Greetings to you all on this fine Waitangi Weekend.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
I begin with a traditional Maori karakia which I pray for and over the whole Church…
He hōnore, he korōria ki te Atua
He maungārongo ki te whenua
He whakaaro pai ki ngā tāngata katoa
Hangā e te Atua he ngākau hou
Ki roto, ki tēnā, ki tēnā o mātou
Whakatōngia to wairua tapu
Hei awhina, hei tohutohu i a mātou
Hei ako hoki i ngā mahi mō tēnei rā
Honour and glory to God
Peace on Earth
Goodwill to all people
Lord, develop a new heart
Inside all of us
Instill in us your sacred spirit
Help us, guide us
In all the things we need to learn today
It is fitting, is it not, to pray for the whole nation on what is our nation’s proper birthday – Waitangi! It is fitting also to think about what Waitangi means for each of us because one thing is clear, if we don’t take some personal responsibility for making Waitangi truly a part of our own hearts then we will not see the blessing that can flow from a united country and united peoples.
The Maori proverb says it all really…
He waka eke noa (A canoe which we are all in with no exception)
In other words, whether we like it or not we are all in this land together so we may as well start working together for each other and leave no one behind.
We started this nation with a deep sense that we should create a fair and just society and we should not lose sight of this precisely because there are still deep injustices to be dealt with today. Let us welcome all into our canoe. Let us help all to know they belong here. Let us work while it is still light!
Richard Dawson (Moderator)
As we start the New Year can I encourage you to be positive about the future. There is so much negativity about the Church in the media, in society and even in the Church itself that we are often tempted to be if not to feel hopeless. I am convinced that our first job as Christians and particularly as leaders is to put aside these things including the inconsistencies of our own life and of the Church’s life and simply live like we believe. I know this may sound a little hypocritical but I suspect we have little other choice.
When belief lives in doubt it has ceased to be belief and, while all belief must cope with doubt it shouldn’t be shaped by it. An old Rugby coach of mine used to repeat the adage ‘Hesitate and you’re lost’ as a primary rule of thumb for playing the game well. By this was meant, of course, that one had to commit to one’s chosen course of action on the Rugby field 100% or the hesitation alone would give the opposition all the chance they needed. There is too much hesitation in today’s Church; too much living out our doubts rather than our belief in a loving God; too much fear of failure driving us.
The Church doesn’t have to be triumphalist to be confident in God. We have a God who loves the Church. Why wouldn’t God want the Church to be successful in both preaching and living out the Gospel? We don’t have to become self-effacing and lack-lustre to represent the Gospel. We can be confident in it because it is the foundation of a well-lived life and a fair society and the best way to represent this is to live confidently in the Gospel – to commit to it whole-heartedly and joyfully.
Perhaps the greatest single factor in the loss of confidence within the Church is what is perceived to be the failure of the institution and of certain individuals within it. We cannot deny the statistics and the loss of status within Western society over the last 100 years. For all the work the Spirit does within us we all continue to struggle with sin and with brokenness and yet this shouldn’t be a reason for despair but for rejoicing. The brokenness of the Church and of its people and leaders only confirms and glorifies the grace of God in continuing to bless it and raise up followers from within society. We will always have to contend with less than perfect people and less than perfect leaders and yet doesn’t this enable us time and again to look upon those outside the Church with the eyes of mercy?
Living confidently out of our belief in God’s love won’t fix everything but it will encourage those around us to look also to the God whose love we are reflecting. Living confidently out of our belief in God’s love won’t change the world but it may well change the bit of the world which revolves around us. Living confidently out of our belief in God’s love won’t make us perfect but it will help us to try again when we fall because we know that God’s grace is real.
Can I then encourage us all to be confident in the gospel as we begin this year, not because we are in any way superior to others but because we believe and are committed to the God whose love never gives up.
Happy New Year!
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.