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Methodist Church Blog

26 Jun 2020

Dear friends

 

How are you settling into your Alert Level 1 new normal?

 

If you are feeling anxious or unsettled please let someone know. While we can gain much peace in prayer we also have additional agencies and people available to help guide you to healing. You are also reminded that if you are struggling you can talk to your Presbyter or to one of the caring agencies listed in the attached advisory. Presbyters and Deacons you are not immune to stress. If you are in a Stationed appointment you can access EAP, the details are also in the attached advisory.

 

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

 

This week we also answered a query about the safety of holding funerals in small churches. It is reasonable to expect that the new COVID cases in New Zealand are leaving people feeling unsettled however it is OK that we continue using our buildings as we normally would. Just place additional emphasis on keeping people informed of how we can be safe together.

 

Continue taking your time to rejoin the new normal if you need it. Vahefonua Tonga o Aotearoa have made a decision to continue to meet on-line during June. Not only have Vahefonua found significant blessing in meeting together in this way they want to be careful to ensure the well being of their members. It is a strong decision to make at a time when people can agitate into wanting to be back to normal.

 

Most weekends our grandaughters visit for a few hours. It was tough during lockdown only being able to wave over the fence. We cycled to their house on Saturdays and dropped off a parcel full of goodies. Last Saturday our house was filled with laughter and fun again. We played hide and seek; almost-three year olds have a unqiue way of thinking they are hidden, made lots of crumbs eating afternoon tea and discovered a large bag of dominos. The game not the pizza.

 

As we reconnect we cannot help but be aware of the on-going effects in most of the rest of the world. My prayer is that as we are able we reach out in practical support. Christian World Service have a Corona Virus appeal. I commend it to you.  https://cws.org.nz/what-we-do/emergencies/coronavirus-emergency-appeal/

 

We have also received a letter from the Methodist Church in Fiji seeking financial assistance after Cyclone Harold caused significant damage on February 20th. Donations can be sent to the Connexional office. Contact Debbie Sykes for bank details for electronic transactions Debbies@methodist.org.nz

 

The kindest advice I have heard this week to overcome distrust is

'act like you are the one with COVID-19 when you are out and about, and not everyone else.'

 

And finally, something else to look forward to. Next week we will be sharing an invitation to join a webinar for Future Church, Different Church, Ready Church. Click here to find out more.

11 Jun 2020

Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa,
Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13: 8 NSRV)

It is always difficult to say farewell to someone who has continuously served the church with love. President Setaita has reluctantly accepted the resignation of Ex-President, Rev Prince Devanandan. Prince concludes his ministry in Te Haahi Weteriana as Director Mission and Ecumenical on the 30th June this year. He leaves us to take up a new ministry position at Ponsonby Anglican Parish.

Prince with the support of his wife Ramani has served the Methodist Church of New Zealand for seventeen years. He has offered leadership in the Waitakere and Pakuranga parishes, connexional leadership as Synod Superintendent Manukau Synod, Director of Mission and Ecumenical and as President 2016-2018.

Prince has always tried to ensure young people of the church have opportunities for leadership and education in our church but also in the ecumenical setting. He is known for his passion for justice. He has been a mentor and advisor not only to many young people but other connexional leaders. He has supported our overseas partners.

A farewell was held for Prince yesterday, Thursday 11th June at 409 Great South Road. Ex-Vice President Viv Whimster was unable to be present but sent this heartfelt tribute to Prince.

"Prince, we have appreciated your capacity for hard work, your concern for justice, your commitment and abilities and interest in what is going on beyond our own boundaries nationally and ecumenically. Those attributes are all part of being Methodist. It is also important to recognise the loyal support of Ramani that has made it possible for you to give so much. Thank you for the leadership you offered as President - I valued the opportunity to work with you on the Presidential Team as we shared the celebrations and challenges that came with the role. We will miss you from Te Hahi but know that your contribution has made a difference to who we are and that the values you hold and the God whom we serve will maintain your connection with us."

President Setaita and ex-President Prince have since training at Trinity/St John's Theological College travelled together in ministry. Vice President Nicola also worked alongside Prince for a period on the Board of Lifewise and Methodist Mission Northern. Prince has remained on those boards offering his wisdom and expertise. We add our thanks to Prince for his guidance and help over our term of office. Prince has always been available to listen, to offer words of wisdom and to support. We will miss him and his contribution to our Church. Thank you, Prince for your collegiality, support and love. Thank you Ramani for your quiet contribution and support of Prince.

We offer you our love, support and prayers as you take this next step in your ministry journey.

'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui.

Setaita and Nicola

Rev Neti Petaia's devotion this week is about love. Thank you Neti for your reflection.


If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

1 Corinthians 13:1 (NIS)

These are Paul's words written in the context of a conversation about the different gifts of the Spirit. For many Corinthian Christians speaking in tongues is the most significant of gifts causing them to become prideful about their ability to speak in tongues. However, Paul says "I would like everyone one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather you have [the gift of] prophesy". For in prophesy one speaks to the world for the world's strengthening, encouragement and comfort. This seems a poetic justice for these spiritual gifts which have been gifted freely, often unexpectedly, often in quite ordinary times and circumstance.

This relates to Paul's understanding of Grace which pertains to an unconditional love. It is worth noting that in Paul's letter, he uses the Greek word for love - 'agape'. Unlike the Greek words 'eros' and 'philia' which refer to passionate and friendly love, 'agape' refers to a selfless love. It is a self-giving love that gives without demand or payment. It is a love so great that it can be given to the unlovable or unappealing. It is love that loves even when it is rejected.

Agape gives, because it wants to; it does not love in order to receive. Paul's words are addressed to individual like ourselves, in a Christian community in this particular place and time. Agape is what Jesus demands of us (Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10: 27) when he said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

The recent events in the world and the situation in America should cause us to pause and be reminded again of these words of Paul to the church in Corinth. With the epidemic taking hold and uncontrollable in various parts of the world, multiplicity of languages has emerged. Most noted are the languages of 'wealth and health'. The global economy for most was far more important than human lives. 

And if Covid-19 wasn't enough, the world was forced to face its greatest disease. This being systemic racism, police brutality, the miscarriage of justice and the continued oppression of Black Lives. We live in a world where love is not as important as it should be. Love is absent and the language of love is silent in leadership and governance. The language of power and personal gratification, inflammatory language of fear and domination is deafening.

While a loud noise can serve a purpose, constant loud noises merely irritate and distract. We are all graced with gifts – whether it be protesting, advocating, listening or preaching. But what good is our gifts, if we don't practise the same love, with which it was given to us? In times of crisis the language of love must and should remain audible. Love is the lens that allow us to see through and beyond division. Love is the catalyst that brings unity and oneness, it allows our prejudices, individualism, sexism, racism, ageism and so on to be exterminated.

Love brings healing when the wounds are deep and the hurt is unbearable. Love sees beyond the wrongs and missteps, love seeks connections and renew relationships, love always looks to the future and does not continue to dwell in the past. Love transforms old and outdated ideas and brings freshness and life anew.

The essence of what God expects of us is love. This is not just any love. It is the same love which God has demonstrated toward us. This is obviously very important for us if we want to be disciples of Jesus, to be claimed as one of His.
We need to understand what this love is and be committed to live it. True love never gives up: in the words of Paul "it never ends" (1 Cor 13.8). In this time and season of Pentecost, may the Spirit that the church received on its birthday continue to live fresh and alive in our hearts.

May we and our lives demonstrate the love God had shown us through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev Neti Petaia

Rotorua Methodist Church 


Prayer for this week

God of wisdom and delight,

Fill us with open-eyed wonder

To see and believe that you are working for good

In our fearful, anxious, plague filled, hungry and busy world.

Keep us noticing signs of birth,

And help us tend what is new and fragile

To bring it to fullness.

Sharpen our wit in the face of evil

So that resurrection has the last word.

In the name of the Resurrected Christ

 

Amen.

5th June 2020

Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa, 

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1: 27).

In a week that has been dominated with news from the USA and anti-racism protests around the world we add our voices – we say no to racism – black lives matter. We also express our disagreement of the use of religious symbols to legitimise a political point that goes against the teachings of Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German pastor, theologian, martyr, spy was asked in 1943 how it was possible for the Church to sit back and let Hitler seize absolute power. His firm answer: "It was the teaching of cheap grace." 

"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). The actions we have seen this week imply that we live in a time and culture that not only teaches cheap grace but praises it.

Humans are given dominion, not domination, we are caregivers, not exploiters. We do unto creation as God has done unto us; we express love and care toward the world and each other. When we do not love, we destroy God's image within us. When we hate, use violence (physical, emotional and verbal) kill, disregard our fellow humans and discard - we are destroying God's image. 

While the focus this week has been on the USA, we are very aware of the need to look at ourselves. Our own history of colonization and systems that continue to perpetuate injustice particularly for our indigenous people, for people from the Pacific and migrant people - both within our society and within our church. 

We also need to reflect on our own individual actions and responses. Author Ibram X Kendi, in his book - How to be an Antiracist asks "What's the problem with being 'not racist?" His response to his question is "It is a claim that signifies neutrality: 'I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.' But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. …One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of 'not racist. The claim of 'not racist' neutrality is a mask for racism." 

The social principles of our church remind us that as disciples, we recognise God's loving presence among all peoples at all times. We rejoice in the love of God which empowers us in our struggle towards justice and unity. We believe that Christ leads us to affirm the dignity and worth of every human being. 

We acknowledge and thank Rev Robyn Allen-Goudge for the reflection she has offered us this week. We say – No to racism – to live, to love, to breathe, to be, is basic for every one of us. As we potentially move to level one next week, we urge everyone to be kind to one another, and to save lives.

'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui. 

Setaita and Nicola 


"Breathe" 

By Robyn Allen Goudge 

So when the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus repeated, "Peace be with you!' and said, "As the Father sent me, so I send you." Then he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit!" John 20: 20-21 

"I can't breathe!"
The final words of a man pinned down -
Humiliated, oppressed, murdered. 

I watch from the distance of TV or internet,
But this craving for air, a space to breathe freely, I recognise.
To live, to love, to breathe, to be,
Is basic to every one of us. 

For covid-19 sufferers around the world,
Every breath of air is also precious and necessary.
For some, by the time a ventilator is connected,
It is already too late. 

This craving for air, a space to breathe freely, we all recognise.
To live, to love, to breathe, to be,
Is basic to every one of us. 

Yet still the ancient words of Cain
Reverberate down the millennia,
"Am I my brother's keeper?"
What's it got to do with me? 

Can I be honest about the ways I have smothered the breath of others?
In my scramble to get what I want, have I pushed others aside and taken in more than my fair share?
What selfishness, superiority, indifference or racism is in me?
Can I put aside my own rights and privilege to ensure that others can freely breathe? 

From Ihumatao, to Hawera, In Aotearoa,
Australia and across the Pacific,
The same cry is heard -
For air, for space to breathe freely,
To live, to love, to breathe, to be. 

Yes! I have a duty of care!
To keep the peace, but even more,
To be a positive peace maker, a peace creator, a peace breather. 

For the same breath, the same air, flows from your lungs into mine, and out again to another's.
As the breath of the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters of creation,
So the breath of the Holy Spirit gives life to every living being.
This good Spirit has no colour, no race, no bias, no prejudice.
It seeks to "infect" all it touches with the blessing of the Spirit of love.
There is no 'social distancing' with the breath of the Spirit.
I can pass it on to others with a clear conscience!
Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat! 

Covid-19. Level 2 V4

Dear friends

Over the past week I have fielded questions over the new Alert Level 2 rules and gatherings of up to 100.

People have found it difficult to find answers because the website is still broken and only some aspects of the site can be updated. However, we still have a large amount of information that we have to work through!

I feel for us all at this time. It is a huge balancing act to transform the changes and guidelines into actions suitable for our church environments and yet still maintain a healthy state of mind when obstacles present themselves on our journey forward.

With that in mind, and even though we are likely to only have a few more days at Alert Level 2, one document of all the Alert Level 2 guidelines has been distributed via email. This has been put together with relevant input from the governments COVID-19 team, but have been particularly focused on the challenges we might face that the COVID-19 team might not be aware of.

Early next week Draft Level 1 guidelines will be made available.

Kia Kaha. Kia manawanui. Me ora tatau.

Please contact healthandsafety@methodist.org.nz if you require any copies.

Yours in peace, grace, ongoing kindness and the hope of everlasting patience.

Presidents Blog 28 May 2020

Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa, 

"About three in the morning, as we were continuing in instant prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, in so much that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from the awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, 'We praise thee, O God; we acknowledge thee to be the Lord." John Wesley's Journal, January 1, 1739 

Last Sunday was Wesley Sunday. This time last year we agreed to take part in Wesley Day celebrations in Waikato/Waiariki Synod. Of course we had no idea that in order to do this we would be preparing videos for people to watch rather than travelling to be with the people of the synod. This challenged us greatly as we tried to work out how best to do things, like everyone else who has been doing exactly the same. 

The quote from Wesley's journal which Rev Setaita used in her address for Wesley Day, reminds us not only of the ministry of John Wesley and his influence in the world, but also of the power of the Holy Spirit as we celebrate Pentecost this Sunday. As we celebrate Pentecost it is our hope that the power which John Wesley experienced will be upon us as we listen to what the spirit is saying to us and as we engage in this season in a very different way. As Rev Uesifili notes in his reflection this week, when we take time to listen and wait, we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the power which empowers us to live according to what we are called to do in this time, in this context and in this season. 

As we continue in our work – whether it is in meetings via zoom, in getting our buildings ready for occupancy, or working with those who are struggling with the realities of life, we pray that you will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue to do the work the of God in this place, to be the voice of the powerless, to reflect the transforming love of God in the world around us. 

From its inception, the Methodist movement was a Spirit-born resurgence of scriptural Christianity. Charles Wesley penned these words for Pentecost. 

"Holy Ghost, no more delay; Come, and in thy temple stay: Now thine inward witness bear, Strong, and permanent, and clear: Spring of life, thyself impart; Rise eternal in my heart.".

 John Wesley also reminded us that to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be a Living portrait of Christ. Let us be be living portraits of Christ as we embrace this season of Pentecost.

'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui. Setaita and Nicola