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Methodist Church Blog

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. 

Stay Flexible!

Kia ora dear friends

It is interesting times at our New Zealand borders and grim times outside our borders while we settle into a new normal.

On Wednesday the Government shared their Stamp it Out plan to respond to any new COVID-19 cases in the community.

https://covid19.govt.nz/updates-and-resources/latest-updates/plan-to-respond-to-new-covid-19-cases-in-the-community/

Community spread is more than new arrivals jumping the arrival-isolation fence as people may be properly cleared to leave isolation and yet still turn positive later. Community transmission will mean some of our parishes may enter a regional lockdown while the rest of us sit back and watch.

Our key tools are still contact tracing and great public hygiene to avoid regional lockdowns or even another national lockdown.

We have managed calmly so far and we will manage calmly into the future but we must be flexible with how we plan and provide our services, and how we travel.

To reflect this, the Connexional Office will provide an All Alert Levels in one document resource next week. Please provide any feedback about items that have been missed in other advisories that have been shared previously because this new document will have to be very flexible to cope with many possible alert levels.

Mark Gibson and Trudy Downes had interesting discussions on why doing church differently (flexibly!) needs to be carried into the future and with the ever changing COVID-19 scenario they will likely be proved right. Some of the feedback that has been received will also be shared next week.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/caring_for_our_people/future_church

Another webinar is being planned for the near future (once Tony Franklin-Ross agrees a time and date) where this discussion will be carried on a little further.

Please remember to look after yourselves. This pandemic and our ever changing normal can be stressful. Remember there are different avenues available if you need to reach out.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/caring_for_our_people/coronavirus_2019_-_advice

I offer this prayer for the good people maintaining our arrival-isolation facilities, for those countries struggling through daily losses and those countries who are still battling to keep COVID-19 from gaining a foothold...

God of Love

We thank you for the care, compassion, skill and determination which has inspired our response to the threat of Covid-19

While we have all played our part we give thanks for and lift up in prayer those who still face the threat of the virus every day.

For staff in isolation hotels,

Those carrying out swab tests in clinics and laboratories,

For drivers and airline crew, immigration and customs officers, contact tracers and those who are working to discover a vaccine.

From our place of safety we reach out in prayer for those all around the world who live with the on-going uncertainty of infection.

God of grace bring strength and wisdom to those who feel overwhelmed and afraid,

Give inspiration to those who seek to bring hope

Fill hearts and lives with kindness and care.

We pray for those, in all nations, whose livelyhoods are threatened.

Help people in every community to be agents of practical care.

Amen.


In grace and peace

David

17 Jul 20

Greetings Te Haahi Weteriana, tena koutou katoa,

 

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13: 4-7) NSRV

In a conversation over morning tea recently someone made the comment – when you hear yourself saying "I should …" Stop and think. Is that your belief? Or is it someone else's? We asked Rev Ieremia Amani Amituana'i to prepare a reflection for our blog this week. His reflection coincidentally picks up the sentiments expressed over our morning tea table.

In light of the verses from 1 Corinthians noted above, and the sentiments expressed in the reflection that Ieremia sent to us, we have been thinking about a trend we have observed recently. A trend across the church where emails are sent in anger. Often the emails are judgemental, even in some cases violent and very hurtful and demeaning to those on the receiving end.

When we act out of anger, we are often doing exactly what we are accusing the other person of. Violence in the church needs to be called out – no matter what form it takes. It is sometimes very subtle. It comes in the form of an email, a put down or when we laugh at a joke at someone else's expense, as well as thinking we know best and so that smug look of condescension.

All of us sometimes make bad decisions or bad judgements, that is human nature. We should not judge each other however by a single thing, or a single stage in life.

Madeleine L'Engle makes this quote "We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it." We hope and pray that whenever we are concerned or upset about something, we consider carefully our responses. Doing something always makes us feel better, but waiting rather than responding out of anger isn't doing nothing. Waiting can mean that we are discerning the situation, asking God what our part is and to nudge us when the timing is right. Waiting on God can be active – full of conversation and concern for others.

Sometimes our quick fix out of anger will not solve the problem. Waiting patiently for solutions by listening for that discerning voice of God is the better option. As Christians our actions always need to be proclaiming love and life as in 1st Corinthians 13.

Thank you Ieremia for contributing this meditation and prayer for us this week.

'Ofa atu fau, Nga mihi nui.

Setaita and Nicola


Meditation and prayer based on John 15: 1-10

I was reading an article by the French Christian writer Michael Quoist on having too much to do. He writes of the way we often feel that … "…we are doing only one-tenth of what we can see we should be doing if only … we are doing only one-hundredth of what we would like to do … we are only doing one-thousandth of what we would like to do.." and of the difficulty most of us have in coming to terms with our limitation.

We all know the feeling. We get anxious and frustrated – so much to do, little time and energy to do it. Other people aren't doing what we feel should be done or are doing it differently, or things we think are wrong. And that leads to more anxiety and frustration.

Of course, we can check our priorities and make sure we're doing the most important things. (not necessarily the ones we enjoy doing most). We can look at our efficiency and try not to waste time or energy. But even when we've done all that, there is still more that we do.

One Question if you really don't have time to do something, what makes you think God wants YOU to do it? Sit back and think about that one. Don't we sometimes over-stretch ourselves because we can't admit that we are near our limits because we can't say NO. (Actually, our colleagues usually know we're at our limit before we do, although they often put up with our tenseness and worse without saying anything.)

Too often we act as though we are alone. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5). Note the plural "branches". There are many branches not ONE. My job is just a part of the whole, and if I truly can't cope with all that I'm doing, may be I'm trying to do the job of other branches as well as my own. I find it very challenging that Jesus' words about the vine run on to the statement about his love for us and our need to dwell in his love (John 15: 10). It suggests to me that it's not so much about the amount we do – ruling out any encouragement to laziness or irresponsibility – as the quality of what we do.

The person who tries frantically to do more and more and to make other people do things his/her way is in danger of losing love in the process – love for people and their love for him/her. Fruitfulness comes more from a loving spirit than a love domineering one, more from the humility of accepting one's limitations than from a frenetic battle to squeeze forty-eight hours into twenty four.


 

Prayer for this week 

Lord, when I think about it,

I reckoned I sometimes come to you

to show how much I'm doing

to encourage you to tell me

what a hardworking, good and fruitful servant, I really am.

I sometimes wonder how you'd get on without me!

Forgive my pride, Lord.

Forgive me, for believing there are no limits to what we can do.

Forgive me for trying to do so much for you that I do most of it badly.

Forgive my arrogance that says if I don't do it, It'll never get done at all.

Sometimes it does seem like that.

But when I look at it cooly –

help me to do that Lord,

I reckoned your kingdom needs as many cool heads

as it needs warm hearts when I look at it coolly

I'm really saying that you couldn't, if you weren't here.

That if I weren't rushing around like a juggler

with twenty plates in the air all at once,

your kingdom would collapse.

Lord forgive me for telling myself that I'm the vine,

and all the branches as well.

For believing that no one can do things like I can.

(That's true but not in the way I think)

help me to acknowledge that you are in control,

and that I'm just one of the branches, just one.

I've seen vines, Lord.

And although I'm no winegrower

I know the branches have to be pruned.

And if one tries to take over it gets cut back.

Give me humility to see that the more I try to do

the more I'm shutting other people out.

Letting them think they are not needed.

Not encouraging them, because it's all better done my way.

And when my energy is draining away

like water drawn down the whirlpool of my own frantic busyness,

SLOW ME DOWN.

Gently, lovingly, help me relax in you

help me to understand that your kingdom is on its way

even when I don't take anymore.

And help me realise

that when there seems to be no one else around

to do all that needs doing, YOU ARE.

By Eddie Askew

Shared by Rev Ieremia Amani Amituana'i

Mangere East Samoan Parish

(Sinoti Samoa, MCNZ)

Acknowledgement

Disguises of Love (pg 66-67),

Meditation and Prayers by Eddie Askew

The Leprosy Mission International. 50 Portland Place London,

1983. 2nd Impression 1986

 

 

10 Jul 20

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
Past President


 

Prayer for this week 

Loving God

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

Amen.