Archbishop Winston Halapua challenged General Synod/Te Hīnota Whānui to walk with Polynesia in their struggle to combat climate change.
“The time has come to stop talking about climate change,” he said, “what we need now is action.”
The Archbishop’s charge opened with his experience on the final leg of a waka journey from the Pacific to Paris for the climate change talks in 2015…
Groaning in travail
When we arrived at the beach we were told the boats had to be crewed round the clock.
I was put in a group with two young women on one section of the 24-hour watch.
It was a traditional waka.
I had ideas of how beautiful my cabin would be, but it was just big enough to lie down in with no room above.
“It was like a coffin. I have taken a lot of funerals and it was just like a coffin.
The waka started to roll and toss and as the waves rocked, I leaned over the edge of my bunk and vomited.
Then a voice came from below me. I didn’t know it but someone was there, below where I had vomited.
“Are you OK, bishop?” she said.
Later I went up on to the deck.
But I didn’t know how to stand on a waka. On the land I had stood up tall, like this. But in a waka you have to stand like this with knees bent to move with the waves.
So I was standing up straight and the waves knocked me down and threw me on to the ropes [that cross between the two hulls of the catamaran]. I was baptised by the ocean.
I was lying on those ropes and I could feel every one of them digging into my body.
And the vomiting didn’t stop, even when I was back on the deck.
Then I heard a voice, and it reminded me of my mother: “Winston, it’s alright to be sick,” she said.
In that waka, the scales of ignorance and arrogance and looking down on people fell one by one from my eyes.
After many hours… one of the young women came walking towards me: not in a straight line but tacking, like a sailing boat, because when you are on the waka the waves make you dance.
She gave me a cup of black tea.
And I can tell you that black tea was the best cup of tea I have ever tasted.
So here is my confession…
I didn’t notice those two young women when we first started; I didn’t think much of them.
But those two young women had a value that I couldn’t see when I first met them.
I didn’t realise it, but I needed them and they needed me.
That is my prayer: for us to see our interconnectedness.
Because each one of us is a gift, a unique person, a resource for all of us.
We need to remember that we all need each other.
Jesus prayed that all his disciples would be one.
The harvest will be plentiful, but we have to pray that the owner of the harvest will keep us all together.
And we need to balance our doctrinal arguments with prayer.
In Exodus God said: “I will intervene because I have heard your prayer.”
Our bishops gathered on the island of Leleuvia before the Paris Climate Summit and prayed for the nations to commit a 1.5% reduction in carbon emmissions.
In Paris 170 countries agreed on a 2% reduction.
We are an ocean people. Our earth is 60% covered in ocean.
The oceans cool our earth and provide oxygen. Without the oceans we would burn in the sun’s heat.
We need to move together through the waves by tacking.. like this, in a zig-zag, but we get the way we are going.
When we are sailing in a waka we need to find the star, but sometimes we can’t because it is cloudy, so we have to find the moon to help navigate.
On a waka you feel which way the wind touches your body and you know what direction it is going in and where to turn into the current.
But I want to talk now about a different wind.
I want to talk about the other Winston: Cyclone Winston, the worst cyclone we have ever seen in Fiji.
It devastated whole regions. Buildings were blown away, whole valleys of trees stood afterwards like sticks in the ground, with all their leaves stripped off.
You have helped us with your armed forces, and with your money, and for that we are grateful: we say Vinaka, thank you.
But we need to say that this is the just the beginning. The beginning of the worst that climate change will bring.
Business as usual is over.
The new language is action, but we can only work together.
The Diocese of Polynesia has put out a curriculum for schools that teaches our children to appreciate creation, to foster their gratitude for the environment.
We need to start the change in our culture from the youngest of children, going from preschool and right through.
This needs to be our narrative for this new generation: this world is an awesome gift, that has been given to us.
Too often we see it as a commodity.
But our world is not a commodity, it is a gift.
As the three-tikanga church, we need to claim it as a gift and in Christ move together to change the way the whole world treats God’s creation.
I offer these prayers along with the images on the overhead screen.
May we hear the cries of sea creatures endangered by the selfish greed of humanity.
May there be deep listening to the voice of waters rising to engulf land.
May ears be open to the groaning caused by refusal to honour creation
May ears be open to suffering caused by a love of power which destroys.
We beat a lali-drum alerting people around the world to the danger of climate change which threatens nature and human life.
We blow a conch – calling for the worship of a life-giving God of immense goodness.
Our forbears set out across the ocean. We set out on a venture to protect our home – the planet earth.
Help us to challenge short-sighted greed.
Help us to address unjust structures and practices and to change our relationship with creation to one of care.
We affirm our guardianship of the precious gift of creation.
We have a vision, we have courage, we have your guidance.
We have the presence of the Risen One whose power of love is greater than all the power of destruction.
Grant that together we may bring peace to our Planet Earth – to its many creatures and its many people.
We lotu ( pray) in the name of Our God – Creator, Redeemer and Life-Giving Spirit.
Prayer in the Aftermath of Cyclones: April 2016
+ Winston Halapua
Loving and Embracing God, You are the God of the Universe and all creation. We come together in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston and Cyclone Zena
In Fiji, on hillside after hillside, trees stand like crosses. Trees are stripped of foliage by ravaging winds. Palms are bent and broken. There is flooding and destruction of vegetation and coral. Our people suffer loss of loved ones, loss of homes, loss of crops and livelihood.
You do not desert us. Even now, bring us the glimmering of a new dawn for creation and for humanity.
You were with us in the devastation. You are with us as we emerge to reach out to one another.
You are with us as we begin to heal and rebuild shattered lives and communities. Our people with resilience are rising to the challenge of sharing what they have.
We thank you that we are part of the wider world. We thank you for the nations who are alongside us and are sending relief. We thank you for outpourings of generosity and compassion.
We pray for the moving together of the peoples of the world, not only to bring relief. We pray for the moving together of peoples of the world in the addressing of the causes of destruction to human life and creation.
You were with our people in Paris. When the nations came together to address urgent issues arising from climate change, you gave us perseverance and strength.
You enabled our voices and the vulnerability of our situation to be heard. Hearts were moved.
There was a recognition that those most deeply affected by climate are interconnected with the the wider world.
You enabled us all to agree to reduction of global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. We give thanks that in Paris peoples of the world made decisions which set out to stem the destruction of our common home and bring life.
We give thanks that you are with us in our gathering together today. You are with us as the Risen One, the One who has defeated the powers of destruction and death . You speak to us words of great strength and peace.
May the Risen One bring us a deep vision of your loving purposes, so that we may continue to work together for the wellbeing of all peoples and Planet Earth.
In these Islands we know the forces of destruction as a result of global warming.
We ask that the creative and life-giving wind of your Spirit move within us and move us forward.
We ask that we are guided in the way of your Peace for humanity and creation.
Life-giving God, we pray in your name. Amen.
A Moana Blessing
The Waves of the Ocean of God’s Love
embrace us and carry us forward.
With Christ, our Navigator,
may we voyage courageously.
The Spirit of Peace and Power flow within and around us
to strengthen and guide
through calm and storm.