Get on with it!

Get on with it!

Sermon St Chad’s May 28 Rev Felicity O’Brien

The disciples knew something was going to happen. They asked Jesus if this was the time, the time when he would restore the kingdom to Israel. Maybe they were expecting hosts of angel soldiers to sweep through their occupied land, driving out the Romans. But then Jesus told them that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. This statement told them that they were not to wait passively for angels to bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth, but that they had a job to do. Not only that, but that God’s Holy Spirit power would enable them to do that job, and that they would take the kingdom to the ends of the earth. This was hopeful – they were not in imminent danger of persecution and death. The Jesus cult would go on. Continue reading

Injustice in equality, Churches promote inflation

Guest post by Kevin O’Brien, retired Charted Accountant and former consultant to the Government of (then Western) Samoa.

The living wage claim imbroglio has done us good in having to examine wages and living costs: I am not so sure it has done us right. It took a bit of looking to find the paper setting out the claims to a “living wage” of $18.40/hr; they were not on the Anglican Church Family Centre web site [1], in whose name they were, but on the Living Wage NZ site who commissioned them. [2]

The claim then is political – a creature of the unions and the ultra left greens with the churches donning social-justice robes and blessing all, other than those who ultimately have to pay. The politics of envy are writ large: bosses and others must be richer, so they can pay, to match our spending aspirations. If the boss class hasn’t got it, then the Government must have. Someone needs to pony up to satisfy our unrequited hunger for more.

I suspect there is sin somewhere in the midst of this. Is it right to heavy employers, a.k.a. bosses, to pay more when no more is going to come their way to meet the extra demand? Is it right to set demands for pay in excess of minimum reasonable needs? Is it right to pay a single 18 year old straight from year 13 at high school the same hourly rate as an experienced single worker, or one a few years further on who has a spouse, and the population replacement minimum 2 children, the same hourly rate also? If justice is about balance where is it here? Are ability and contribution of a worker to producing residual income to be ignored? Continue reading

A glass cathedral?

The mayor of Christchurch has a plan for the cathedral.

This would mean covering some of the ruins of the old cathedral in glass. Why is this not a good idea?

1. Light. There would be little internal control over how dark or light it is in the cathedral. Candlelight services would have to be later, when it is completely dark. Lights from traffic and buildings would be very obvious.

2. Sound. Sounds from the surrounding areas would travel in, and sounds from inside would travel out.

3. Weather. Glass is hard to insulate as it conducts heat so well. In a sweltering summer day like today, it would be like an oven inside, and in the depths of winter it would be freezing. Being inside the building during heavy rain or hail would be deafening.

4. Building. You can’t easily attach nails and screws to glass, so putting up the organ, or a shelf, or a wall, would be impossible.

5. Privacy. You can see through glass. The surrounding public would be able to see in, and the worshippers would be distracted by what was going on outside. There would be no privacy for conversations in offices, even if there were any. Kids who are in the creche would see Mum and cry, instead of playing happily while they forgot to miss her. And how about the toilets?!

6. Pigeons. These numerous birds would roost all over the building, distracting people inside with their movements, and leaving corrosive white trails down the glass.

7. People outside the building. One can ignore the seamier side of Christchurch if you can’t see them, but, worst-case scenario maybe, a prostitute leaning on the wall of the cathedral would be very obvious from inside.

It seems to be that Mayor Parker’s idea is rather like one of those glass paperweights with a weta trapped inside it, to put it charitably. Or like Lenin’s Mausoleum, to be rather less charitable. His idea does nothing to make a place where people can find a haven, an oasis of the numinous in the heart of the city, and be with God. Whether they want to worship alone, or with others, a cathedral made of glass would be useless in this context.

Christchurch has the opportunity few modern cities have, to redesign how large-scale public worship in the Anglican style can be done. There is a chance to re-think the sacred space, and control everything from sizes of spaces, which could be flexible, to heating, furniture and lighting. This cathedral has been less than satisfactory since it was built – rather than being up-to-date for its time, it was an anachronistic, sentimental reminder of cathedrals ‘back home’, for a new settlement that was meant to be a little England.

Parker’s view is very pretty, but it doesn’t look at the surrounding area, just a nice sunset with the alps in the background. And I suspect that the east and west windows have been swapped too. Maybe my memory is a little hazy.

Why can a deacon in Wellington comment on a Christchurch building? I grew up in Christchurch, and our school held its Founders’ Day and Carol services in the Cathedral. It was a dear and cherished part of my youth, but it’s the people that make up the church, not some broken bricks and stone, entombed in glass.

Resurrection in the rubble

I have just returned from a trip to Christchurch, where I grew up. I went into the city and walked all the way around the red zone, which is cordoned off after the earthquakes.What I expected to see was a sad, and empty place. Yes, it was empty, and strangely silent, with cranes ‘deconstructing’ several buildings, like vultures on a corpse.

But what I also saw, in the areas that used to be in the red zone, but are now open, was a city that is alive, full of energy, with resurrection pulsing through its veins. There are pop-up stores, shops in containers, re-positionable buildings all trading as designer shops and cafes, with flower planters decorating the streets and precincts. There has been care taken to make the city an interesting and pleasant place to shop, and actually I think the old Cashel Mall is better now than it ever was!

In the suburbs too there are flowers, in planters, and empty sites have been strewn with wildflowers. Sides of remaining buildings, and containers, have been decorated with murals, and there’s a sense that nothing can keep this city down!

I saw resurrection everywhere, life everywhere, hope everywhere. There is a tremendous spirit of life there.

In the red-zone I saw the old cathedral, once the ‘icon’ of Christchurch, now a sad and strangely small building, no longer the soaring church where we had our school carol services. It doesn’t feel like place of worship anymore, but only  home for the odd pigeon flying in to nest. It reminded me of a loved relative, still attached to life-support ventilators, where no one has had the courage to switch off the power and let it die a dignified death.

There will be a new opportunity for the Cathedral to be built, in a way that will suit worshiping and gathering communities in the future, but rather than patching up the old dear in the ICU, let’s look forward to God’s new vision for the church in Christchurch, that is, the people who worship God in Christchurch, to find new ways to do that.

Music for Christmas

There is a new feature on our music page – we have put up our carol book, which Kevin and I collected, arranged and published several years ago. Why did we make a carol book? Because the choir I was conducting needed one, and it was hard to find a good collection.

The sort of things we were looking for in our selection were good theology and good music, and we wanted a copyright-free collection. Some of the older carols and hymns of Christianity have wonderful understandings of what it means that God is real! The words resonate through the ages, timeless as God. One of my favourites is “Of the Father’s heart begotten, ere the worlds began to be, He is Alpha and Omega, he the source, the ending He. Of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see, evermore and evermore.”

This has a special poignancy now, because we used to sing it every year at our school carol services, in the now-derelict Christchurch Cathedral.

Back to the Carol book – feel free to download a copy and use it, and inside the back cover are two versions of a simple carol service. It’s just the story of Jesus’ birth, taken straight from scripture, interspersed with familiar carols. It works very well in rest homes, community groups, with children, and even in churches!