Starting Out

As I begin my reasonably short period as Moderator of the PCANZ I want to make a few things clear to whomever might read this blog and wonder about the job and the title.

It seems to me that for those looking in from the outside a title such as the Moderator of the General assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand is not only a mouthful but is also somewhat pretentious. While I agree with the first opinion I don’t with the second. This job like so many others in the church is a highly pragmatic one which is dominated largely by the need to make decisions about real life situations and real people. It begins, at present, with the running of a key meeting in our church, the General Assembly and this is a meeting which can either encourage or discourage a lot of people if it’s not done well.

It continues with the development of key relationships within the National Office and with key stakeholders around the church and it demands a knowledge of the wider Church as well as the need to represent the church within the regional and global family arises.

On top of this one must deal with the day to day concerns of those within our church who have or are experiencing something quite shattering – a loss, a disease, a mistake, a very bad decision… the consequences of which are causing them and their families and friends significant pain. A significant part of the Moderator’s job is to be at least the voice of the Church’s care and concern for its leaders and its people. A classic example of this is the Kaikoura earthquake and all the downstream consequences for people’s lives and livelihoods in that area of the country.

Then there’s the important task of representing the Church in numerous roles and relationships from those with our neighbouring denominations to interfaith meetings and worldwide communions – all of which keep us both informed and resourced in many ways.

These and a myriad of other duties make the role a full-time one if not an over-full-time one. It is certainly not merely a ‘figurehead’ role and it provides an important conduit of relations both within and without the Church.

Finally I believe the Moderator should bring to the Church something of the special work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. In short, the Moderator should be able to help the Church focus on some important part of the mission of God which they themselves have been developing in response to the work and call of God’s Spirit in their lives.

This is certainly what I will be committing to over the next 18 months or so and I hope that in doing so I will help the whole Church rediscover something of the great hope upon which it is founded and through which it can bring hope into an often dark and hopeless world.


Visiting churches and communities in the earthquake zone

Dear Friends
I am now into my fourth day traveling and visiting in the earthquake zone. I was meant to be flying through to Kaikoura this morning but very high winds prevented this. I hope to spend the day with local Kaikoura Presbyterian minister Rev Alistair McNaughton tomorrow and I’m hoping to take the moderator of the Alpine Presbytery Rev David Coster through with me as well.
I spent yesterday with Rev Colin Price, the new LOM covering the Amuri Cooperating parish, visiting the various towns and churches under his care.

Colin is a true man of God and a real treasure and is doing a great job in his far flung parish. He has two churches out of three which are unusable and one which will be condemned.

The church at Culverdon has been disused since an engineers report some while ago and while they use the old wooden church behind this, it is really not a wonderful place to worship in. The church at Rotherham is wooden and is fine, if small, and the church at Waiau was totally destroyed by the quake and should be pulled down.

The ground has moved throughout this area by an amazing amount. Even farms where there is no apparent damage have moved sideways and upward by at least 2 metres. Much of the damage is underground and not obvious – damaged irrigation pipes and sewage systems especially around the Mt Lyford area.

Waiau township shows clear damage to buildings with the local pub condemned and many brick houses showing significant damaged especially to chimneys.

I was involved in meeting with the coordinator of the local disaster relief organisation yesterday. This has been set up in the Waiau town hall. She was an administrator plucked from the local Health Hub. Doing a marvelous job and attending to a constant stream of people who looked shocked and lost and sad. Significant frustrations are arising over applying for the various relief packages available but the staff in this place were doing a wonderful job.

I visited five local parishioners – all affected in some way and all doing their best to cope. Colin Price is performing as one would hope any local pastor could and would and we need to keep up contact with him and encourage him as best we can.

I have also made contact with Dawn Daunauda who is the Anglican priest in the cooperation parish of Awatere-Flaxmere, based in Seddon. She also is doing a marvelous job and I hope to meet her sometime this weekend if possible.

So there we have it. Our people are going a marvelous job and they simply need to hear from us and know that we are thinking of them and ready to help when called upon.

I hope this helps.

In Christ,

Images are those I took of the Waiau church, part of the Amuri cooperating parish, and the others come from a Facebook post in the Mt Lyford area which is just north of Waiau.