Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa,
As of midnight on Sunday, all of New Zealand moves to level 2 - those of us in Auckland can't wait. For the rest of the country, it means no change. This week Rev Michael Greer has reflected on the "new normal" and the impact of Covid-19. Michael rightly reminds us that "even in change, God is. That even in this moment, God is – today – and will be tomorrow. That our awareness of the divine in our life is never limited by time or any one event. God is in our past, our present and our future. That God is already in our future."

During this time of change we encourage us all to be strong in faith and be there for each other. We are all in this together. "Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing." (1 Thessalonians 5:11) NRSV

In Christchurch this week the court is hearing the impact statements of some of the victims of the March 15 2019 attack on the two Christchurch Mosques. The testimonies have been harrowing. However, what is apparent in some of these testimonies, is the strength of faith that many of the victims have.

Farid Ahmed (husband of one of the victims – Husna Ahmed), in his address at the service at Hagley Park last year said "A volcano has anger, fury, rage. It doesn't have peace. It has hatred, it burns itself within, and it burns it surroundings. I don't want to have a heart like this, and I believe no one does. I want a heart that is full of love and care, and full of mercy, and will forgive lavishly, because this heart doesn't want any more life to be lost. This heart doesn't like that any human being should go through the pain I have gone through. That's why I have chosen peace, love and I have forgiven." This powerful statement needs to stand alone. But Michael Greer reminds that God is ever present, even when we find it difficult to see. Jesus says in Luke 6:35 "love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return". In Farid's statement, we see this in action.

Today we pray for those who stood before a terrorist, for those whose lives changed forever on March 15, for those whose hearts are still broken, and the wound is fresh and for those who will never get their loved ones back. We are thinking of you. We stand with you, wherever we are. We pray that justice is served, in this life and the next.
'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui.

Setaita and Nicola

Once again over these past 10 days, all of us have had to rediscover a new "normal". Having stepped back from the constraints of Level 4, we had settled contentedly into the comparative freedoms of Level 1.

Suddenly – even here in New Zealand's seemingly far flung place in the world – community transmitted reinfection that has swept devastatingly through so many other countries, abruptly stopped us too, from our renewed routine of "being together".

To some degree or other, home has once again become workplace, telephone calls have had to substitute for the presence of family and other visitors. Cards, emails and letters have had to stand-in for first-hand news. Facetime, Zoom and Skype have had to substitute for "our being there". Our grief upon losing those we have loved, has been made even more challenging, more testing. Celebrations of life – some postponed from just weeks earlier – have once again been compromised, rescheduled.

Nor has the severity of restraint been confined to just one region or another. It's cast a very long shadow. It's not only our usual patterns of retail therapy that have been placed at social distance.

Worldwide, older persons, particularly those in more fragile health, have been the most vulnerable to this pandemic. Not surprisingly then, Level 2 constraints immediately meant the equivalent of Level 4 restrictions in rest homes and hospitals throughout New Zealand. For example, it's meant that here at WesleyCare in Christchurch, our chapel community has once again been dispersed back along the corridors; Chapel services are cancelled; social activities and interaction are severely curtailed; there can be no visitors except in the most necessary circumstances; and Chaplaincy becomes a vital and urgent pastoral care.

It's once again brought change. And although I'm loathe to admit it, change shakes my comfortable nest. I don't like things to change. I want to know exactly where I'm going. I have a place for everything and want everything in its place.

Change and uncertainty tends to make me gripe and grumble.

So it's left me wondering, is there anything permanent in life?

The answer is that in truth, I'm having to put my faith where my preaching and pastoral theology have been across the years. To remind myself that even in change, God is. That even in this moment, God is – today – and will be tomorrow. That our awareness of the divine in our life is never limited by time or any one event. God is in our past, our present and our future. That God is already in our future. That whatever change I go through and whatever upheaval confronts me, an awareness of the divine in my life is going to be there ahead of me.

Now how come I forgot that? Because it's a truth as old as time itself. How did that hymn put it?

Rock of ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee

Perhaps not exactly in the style of how we might state it in modern day conversation, I know. But there's an unarguable, enduring truth in those words. That when the winds of change seem to be blowing every which way and all is being uprooted, we do need a few rocks we can hang onto – and that the love and presence of God in our life is indeed, more than any other and in every circumstance, that rock.

Rev Michael Greer
Chaplain WesleyCare, Christchurch

Prayer for the moment

For all whose hearts are troubled
be the voice that they hear,
the warmth that they feel,
the wisdom they seek,
the strength they require,
and the one in whose arms they rest.
     Embrace us in a love that knows no end. 
          Fill us with a power that overcomes.
               Encourage us with a word that nourishes.
                    Inspire us with a hope that sustains.
                        Comfort us with a peace that endures
                            and at day's end, bring us safely to rest.