Thursday, August 9, 2012

Truth, beauty and justice

One of the things that inspires me greatly in the mission of God is the excellent work of others. It is particularly inspiring when it is people I know. It is a bit like some of the performances in the Olympics: the record breaking gold medallist turns out to have inspired the silver and bronze medallists to break their respective personal best times. Here in Christchurch there is some inspiring work going on which encourages me to do my best also. While there is a lot of inspiring work going on which never makes the news, some of what my colleagues are doing is made visible via the media.

Yesterday Bishop Victoria Matthews wrote an excellent Opinion piece in the Press. In a context where people are asking whether fixing homes is receiving priority over the development of an exciting inner city plan, while others are pressing for expenditure of mega-bucks to save the cathedral at almost any cost, she argues that people's immediate needs must be prioritised while not losing sight of the goal of developing a city which is beautiful. With particular respect to the cathedral, +Victoria writes,

"Again we are reminded of the ministry of beauty in the midst of grim circumstances. We want to be inspired and invited to glimpse something beyond the human vista. The Anglican Church is committed to a renewed ancient vision for the cathedral in the Square.We want something that will lift hearts to heaven both as people look on the exterior and when they enter the interior. But we do not believe it is faithful stewardship to do this at a cost of $100 million when people are living in cars and using chemical toilets.
Glory is not given to God by turning our back on human need. The new cathedral will embody mission as well as beauty."

Today in the Press are two reports featuring the work of colleagues as they work on the needs of people.

Tessa Laing, a researcher with our Diocese's Social Justice Unit, which works out of Theology House (I am proud to say), is pressing for the development of housing to replace affordable accommodation lost through the earthquakes:

"Tessa Laing, a researcher from the Anglican diocese's social justice unit, said government incentives were needed to encourage a mix of housing types in the area. These could be rental subsidies, low-cost loans or grants to landlords.
"If the market follows its natural course, we'll see these people squeezed out and shoved to the outskirts of the city where they will have no support," she said.Laing said landlords at the meeting were keen to make the concept work, and many had a good conscience towards disadvantaged tenants. She hoped the council and Government would be supportive.
The blocks between Fitzgerald Ave and Madras, Kilmore and Hereford streets were vital, but the zone could extend as far as Stanmore Rd, she said."

Mike Coleman, a clerical colleague and popular spokesperson for citizens with damaged homes for whom the repair process is not working, has led a protest about the slowness of making urgent repairs to the worst homes:
"Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network (WeCan) spokesman Mike Coleman, who led the protest, said the weather was "a bit like living in your homes - wet, damp, cold, unhealthy".
Holding a picture of an elderly woman, whose face was bruised from repeated falls in her twisted Southshore house, Coleman said her plight was "desperate".
"This woman should have her house fixed next week," he said."

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, the "TC3" properties are those which are badly damaged but which the authorities have not deemed to be "red zone". Badly damaged TC3 properties need land issues under the houses sorted before repairs are made. That means the owners (unless wealthy enough to have a second home) have to soldier on in a broken house while the geo-techs and engineers work out what to do to fix the land.

It is impressive to see these colleagues speaking 'truth to power' in the pursuit of justice and also of beauty!

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