Engage With the World: Easter Hope

Cross1I read a good quote the other day. It goes: ”Everything good is uphill”. It’s true in my experience. No matter what we do, the good stuff costs. It costs time, it costs energy, it costs all the other things that we could be doing which may be more enjoyable for us. Easter is perhaps the ultimate demonstration of the truth of the saying. The very best thing in the universe cost the life of the very best person – Jesus Christ, the son of God.

There’s a kind of “cargo-cult” around the Church these days that insists that it’s God’s job to just give us stuff and that somehow we are all owed the best of everything. Now, I believe God is our provider and I believe that God wants the Church to be a place of abundance, but I don’t believe that God ever just lands us with that abundance because we want it.

As a parent I know that doing something like this for my own children would never have been good for them. Learning the cost of something was always necessary for them to understand the value of anything.

At Easter we’re given the greatest gift of all – time: the gift of a new relationship with God, free, gratis and for nothing. God is ready and willing to engage with anyone who will take God’s word for it. Believe and receive, but this means we must engage. The Gospel is the greatest message of hope in the world. But how can we let the world know in this day and age of incredible apathy and cynicism around Christianity?

The answer begins with the same dynamic that characterises the whole Easter event in the Gospels – we must engage. The Church has arisen from God’s deliberate plan to engage a rebellious and lost world. We need to follow this example and engage the world with the Easter story. Up and down the country churches are preparing to invite their communities to experience Easter by holding walk-through or even drive-through audio-visual experiences of the Easter story. Others are holding special invitational services, and some are trying other

new things that are creative and engaging.

I would love to highlight what you’ve done this Easter, so please record the event and send me some pictures and a description of what you did and how it was received by the wider community. Let us know so we can post something about it on the Church Facebook page. Share with our wider family the hope you are bringing to your community.

He is truly the hope of the world. Let’s help the world to realise this!

God Bless you and yours this Easter.

Richard D.

Mucking In

Just spent the last few days on our Marae Te Maungarongo at Ohope. This is a special place for anyone who identifies with the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and it is so because it was founded in association with the man who best embodies the missionary heart of Presbyterians in this country J G Laughton.
Laughton started his ministry in Piopio and soon developed a love for the local Maori picking up the language and particularly the tikanga (fundamental value system and customs associated with those values). Laughton then developed a ministry with the great Maori prophet Rua Kenana which though marked by some theological tension led to the establishment of a wonderful Christian community at Maungapohatu. Later, ‘Totally committed to a renaissance of the Maori language, Laughton founded a press, Te Waka Karaitiana. This published journals of the same name, Maori translations of portions of Scripture, and general news of the Christian churches.’
This mission and goal still lies at the heart of Presbyterian tikanga in this country and I would suggest we work towards reviving it within our parishes in whatever way we can.
Check out http://www.teara.govt.nz/…/biograp…/4l4/laughton-john-george

Waitangi Day Greeting 2017

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!

In Christ,

Richard Dawson (Moderator)

Live Like You Believe

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!

Richard D.

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.