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Methodist Church Blog

27/8/20

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.


 

19 Aug 20

Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa, 

God is not unjust he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people (Hebrews 6:10) 

   
This week we honour Rev Andrea Williamson who died on the 9th August. Andrea will be known to many people around the church and the community. Her tribute records the roles she has fulfilled in her ministry both as a lay leader and then as a presbyter. 

The end of the tribute gives thanks for Andrea as a courageous, wise lady who was a beacon of hope for those who at times find it difficult to put their trust in God. The Methodist Church of New Zealand will miss her, we will miss her vibrancy, her joy of life, her passion and compassion for people. Both of us have worked alongside Andrea in different capacities. Her verve for life and enjoyment of life is something we will remember of her. We offer to Peter and their family our love and prayers. We pray that you will be conscious of God's peace at those times when you miss Andrea the most, and that you will know the presence of Christ in the days ahead. 

A memorial service for Andrea will be held sometime in the future due to the lockdown restrictions. Unfortunately, the re-emergence of Covid-19 in the community has sent those of us in Auckland back to level 3 restrictions and the rest of you to level 2. During this week President Setaita has been meeting daily with the Ministry of Pacific People and the office of the Prime Minister to work with other Pacific leaders to ensure that those most vulnerable in our community have up to date information, along with the social support they need. 

 

While going back into lockdown has been disappointing, we are once again reminded that we have been warned to take the advice of medical professionals and scientists rather than those advocating conspiracy theories. Also please note the material prepared on our behalf from the connexional office relating to safe practice in our churches. Please everyone stay safe – wash your hands, stay home if you are sick, get tested if you show any symptoms of Covid-19 and look after yourself, your family and your neighbours. 

'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui. 

Setaita and Nicola 

We thank Peter who has allowed us to share this video prepared for Andrea's funeral.


Andrea Joan Williamson 

The funeral and celebration of the life of Rev Andrea Williamson was to have been held on Friday August 14th. Covid-19 restrictions allowed the family to share a brief farewell on Wednesday morning. A memorial service will be advised when we are able to gather again. 

The death of Andrea Williamson on 9 August 2020 just a few days after her 65th birthday brought to a close a varied and vibrant ministry in both Church and community. 

Andrea was born in Preston, Lancashire, England. Her father, an assisted immigrant, worked for the Post Office, settling in Howick and worshipping initially at Howick and then later at Pakuranga Methodist. It was here, aged 12 that Andrea met Peter who was to be her future husband. Peter Williamson was at that time a member of the local Baptist Church. 

Andrea's faith was real and vital. She truly enjoyed her walk with God which had come alive through participation in an ecumenical 'Life in the Spirit' Seminar. Andrea's life was to be characterised by the desire to "walk in the Spirit"

Ministry was through the lay led early service at Pakuranga, participation in the Lay Witness Programme of World Methodist Evangelism, and most importantly as 'parents' of a rapidly growing Bible Class. 

Andrea formally trained as a counsellor when their adopted children were old enough, and began to broaden her practice into spiritual direction and ministry supervision. Participation in TELM (Training Equipping for Lay Ministry) proved to be foundational and hugely important. It was the genesis of moving Andrea's work as a counsellor from 'job' to 'ministry'. 

In 2001, Andrea was inducted as Vice President alongside the late President Rev Aso Samoa Saleopolu. To understand the significance, this was a time of uncertainty and conflict in the Church as many had left the Church due to the Conference decision to accept Gay and Lesbian persons into ordained ministry. Andrea was a member of the Aldersgate Fellowship and an executive member of the Evangelical Network. Conference saw in Andrea a person who could address the conflict. Andrea was very proud to have that trust and saw her ministry as helping to 'still' the conflict and restore relationships. 

In the three years following her VP term Andrea was asked to act as a Co-facilitator of the Tauiwi meeting at Conference. A daunting task, but one where she gained the trust and co-operation of the members. 

When Peter responded to the call to ordained ministry Andrea provided the support of a Lay person with the particular role of making sure the music used in worship was diverse. 

The move from Christchurch to Whangarei brought new opportunities with a Chaplaincy position at North Haven Hospice. Andrea experienced a profound sense of call – she truly enjoyed the role and felt that she had discovered her life's work. 

At the time they moved to Papakura, Andrea received the diagnosis of advanced cancer, with potentially limited life expectancy. The opportunity arose to be a Chaplain for Counties Manukau Police District. This became the next love of her life. She loved the Police, their sense of humour, and the energy of the role. On 21 July 2020, she was presented with an award recognising Andrea's "dedicated service as our Police Chaplain and our beloved friend". 

Andrea's call to ordained ministry caused her intense struggle. She had been diagnosed with cancer, and wondered how to respond. Her ordination in 2014 was in the face of a period of poor health. The effectiveness of her ministry and Chaplaincy proved the call to be valid. 

The Church surrounds Peter, their two adopted children Anna and Rachel (and their birth mothers and families) and their 3 grandchildren with prayer and care. We give thanks for a courageous, wise lady who was a beacon of hope for those who at times find it difficult to put their trust in God. 


Prayer for this week
Loving God,
We are mindful of those of our church family
who have lost loved ones this week.
We pray for all who are grieving, suffering, lonely, and who feel abandoned.
We give thanks to you for love that
Gives us life and holds us through the hard days.
We give thanks for friends who share our joys and sorrows
Thanks be to you God
For the hope of your son
Jesus Christ.
Amen.


06 Aug 20

Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa,
"Be kind and compassionate to one another" - Ephesians 4.32

It is a busy part of the church year at the moment. This weekend Synods meet. In a few weeks' time Tauiwi Strategy and then Tauiwi Stationing will be meeting, to be followed closely by Council of Conference.

At the same time, we have a general election and people are trying to come to terms with policies on offer as well as to determine how they will vote on the two referendums.

We are pleased to see that some parishes are intending to hold events focussing on the referendums. However, we encourage you to look at the website for the Interchurch Bio Ethics Council. They have some helpful resources for individuals and parishes. You can also find some information on the electoral commission website.

We are now well into this year's election cycle and the gloves are off. Each political party trying to convince us that they have the answers to our problems. Election year is not normally known to be a year in which we see the kindness or compassion of politics displayed.

However, over the last three years there have been times when the parties came together in unity – following the mosque massacre in March 2019 is a good example. The Speaker Trevor Mallard organised an inter-faith ceremony as an expression of unity and grief. Then earlier this year the house came together in a sense of unity of purpose as the country moved into lockdown in March.

It is always easy to denigrate our politicians and others we don't like or have a different view from us. In her recent farewell speech to Parliament Amy Adams noted to those remaining in Parliament "Do the right thing and let the politics take care of itself. Be brave. Stand up on the divisive issues and never lose sight of the difference you are able to make in the time you have." Good advice, and also good advice for us in the church.

Before he left New Zealand, Rev Dr Trevor Hoggard wrote in a blog for us that "New Life in Christ is supposed to make a real, visible difference to our behaviour with other parties." This applies not only as we assess which political party we would like to govern New Zealand, and how we perceive them, but also how we operate within the Church.

Trevor went on to say "speaking the truth in love is an essential foundation for any relationship – that means having the courage to say respectfully what we truly think rather than put on an act of apparent compliance with the status quo only to undermine everything behind the scenes."

Our current Prime Minister is known around the world for her compassion and kindness. On the 31st July media noted that our Prime Minister was noted as the world's most eloquent leader. Whether we agree with this or not, the article noted that "Jacinda Ardern employs an empathetic leadership style. She challenges the common perception that emotional communication shows weakness, instead choosing to approach her public with a softer touch".

In both this article and in Amy Adams farewell speech to Parliament we see compassion and kindness as a virtue and something to which we all (we hope) aspire to achieve.

In a world where kindness seems to be disappearing fast, particularly in political debate, kindness should be what we seek as part of leadership of our country, in our church life, in all our lives.

God has entrusted us to be the body of Christ – the hands and feet through which God's work is done in the world. God does not work alone, but through people – all of us. To follow Jesus is to express our faith in concrete acts of love, justice, compassion, and kindness.

As we participate in this year's election, in our Synod meetings this weekend, in our churches and everyday lives – let us remember the ways in which our lives are an expression of following Jesus.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4: 32 (NIV)

'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui.

Setaita and Nicola


 
 Prayer for this week 

Almighty God,

we are reminded again of your call to be one people,

the body of Christ united in faith, working together.

Forgive the divisions we allow to come amongst us

our lack of kindness for each other

our blindness to one another's needs

our reluctance to become involved meaningfully.

Give us a true concern for all,

a genuine awareness of the wider fellowship to which we belong

a real openness to each other

and a deep and sincere love for your people everywhere.

In your name we pray,

Amen.

31 Jul 20

Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa,
Oh how loved are we!
"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8: 35-39

These days we have all had to experience some type of disconnect from people and places. Whether it is a separation from the work place of from the classroom or from friends and family. It has been an ordeal, to say the least. For many there has been the very difficult situation of being apart from loved ones who are sick. We have likely all seen the heart-breaking images of individuals keeping their distance and looking in on a family member or friends through a window – so as not to potentially spread any disease or get it from someone else.

For believers, separation from others in the family of faith has its own difficulties too. We draw special strength from gathering together in the Name of Jesus (see 1 Thessalonians 5: 10-11; Hebrews 10: 24-25; Colossians 3: 16).

In the Apostles' Creed, we speak of "the holy Christian church, the communion of saints," which gives us spiritual uplift and fellowship with one another. You may have noticed in your own life how the recent suspension of church services has impacted your faith in some ways. How good it is to know that there is nothing that can come between Jesus and His love for us. Whatever life brings our way-trials, persecution, a worldwide virus-we are secure in God's embracing and unchangeable love for God's people. God has made that plainly known to us by sending The Son to save us from our sins. Jesus came specifically to bridge the distance that separated us from God. Having taken on our flesh and blood, God entered our world for the sole purpose of bringing us back to our God so that, never again, will we be separated from God.

As we continue to deal with the persistent threat of this virus all be it in less seriousness than other countries, may we lay hold of the riches God has given to us. God has reconciled us to Himself (see 2 Corinthians 5:18); God has given us all things we need to live a godly life (see 2 Peter 1:3); and God promises to be with us always (see Hebrews 13:5). These are the things God has done for us, God's children, people who can in no way be separated from the God who loves them.

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

Congratulations Rev Kalolo Fihaki
We offer our congratulations to Rev Kalolo Fihaki on being awarded the Queen Service Medal for services to the Tongan community. Kalolo is the Convenor of Vahefonua Tonga Methodist Mission Charitable Trust which provides social services in Auckland's Tongan community. He leads the annual Vahefonua Education and Training Expo for Tongan youth in West Auckland. Prior to entering ministry, he helped establish Auckland's Tonga Health Society and the Pacific NIU FM radio station as well as working as a Senior Advisor for the Ministry of Pacific Peoples. It is for this work that he has been awarded the QSM.
 
 

Prayer For This Week

Prayer for this week
God, the source of light and hope,
In your grace we thank you for your love,
Which guides us through storm and calm.
Illumine our course,
Inspire our vision
And ignite our passion
For your service,
In Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.
From Prayers for all occasions, Ian Black  


23 Jul 20

 Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa,

 

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5: 15-16) NSRV 

Today, we both met with two people from the Electoral Commission. The purpose of the meeting was to ask how the church was encouraging people to participate in the election. The key point being to register and then to vote. We had a good conversation and they promised to send to us information on the referendums as well as the election itself. Once we receive that, we will circulate material to the wider church. The focus of our conversation was on participation in our community life.

The reflection this week has been written by Rev Graeme White. Graeme reflects on keeping our minds alert and participation in life reminding us all to keep our minds alert. Of course, voting in our general elections and local body elections it does not matter how old we are (as long as we are over 18). It is important however that we think about the issues that we are passionate about, the values we hold dear, the things that we are concerned about and what we look for from our Government. So, no matter what our age, we encourage everyone take time to research what the various policies of all parties, the pro's and con's of the referendums and to think about how these things will impact on our communities. We also encourage parishes to seek to engage with their candidates in their local area and to seek information about the referendums.

As we have seen over recent weeks, we are already in the midst of electioneering. As we consider what is important to us, we need to remember that it is not only about how we personally will benefit. We need to consider the whole, and especially the impacts on those who are the most vulnerable in our community.

Lest we think that religion and politics don't mix, we only need to open our bibles. The Jesus story is a political story. It is a story about a time of great injustice. A story of absolute power and a story of cultural revolution. Jesus, showed us through his actions that it is possible to transform the world in which we live in. The implication of this story is that we have we have a responsibility to carry on this legacy, to engage our minds, to participate, to seek the best for our nation, for our people, particularly in terms of love, justice and mercy.

Our Methodist ancestor John Wesley looked upon the whole world as his parish. He said, "If doing a good act in public will excite others to do more good then 'Let your light shine to all.' Miss no opportunity to do good."

If we choose not to take this opportunity to participate, to register, to get out of our houses, to put a tick on a piece of paper, are we denying our commitment to live a Christian life? We encourage everyone, 18 years old and older to participate in this election, to learn about the policies, to consider all the options and choose carefully and prayerfully your response.

Once again our dear fellow Methodists, "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can." John Wesley.we have a responsibility to carry on this legacy, to engage our minds, to participate, to seek the best for our nation, for our people, particularly in terms of love, justice and mercy.


Keeping our minds alert.
A few weeks ago three of us who work in the Church Offices at 409 Great South Road, were talking when one of our number mentioned about our ages. They total 214 years. There is John Murray, acting Director of Mission Resourcing, English Speaking, 71. Terry Wall, acting Director of Mission and Ecumenical 70 and myself Graeme White, Auckland Synod Superintendent ,73. Another of our number jokingly said that the church was being run by geriatrics!
John is in his position because of the departure of Rev. Trevor Hoggard, for Wales, and Terry in his position because of the departure of Rev Prince Devanandan to the Auckland Anglican Diocese. I am the Auckland Synod Superintendent for three years because, at the time Rev. Marilyn Welch retired, the obvious candidates had heavy work loads already. I enjoy my job. I enjoy the people contact and the sense of purpose that this job gives me.

Just before lock-down my wife and I travelled down to Matamata with my daughter and two of our grandchildren to visit Hobbiton. After our visit we were having lunch together when my daughter asked me what was I going to do when I have finished this job. I asked her what she meant and she replied, that she and her husband were quite worried about me, before I started the job, because, I had in their minds become quite doddery. They had seen a positive change in me since beginning as Synod Superintendent. We then had a conversation about keeping the mind and body active in older age.

As I reflect on my experience working again I noted than when I started work at 409 and was travelling back to Little Manly on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula where I live, I would often feel tired and have to stop at the BP station at Dairy Flat and have a coffee and a walk around. This was so as I could stay awake for the rest of the journey. I haven't had to do that for about a year. I have adjusted to working and coping with the day.

There has been much talk by politicians about raising the retirement age. The rationale has been that the country has not been able to afford it. That might be so, in relation to pensions, but I wonder if the country can afford to handle the health bill for people who do not necessarily have a purpose, and so become old before their time. On the other hand, there are those people who have been involved in manual work all their lives and 65 can't come soon enough because of the wear and tear on their bodies.

Work however doesn't have to be paid employment. Do we recognise each other's gifts? Do we give people opportunities or do we turn to the same people all the time rather than embracing new people. We had some folk from our parish to lunch recently and the question of things that need doing around the church e.g. being on the door, morning tea, operating the sound system and power point presentations, welcoming people, reading the bible, was raised. Suddenly we had volunteers. These people had never been asked. Also, tell people what a job involves. If you just ask for volunteers without telling people what is involved don't be surprised if no one responds.
My first job on leaving school was working for the ANZ Bank. My first transfer was from Dunedin to Wellington, and I began worshipping at Wesley, Taranaki Street, when Jack Penman and John Grundy were the ministers there. For the first six or so months I just warmed a pew. Then there was a call for Sunday School teachers. I volunteered, as I had done this for three years at Caversham in Dunedin. I was soon part of the team. Then I was approached to be a door steward. I readily agreed. I now felt that I belonged, as I had something to do, and I belonged.

As Christians there is always something to do that is age appropriate. (I acknowledge that I will probably never lead a youth group again as I am out of touch with young people's way of seeing things. – but I can talk to young people about their rugby game and whether they won and find out what is important in their lives). The very elderly may make a tremendous contribution through prayer, other people with a particular skill may offer that. I remember in one parish we had a notice board in need of good sign writing, and then we discovered a retired sign writer in our congregation just waiting to be asked.

In Ephesians 5: 15 – 16 we find these words. "Be careful how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil."
There is a saying that "you are never too old". I don't think we can apply that universally, but there are many things we can do rather than be put out to pasture. My daughter is encouraging me to look forward beyond January 2022 to something that I can do to keep my mind alert. Can I encourage us all to keep our minds alert.

Rev Graeme White
Synod Superintendent Auckland Synod


Prayer for this week

God of justice and compassion,
Leaders and outcasts came to your Son
And were received with the same love:
For those easily brushed aside he made space;
Of those with much, much was expected;
To the penitent he offered forgiveness;
For all, the new life of his kingdom was announced.
Hear our prayer for those standing for election
To serve and represent all people of Aotearoa
May we reflect on the policies and options
Looking for the common good
And pursue justice, peace and mercy .
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.