Hundreds of people of all ages gathered at Wellington Cathedral of St Paul on the warm and muggy evening of Sunday the 16th of February, as over 200 people committed themselves to lives of compassion, prayer and hospitality. Those being dedicated are beginning this year in communities that operate on rhythms of prayer and mission, as they seek to bring God’s Kingdom to earth in their own local contexts.
The approach of living with others outside one’s own family unit is somewhat counter-cultural, but those of us embarking on this journey are drawn with excitement to this radical way of following Jesus – as Archdeacon Scottie Reeve posted on social media, this group is “making radical the new normal.”
The cathedral was buzzing with life and noise throughout the service, with children playing in the ambulatories as each missional community stood and made their declarations of commitment, followed by waiata and prayer from the rest of the congregation. Archbishop Philip Richardson preached the sermon, encouraging us: “The whole church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia wants to surround you with prayer and aroha. The whole church… wants to celebrate what you are committing your lives to today.”
He reflected on the reading from John’s Gospel: “’The word made flesh, full of grace and truth.’” He told us: “God is not remote, or distant, or disconnected from our reality, God is present, made known to us in the person of Jesus Christ. God is real to us in and through Jesus.” He remembered a song by Joan Osborne, which was controversial amongst Christians in its day, that said: “What if God was one of us?… Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home.” Despite the controversy, Archbishop Philip reminded us that “God is right in the midst of us, God is present amongst us.”
Next week we’ll share some of the thoughts and comments of those dedicating themselves to live in intentional Christian community.