The Syrian refugee crisis

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,  I would like to share with you the letter we received recently from Bishop Justin about the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe, and our response:

Dear Family, 

As the reality of the world’s refugee crisis has been brought into clear focus in recent days, we have all been moved with compassion for those whose situation is so desperate that they are prepared to give up all that they know and to risk their lives to find safety in a foreign land. As governments struggle to deal with the enormity of the wave of humanity fleeing war and persecution it’s hard for us to know how to respond meaning-fully. As individuals it’s difficult to see what difference we can make, however, as family, I believe we have the opportunity to make a response. 

I’m writing to you to invite you as a congregation, a parish and a diocese to join together to offer to share a portion of the abundance that we enjoy with those people on the road and sea seeking a taste of the safety that we enjoy in our land. What I’m challenging us to consider is making a collective undertaking to provide the support necessary to settle one refugee family in each of our parishes. Each of us might be able to provide support in the form of accommodation, money or practical support and our individual contribution might not seem like much but acting together we can achieve enough to make a real difference to real lives. 

Please prayerfully consider this challenge. Please tell the leadership of your parish of your support for such an undertaking. It’s my hope that I will hear over the next 24 hours from each parish about the commitments you are in a position to make. I know that your prayers will be joined with mine as we ask for God’s mercy to be known in the lives of the world’s refugees. 

Amen +Justin

After feedback from our congregations last Sunday and several emails sent to me from individuals and families I responded to Bishop Justin on Monday as follows:

Dear Bishop Justin 

Our parishioners were generally positive and prepared to pick up the challenge. We would want to work together with others in the cluster/ Archdeaconry and hope that this offer to help with the refugee crisis might be something other Diocese would join us in. There was concern that families should be grouped in proximity to each other rather than each family in isolation in parishes. 

We look forward to hearing more 

Many Blessings, May 

Bishop Justin’s Reply to Parishes:

Dear Family, 

I’m incredibly proud of the size and the positivity of the response to my challenge to us yesterday. On this basis, I was able to say to the media today that we are prepared to contribute meaningfully. My press release is attached for your information. The people of New Zealand have sent a clear message to our government that we are not prepared to remain passive in the face of human tragedy. 

Archbishop Philip and Cardinal John Dew held a press conference this morning and they were able to say with confidence that with the support of even half the Anglican and Catholic parishes in New Zealand we can support 300 refugee families. The response of Wellington Diocese was a key reason for their confidence. 

This Stuff article includes excerpts from the press conference 

http:// www.stuff.co.nz/national/71800139/anglican-and-catholic-churches-call-for-1200-more-refugees 

What next for our response? We will be working hard over the coming weeks to provide parishes with resources to continue this important work. Processing of refugees by the UN takes time so it will be a while before there is an on the ground need that the government may ask us to help with. In the mean time we will be talking to the right agencies to ensure that any contribution is appropriate and effective. Above all, lets continue to pray. 

Thank you again. 

Every blessing 

+Justin

Thank you all for your compassion and support.

Blessings, May.

A new organ for St Andrews?

Dear all,

Martin Lawrence has been researching the feasibility of a new organ for St Andrews.  He writes:

“You are invited to an organ demonstration on at St Andrews church on MondayTuesday 10/11th February, final date and time to be confirmed.  The instrument is a Roland C330 which you can see and hear on these sites:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJI2-knxDUM&list=PLrogPwhxfLdo0BgRxezfTbpzVve9IsUoQ

 www.roland.com/classic/c330/productinfo/

 http://organlessons.blogspot.co.nz/2010/07/review-roland-c-330-classic-organ.html

 Ralph Cullen from Keyboard Systems is delivering the organ to an address in the area and has kindly offered to demonstrate for a few hours at St Andrew’s on the way.

The idea of upgrading the organ is not new and people will remember a Johannus being demonstrated in the church a couple of years ago. Visiting organists have commented on the adequacy or otherwise of the existing keyboard although it has served well.

A digital organ however, has to be heard to be believed and the sound is close to a true pipe organ.

The benefits of a digital organ over a pipe organ are: price (very much cheaper), size (a pipe organ would simply not fit into the church), and greatly reduced maintenance (a digital organ does not have pipes so does not require regular tuning). It would be set up so the amplifier/speaker system can be used when an organist is not available.

While the demonstration organ may turn out to be “the one” we think it prudent to review the currently available instruments and I am visiting Keyboard System’s warehouse existing installations in late February for this purpose. In any case the price will be $23,400 or less, there being several options available. We urge you to support the project. At this stage donations or promises to pay will be noted and the purchase confirmed when the fundraising is completed.

Unfortunately Vicki Jones who plays the organ regularly, will be unavailable to try it out, however there will be an opportunity for anyone else interested to try it out.”

 Wonderful work Martin, well done and thank you!  And I note (no pun intended), a very welcome and generous pledge just in fromDavid and Carol Major as follows:

“If the new instrument has 88 keys and costs $20,000 then that is about $250 per key. Carol and I would be happy to pay for two keys = $500 would be the keys of C (C Major)the key of D (D Major)”

Blessings,

May

 

 

The Christian Cultural Contribution of C S Lewis

I am obliged to Steuart Henderson for the following essay on the Christian life and works of C S Lewis:

Clive Staples Lewis – known to his friends as ‘Jack’ – was born in Belfast in 1898 and died in Oxford on 22 November 1963. On the 50th anniversary of his death there are numerous events around the world celebrat-ing ways in which this remarkable Christian has enriched the lives of so many. His death was largely overlooked at the time because of the assassination of President Kennedy that same day.

C S Lewis is best known to Kiwis today as a writer of fiction, most notably the seven short novels that make up The Chronicles of Narnia. The Narnia books been translated into over 40 languages, sold over100 million copies, and been adapted for radio, TV, stage, and cinema.

Lewis is a wonderful story teller, and like all great children’s literature these books are read with much pleasure by the childlike of all ages. The author was not trying to create an allegory of the gospel, or to pre-sent arguments for its truth, but to give us a sense of what it is like to re-spond in faith to Christ, and to have our whole view of life and the world shaped by that faith. The stories are about loyalty and betrayal, victory and defeat, and are full of wit and humour. Most of all, in the figure of Aslan the lion, they are about the mysterious awareness that there is an awesome loving presence who mostly we cannot see, but who is always there breathing over our shoulder, and reminding us of the deep joy to be found when we accept our responsibilities to something much more wonderful than the fleeting pleasures of the moment. A repeated theme in the Narnia stories is learning to recognise how dishonest we can be with ourselves, so that we can become more the true humans God made us to be.

Lewis had a bleak motherless childhood and experienced much suffering in his life, particularly in the trenches during the battle of the Somme, but a recurring theme throughout the Narnia books and much of his other writing is joy. The title of his early autobiography in which he describes his Christian conversion is Surprised by Joy. In The Screwtape Letters, the old experienced devil Screwtape advises a younger devil in the art of temptation. Screwtape tells him that God has a great secret that people must never be allowed to understand – that God is a great pleasure lover at heart.

Also widely read and well worth exploring is the ‘Space Trilogy’, which addresses what Lewis saw as a dehumanising perspective in much science fiction. My personal favourite of his fiction is his final novel Till We Have Faces, a radical retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche.

Lewis was a key member of the Inklings, an informal group of literary friends including J R R Tolkein, which for years met every Tuesday morn-ing at an Oxford pub, The Eagle and Child, to read and discuss each of their work and enjoy lunch together. That is where Narnia, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were first aired.

Lewis is also well known for Mere Christianity, which arose out of a se-ries of talks broadcast by the BBC during World War 2, and became probably the most widely read work of Christian apologetics in the 20th century, and one which has greatly influenced the thinking of many. Other apologetic classics are The Problem of Pain (How can a good God allow pain to exist?) and Miracles. His sermons, theological essays, and theological books such as The Four Loves also remain widely read.

He had been baptised as an infant in the Church of Ireland, but became an avowed atheist at the age of 15. His Christian conversion in 1931 was long resisted, and eventually came following an extended night walk and talk with his friend Tolkein – in Lewis’s own words ‘kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape’. He then became what he describes as ‘a very ordinary layman of the Church of England’.

His education and main professional publications were in the Greek and Latin classics and in English literature. Some of these works remain texts in university English courses, especially A Preface to Paradise Lost, The Allegory of Love and The Discarded Image. He had been a brilliant undergraduate student at Oxford, graduating with a ‘triple first’, the highest possible academic achievement. Incredibly however he undertook no postgraduate study for a doctorate, and was elected as an Oxford don in 1925, simply on the strength of his published work! Having taught at Oxford for nearly 30 years, in 1954, still with no postgraduate qualifica-tion, he was awarded the Chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature in Cambridge. He held no qualification whatsoever in theology or biblical studies.

The remarkable story of his marriage in 1957 to the Jewish American Joy Davidman, who had already developed widespread bone cancer and was dying, has been explored in a play and several movies. Following her death he wrote A Grief Observed, which many regard as the most extraordinary and challenging of all his works. Due to the raw personal content it was published under the pseudonym N W Clerk, and this had the unexpected consequence that several of his friends recommended the book to him as one that he should read and that might help him to deal with his own grief!!

Lewis was very conservative on some issues such as women’s ordination, but this reflected the overwhelming consensus of the times, and his fiction introduces us to a number of very strong and independent women. Joy Davidman was divorced, and marrying a divorcee in the Church of England in the 1950s was difficult and very rare, and resulted in much painful criticism.

In 2008 The Times ranked him as eleventh on their list of the fifty greatest British writers since 1945. His influence on other writers has been huge, including more recently J K Rowling and the Harry Potter books.

C S Lewis humbly offered his many gifts unashamedly in the service of Christ, and offered them to all those from any denomination or belief who wanted to receive what he could contribute. It is good that we can now celebrate his life and work in a special way.

Recommended new books written to mark the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death:

The Lion’s World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia

Rowan Williams Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet C S Lewis: A Life Alister E McGrath The Intellectual World of C S Lewis Alister E McGrath

Prayer:

Great and gracious heavenly Father, you made this vast universe in which we live, and you made each one of us, and you call and equip us all with so many different gifts so that we might together love and serve you and our neighbours, exploring and sharing with one another the endless riches of your creation. We thank you especially for your servant C S Lewis, for the gifts you gave him, and for his willingness to use them in your service. We thank you for the amazing way in which so many lives have been enriched and helped through his work. Help us too to follow the servant way with your Son, Jesus the Messiah, our forgiving Saviour and Servant Lord.

Amen

Bishop Justin’s letter

I thought I’d post Bishop Justin’s latest letter to the Diocese.  He reflects on spiritual gardens – both collective and individual.  He tells us of some of his activities and visits and I find it inspiring that wherever he goes he seeks faith.  There is a lesson to be learned in every meeting; every activity.  We can learn much from his Christian energy and outlook.

Blessings, May.

Bishop’s Letter

Greetings Family

I have been reflecting a great deal this month on the parable of the weeds (especially as spring growth starts …). I feel that we often spend a lot of time frustrated at the weeds amongst us and we spend a lot of time strategising about how to pull them out. The challenge with this approach is that firstly as we do weed control we damage the good crop, and secondly I am not sure as a Diocese we can always tell the difference between wheat and weeds! So instead I have been focusing on recognising and being thankful for the good things among us. This month I have been deeply encouraged by the following:

*   Our yearly Clergy Conference was a significant time in our life together. Clergy and others drew aside and refocused on being the people we are called to be. We deepened both our personal faith journeys and our relationships one to another.

*  I travelled to Waitangi and joined with representatives from our Anglican Schools on a pilgrimage around historical sites of significance from our early history. This pilgrimage was outstanding on two levels: firstly in how God has been moving through our history using ordinary followers to invite people into His Kingdom, and secondly I really enjoyed relating to our different schools, and am excited by the potential of our journey ahead.

*  Over the last two weekends, Parish visits have also been deeply encouraging. The Parish of Miramar-Seatoun-Strathmore was a pleasure to visit, and the Parish of Churton Park was exciting to visit on their 20th anniversary. We reflected on the vision and faithfulness of the founders. However we also challenged ourselves to honour their input by being willing to pioneer in this generation. As at Waitangi, the question comes again about who will relocate to support the work of the Spirit in a different location. I think this is a question all followers of Jesus must ask themselves in every generation.

 *  Finally I have been impressed with the depth and nature of the same sex discussion taking place across the Diocese.  Even though it is a challenging issue to discuss well, the feedback I have received is that this process is being done respectfully, and with a spirit of listening and understanding. 

Let us continue to nourish the good seed in our individual lives, Parishes and across the Diocese, while resisting the temptation to focus on weeding each other’s lives. 

Blessings

 +Justin

 Bishop of Wellington

 

The Reverend Michael Burt; a valediction

It was good to see so many parishioners both from Featherston and Martinborough at the funeral for dear Michael Burt.

Michael was the Vicar of this parish for 8 years and since then his spiritual home has been St Matthews Masterton.   As Archdeacon (in the absence of the Bishop) I spoke at the funeral.  Here is the text of my speech:

Reverend Michael John Burt

I am here to speak to you on behalf of the Bishop Justin and the Diocesan family.

It’s a humble privilege to do so particularly as I knew Michael and Jenny quite well.  Michael was the Vicar of the Parish of South Wairarapa based in Martinborough before coming to live in Masterton.

Our family had a holiday house in Martinborough and over our brief periods in and out of the parish I came to know Michael quite well, particularly in the latter part of his ministry there when we talked and prayed together quite often.  Yesterday I contacted a few people who knew Michael and we talked about his ministry. Michael was a faithful and loyal follower of Jesus, committed to his church.

He loved the scriptures, enjoyed preaching and his sermons were always based on the word, never sending people away without something to think about.

He was a great supporter of overseas missions and missionaries. He had an excellent singing voice which was great for the church but also a link for him into the community. I have been told that at his last service at St Andrews in Martinborough there was a surprise visit of the local musical group ‘Madcaps” who came down the aisle singing “When the Saints Go Marching In” to everyone’s enjoyment.

One of the strengths of Michael’s ministry was with those who were quiet, who might otherwise go by unnoticed. He would get alongside them and he never gave up on being there for people.
The elderly were fond of Michael, he had time for them and it’s worth noting that in these last years his ministry had a focus in that area.

I admired his strong and sincere faith and it’s so good to see many parishioners from other places where Michael served well supported by his wonderful wife Jenny.

Michael has served as a Priest in the Wellington Diocese since he first arrived in NZ in 1985 with Jenny and their two small children Clair and Andrew.  It was coming home to NZ for Jenny. Michael first served the church here as Priest Assistant at St Marks Raumati ministering alongside Rev Theo Carpenter and his wife Anne. It was a busy parish with five worship centres.

It must have been quite some adjustment for Michael coming from his church in South Africa where he had served in a predominately (what was then called a) “coloured” congregation where he fluently spoke Afrikaans.

In 1987 Michael was appointed Vicar of Petone where he served for 8 years before moving to the Wairarapa to take up the ministry of Vicar of the Parish of South Wairarapa. Michael moved to live in Masterton in 2003 where his spiritual home and ministry base has been St Matthews.

Today as we come to say goodbye the Priests wear white stoles, the church is decked in flowers and we sing: all symbols of celebration and hope.  Celebration and hope because Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me shall live forever”.

In word and message God’s love is so much stronger than death and Michael knew that
The door of death has opened up to the arms of a God who always loved him….

Well done Michael good and faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thoughts at Easter

For a number of years now I have been invited to attend the commemoration of the “Featherston Incident” to offer prayers and the concluding Blessing. It has always been a low key and moving occasion and but this year the 70th anniversary had an added dimension.
You probably know that during World War 11 there was a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp just north of Featherston. Seventy years ago on 25th February forty eight Japanese prisoners were shot dead by the prison guards. They were staging a “sit in”.

Eight hundred Japanese prisoners, mostly from Guadalcanal, were in that camp. All the able men of the town were away at war, the guards at the camp were mostly soldiers from the World War 1 or those who hadn’t past muster to go to war. There was a national fear of the Japanese. They were hatred because of stories of their ruthless treatment of enemy soldiers and civilians.
For them, to be captured and imprisoned brought incredible shame. They would rather break out of prison and die in the process than be held prisoner. It’s not difficult to imagine the charged atmosphere in that camp and how that shooting came about.

Following the shooting the Japanese prisoners asked if they could have a Chaplain. In a letter written to Hessell Throughton (who became the Chaplain) the writer, who had visited the prisoners, reported that he was rather surprised at a request, “for spiritual advice in connection with the Christian faith”. Evidently the prisoners had been influenced by the care those who had been injured in the shooting received in our hospitals.

Hessell Throughton had been a missionary in Japan and spoke fluent Japanese. He had been approached earlier to become an interpreter at the camp but had not wanted to take up that position.He now felt he couldn’t refuse. Coming to the camp as a Chaplain gave him access to the prisoners in a very different way but he must have always wondered if the outcome that February day would have been different had he already been at the camp. He and his wife and young family came and lived in Johnson Street in Featherston among a people, it would be fair to say, mostly hated and feared the Japanese. It can’t have been easy for the Chaplain and his family.

Hessell Throughton’s three children, were at the 70th commemoration. Hessell’s son Richard gave the address. His father’s role as Chaplain was to relate to a traumatized and now violated community who were ashamed of ever having been captured and now felt misunderstood. They were angry and vulnerable. His role was to listen and genuinely care in order to create understanding and reconciliation. He must have been a patient and very
courageous man. It was noted that he showed in his own living and taught what a radical difference Jesus Christ can make.

A number of Japanese in that camp did embrace Christianity. One of them Shinya wrote a book of his time in the Featherston camp. He takes the reader on a journey with him through the experience of being captured, of the emotional crisis this produced, and on the per-sonal transformation of his world view and understanding of life as he gradually came to Christian faith. It provides invaluable cultural in-sights, as well as important learning on our treatment of each other. It was for him simple things that made such a difference: Christmas cards signed by the women of the Wellington churches, Christmas cake cooked for them by the Chaplain’s wife.

I found this commemoration very moving and challenging.

Could I have done the work of that Chaplain? Afterall this is what we are called to do: not to think of ourselves as any better than anyone else and treat each other with respect and compassion. I found myself questioning my own attitude to the Japanese. I wasn’t born during the war but soon afterward. My dad served in Guadalca-nal and those stories are part of my family history, part of my young formative years. Did I too need to seek to change my own attitude?

I shared the story with the Thursday discussion group at Featherston. Someone there said he knew the man who fired the first shoot, he was a boy just out of school. But mostly when I shared the story of the commemoration the conversations found its way back to the atrocities committed by the Japanese against us…as if somehow it makes the shooting of forty eight Japanese prisoners justified or at least “not so bad”.

The truth is in this none of us are without fault. It’s good for us to hear these stories and to think on them. To be honest about our own fears and hurts. It helps us move to a better understanding of each other. But to forgive isn’t something that can be forced on us either. To
forgive takes a lot more than the words. It requires us to be trans-formed and that simply can’t happen in our own strength. We need to rely on the spirit of God for that.

God of every generation that has been and is yet to be.
As we reflect on what has been. Help us in our time to live our lives in such a way as to break down well preserved walls of division, to build bridges where they have fallen into disrepair among peoples and to be bold in speaking out against injustice.

St Francis wrote this prayer:

Make us instruments of your peace
Where there is hatred let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness joy.

Abundant Easter Blessings

May