In our first joint Bishops’ letter we shared the challenge, gift and commitment that we have each made to this new season of episcopal partnership. For us, this is one of the ways that we personally are moving from the “it’s not about me” to the “it’s about we”. Last month at our Ministry Leaders’ Family Camp we got to live out our family principle.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7: 24-27, NIV)
If, when the rains come (as they absolutely did that weekend!), we are seeking to live in partnership, we will know that we have built a strong foundation for God’s church. We celebrate that together we are raising a new generation of children and young people who know they deeply belong to a big family of faith.
This last month has been a very busy one for both of us, each experiencing the power of our people partnering together to be agents of transformation in our world. I (Justin) have been on hikoi with youth workers, hearing afresh the faith stories of our Diocese and beyond at Hiruharama, Parihaka and Turangi. Bishop Ellie has been involved with the Tip of the Iceberg conference, exploring issues around people trafficking and labour exploitation; a conference wonderfully organised by Chris Frazer and supported by the American Embassy and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Together at the Cathedral we hosted the election forum on housing injustice (thanks to Kate Day for her amazing organisation); challenging our parliamentarians to work together with the resources and power that they have at their disposal to the same extent that we know our people are committing themselves.
We have been struck across all of these recent events by the nature of innovative and deliberate collaboration. It is sometimes hard to navigate across cultures and both manuhiri and hosts of these events have done an amazing job of acknowledging their differences and continuing to build friendships.
At the Iceberg conference, an incredible range of individuals were present as both speakers and participants: including government policy makers, international subject experts, ambassadorial staff, corporate representation, primary industry officials, and ‘on the ground’ advocates and changemakers who work daily with those affected by exploitation. All of these groups came to the issue of labour exploitation with very different viewpoints, but across the two days the common goal came to find ways to collaborate with intentionality – knowing that it will not be easy, but being willing to listen, to accommodate and to keep having conversations with each other.
What a brilliant model for our diocese and a Christ-centred model for our church – knowing that our relationship with God and our approach to faith is ultimately not about ‘me’ – but rather about ‘us’, and together, us looking out for the ‘other’. Again, we see in embodiment ‘we are family, we are disciples, we care for the last, the lost and the least’.
One final thought, in relation to some of our recent media coverage of diocesan events – isn’t it interesting that it’s thought newsworthy that introducing someone to Jesus can transform a person’s or social group’s life. After hundreds and hundreds of years, people are surprised by this being the Church’s core business; that the Church is a place of transformed lives. That reality is surely cause for sober reflection.
As we head towards our Diocesan Synod next month, may we keep this in mind as we seek God’s will for the next year of our journey together.