There are too many stories of loss to cope with this week. Lives have been lost in the hundreds and homes in the thousands. At the time the disruption to life after 4 September seemed hard enough, but we are in a new world now. Take schools, for instance, which are out of action because drinking water and sanitation are not guaranteed, to say nothing of those with damaged classrooms. That's a physical problem, but there are some teachers and students coping with losing loved ones, and many more working out their future without a home to live in. That's a spiritual problem which, multiplied across many aspects of life and work in our city, is something never before encountered here.
How do those who name Christ as Lord and Saviour bear witness in this crisis? We serve a Lord who, on the face of it, has let us down not once but twice. The gospel in a nutshell could be described as 'the best is yet to be' but right now life has gone from bad to worse. Certainly we need to draw on our experience of lament and find new resources as one body of Christ in mission to our fellow citizens. How do we sing the Lord's song in a place of terror where over twenty people have died in our cathedral and another three people in Durham St Methodist church?
We may need to improvise in our theology. Dig deep into Scripture, mining Lamentations, Habbakuk and Revelation for words from God which address calamity and crisis. This is a time for faith like that found in Israel and on Patmos. When human sight suggested evil was present and God was absent, faith obstinately refused to let go of the idea that the God of Israel existed and remained committed to fulfilling covenant and promise.
Speaking of improvising in difficult circumstances, and keeping faith in God during dark days, the photo below is of a funeral held yesterday for Janet Baskill, member of the Parish of Woolston and former NZ Church Missionary Society missionary. (To be clear: Janet died before the earthquake).
My father, Bishop Brian Carrell reports: "The funeral of Janet Baskill was held this morning in Woolston. In that part of the city there is now no undamaged St John's Church available, no electricity supply for an amplifier, no facilities for printing off orders of service, no water or heating for a cuppa afterwards, no toilets for mourners. So improvisations are the back patio of Jan's own house, a guitar, hymns from memory, led by Revd Mike Hawke, along with apologies for no refreshments and indication of a space behind a bush behind the garage for those desperately 'caught'. So the service proceeded, with a swarm of Janet's friends and CMS supporters and former missionaries of her generation in attendance, standing or seated on picnic stools they had brought. A moving occasion, as all present had arrived there with some measure of difficulty and deep awareness of the dark shadow hanging over most of the city."
Thank you for your prayers. Keep praying, especially for Bishop Victoria Matthews and other church leaders as they improvise ways forward.
Anglican Taonga now has Lloyd Ashton and Brian Thomas reporting regularly on events and church developments as they unfold.