I have been pleasantly distracted since the last post, taken advantage of a holiday weekend to ensure our hardworking student-home-for-the-summer had at least a brief holiday before returning to university. (For overseas readers, the weekend celebrated the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, between Maori chiefs and the (British) Crown).
Unexpectedly the few days took on a water theme as I had a chance at kayaking, paddle-boarding (first time ever) and biscuiting, all in waters warm enough for it to be pleasant when my lack of balance (yes, I know readers here will be surprised by that :) ) or insufficient tenacity in gripping the sea biscuit threw me into the depths. One casualty was loss of treasured sunglasses (and no end of ribbing from my family for wearing them at sea!)
But while away I did go to church, and last night I was at the joint cathedrals Ash Wednesday service here in Christchurch. I nearly always (over-)analyse what I think is going on when I am at church, not only in terms of local dynamics but also implications for the bigger picture of themes and trends in the NZ Pakeha churches if not the Western church. This week has been no different.
We have present challenges but I think our future is bright. But, turn your face away Donald Trump, that future is down to immigration. What my eyes tell me as I worship in different churches is that the future of NZ Christianity is going to be dominated by people whose parents immigrated here in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as well, of course, by even more recent immigrants than that. (What the daily news tells us is that more and more Christians are migrating from troubled parts of the world to less troubled parts, and that will include NZ).
There will be a religious studies/sociology/theology Ph.D or three in around 2040 on why, two hundred years after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed with missionaries integral to the proceedings, a resistance to the gospel built up through succeeding generations of Pakeha and Maori descended from their Treaty signing ancestors and the settlers who arrived in the decades immediately afterwards.
Actually, I have one explanation for that resistance, and it relates to the marvellous weekend I experienced. In NZ we have a great life: mild climate, scenery to die for, beaches and bush offering accessible and inexpensive recreation, outstanding health services and abounding opportunities for material advancement. As a wise bishop once observed to me, people don't need God when already living in paradise.
Yet elsewhere in the world there is immense suffering and tribulation that is fuelling people movements which, ironically, will keep bringing people to our churches. Our NZ church future is bright, but there is a dark story behind that claim.
And there is a challenge for all Kiwis who love fellow Kiwis: how to overcome paradisal resistance to the gospel?