With a planned houseshift over the weekend past I kept Sunday free from preaching engagements and thus my mind free from thinking about the lectionary readings, let alone knowing what they were. So it was a surprise to me when at church to learn that the gospel reading was Matthew 6:25-end, "Do not worry." What a message five days after the worst of natural disasters in my lifetime here in New Zealand. What a challenge to be free of anxiety in the weeks and months ahead as people lose jobs, as lost houses are not quickly replaced, and as trauma and grief are worked through. None of us are sufficient for these things. Lord, increase our faith!
That service was outdoors. A quick tour of the church revealed the power of the earthquake on a modern (just on fifty years old building). Imploded glass. Holes in the roof letting daylight in. Cracks you could poke your finger in (better not, if there is another shake they might close up again). Scattered prayerbooks and Bibles on the floor. Liquefaction. My colleague's books in a mountain in his office. Irony of ironies: the bookcase had been earthquake mounted to the walls. Except the earthquake ripped the mountings away from the wall.
Then home to the mundane task of completing our house move. The more sorting and cleaning the further out of touch I got from the disaster viewable from TV and newspapers but scarcely visible looking out the window. Shouldn't I be doing more to help? Then right into the thick of the post-quake turmoil, visiting with friends caught up in the extraordinary (and excruciating) process of victim identification. To make that visit we walked along one of Christchurch's loveliest streets, covered in sand and pockmarked with sinkholes.
So today. Back to Theology House. Tidying up. Vacuuming up grit fallen from the gap where ceiling meets brick gable above. Ensuring two diocesan meetings could take place in our premises which have two virtues right now: safe, and beyond the tight police cordon around the CBD. There, for the time being our Anglican Centre lies. But soon a temporary one will be operating in another part of the city. Shouldn't I be doing more to help? In the afternoon an opportunity opened up. Would I assist one of our archdeacons who is juggling three roles at the moment. Certainly. To cross the city to meet with him and his wife, Teresa and I made a wide berth of the CBD and were rewarded with a relatively quick 30 minute trip. On the way home we chose a different route, closer to the CBD, in the hope we might view one of our damaged churches. That route took 90 minutes!
We actually saw two churches. The second we inspected closely. I once worked there, and Teresa and I were married there. With our own eyes we could see damage which makes it unlikely, perhaps even certain that another service will not be held there. Many questions arise from the declarative judgement that a building must be torn down, or reconstructed at vast expense. There are many feelings to work through. With my head I believe that church is not the building but the people. In my heart I am sad that the place where Teresa and I married may be no more.
But Jesus said, "Do not worry."