PASTORAL LETTER FROM THE BISHOP
A week ago we were awakened in the middle of the night by a violent earthquake that has continued to disrupt our lives. Further aftershock activity is expected. Several areas were devastated and I am deeply grateful to the people in the parishes of places such as Kaiapoi, Linwood and Shirley who have reached out and been present to the people most affected in terms of loss of homes and businesses. Many other parishes have reacted swiftly to be present to the psychological and spiritual trauma of those who have live in fear and uncertainty..
I am deeply grateful to those who have taken people into their homes or who have made themselves available to listen, talk and pray with those in the larger community. All of us are deeply thankful for the civic leaders and those in the emergency response teams who have worked night and day to make our communities safe, and who have restored services to our homes. My heart goes out to those who have lost church, hall or vicarage. We are here to help you rebuild and renew your presence in the community.
However this is only the beginning. This past week was only the start of a long term, multi-pronged response to what has changed our lives significantly. We must not forget those who have lost their homes, businesses and work due to the earthquake. Even if our own lives have some elements of what passes for normal, we must continue to be deeply aware of those who are still in desperate circumstances. Please form a group to organize ongoing response to the quake. Parish and ecumenical responses should include prayer and practical assistance. Even after one week many of the key people are exhausted and in need of relief and support. It should be possible for every parish and or community group to ease the burden of those who are working at the coal-face.
Elderly and young people who were evacuated from their homes will not make an easy stress free transition to new accommodation. Those who chose to leave town to stay with friends and family will experience trauma when they return home and witness what has happened to their neighbourhood in terms of demolition and further damage. We must not underestimate the emotional and psychological stress. Once again a non-anxious presence and a strong faith will communicate calm and confidence in such upheaval and distress. As you are aware in 1 Kings 19, God neither speaks nor is present in the earthquake, hurricane or fire but only in the still small voice.
Above all let us proclaim a message of gratitude and hope in the midst of the disorientation and dismay. I say gratitude because we have witnessed a miracle in Canterbury. The miracle is that in the midst of huge devastation, there is no loss of human life. Praise God.
I say hope because this crisis holds within it the potential for an even better community in which all are truly cared for, and all share a faith in God’s love and mercy. This hope becomes our reality when we listen to God’s continual invitation to form community. Central to our lives as Christians are the Gospel teachings that God became one of us in the person of Jesus; and that the three-fold personhood of God: Father, Son and Spirit, shows that God’s Divine Being speaks of community. Therefore let our response to this present disaster be the building of caring and compassionate communities in which no one is forgotten or excluded.
To the whole Diocese, thank you for your ministry of being Christ’s hands and feet, heart and voice; and through which God’s love is experienced.
Let us go forward in gratitude and hope.
“Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”
Bishop of Christchurch