Friday, 05 October 2018

Reimagining Church in NZ

Written by Rob Floyd
Earthquake damaged Anglican Cathedral in Christchurch Earthquake damaged Anglican Cathedral in Christchurch

Over the last few days I have had the great pleasure to represent the Uniting Church at the 2018 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ).

The Assembly began with a wonderful opening service including the installation of the new Moderator, Rt Rev Fakaofo Kaio.

Rev Kaio is the child of Samoan Missionaries in the small island of Tokelau who later moved to New Zealand for studies. In ministry he has served across a number of Parishes in the PCANZ including among Pacific Island communities.

As a result he is fluent in five languages, including the languages of Te reo Maori, Tokelau, Samoa and Niue, all reflected beautifully in the singing and prayers during the installation service and throughout the meeting.

The General Assembly runs over five days and involves around 300 representatives from across New Zealand.

The meeting heard reports from across the Presbyteries as well as the work of national ministries including Youth, Children’s, Global Mission and Press Go, an initiative to support mission and growth initiatives.

It also considered a range of issues including the use and sharing of resources across the church, support for peace processes in Korea, responding to the New Zealand “End of Life Choice Bill” and the Responsible Stewardship of God’s Creation.

New PCANZ church building in Christchurch with foundations of old damaged one in foregroundOne of the blessings for me in attending was that the meeting was held in Christchurch.

My host took time to show me around the city. In 2010 and again in 2011 Christchurch was struck by massive earthquakes and their aftershocks. The damage was extensive, including among the PCANZ church buildings.

In many places the PCANZ has responded creatively, reimagining church, people coming together in new and exciting ways, re-visioning their life and their place in the Mission of God.

Not just rebuilding, not just surviving, but coming together with a new vision to thrive, to make a difference in their communities.

One such context is The Village Church Community in Papanui and Bryndwr. Both were sites of old, traditional, church buildings, damaged beyond repair.

Church members came together with a new vision of being in the midst of the community. The results are two quite different but welcoming spaces in which the community can meet together and the church can work in partnership with the local community.

A second context is St Paul’s Trinity Pacific, another old, traditional building with a large Pacific Island community.

This community chose to relocate, buying land and building a new, large, multipurpose facility, capable of seating 8-900 worshippers each Sunday.

A similarly large hall and kitchen is being built next door. Again, the focus has been on creative new ways of living out God’s mission.

The General Assembly continues until Sunday 7th October.

I was invited to bring greetings to the meeting and was pleased to express the delight we have as the Uniting Church in our ongoing relationship with our Sisters and Brothers in the PCANZ.

May we continue to uphold them in our prayers.

Rob Floyd is the Associate General Secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly.