Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa,
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.
Hebrews 11: 8 [NSRV]
This week we have received from Mission Resourcing the material in preparation for Tauiwi Stationing which will be held early in September. Around the country presbyters and parishes have spent time preparing strategies and reflecting on their ministries in order to present a profile for future appointments.
One of the things that was noticeable in the profiles from parishes, is the number of parishes where work is required on property – whether for earthquake strengthening or planning for mission and ministry into the future. Much time and care goes into this work. This week Rev Norman West reflects on care of properties.
We are also reminded that this time of year there is a degree of uncertainty as both parish and presbyters await to see what will happen next. It can be an unsettling time – a time when we have to wait. This year also we are waiting to see what will happen in terms of Governance of our country. The world continues to struggle with Covid-19 and waits for a vaccine or cure. We are waiting for spring and new life to emerge.
The definition of waiting is the action of staying where one is or delaying action. The important word in the definition is action. Rev Karen Chakoian wrote a reflection that reminded us that "while we wait, we live in the already-and not yet, where here-and now and there-and then overlap and intersect." During this time, it is important to see that which is already here, if not, we risk losing heart and fail to understand that there is more to be revealed to us. The book of Hebrews 11:1 reminds us "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
We are aware that many people and parishes are taking time now to reflect on the experience of this year. It is right that we use this time of waiting to reflect on the benefits that have been brought by this year's circumstances, the changes that we might carry forward, and also the things that we value that we must not let go.
Norman, we thank you for your reflection on the use of property and the reminder to us that we need to be careful with our treasurers and to be 'full of care'' as people of faith.
'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui.
Setaita and Nicola
Properties for Mission
I've always cared about properties.
My earliest memories are of the place where we grew up and our house, our whare. I think of it as a warm house, a whare mahana. My memory is of living in some twenty houses over the years and the one we live in now is the whare where I have lived the longest. It is our whare mahana. Our warm house.
Linked with properties are our buildings and one of the special buildings mentioned in the Hebrew Scripture was called The Ark of the Covenant to house the faith treasures. One of the remarkable stories about The Ark is how they placed it on a new cart. I say, "they put the Ark on a new set of wheels"! The story is recorded in 2 Samuel 6:3 as one I've enjoyed over the years as it's a great suggestion that our faith needs to be carried in appropriate ways from generation to generation. The new wheels enabled the Hebrew people to keep their alive faith as they took it with them on their journeys.
John Wesley the founder of our Methodist tradition knew well the significance of property and buildings, so he had a profound and special legal document prepared to safeguard how Methodist property was held by Trustees. The "Model Deed" as it was called, has been slightly modified from country to country around the world, in keeping to Wesley's tradition and ensuring good care of property, buildings and treasures.
So what of our church properties? All over New Zealand we have land and buildings for: worship, education and social activities; social services, hospitals, retirement villages and aged care services; pre-school children and the needs of different aged people; parsonages and parish offices; local and national administration centres; churches and centres, all associated with our Bi-Cultural Commitment and multi-cultural family. I'm sure you can add to the list! All properties, buildings and centres that need ongoing care and attention.
That we live in an earthquake prone country has added to responsibilities and left many of our congregations struggling financially to care for properties and buildings so they are safe for use.
Sometimes leaders feel the burden of care. A new challenge has come with COVID 19 during a time of lockdown and since, to see our properties and buildings are safe for all who come and go. Parishes face financial challenges about the ongoing care to see they are continually kept well and up to acceptable standards, while meeting all the other financial needs of parish life. Perhaps that's how it is in your parish?
Sometimes I hear a challenging question "who owns the property?" It's a good question, because the "model deed" which I've mentioned, has all our church properties vested in the name of the Methodist Church of New Zealand. John Wesley was rather wise in his legal provisions to safeguard Methodist Church property for the larger Methodist family. However, vesting property nationally does not take away our local responsibility to care for and maintain these treasures for our use and for future generations. The care is up to us all.
You might wonder why I am writing a reflection about "Properties". It's also a good question. The reason is as old as the responsibilities the Hebrew people had to care for their Ark of the Covenant. The properties are not simply for our pleasure and delight, although they may be for that too. Like that old Ark of the Covenant our properties and buildings are treasures for Mission, places for worship where we learn about faith and are sustained.
It may be old fashioned to talk about "the house of worship" as our sacred place, our waahi tapu, where we continue to keep our faith alive and are equipped for service. The sacred place where we learn how to be involved in the Mission of our faith, associated with the Jesus way of life.
So the call is to be careful with the treasures. To be 'full of care' as people of faith.
Rev Norman West
|Prayer for this week
Open our eyes to your presence around us,
to your love that surrounds us each day,
and to your hand that is always at work.
You have blessed us in so much,
and we are glad.
In Jesus name we pray