I am receiving remarkable encouragement and sympathy from many people from all parts of the church as I go deeper into this period of being "bishop-elect" and draw closer to the actual date of taking up the role of Bishop of Christchurch (9 February 2019).
The particular prompt for this encouragement and sympathy is the character of this particular year in the life of our Diocese: (in no particular order of challenge), making progress on reinstatement of our cathedral, disaffiliations from existing parishes, new Anglican churches being formed in our midst, consequential multiple vacancies in our parishes. Some say this is the most challenging year in our history as a Diocese! (I will let future historians pronounce judgment on that call.)
But also encouraging - very encouraging - is my experience of the continuing congregational life of the Diocese.
Eight days ago, a morning service with a well supported "remaining" congregation in the Parish of Woolston and an afternoon service which filled the brand new All Souls Church in Merivale=St Albans Parish.
Yesterday morning, a very good "remaining" congregation in one of the churches of the rural Parish of Rakaia and then in the afternoon an excellent congregation - full of young families - in the Parish of Woodend-Pegasus.
No one, least of all me, is going to jump to the conclusion that all is well because of these lovely experiences. We who remain in the Diocese will continue to debate and discuss many things - we are still a diverse group of Anglicans. We will continue to struggle with the challenge secularism brings against evangelistic action. And we are on the look out for good, keen vicars to lead parishes forward into what is now a new era for us.
But facing the future is always easier when the present encouragements remind us that God is at work among us.