Monday, January 23, 2017

Sunshine and rain for inauguration ... and I have been thinking

On one thing Kiwis are currently united: we are having a terrible summer!

Apparently there was an inauguration somewhere else in the world but local Anglican attention was on the inauguration of a new episcopal ministry in the South Island of NZ (Te Wai Pounamu).

Saturday was overcast but not dull which was good for an outdoor powhiri (formal welcome) and consecration service for Richard Wallace at Onuku, Akaroa Harbour. Taonga article here and my personal pic below.

Yesterday was one of our worst days: rain, more rain and a washed out day of test cricket here in Christchurch. And, by the sounds of it, not great weather for an otherwise excellent installation service for +Richard Wallace at Te Hepara Pai, Christchurch. Taonga article here. (No pic from me because I was preaching elsewhere in the city).*

All in all a good start to this new chapter for the mission of Anglican Maori on this island.

Natch I keep thinking during weekends such as this one past about our mission generally as Anglicans, and especially in the localities of the South Island where I have lived most of my life and served nearly all my years as an ordained minister.

Both Maori and Pakeha have huge challenges as we move deeper into the 21st century. Simply put, we have a challenge connecting with our communities. The challenge is highlighted by attendance numbers. Even though it is difficult, if not impossible, to get a full, statistically satisfying set of numbers, no sets of figures I see, nor discussions I have with those who do what research is possible on these numbers concludes anything other than this:

we are not connecting with our communities as we once did and, with the exceptions of parishes/rohe here and there, we are not showing signs of of turning that tendency around.

(See also this related post).

I have described things in the words above because I think "connecting" is a helpful word to describe what is not happening (when we see numbers declining) as well as to explain what is happening when we do see numbers rising. Growing churches connect with their communities (that is, a local, residential surrounding community or a community of interest (Gen X, Y, etc or families or a group identifiable by race/culture/nationality). Declining churches rightly discuss how they can better connect with their community and feel some despair at not knowing how to make that better connection.

I also see in some churches, where congregational attendance is falling, that "connecting" within the existing church community has become challenging. (That may be as simple as working on greater relevancy for sermons or it may be much more complex re the tide of secularism washing people slowly but surely out of the orbit of the church family).

Anyway, I am not going to resolve these matters in this post but I write to acknowledge the challenge we Anglicans Down Under continue to face as we move into this particular year. It is a greater challenge than the You Know What issue.**

*Incidentally, our local Christchurch Press today, reporting on the two events of the weekend, mixes up the installation with the consecration and throws in another mistake or two ... ecclesiastical reporting is not what it used to be.

**On that matter, there have been some bits and bobs of things Anglican (here and abroad) happening since I last mentioned it on this blog but for now I note only this latest Canterbury letter to the Primates.


Anonymous said...

From what I have experienced, seen, and heard from other people, one of the contributing factors is the culture of the parish. Is it an inward facing culture or an outward facing culture? In other words, to what degree is it focused on the internal life within the parish, and to what degree does it try to connect with the community it exists within?

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

The tide of secularism washing people slowly but surely out of the orbit of the [Anglican] church family is the same tide that is washing SSB into the church, which is the same tide that will wash orthodox Anglicans out of the church.

I read the ABC’s letter you linked to. He states:

“There is no other boat than the church, because only there do we find the presence of Jesus and only from the boat are we able to witness to the Kingdom of God. Even in the fiercest storm the safest place to be is in the boat, where Jesus is.”

This is a very insular and narrow perspective of God at work in the world. If Jesus presence is only to be found in the Church, and that is the only place to witness the Kingdom of God at work, then what hope for the lost? What hope for Christians at work in the marketplace; what hope for Britain and the world?

It seems that concern for the ‘boat’ and for the reputation of the Monarchy has forced the resignation of Queens Chaplain the Rev Canon Gavin Ashenden. He had the temerity to point out the inappropriateness of Koranic readings at a Eucharistic service in the Glasgow Cathedral.

Without any sense of irony, the Church of England stumbles towards a gay, Islamic, all-inclusive future, while rejecting those leaders who seek to uphold the faith as it was handed down to us by our forebears.

Glen Young said...

You are spot on Brendan.At 70+ years of age, I see the Anglican Church as having no relevance to my Spiritual Journey.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Glen

Well that’s encouraging – we do get wiser with age!

In my worst moments, I view the Anglican church as an anachronism. Take for example the picture that Peter has included in this post; it is but one example of what I’m referring to.

Who dresses like that today?

When you are immersed in Church culture, and have been most of your life, it all looks so normal, so every day, so routine. But many of my friends would ask ‘don’t those people have any ordinary clothes’? Don’t they suspect that dressing like that might just distance them somewhat from Kiwi’s living in their community?

But you see, they don’t live in ‘their’ community. For the most part they live in an insular self-reinforcing community and then worry about how they can cross the cultural divide to reach the secular community.

As I say, all these thoughts in my worst moments.

There are redemptive elements of course, things we can and do still celebrate, but I am concerned that we are blind to those things that set us apart (for the wrong reasons), and wonder (in my more reflective moments) if we have the will or the insight to address them.

I spent many years in Pentecostal churches, and at one point I stopped inviting my non-Christian friends because I needed to first explain so much to them about what went on that the cultural divide was too great. I concluded that they needed to fall in love with Jesus first, and then find the grace to ‘fit in’.

It’s the same although less so with Anglican Church. Yes, it’s more predictable, but what’s with the robes? I get ‘sharing the peace’ but again I’m explaining… These are cultural activities that only have meaning (if at all) for those in the boat, and form an unnecessary barrier to those outside.

Father Ron said...

Well Glen, in contrast to your sad news, I can rejoice in thr fact that, at 87 year of age, I am still active as a priest in a lively liturgical parish in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand. I guess a lively faith is God's gift to all who believe in the power of Christ to overcome our human prejudice and weaknesses when we are willing spread the Good New of his love for ALL people.
Jesus did say: "They'll know you're my diciples by your love!"

Andrei said...

"In my worst moments, I view the Anglican church as an anachronism. Take for example the picture that Peter has included in this post; it is but one example of what I’m referring to.

Who dresses like that today?"

Answer: Anglican Bishops in liturgical settings

You could look at surgeons in an operating theatre and they dress for that place

And police wear uniforms as do the military, ambulance officers and officers on merchant ships when conducting official business.

In Catholic and Orthodox countries the clergy usually wear clerical garb in the street, they are the visible presence of the Church in society when they do this

I sometimes tease our host that he should wear a cassock when doing Church business - he doesn't go for it

The funny thing about the 21st century west is the only people you will see wearing the roman collar are ordained female Anglicans or "Catholic wimen priests".

On the other hand you might enjoy browsing the post on this now defunct blog

Anonymous said...

"I see the Anglican Church as having no relevance to my Spiritual Journey."

Parts of it have relevance to me, parts of it don't, and some parts I question as to whether or not they are Christian anymore at all.

Realistically I'm not sure we can speak of THE Anglican church. Episcopal unity hides, though not very well, the hard truth that the AC has become so radically divided that it's really not a single Church anymore. What was once unity with some diversity has become anarchy.

But the situation is not hopeless. There are encouraging signs of spiritual health and revival.

Andrei said...

Blessed are the peacemakers

Anonymous said...

"the Good New of his love for ALL people. Jesus did say: "They'll know you're my diciples by your love!""

Liberal Christian ministers bless new Planned Parenthood facility and it's "sacred work" of killing little babies.

Not a lot of "love for ALL" going on there.

Andrew Reid said...

Not adding anything substantial to this debate but just wanted to say what an absolute gem of a place Akaroa is! If I was being consecrated a bishop I oucldn't think of a nicer place. We did a day trip there when visiting NZ a number of years back and it has stunning scenery and lovely local shops. Well worth a visit if you're in Christchurch :)

Father Ron said...

In consonance with Andrei's latest post here; may I, Peter, append the following comment from today's Jesuit 3-minute retreat site:

"Baptism is the beginning of a faith journey that grows and matures over the course of our lives. The gift of faith we receive allows us to love God without ever having seen him. Our belief in the salvation promised us is what drives us to live in hope and to be witnesses of Christ’s presence among us. Joy is a sign of that presence. It is a mark of a Christian. Love and joy are Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Love and joy also help sustain us through difficult times as we work to attain the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls".

If ever our Faith, the fruit of Christian Baptism, were needed, it is surely at this juncture in the history of our world. At a time when crass vested interests and commerialism takes control of the U.S. Presidency, one must surely believe that God has the power and the will to ameliorate any malign influences that can deplete the faith of the true believer.

We must cease from wingeing and get around to the realisation that (with Mother Julian, of Norwich) "All shall be well; all manner of things shall be well" - not necessarily because of Mr. Trump, but maybe despite him.

"Give me joy in my heart keep me singing, give me joy in my heart I pray; give me joy in my heart keep me singing, keep me singing till the break of day" - Pentecostal mantra (Vineyard-like?).

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron
I am not sure of the provenance of "Give me joy in my heart" but I have been singing that song for over 50 years so it long predates the Vineyard churches; and the circles in which I was introduced to it were not Pentecostal, though they were evangelical!

Glen Young said...

Yes Brendan,the news that the English Bishops are considering a proposal that they do not insist upon priest who are not in a orthodox marriage, remaining celibate;was the final nail in the coffin of the Anglican Church for me.It seems apparent that they have "left their First Love."

Anonymous said...

"At a time when crass vested interests and commerialism takes control of the U.S. Presidency"

No Ron, they lost the Presidency. The vested interests backed Clinton, Rubio, Bush and Graham. Wall Street, the mainstream media, and the rich donor class, opposed Trump fiercely. Seriously, you could not get a better example of vested interests than Clinton's backers.

Whether you agree or disagree with Trump or his policies, it is a fact that his victory was a victory of ordinary people fed up with the rich elites in both parties. It was a victory of the forgotten rural poor, the struggling middle class, and the working class fed up with the vested interests shipping their jobs to Mexico and China.

The vested interests lost.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Trump against the vested interests, the TPP trade deal is now officially dead.

'President Trump Kills TPP Once and for All with Executive Order Officially Withdrawing'

"As President Trump signed the executive action killing the TPP, he announced for the cameras in the oval office that it was a “great thing for the American worker, what we just did.”"

A lot of crass vested interests, namely Wall Street, bankers, and global corporations, will not be happy. American workers will be.

Father Ron said...

"A lot of crass vested interests, namely Wall Street, bankers, and global corporations, will not be happy. American workers will be." - Shawn -

The proof of the pudding will surely be in the eating, Shawn. Let's just wait and see what ACTUALLY happens with the Trump Presidency. One can hope for an improvement in the life of the workers in the U.S., but surely, you cannot believe that the Trump empire will suffer in the process. I think the 'decadent' academics of the West (your term) will have sussed that out in Econ9omics 101.

Dear Peter. I, too, have sung that song - "Give me Joy in my heart" - for a long time. It has a very Franciscan flavour. I think a blend of the Catholic and the Charismatic in worship is the most satisfying. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom".

Anonymous said...

" Let's just wait and see what ACTUALLY happens with the Trump Presidency."

We can already see results Ron. The Carrier deal that he negotiated saved a thousand jobs for Rustbelt workers, and several other corporations, frightened by his willingness to name and shame them, have changed their plans and will be investing money and jobs in the US instead of Mexico. Along with killing the TPP this is reasonable evidence that his Presidency will be good for workers.

"but surely, you cannot believe that the Trump empire will suffer in the process."

Why should it? Doing good for American workers does not require his personal business to suffer. As President he won't be running it anyway, and there is zero evidence that he will profit from any policies he has advocated.

Anonymous said...


"President Donald Trump signed five executive actions Tuesday, moving forward the process to build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, pushing for the companies to use pipes manufactured in the United States."

"AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka praised GOP President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership once and for all on Monday with an executive order officially killing the Pacific Rim trade deal."

He also won praise from the president of the Teamsters Union. Both the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters unions are usually pro-Democrat.

"The CEO of Ford Motor Company, Mark Fields, praised Donald Trump for working to restore American manufacturing after his meeting at the White House with top auto executives on Tuesday morning.

“I think as an industry, we’re excited about working together with the president and his administration on tax policies, on regulation, and on trade to really create a renaissance in American manufacturing,” Fields told reporters after the meeting, according to the Detroit News."

Andrei said...

This is beyond satire in our "post truth world"

The man has been in Parliament longer than most New Zealanders have been alive, 37 years and achieved what?

Andrei said...

Oh dear I was guilty of a post truth statement in my last comment when I said the Hon P. Dunne has been in Parliament longer than most New Zealanders have been alive

The median age for New Zealanders is 38.0 years so mathematically speaking more New Zealanders were born before the Hon P. Dunne entered parliament than after

It is close to half though that were not born yet

Peter Carrell said...

Perhaps Andrei this is an instance of the phenomenon where it feels like someone has been doing X for longer than any of us has lived :)

Anonymous said...

"37 years and achieved what?"

He has achieved a great deal. First, there is....ummmm... I'm sure there is something.... wait.....nope, it's not coming to me.

Dunne's career has been about switching sides whenever it was convenient, and by convenient I mean when he could get a ministerial office and perks, and changing his opinions whenever that was convenient, for the same reason. His claim to believe in "reason" and "common sense" is a cover for the truth that he believes in nothing at all, other than keeping himself in Parliament.

He once brought a group of conservative Christians into his party and campaigned on a pro-family platform, then promptly dumped them and the platform when Labour offered him a job in return for his vote.

I did have a good laugh at the "open letter to Donald Trump" bit though. That was priceless. Does he seriously think Trump is going to read it? Or that he would care one bit about what Dunne thinks? I'm going to go out on a limb and say no to both.

BrianR said...

I knew Peter Dunne a little bit in the 70s in gatherings of the 'Young Christian Students' (YCS), an off-shoot of 'Young Christian Workers', a Catholic group founded by Belgian Cardinal Cardijn as a counter to socialism and communism in the 1930s. The YCS then was going decidedly leftwing and enthralled by Marxist rubbish from Brzail (Paulo Freire and 'conscientization'). We knew of Peter's political ambitions back then, as a postgrad student. He had always allied himself with the right of the Labour Party in the days when Labour (like the Democrats in the US) was still pro-life and happily appealed to the Irish Catholic working class. It doesn't look like the Cardijn vision has fared well. But Peter's still there. Life goes on - until it doesn't.

BrianR said...

Well, Shawn - it had never occurred to me before that the Honourable Member for Ohariu is also the Vicar of Bray! But give him his due: no one has done more for the cause of bow ties.