I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. [Genesis 12]
In September last year, driving back into Wellington, I felt a sense of God calling us to respond actively to the refugee crisis. At that time I felt a deep sense of weariness and a reluctance to engage with God’s invitation. However the following weekend, I received the outpouring of your hospitality from each parish. As I write this morning, children of the Syrian refugees play in the Cathedral garden as their parents attend one of a number of ongoing orientation days run by the Red Cross.
You may have also seen some of the newspaper and online coverage of the huge effort undertaken by our parishes, the Catholic parishes, the Islamic community and the Red Cross, to successfully organise the setting up of houses for the February intake.
A few weeks ago, I stood with Archbishop Philip before the Amnesty International parliamentary public hearing on the refugee quota, advocating for doubling the number of refugees arriving in New Zealand each year. I know a number of parishes too have lobbied their local MPs with the same message.
I’m struck through this whole process just how much we have talked over the years about becoming a transformative movement of local faith communities. These recent months, more than anything else over the years of my episcopate, has given us a picture of what we can be. We have worked successfully at several levels:
- We have lobbied government and worked with parliamentary processes to effect change
- We spoke into the secular public sphere and improved our capability in working with social agencies
- We effected local level community transformation; building new friendships not only to those new to Aotearoa, but between brothers and sisters of different faiths, denominations, viewpoints and backgrounds
And most importantly, we have been transformative change-makers in the name of Jesus. Well done to you all for the hard work you have done and continue to do.
I look forward to catching up with as many of you as possible at the Chrism services next week; I very much enjoyed last year’s services, standing alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ to affirm our ordination and baptismal vows.
Please also make sure that the Diocesan Leadership Training day on Saturday 9 April is in your diaries – this day is for anyone who holds a leadership position in the parishes. This will be a great opportunity to connect with people who lead in similar ways across the Diocese; to hear some key messages as well as take part in some specific sessions tailored to particular issues. See the link above to Movement Online for more details.
Blessings to you all for a holy and life-giving Easter season.
Bishop of Wellington