An essay on the impact of the charismatic renewal on the churches of New Zealand in the last fifty years.

“There has appeared within the historic churches in New Zealand a movement of spiritual renewal which has had some critics prophesying its rapid demise and others claiming that it is God’s answer to the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of our nation.” This essay examines the impact of the charismatic renewal on the churches of New Zealand from 1962 to the present day, a period including the Vietnam war, the “God is Dead” movement, ordination of women, increased awareness of Maori Land rights, the Jesus movement and a growing secularism. It examines the early days, the negative and positive impacts, and the ongoing legacy of the movement. Continue reading

Holy Spirit Baptism

Holy Spirit Baptism

When Jesus came up to John, baptizing in the wilderness, John was the well-known one. People came streaming out of the towns into the rough land to be baptized, and the need for change swept over them. John’s teaching of repentance and charity intrigued many, and they wondered whether he was the Messiah they had longed for. But John sets them straight – there’s another coming after me – wait for him.

The passage we have just heard comes at the very beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry. We heard about his birth, and his amazing knowledge as he stayed at the temple as a twelve-year-old. In that passage Jesus affirms that God is his Father.

In today’s reading, we hear God affirming the same thing – You are my Son, my beloved. With you I am pleased. Back in ancient Palestine, knowledge of reproductive biology was not as advanced as it is today. I Continue reading

Sermon for Epiphany

The wise men and the star

St Peter’s and St Christopher’s Tawa 6 Jan 2013 Rev. Felicity O’Brien

Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-6

Today we celebrate Epiphany. This is one of those complicated words that’s hard to define, but it talks about a sudden revelation, a sudden awakening of understanding. Our reading tells us how the Wise men had this revelation, this understanding of who this baby that they were travelling to see actually was.

The story of the wise men is so familiar, from carols and Christmas cards. Continue reading

Secateurs and deacons

I’m a keen gardener. Whenever I’m outside, I’m looking at how to improve the state of my suburban paradise. Often that means chopping something back, so I pop inside to reach for my trusty secateurs.

Today I looked for them on the shelf just outside the back door. No luck. Then I looked on the other shelf, just inside the back door. No joy. Hmm, where was I when I last used them? I know, I’ll look on the shelf just inside the front door, where I keep my keys. Yes!!

I started thinking about secateurs  – just like deacons, they have a liminal ministry, in theology-speak! This means a threshold ministry – neither fully outside nor fully in, but able to operate both in and out. As my secateurs are useful in the kitchen for arranging flowers, so I can be useful inside the church. And just as the bulk of my secateurs’ work is outside, making a real difference to my unruly and exuberant garden, so my diaconal minstry really flourishes outside the church, in the community, where people are blooming, where they are straggling, where there are things that need a bit of a prune!

Feijoa_flowerBeautiful feijoa flowers.


Job and the Judge

Sermon for St Peter’s and St Christopher’s Tawa 14 October 2012

Rev. Felicity O’Brien all rights reserved.

Job 23:1-9.16-17, Mark 10:17-31

The text from Mark and that from Job have a common thread – they are both about rich men.

The rich young ruler in the Gospel was sad that he would have to give away his wealth to follow God. Maybe Jesus could look deep in his heart, and knew that his wealth held a place that God should hold, that wealth had become an idol for him.

But I’m not going to say much about him – I’m going to talk about the reading from the book of Job today.

Job was also a rich man, with seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants – he would have needed them! Continue reading

Blackbirds and trust


Blackbirds 3 Oct 2012

This is the view from my son’s window – first we saw a nest, then Mama blackbird, then chicks, and then Dad feeding them. I was so surprised that they nested so close to the house- just 4 feet away. I started to think about trust.

These birds must trust the humans if they are prepared to nest so close to us. They must know that we won’t harm them, and that there will be food for them.

If we want people to trust us, and come close to us, they need to know that we won’t harm them. Is this something we do in evangelism? Or are we so keen to get people in the church door and ‘saved’ that we don’t ensure trust is part of the picture? This is what ‘friendship’ evangelism is about – building up relationships before we start to tell the great story of God’s love. Or maybe, building up relationships is how we share God’s love. For many  people these days, finding someone they can trust and rely on is difficult. Families are spread throughout the country, and it’s easy to get isolated.

The church has a reputation in the community, and it’s not a good one. There is a mistrust of the institutional church, because of past abuses, and a sense that the church is just out for money. These are areas that are being dealt with, and having recently been through the discernment process, I know how robust is the testing to see if candidates for ordination are ‘safe’ people.The challenge is, how does the church then re-establish a sense of trust, so that people will want to ‘nest’ close to us, or even with us?

In my garden, I am often digging the soil, in vain attempts to remove dandelions, and make a loose structure to plant something. The blackbirds know that whenever I am doing this, there will be worms and other tasty grubs for them. In our churches, as we turn the soil of our local communities, maybe we expose the food too – the areas of interest and concern, things to think about, thinks to rejoice about, and things to fight against.

I encourage you to look around your ‘garden’, till the soil, and let the birds nest.

No nurture

Today a blackbird got into the kitchen. It’s that time of year when they’re a bit dopey, probably looking for food, and it’s finally warm enough to leave the back door open!

As I was cleaning up the mess along the kitchen window-sill, post-blackbird, I noticed one of my pot-plants had been knocked over. This one used to be a lovely healthy plant, with blue flowers – I haven’t got a clue what it’s called, but it seemed to run out of steam a year ago, so I took a cutting, and this was growing, albeit slowly, on my kitchen windowsill, between the cough-mixture and my son’s evil cactus.

As I picked up the plant, it fell apart in my hands! The stem had completely rotted through at ground level! No wonder it didn’t look too well…

This sad little plant reminds me of things in our lives that we keep limping along, when it’s way past time to let them go. Some relationships are like that, such as ‘friendships’ with people who only ever take, and never nurture. Or habits that you are trying to kick, but have got kind of comforting in their consistency. Maybe some ministries can be like that too – is it any point trying to flog a dead-horse of a youth group when most of the congregation is over sixty, and there are no teenagers, just a couple of grandchildren who come sometimes?

There are seasons for everything, and this plant told me to look at all the things in my life that are limping along, not going anywhere, and see if they are really being properly nourished.

Is your prayer life limping along? Is it the same all the time? Perhaps, if it is, it needs some compost! Have a look at different ways of praying. Find a new way of approaching scripture to nurture your prayer life. Start opening yourself up to what God may want you to pray about, and you will soon notice that as you start to pray for others, and their needs, that God will nourish you in a very real and present way.

Whose mission?

At our church we are focussing on mission this month. It’s good to have a reminder about what being Christian means in terms of our outworking. One of our preachers had this quote:

“The church of God doesn’t have a mission in the world. The God of mission has a church in the world” (Dr Tim Dearborn, of World Vision International)

I like this! It reminds us that it is God’s mission, God’s work, and that we, as the church, have the privilege of belonging to the God of mission, working out God’s purpose in God’s world. As the church, we belong to God, and we are in the world. Not just bishops or priests. Not just deacons. Not just those with lay licences, but all God’s people are people with a mission, on a mission, a Great Commission.

“Praise God from earth…,

Earth’s kings and all races, leaders and important people,

Robust men and women in their prime, and, yes, graybeards and little children.

Let them praise the name of God – it’s the only Name worth praising!” (Ps 148:7,11-13a, the Message Bible.)

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!

Gingerbread men

Today I have been making gingerbread men for a school fundraiser. (And avoiding starting my next essay.) As I placed the cutter on the dough, the space was getting used up. With each one cut out in the right shape, there was less and less dough to cut out for the next one. it was time to gather up the scraps and roll it out again.

Is this a metaphor for the church at the moment? Have we gone about as far as we can with the current model, cutting out ministries that are all the same? Perhaps it’s time to gather up the scraps, consolidate them in one well-kneaded ball, and roll them out again.

And just as we can change cookie-cutters whenever we want, maybe we need a different template for church ministries, to cut out our dough. Maybe one that doesn’t leave such big gaps between the shapes, where there are fewer and fewer bits fallen through the cracks.

What can this mean for Christians today? it’s time to do things differently, and be open to the Holy Spirit leading us in a completely new direction!