To begin the second part of his Bishop’s Charge, Bishop Justin invited Rev Nigel Dixon to share a story that Justin had felt was applicable to the diocese in this day. Nigel shared that a couple of years ago, he had planted some native trees, including kōwhai, on his property, and now the number of tūī had increased significantly. Nigel felt that the diocese is like the kōwhai tree – we’ve planted the trees, and now the birds are coming. Of course more birds equals more poop, or more work, but the glorious song and spectacle is well worth it!
Bishop Justin left off from that point by suggesting a range of exciting and positive things that we might dream to occur – or in Nigel’s words, a number of tūī that might come to perch in our kōwhai – in the coming years, thanks to the foundation that has been laid in the previous few years. (You can read about the successes of the last few years in Part 1 of Bishop Justin’s Charge here.).
The strengthening of various parts of the diocese was a theme in Bishop Justin’s Charge. He talked about the northern archdeaconries as being an area to watch for future strengthening. “There are lots of signs of life, lots of hard work – birds pooping, but significant turn around in those realities.” He also sees many larger parishes struggling, and he believes that this is going to turn around, as will the role of Vestries and Wardens. “[Gone are] the days of the Vicar or Priest in Charge doing everything. They’re there to equip everyone, and I think we’ll see the lay leaders stepping out and leading.”
Further to his comment on the first day of Synod about the development of clusters, he sees this model being strengthened further. He believes there is far greater synergy happening between parishes, and this will continue to grow.
There are many areas where specific growth will happen, Bishop Justin believes. At the Wellington City Mission, he believes there is a greater degree of dynamism and synergy in relation to the diocese, and based on the wonderful foundation laid by then-City Missioner Rev Tric Malcolm, Bishop Justin sees an exciting future ahead for this organisation and for the relationship between it and the diocese.
He also sees the area of housing being something we continue to advance on. Following Rev Jon Hartley’s challenge to Synod to explore how parish land could be used more effectively for the mission of the church, approximately 80 Synod members travelled to St David’s Naenae on the Saturday of Synod for a workshop on housing on parish land. Bishop Justin believes that we are moving from conversation to reality.
Bishop Justin is looking forward to more unique parish opportunities arising, like the one being explored in the Parish of Ruapehu at present. With an under-utilised hall, the parish is working with the Diocesan Intermediate Ministry Co-ordinator Chris Casey to explore converting it for use in a youth ministry capacity for the whole diocese. “Who knows if it’s going to work? But there’s this unique way of reimagining what it could be in a real way that makes sense for that parish in that location in this point in history. And I think we’ll see more of that in the future, where parishes reimagine themselves unique to their context and in creativity.”
The tūī will come because – yes, God builds His church, but also we partner in that. How we partner in that is that we actually rise together. Each individual table here, in the end, we’re not enough. [But] together we are the Body of Christ and together we are enough in Christ. Maybe at this table there’s not enough, or that table there’s not enough, but between these two tables together, there’s more than enough.
It is fair to say that Bishop Justin painted an exciting picture of what our future might look like. The atmosphere at Synod, buit particularly after Bishop Justin spoke, was one of belief in our ability to partner with God to see this bright future come to pass. Bishop Justin gave an amazing anecdote which sums up the fact that we are embracing our status as family:
One of the great joys I heard of this year is a parish that said ‘we know of a parish next door that is struggling to meet its stipended obligations and we want to contribute some money to that parish so they can meet their obligations.’ That’s it isn’t it? Isn’t that what we’re about? Won’t it be a great moment when we say ‘I’ve got a team of people that can go over here and replant this parish, and yes it will cause a little gap for a while,’ but won’t that be a great moment? Won’t it be a great day when a parish wants to sell a church but instead of putting the money in the account, they recognise that there is a parish over the other side of the diocese where they actually need that, because the Kingdom of God is flourishing there, won’t it be a great day when we just say, hey – we want that to go over there. Won’t that be a great day? And when those things happen, that’s when we rise together. And that’s when the tūī come home.