocesan magazine Peaks and Currents.
Story Published: 28th of July - 2015
Brother, sister, let me serve youCanterbury reflections
Having received the bread and wine of the Eucharist, I took my seat and the organ started to play the communion hymn As if, Lord, you are there, I live my life each day. I walk by faith, not sight: there is no other way. I felt somewhat exposed, as I was the only person singing quietly in the part of Canterbury Cathedral where I was sitting. But soon, others joined me. On my left, the Bishop of Salisbury (who was recently with other eco-Bishops from around the Anglican Communion, including +Api from Fiji), started to sing in harmony. On my right, +Cate from Indianapolis joined my voice. Other Bishops were around us, including the newly consecrated Bishops of Gloucester and Crediton. Directly opposite me was +Barbara Harris (aged 85), the first woman to be ordained Bishop Suffragan in the Anglican Communion in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. She stood patiently at the bottom of the High Altar steps as the communion hymns continued. Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you; pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, brought her the bread; and the Dean of Canterbury brought her the wine. All around me I was deeply moved and inspired by the richness of our Communion. Bearing with one another, we grow more fully into the mystery of God, seeing the likeness of Christ in one another, and sensing the power of the Holy Spirit moving in our midst. I was honoured to represent our Province at the Consecration of the first woman to be made a Diocesan Bishop in the Church of England. Our own Province was the first to ordain a woman as a Diocesan: +Penny in the Diocese of Dunedin in 1990. At the reception afterwards, I talked with the Bishop who ordained me priest, +Colin of Dorchester, and with representatives from the Anglican Communion Office and many others. Canterbury demonstrates remarkable manaakitanga to all visitors; it is built into its precincts with its International Study Centre, and into the floor of the crossing: the Compass Rose, the symbol of our worldwide Communion. In saying the Lord’s Prayer, we are invited to pray in our own language: in italics printed in the order of service E to matou Matua…
As I return to our Diocese, I do so very grateful for the rich blessings in the time I have had to celebrate a family wedding and to see family; to teach and speak to groups across different Dioceses; to reconnect with friends from around the world. Our Diocesan name is known widely, and we are prayed for by so many people, as we surely return those prayers in kind.
When we sing to God in heaven we shall find such harmony, born of all we’ve known together of Christ’s love and agony.
Story Published: 24th of July - 2015
Mind the Gap!Bishop Helen-Ann speaks to the clergy and people of the Dioceses of Worcester and Hereford, UK.
I have spent the past three days with two predominantly rural dioceses in the Church of England: leading Bishop’s senior staff in Bible study and reflection in Worcester; and in Hereford. Currently I am at the Harper Adams University, an agricultural centre of excellence, participating in the Diocese of Hereford’s once-in-every three year’s 'Gathering'. Present are 280 lay and ordained leaders from across the Diocese, reflecting deeply on the theme of ‘Mind the Gap.’ I have been struck by the deep connections between our contexts, and through shared conversations, wrestling with the challenges (or opportunities) of ageing populations, lessening resources, and a move from authority towards seeking influence in how the Church can make a difference in our communities. Present also are members of link Dioceses from Germany and Tanzania. I even found our own Br Brian SSF’s sister’s parish vicar from the parish of Wentnor sitting in front of where I was speaking; small world indeed! There is richness in the Body of Christ, and a wideness in God’s mercy.
I was invited to speak on the topic of ‘Mind the Gap with God.’ I spoke about three aspects of the gap with God: how we need to be concerned about the gap (which is all about the journey of faith); how we are called to look after the gap (which is all about confidence in our identity as disciples of Jesus); and how ultimately we must do something about the gap (which is all about embracing the dynamic nature of the gap). I shared personal stories from my own faith journey, and about the struggles, challenges (and opportunities) of mission and ministry in our own context. Sometimes, I said, it takes courage to be a bearer of faith – to show others the light of Christ – to hold the gap with God that will inevitably be felt by people in different ways at different times. That all takes wisdom to discern, and care and patience in allowing others the space they need to work with the gap. A take-home for me was the challenge put to us by the second keynote speaker, the Rev'd Neil Hudson from te London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, to see if we can 'move by just 1 degree' - rather than thinking we must do everything completely differently, what small shift in our conversation over morning tea on a Sunday can we make to enable discipleship to flourish? Try asking your conversation partner what is happening for them during the week that you might pray about? Food for thought, and action!
Thanks be to God for the ways in which we can all find our place in the gap, and encourage others around us, in many and various ways, how to grow gently and courageously in faith in the God who never lets us go.
Hereford July 2015.
Story Published: 10th of July - 2015
Let not the chaplains, O God, be forgotten ...Otago University launches new Chaplaincy Qualification
Chaplains are the often unsung heroes of private and public emergencies all over the world. You will find them everywhere from schools and rest homes to ambulances and trenches; and from next year you might just find them back at university.
Otago are proud to announce the launch of their Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters in Chaplaincy qualifications from semester one 2016. They boast a superb line up of teachers including Dr Lynne Baab and Professor John Swinton, as well as a comprehensive schedule of papers.
It is the only qualification of its kind in the country and is the result of a collaboration between Otago University and key stakeholders like APCANZ (Association of Professional Chaplains of Aotearoa New Zealand). We strongly recommend this course of study to current and prospective chaplains.
For more information please contact the Department of Theology and Religion (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Story Published: 9th of July - 2015
Bear fruit of the Spirit!Bishop Helen-Ann reflects...
This lunchtime, I took the chapel service at St Paul's Collegiate in Hamilton, and during this service we farewelled the Year 10 boys who will be spending the next six months at the Tihoi Campus. We listened to words of the Apostle Paul from his letter to the Galatians 5:22-26.
22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Because I have spent most of my life in the Northern Hemisphere, the onset of winter usually means that it will soon be Christmas. Of course here, we experience Christmas in the middle of summer. When I send photographs back to the UK of Christmas Day BBQs, it is not surprising that the reaction is one of amazement and amusement and possibly a little bit of envy.
Some people in the Southern Hemisphere like to celebrate a mid-Winter Christmas, just to capture the experience of that season in a cold climate. So you may see one or two Christmas trees up around the place. In his reflections on these verses in Galatians, Tom Wright observes that Christmas trees of course look bright and colourful and sometimes even look alive. But after the season is over, the decorations are taken down, and what seemed real gets packed up in a box for next year. The decorations don’t literally grow on the trees, and often the trees are artificial, or get recycled; they don’t last forever. (Tom Wright 'Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians, SPCK, 2002, pp.71-74).
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit. Just before these verses, Paul contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with works of the flesh. It is a bit like comparing one of those temporary Christmas trees with a real fruit tree growing in your garden. The Christmas tree might look great for a while, but only for a while. The fruit tree might not look so spectacular (especially when covered by frost and lacking any sense of life), but if cared for, it will go on to bear fruit year after year.
So bearing fruit of the Spirit is important in our lives. What kind of community do you want your community to be? One that displays love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Quite often these characteristics are hard to live out in our lives. We cannot do it without help, of our friends, of our teachers, of our families, and God’s Holy Spirit. When you feel inspired to help a friend; that is bearing fruit of the Spirit.
Paul’s words, written 2000 years ago, were written to a community in Galatia, which is in modern Turkey. This community was experiencing some difficulties in their faith and if you read the whole of the letter to the Galatians in our New Testament you will get the impression that Paul is rather annoyed with them.
It is not surprising then that Paul reminds the Galatian community that they really should bear fruit and not be drawn into a life that is otherwise.
May each one of us, in our daily lives, find new ways of bearing fruit to one another: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Story Published: 25th of June - 2015
Season of Celebrations170 Years for Holy Trinity Fitzroy
It has certainly been a season of celebrations in Taranaki. 125 years of Holy Trinity Stratford, 150 years of Opunake town and 120 years of their beautiful St Barnabas' Church.
Now 170 years of life and witness at Holy Trinity Fitzroy. A beautiful service in a packed Church, a procession of former Vicars, lots of young people who not only served at the altar but then served the celebratory meal in the Parish hall.
A great sense of family, joy in Christ and continuity with several generations of families involved in the service.
Change is inevitable but what was celebrated above all else was God's faithfulness. The little raupo church at Te Henui was built in 1845 and we are the stewards of their inheritance.
Story Published: 21st of June - 2015
MatarikiBishop HA reflects on this season
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
This verse comes from one of the Psalms in the Old Testament (Psalm 8). The Psalms are basically contemporary songs in an ancient setting. They were, if you like, the pop songs of their day, and we have in our Bible 150 of them!
I have chosen this Psalm because it speaks about the wonder of creation, which includes things up in the sky, like stars and planets. You might have heard recently that the European Space Agency's unmanned exploratory spacecraft called Philae woke up on June 13th after 211 days of hibernation on its dark and chilly home of the comet which goes by the rather long name of Churyumov-Gersaimenko (otherwise known as the rather easier to pronounce 67P). The comet is speeding along at a rate of 38 km per second, which makes the landing of Philae remarkable, and a real feat of precision in planning and execution of a 10-year journey. What an amazing thought that a tiny space-craft so far away is communicating with us here on earth.
In Babylon, probably around 2500 years ago when this Psalm was written, astronomers were starting to plot the shape of the sky, and yet, as one commentator points out, they would have had little idea of ‘the vast numbers and distances that we know are involved, now that present-day astronomers can turn their gamma-ray telescopes toward the void’ (Peter Graystone, reflection on Psalm 8 in Reflections on the Psalms, Church House Publishing, 2015, p. 27). I think it is true to say that if you go outside at night and gaze upwards you get something of a sense of awe and wonder at what you see. If you look at the night sky currently you might see the incredible brightness of the planet Venus, and beyond, the giant planet Jupiter. Our Psalm affirms the belief in God the Creator of all.
And you don’t have to have a PhD in astro-physics to understand everything: our Psalm speaks also from the perspective of a baby – who perhaps best of all encapsulates the potential we all have simply to wonder at something. When we look at something and think ‘wow’, that’s amazing!
Matariki, which we remember at this time, is of course the Māori name for the cluster of stars that appears in the skies at this time of year, not at night, but pre-dawn – so you have to get up early to see it! It signifies the New Year for Māori and, in a sense, potentially for all of us. I think that is especially significant in winter, when it’s cold and dark and it’s often hard to think about new life and hope. Each of us, at different times, can experience new things in our lives, new challenges and new opportunities.
The cluster of stars known as Matariki are located about 450 light years away, and were formed approximately 100 million years ago. That means that when you look at the stars, the light you see set out on its journey to earth 450 years ago. It also means that the light that sets out from Matariki today, will be seen by people on earth 450 years from now.
I think it is amazing that we are part of that story too, and that in our Psalms, we are invited to respond to creation and that all offers us with a deep sense of awe and wonder. It also reminds us of the importance of the care of creation that we need to look after our environment, and one another.
So I wonder what new understanding you might experience today, what new beginning? Big or small, significant or seemingly insignificant, God is in the detail. You are part of that big picture of creation, on earth and in the heavens above!
Amen. Kororia ki te Atua, i runga rawa,
Story Published: 18th of June - 2015
National Volunteers WeekWe cannot thank you enough ...
The Anglican Church relies upon volunteers and always has done – it is part of our Christian DNA. For that reason it is easy to take them for granted, but next week is National Volunteer Week. So from June 21-27 we are making a special effort to acknowledge and thank the tireless volunteers who work in God’s kingdom. At the same time we encourage you and your communities to pray for and encourage all those precious volunteers who serve.
Volunteers, you are amazing. Thank you for the countless hours of work that you offer your communities.
Thank you flower arrangers, tea pourers and pastoral visitors.
Thank you op-shop workers, servers and musicians.
Thank you welcomers, wardens, and working groups,
synod reps, sacristans and secretaries,
meal makers and takers,
drain clearers, window cleaners, and brass polishers,
roster writers, ‘taxi’ drivers, and bell-ringers,
youth, children and family workers,
all God’s faithful people who hear the call to service,
and offer themselves.
May God bless you
with patience and perseverance.
Story Published: 17th of June - 2015
The annual agricultural festival that is Fieldays is hard to miss if you are anywhere near Hamilton at present. Banners by the side of the roads are everywhere, and reports of queues of traffic waiting patiently to enter the huge site at Mystery Creek are front and centre on the news. On Wednesday however, myself and the vicar of St Stephen’s, Tamahere, the Rev’d Ellen Bernstein took the rather more stately paced Waikato River Explorer from its mooring at Hamilton Gardens, winding our way along the Waikato river to reach Mystery Creek within an hour (the upstream return journey was altogether quicker!). The perspective gained by the river journey was unique, and certainly gave profound meaning to the words Waikato taniwha rau. He piko, he taniwha, he piko, he taniwha.
The Fieldays site is of course vast, and it certainly would take more than one day’s visit to experience everything. From tractor pulling competitions, to chainsaws and logging, to fencing, a wonderful ‘AgArt’ fashion show (featuring many incredible designs from our very own Waikato Diocesan School for Girls), to detailed information about the technological ways of addressing farming issues, cookery demonstrations, highland cow combing, and alpaca encounters, not forgetting the four-wheel drive vehicle demonstrations; there was a huge amount to see and take in. Two of our Anglican schools had stands in the main pavilion area, St Paul’s Collegiate, and St Peter’s Cambridge, and it was very good to visit them, and support their commitment to Agri-business enterprise and training.
Over lunch we were joined by the Archdeacon of Waitomo, Christine Scott, and we continued our exploration of the displays, bumping into parishioners from Otorohanga and Cambridge, and many others who stopped to talk to us. Indeed I think because we were wearing our clerical attire that opened up some very interesting conversations which demonstrated the real significance and importance of ministry in our many rural contexts. Indeed the day after we attended Fieldays, there was an article in the New Zealand Herald regarding depression following falling dairy prices (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11463416). Plenty to pray and think about as to how as a Diocese we might respond to such challenges.
Of course, no visit to Fieldays would be complete without acquiring various free items. We all found ourselves ‘tagged’ at one point in the ‘Livestock Improvement Corporation’ (as the accompanying photograph demonstrates!). I also gained possession of a red bucket, which may come in handy at some point! I was certainly glad of my gum-boots, and I imagine that by the final day of Fieldays they would be much in demand. All in all, good to have experienced it, and I look forward to opportunities ahead for further engagement and reflection on ministry in our rural communities.
Story Published: 12th of June - 2015
Tihoi VentureGoing Solo
Over the past 24 hours or so I have been privileged to spend time at St Paul’s Collegiate’s Tihoi Venture School. Established in 1979, for the past 36 years or so, and with expansion and development, the campus has quickly gained a national and international reputation for a unique educational experience for the school’s Year 10 boys. Each boy spends half their year 10 at the campus, developing ‘character through adventure’. The boys live together in small houses, and must learn to be self-sufficient. Towards the end of their 18-week programme, they undertake a 44 hour solo expedition. I was invited to lead the Chapel service the morning their expedition was due to begin. I travelled down the previous afternoon, to spend time on site, and get to see and understand what the school seeks to achieve in this place. Along with one of the teachers from the school, we toured round the different houses, and were greeted very warmly everywhere we went. The boys were busy preparing dinner, and making sure their houses were neat and tidy ready for the evening inspection! We were then invited to have dinner at Mortimer House, and arrived to be greeted with a table full of hungry boys who went to great lengths to make sure a table-cloth was laid and provided us with delicious food! I had baked some chocolate brownies to take with me, and they were all eaten rather quickly! We had lively conversation, and talked at length about what the boys had learned during their time there, and what they were looking forward to (or not) about their forthcoming solo experience.
The following morning, at 9.30am the whole community gathered (boys and all the staff) for morning-prayer in the stunning outdoor Chapel space. I shared with them a reflection on time and building character, using the rich words of Scripture found in Ecclesiastes and Paul’s letter to the Romans. I came away having found a sense of peaceful retreat in their company, and a deep sense of God’s mercy and grace in that place of such natural beauty. In the warmth of hospitality, and in the breaking of bread together, Christ was present. The challenges of growth and learning are such that we face each and every day, no matter what our age and stage in life may be. It was good to spend time there, and I look forward to a return visit!
Story Published: 9th of June - 2015
Weaving the StrandsTe Pouhere Sunday
Yesterday marked the Sunday on which we celebrate our Anglican Constitution - Te Pouhere. Across the Diocese there were services of unity and reconciliation which affirmed our shared life as the Body of Christ.
On Sunday morning at St Peter's Cathedral, Hamilton - atop Pukerangiora - God was worshipped in Tongan, Te Reo Maori and English. Later at Evensong more than 100 people gathered to worship and share food. The presence of our Tikanga partners not only filled the sanctuary and pews but our hope for the future. Worship was transformed with hugs and kisses, kia ora's and kai.
The Rev Ngira SImmonds (Missioner of Waikato and Vicar of Hemi Tapu) challenged congregations to extend Tikanga relations beyond church services, and engage with each other in the community. He recognised the work that Bishop Helen-Ann and Bishop Ngarahu had already done and lauded their ongoing commitment to collaboration. He gave thanks that once again St Peter's was filled with Te Reo, but he urged us not to wait another 12 months before we took our constitution seriously again. He invited all Tikanga to come out of their 'bedrooms' and gather in the family 'lounge' - to stop living isolated lives in God's house.
It is now 23 years since Te Pouhere was formally adopted. In theory a whole generation has turned over. Now is the time to stop and reflect on what we want the next generation to inherit. What does the future of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia look like? What are you doing to build relations between Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha? How do we live a common live together that celebrates our distinct identities and uses them to enhance our corporate relationship with God?
There are no easy answers, but there is always relationship. We invite you to reach out to your local Tikanga partners to share stories, food, and fellowship. Be enriched by the knowledge that every culture reveals God in extraordinary ways.
Story Published: 8th of June - 2015
Bishop Helen-Ann reflects on ChaplaincySaved by the bell?
Over the past two days, I have encountered two aspects of chaplaincy work in our Diocese, both of which have been given me pause for thought. Over recent weeks, I have been taking Thursday lunchtime Chapel services at St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton. They are waiting for the arrival of their new chaplain next month. So on Thursday I arrived as usual to take Chapel. On this particular occasion, I became acutely aware of the sheer busyness of the school environment, and how, when the bell rang, everyone was literally ‘on the move.’ The theme of my Chapel reflection was on ‘endurance building character.’ This wasn’t simply' plucked out of the air,' but rather drew inspiration from a short passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:1-5). Here Paul talks about boasting in his suffering, building character and hope. To boast of suffering? Paul knew a thing or two about tackling tricky situations, and he maintained a unique ability to stay focused on the task of proclaiming the Gospel at every turn. For the school to gather as a whole body, for twenty minutes or so of reflection, singing and prayer, is significant. All the more so yesterday, when we welcomed back the Headmaster, Grant Lander, who has been receiving treatment for cancer. He certainly demonstrated ability to persevere and endure in hope, and it was very good to see him return.
The next day, a different chaplaincy experience. This time, a visit to the University of Waikato for one of my regular lunchtime catch-ups with the Chaplain, the Rev’d Andrew McKean. Chaplaincy in this context is far more about the ‘spaces in-between’, the conversations often on the way to and from somewhere. This was ably demonstrated on our way out of the cafeteria when a lady who recognised me came to say hello, and the three of us had a conversation. New connections were made, and new possibilities set down for further encounters. When I am able, I pop along to the Tuesday lunchtime Eucharist held at noon in the Chapel. Again, another opportunity to pause, pray, and encounter the presence of Christ in bread and wine broken and shared.
The work of chaplaincy, in its many contexts represents an important way in which God’s mission may be fulfilled. By seeking what God may be up to in places of learning and growth, and in places of struggle, we glimpse hope, patience and new life. So for all our Chaplains, thanks be to God!
Story Published: 5th of June - 2015
Bishops' Teaching Day - 'Marking Time'Bishops' Teaching Day
‘Worship is not just a random ‘grocery list’ of things to do when we gather together. There is a dynamic, a flow, a sequence that makes worship meaningful and satisfying. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. One action prepares for another, and that action flows into the next’ (John G. Stevens & Michael Waschevski. Rhythms of Worship, WJK, 2014).
With that in mind, 35 clergy from across the Diocese gathered at St Luke’s, Te Kuiti on May 26th for the first in a series of ‘Bishops’ Teaching Days’. Teaching is at the heart of episcopal ministry; it’s why Bishops have seats in Cathedrals, it is not a seat of importance, but a seat of teaching, following in the example of Jesus who taught the disciples. But teaching also happens in the company of one another, and a key part of this day was an opportunity for clergy to discuss in small groups, to share reflections on liturgy, and resources and ideas. Although our conversations about liturgy were wide-ranging, the theme of our day together was ‘marking time.’ How do we mark time in the whole of the Church, but perhaps more importantly how do we remind others that all time is in fact God’s time?
It was significant that we gathered on the day the Lectionary remembers Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury who died in the year 604 or 606. Augustine’s commitment to prayer and evangelism are reminders to us that liturgy and mission are not in separate corners of our lives, but rather are two sides of the same coin. How we mark time in our worshipping life gives glory to God, and helps to share the breadth and depth of the Christian story, a story that reaches back many centuries. That is both a deep encouragement as well as a wonderful opportunity for us to engage with that story in our different contexts: urban, rural, schools, tertiary institutions, hospitals, retirement homes, and many more besides.
One reflection I shared was how, early one morning, before dawn, on a long drive north to a Sunday service in Whangamata, I noticed the lights of the milking sheds and felt a sense of prayerful joy at work of our farming communities who seemed to be sharing in an early morning liturgy through their milking! Thanks be to God for a wonderful day of sharing and learning together.
Story Published: 27th of May - 2015
Anglican Action respond to BudgetReflections on the 2015 Budget
Anglican Action measures the impact of the Budget against its statement of mission “the pursuit of justice through service”. Through that lens we act in solidarity, as the gospel requires, with those who are the most vulnerable in our communities. We seek to address unjust structures and to act with compassion to ensure we build up the common good for all.
On this basis, Anglican Action responds to the government’s budget below:
- It supports the increase in benefit payments of $25 per week from the common purse. This remuneration is a collective recognition that sustaining life on a benefit is a real financial hardship, denying many families the opportunity to feed their children, house themselves and meet the day to day necessitates for good health and wellbeing.
- Likewise, Anglican Action supports the increase in tax credits for the lowest paid workers.
- Aligned to this, Anglican Action continues to call on private enterprise and the government to pay a living wage. Sustainable, fair, meaningful work increases a sense of dignity, self-worth, financial independence and participation in the common life.
- Children’s wellbeing must be our first priority and alongside financial security to ensure their basic needs are being met, their emotional and psychological development must also be a priority. Therefore, Anglican Action does not support requiring a beneficiary parent to find 20 hours part time work when a child is only 3 years old. There is a large body of research evidence that speaks to the critical first 5-7 years of a child’s life and the lifelong positive impact of secure and healthy attachment to a parent. Recognition should be given to the “work” of raising children and the demands that single parents must constantly meet with little relief. Part time work within school hours which enables release during school holidays is rare. If parents are unavailable during these critical times of the day and throughout the school holidays, renders a child more vulnerable. Recognition must be given to the competing demands and priorities for single parents.
- Anglican Action supports the government’s initiative in the development of the Children’s Action Plan. Again, our most vulnerable children should be targeted for our greatest support.
- Anglican Action therefore also supports the endorsement of Whanau Ora in the budget.
- The challenge to government however is to address through good legislation, the many social hazards that mitigate the great work being done by the human services in our country. Placing the burden of transformation from vulnerability to flourishing only on the state sector, church and NGO’s makes invisible the critical role of the private sector, particularly those free to exploit the market to satisfy individual greed and profit. This does not meet the gospel imperative and measure to increase the common good through just redistribution of our economy.
- It was important to see some response to the desperate need for affordable housing in this budget. Anglican Action will be amongst a number monitoring the proposed housing developments to ensure affordability remains a top priority and does not get subsumed under the profit imperatives of developers.
- Inequality remains the deepest divider of our society and completely undermines the building up of the common good. This budget misses the opportunity to address the drivers of inequality at a fundamental level. People at the margins are suffering, particularly our children, and they cannot be reduced to items in a ledger to balance the books. Gestures of support represented in this budget cannot be seen to be the answer to solving the “poverty” problem. They cannot simply receive crumbs from under the table of those who have great excess. All must be welcome at the table and have equal access to it.
Story Published: 22nd of May - 2015
Dear Most Reverend Doctor Sir ...Honorary Doctorate awarded to Archbishop
For anyone composing a formal letter to David Moxon life just got a little more complicated. Our beloved former Bishop of Waikato and current Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome might now be addressed as: the Most Reverend Doctor Sir David Moxon.
Last week Massey University awarded Archbishop David an Honorary Doctorate of Literature during a graduation ceremony in Palmerston North. The typically self-effacing Knight Companion told reporters that he was both “humbled and surprised” – reminding us all that he would no doubt insist, “Please, just call me David.”
Our congratulations and prayers go with ++David as he returns to Rome.
For more on this story see anglicantaonga.
Photo credit: Taonga, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Story Published: 22nd of May - 2015