Monday, December 2, 2019

Ending 2019 well

2019 has been a challenging year for our Diocese - a new bishop to get used to, the tragedy for Christchurch city on 15 March, ongoing effects of disaffiliations after GS 2018, our huge Cathedral Reinstatement project getting off the ground - but by 8.30 pm yesterday [first Sunday in Advent], I could reflect joyfully on some splendid end of year events and news.

Over the last ten days we have had three inductions: the Parishes of Ellesmere, Rangiora, Riccarton-Spreydon. Each filled with well-received ministers.

Yesterday morning, we were able to announce a new Vicar for the Parish of Papanui. Later in the day, at two different services I was at, parishioners from that parish expressed their excitement at the news of this announcement.

On Saturday, St Andrew's Day, I ordained three new deacons, each of whom will make a much valued contribution to ministry and mission in different parts of our Diocese.

But, wait, there is more ...

Yesterday morning I visited a Diocesan youth camp - a lively sequence of fun and sporting activities rounded off with teaching and worship - enthusiastic campers and keen young adult leaders.

And that teaching was given superbly by one of our youngest priests - a privilege of being bishop is to see our deacons and priests delivering ministry with verve, passion and excellence.

It was lovely to have Amy Page-Whiting, Senior Pastor, Cashmere New Life Church, as our preacher at yesterday's induction. Amy's presence reminded us of the work God is doing in all the churches of our city.

(Aside: all three inductions had female preachers. Whatever 1 Timothy 2:12 meant and means, I continue to be unable to see that it is meant to prohibit godly, trained female preachers from expounding God's Word in God's church.)

Then, a further observation: some conversations recently, including after the ordinations on Saturday, reminded me that even in a secular country such as NZ, where the church and its ministries are public, done well, and connecting with people, we remain a force of influence and impact in our society.

So, I feel, all in all, that 2019 is ending well for us as a Diocese. Thanks be to God.

2020 will have its own challenges ... one of which is that the lovely anecdotes above do not by themselves shift the "data" of decline in Christianity in this country. There is work to be done!


Father Ron said...

Bryden here writes so much and yet there is one thing that God requires of us poor, human fallen beings - persistence in doing our very best, for God and our fellow human beings. Even Jesus cut short the requirement of The Law into (1) loving God; and (2) loving our neighbour as ourselves (i.e. to understand our common human failings and ask God's forgiveness for the wrong we do to another). When the rich young man came to see Jesus, asking him what he needed to do to obtain eternal life; Jesus asked: "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is One Alone Who is Good!"

Stretching for personal holiness that is above our human capacity to obtain without God, seems, to many of us, almost blasphemous! This is surely the reason why Jesus had to become incarnate - in order to help us understand our deep need for God. We cannot reach a state of holiness simply by reading theology. We need a relationship with the Living God through Christ in the Sacramental life he alone has been able to provide for us. Theology, like the Bible itself, can only provide a paradigm for us of what God requires of us. The Incarnate Word has already fulfilled The Law contained in the Written Word!

The rich young man, having said that he kept all the requirements of The Law, was then directed to give up his wealth. It is to such as this young man that Jesus (who, seeing him, loved him) gave the warning that the struggle for self-righteousness was never enough to be able to 'claim' a place in The Kingdom. The cost of that place can only be paid (and was paid) by Jesus himself. "Jesus came into this world to SAVE sinners". We are totally incapable of saving ourselves - no matter what good works or holiness code we practice.

Before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, in the Kyries, the Faithful are asking God to renew the Covenant God has already made with us - en Christo - to redeem us. Alleluia! This is not a 'one-off' conversion therapy. Some of us need it daily.

I remember the words of an old Collect which says this "We have no power - of ourselves - to help ourselves". So why would we ever imagine that we do? The grace and mercy of God-in-Christ are enough for even the neediest of us. What God wants of us, too, is justice and mercy - not judgement, which belongs to God alone.

Father Ron said...

Heartfelt Congratulations, Bishop, for what you are doing for the integrity and unity of our Diocese of Christchurch in ACANZP. My recipe for next year under God is from the words of the Holy Thursday antiphon: "Where charity and love are; there is God".

David Wilson said...

Dear Fr Ron,
the rich young ruler did not say that he had kept all the requirements of the Law. Upon asking what he must do, Jesus said "you known the commandments" and then cited only a selection of the 'ten', and the young man said that he had kept them. But which did Jesus not include in his list? Perhaps you might wish to read the text and see. Perhaps the omitted commandments are those which the man was not keeping...

Bryden Black said...

Well; thank Ron for your thoughts here - but I really do wonder whether you bothered to actually read what I wrote on that other thread ... Just asking!