Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013

This holy night
we wait in silent expectation
looking forward for

This holy night
this not so silent night
echoes with Mary’s cry
filled with pain, hope terror, wonder
at what is happening to her
her world
at this birth
weeping in relief and joy
the baby joins her symphony

This holy night
this not so silent night
echoes with child cries
sitting on Santa’s knee hungry
trapped in violence
lost in poverty
homeless in a car

This holy night
this not so silent night
echoes with all God hopes for
food for all
hope for all
water for all
peace for all
homes for all
joy for all
a place for all
love for all

May this holy night bring all that you hope for

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Being in Merivale

In the first week of December our Parish had planned to hold a dinner at the Merivale Whanau Aroha Early Childcare Centre. This Centre is run by Anglican Care, and this Parish is included in the oversight of what happens there. It is an important way we have a presence in that Community. There were 170 parents and children etc form the families that attend, and staff from the Centre and a few invited guests booked to attend. This was special. A proper sit down Christmas meal offered as a gift..
Sadly on the Sunday morning before the meal (which was on Tuesday) a significant figure from that community was found dead in his backyard. He had been involved in an assault the night before, helping out a couple being harassed and assaulted by a group of young people. It was originally thought that had led to his death. It has been since shown that the two events were not related.
Why am I writing about this? Because when I read about his death I completely underestimated the effect of his death both on Whanau Aroha staff and on the community as a whole. I am used to living in places with little community. So when something like this happens we talk about the effect on the family. It normally has little affect on the wider community. Not so in Merivale. It is the poorest area in Tauranga. It has lots of issues, and it has a really strong sense of community and identity. And this person played a central role in all that.  It was such an eye opener for me to come face to face with this community in people shocked and in grieving. I was chastened by it. And I am not sure some of our hierarchy ever got it, despite my efforts to let them know.
I spent a lot of that week attending various events in support of the staff of Whanau Aroha, and of a parishioner who asked by the family to do all the “religious bits”.   I attended his being brought back to Merivale and into the Community Centre, and read a Psalm as said a prayer; I attended the funeral service at the Community Centre; I attended the Community meeting with the Police on the Friday at the Community Centre, and then the meeting with Whanau Aroha Staff and the Trauma team from the Ministry of Education.
I don't know that  I didn't do alot. The Manager asked me to attend and I did so happily. It was a privilege to be there to support all those involved. It was a time of great learning for me.

Nominated Bishop of New Westminster

In case you have not heard, I was nominated to be Bishop of New Westminster in Vancouver, Canada. The election was a couple of weeks ago, and I have pleased to announce that I was not elected. Don't get me wrong. I would have gone if elected, and I would have given my all. And I would have really enjoyed working in that Diocese. But I struggled to see how they could elect someone who they had not met. The woman who did win looks like a really good choice.  To be honest I was briefly disappointed, but only briefly. It was a good decision for them and me.
I really enjoyed the process before the election, which for those in North America was very public. It was as public for me, only hardly anyone knew to look and so it wasn't as public, if that makes sense. It was far more time consuming that I had anticipated. It took a while to get together my CV, a personal statement to the diocese and a video answering some questions. All this went up on their website. And that then sparked a steady flow of questions which took time to answer. It was a busy month or so.
The election itself was also surprising. I think I was the only candidate not present. In our system candidates are not present and are told nothing of what happens. So I was surprised to learn it was anticipated I would be present, and if not then I needed to be available to be told the results. Because I had not anticipated this I was not available. Saturday Vancouver time is Sunday our time, and I was busy taking services. So that made for an interesting Sunday as each round of voting came through, after 8am, after 9.30 and then after the morning tea. 
It was deeply humbling to be nominated. I have not really considered myself as a bishop. I am sure I could do a reasonable job, but it Is not something I aspire to. It took Douglas some time to convince me. If it had not been Douglas asking I probably would have said no. But I deeply respect his opinion, and was honoured he wanted my name to be included. It was also interesting having an opportunity to think about what my thoughts around episcopacy are form the other side. WE are about to engage in a process to elect our own new bishop. We will be asked for our thoughts on what we expect from this person. It will be the third time we have done this in 11 years, so I am really not very excited. But to think about that from the point of view of someone being nominated was really different. To think about how I would answer the emails sent to me was a challenge, but again, I enjoyed it. It was interesting to note how often I wondered if my response would win or loose me votes. I was trying really hard to not think that way, to just be honest and say what I thought. And yet it happened. Mostly it was fun.
On the Monday after  I mostly felt relief that the good people of New Westminster had chosen well, and of joy that I get to stay here. Being part of the process helped me appreciate to a greater depth how much I enjoy being in the parish I serve in. I do not feel like I am even close to being finished here. I am still trying to work out what I am doing and how to do it. We have begun a relationship and I am not close to wanting to end that yet. So relief and joy were my overwhelming feelings. It was also humbling to have as many people say they did not want me to move as did. It is nice to be appreciated. Not every vicar would have experienced that. 
So thank you New Westminster for taking me seriously, and thank you Gate Pa for making me feel like this is home.

The Christmas Collision

My wife Bonnie is preaching this week. Here are her thoughts on the theme for the week.

This Advent we have focussed attention on the theme of waiting. In the foyer we are greeted each day by the words: we are waiting; kei te taritari tātou. We hope these words have provoked a question:  what are we waiting for?
Today’s gospel is the story of Mary and Joseph’s transition from being a young betrothed couple to the parents of God’s son, Jesus. It is told from Joseph’s point of view. What might it have been like for Joseph to wait through Mary’s pregnancy? Try putting yourself in Joseph’s sandals and imagine what he might have gone through in the 7-8 months from when Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit to the birth?
We know and love the Christmas story with all its colourful characters but Joseph had no idea how things would pan out. He didn’t even know what the child might look like – whose image would a child of the Holy Spirit carry? Would it bear any resemblance to Joseph’s family? We take Joseph and Mary’s acceptance of their situation as given and move quickly on to the birth of Jesus. Joseph and Mary had to live with their questions for months. They had a long wait.
Waiting is not a passive state. Joseph would not have stopped his normal life while he was waiting. Waiting, for people of faith is not a passive process. While we wait we work, we hope, we prepare, we share.
One of the carols the St George’s Singers presented at the Carol Service included the words: love came down to the world that night. Christmas is an expected event for us, but the event we wait for is not in discontinuity with the present or the past – it is a collision of a past event, something evident in the present and a future we hope for. Love in its fullest sense came to the world when Jesus came in person, love is in the world through God’s presence and our activity, and we are waiting for love to come again this Christmas.
Get ready for the collision.