It looks like I might be down to once a week blogging for a while. There is a lot happening and that is to be expected when the Diocese of Christchurch is without a full-time, residential bishop. So, best to focus on the immediate and one day (blogging) life will get better.
Last week, Monday to Thursday, we had our annual Clergy Conference at Living Springs, a lovely site high up on the hills at the end of Lyttelton Harbour. The view from the not unreasonably named Harbour View Lounge is to die for: straight down the harbour and out through the heads to Chile. OK, so you can't quite see Chile except on a very, very clear sky day.
In various ways the conference was helpful: there were stimulating workshops and plenary sessions with good teaching and horizon stretching ideas and data re the changing world and our place in it. Worship sessions were opportunities to pray and to praise God. Meals and breaks contributed to fellowship and friendship. Here I share two specific ideas which challenged and stretched me.
First, Rebecca Burgess, of Bishopdale Theological College, Nelson led us from 2 Timothy through other passages, especially from the Psalms, to both teach us and challenge us about the gospel. Her specific line was that the gospel is the good news that "our God reigns" (alternatively, "Jesus is Lord"), with reference to Psalm 110 and its huge impact on the first Christian reflections about Jesus.
I won't run you through all my notes (and the multiple Scripture references). Suffice to say that thinking about the gospel in these terms inspires faith and invites us to look around to see what God is doing in the world. And, of course, as Rebecca emphasised the gospel in terms of God's reign leads us to reconcile law (the king's instructions) and grace(the king's bounty and largesse).
Secondly, Chris Clarke, until recently CEO of World Vision NZ, led us through several sessions on what it means to be the church in a changing world, with special reference to our Diocese being at a point of change with a change of bishops. There were many important things said and what we heard was against the backdrop of the recently published survey on religious life in NZ (see post below). Translation: theoretical processing of the issues and questions of the day is urgent. We may not have an Anglican church in these islands in 15 years' time!
Chris also used the OT to bring his challenge home, riffing off the theme of Joshua and the Promised Land. Whether or not the next stage of the life of the Diocese is "the Promised Land" we are at a moment of transition, we stand on the verge of the Jordan River. Will we cross over? How many will cross? Who, like a few ancient tribes, wants to stay behind? What battles do we have to fight and what do we not need to waste our time on? I liked his closing address which proposed that where we are heading is to the Promising Land.