TĒNĀ KOUTOU KATOA! My warmest greetings to you.
This magazine (October 2013) is a special edition, in which we make a space for remembering. We include a few brief obituaries, by way of honouring all those who have gone from our midst over recent months.
We do so, “not sorrowing like those without hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) but as the very Community of the Resurrection.
Constantly rejoicing in and sharing this resurrection faith is one of the vital cornerstones of being a church... yet sometimes this message almost gets lost in the busyness and the
day-to-day life of our community!
Maybe it is worth singing an Easter Hymn or two in the midst of October. After all, every Sunday is a celebration of The Resurrection.
How we express that resurrection hope more clearly and discernibly beyond our walls has been a special focus of 2013.
The Garden of Remembrance with its living stones is a space dedicated to resurrection hope and reconciliation.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t see people taking their time, walking through the garden - or sitting and taking a little space for peace and reflection.
As the flowers grow and the garden becomes steadily more beautiful, its presence as a sign of joy in new life will only be further enhanced. As I write this, the third burial has taken place in the garden; and it is proving to be just right for its purpose. Please spread the word -- this facility is not intended for ‘church families’ or ‘Anglicans’ or any other subset of people! Speak to one of the ministry team if you’d like to know more.
As the garden becomes more steadily used, and as the churchyard continues to be enhanced and improved -- you will have noticed the ongoing work on repairing and restoring the headstones,
and the clean-up of the South African war memorial. In the daily rhythm of worship and prayer in the cathedral, every day we are aware of the visitors to our building and churchyard. Some are tourists, some are pilgrims, some are local residents or visitors to Taranaki in physical need. Some are local residents on a spiritual journey, some are ticket holders for concerts. Every day and especially on a Sunday, the calling upon this church family - every one of us - is to be ministers of hospitality. However hospitality has an element not just of receiving, but reciprocating... the going out... the meeting on the road... the making and learning of connections and relationships.
This year, we have sought to express that reciprocity through the Taranaki Pilgrimage - showing that the cathedral’s ministry is not just about people coming in - coming to us - but is perhaps more about the church family going out from its building to love and serve its community.
Over the course of the Taranaki Pilgrimage I was blessed, with many of you, to be shown hospitality in different styles and places, but always this great sense of welcome was extended.
We all gave; we all received.
So - where to from here - what is the next development from the Pilgrimage?
Each day at 3.45pm the cathedral remembers one or more of the ministry units in our diocese in our prayer. We make contact with that parish or chaplaincy during the week, simply to ask what the needs are for prayer.
We have committed to three “Traveling Evensongs” per year -- the choir and Dean visit another parish to share in and lead a service. Thus far we have visited Waitara and Hawera.
We are looking for ways in which we can support each other and resource one-another better. Sharing pastoral needs which are happening in each other’s part of the world, or assisting with resources - maybe help with websites, sharing services, or simply promoting one-another’s events in publications such as the magazine that you are holding!
Most of all, I believe we need to be listening and learning from each other - urban / rural / semi-rural - big/small.
Having experienced this snapshot of the Taranaki bishopric and its detail and shape so clearly defined in a short period, it is clearly evident that the Church is presented in this time and place with both massive opportunity and massive challenge.
Old models of “being church” are waning.
We are entering an era where we are gradually learning to let some structures and trappings go. Some things may work better when merged or released from confinements such as: buildings and repairs and maintenance costs, so that we can move more from being inward-looking, into a deeper service of our communities and their most needy. This is both an exciting and an unsettling prospect -- but I know for certain that God is active in our midst, leading us into a whole new pilgrimage.
The Spirit can be freed up by our willingness to travel light; releasing us to share with our neighbours the resurrection story, the Jesus story, that Love Wins. This is the title of a book by Rob Bell, which was published in 2011... and has had a somewhat controversial reception in some areas of the church. Interestingly so!
Our Advent study this year will be based on this book, which ends with the following words (no spoilers here -- it is the theme of the entire book!) “May you experience this vast, expansive, infinite, indestructible love that has been yours all along. May you discover that this love is as wide as the sky and as small as the cracks in your heart no one else knows about. And may you know, deep in your bones, that love wins.”
The book’s subtitle is, “A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” - indicating both the scope of the book, but also the touch of humour which Rob brings to the conversations which he opens with this text!
Exploring more about theology - about ‘God Talk’ - is one of the delights of ‘being Church’ together.
I thrill at the thought of personally knowing such a diverse and wonderful body of people - Taranaki Cathedral’s finest, because we share a common interest - journeying to know God and to love God more. You could say that this path of learning together is my passion and my joy -- but I imagine you’ve already noticed that!
So... I’ve (personally) surprised a book shop by buying a couple of dozen copies of the book - and I invite you to buy or borrow a copy and read it, enjoy it and let it stir up the questions in you, that we might share them together over a cuppa at our Advent Group this year.
You won’t agree with all of it, I suspect -- neither do I! But isn’t that all part of the wonderful diversity which God has woven into the worldwide community which is His dearly beloved - The Church?
The Advent Group will be taking place on Mondays 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd December at 7:30pm at the cathedral. Please do join us.
With every blessing,