A little while ago I made a two part post on a decision made in one of the hui amorangi within Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa. Within those posts I was raising the question of the place building congregational life has within a strategic vision for ministry and mission. There were some interesting comments in response ...
Fast forward to this past week. I was very encouraged by what I heard at General Synod, both formally and informally. A debate towards some resolution on 'resource sharing' seemed to me to include an urgent desire to build congregational life. From the Taonga report:
" “We come to rejoice in 30 years of ministry,” he added, before inviting the Ven Hirini Kaa to recap on the story of that ministry.
Archdeacon Kaa then elaborated on the Maori church’s history, stretching from the 1880s to the present. There’s plenty to celebrate, he said, but precious few resources.
Today the Maori church has 38 rohe (ministry units) but only five stipendiary clergy, with three fulltime. Each rohe has on average four worship centres.
“We’re heavily reliant on volunteers,” Archdeacon Kaa said. “We’re structured as a rural church, but living in an urban context…
“We’re asking for 12 stipendiary positions. Under-capitalised and under-resourced, we’re still the spiritual backbone of Maoridom.”"
Some attendance figures were given by Archdeacon Kaa, with some concern that figures are falling rather than rising. One aspect of the situation is neatly captured in his words, "“We’re structured as a rural church, but living in an urban context…" Thus most Maori church buildings are in country areas rather than in cities (where worship may take place on the marae, in community centres, in shared pakeha church buildings). In Te Wai Pounamou (South Island) for example, there is currently no Maori church building in any city, but there are church buildings in rural towns and villages such as Motueka, Tuahiwi, Arowhenua). I think the three full-time stipendiary positions are in Rotorua, Mangere (south Auckland) and central Auckland.
Twelve stipendiary positions, strategically spread through the islands will make a significant difference to congregational life.
It is not as though there are no Maori congregations in our land - it is just that typically they are found in Pentecostal rather than Anglican contexts, with the former predominantly found in urban areas. "Under-capitalised and under-resourced, we’re still the spiritual backbone of Maoridom" means there is significant potential for Maori to 'come home' to lively Anglican congregational life. To say nothing, of course, of the potential for evangelism bringing people home to Christ. We are Te Haahi Mihinare (the Missionary Church)!
It is my hope that ways and means can be found to support the appointment of twelve fully stipended clergy. New Maori church plants are definitely achievable - I heard a lovely story of a recent plant that is growing well.
In a brief speech to a Tikanga Pakeha caucus on resource sharing I offered one idea which I outline here: knowing that actual financial resource sharing is difficult for many dioceses because funds are committed to this, that and the other, I think we need to not only consider present funds but also future ones. We could have an agreed policy across all the pakeha dioceses that future funds derived from untagged, general bequests and endowments, as well as from unexpected surpluses in diocesan annual accounts (they do occur from time to time!!) would be shared with Tikanga Maori.
This suggestion is not intended to avoid consideration of present sharing possibilities. But it could be fruitful. I know of a diocese which a few years ago received a general bequest for a million or so dollars. It has used the money very productively. But not a dollar has gone towards Maori work within its boundaries. Even a tithe of that bequest would have been $100K towards the work of te Rongopai (the gospel) ... and 50% would have been ...
Of course to think in this way is to think more consciously of being one church working in three tikanga (cultural streams) rather than being a three tikanga church (i.e. three churches who occasionally get together for meetings). A point made in the speech which followed mine!
Ehara taku korero i tenei, kia mama ai etahi, a, ko koutou kia taimaha, engari kia taurite; ko nga mea a koutou i hira i tenei wa hei mea mo to ratou hapa, a, ko nga mea a ratou e hira hei mea ma koutou ina hapa; kia rite ai. Kia pera me te mea i tuhituhia, "Ko te tangata i nui tana whakaemi kahore he tuhene; ko te tangata i nohinohi tana kihai i hapa." (2 Koriniti 8:13-15)