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Earthquake meanderings

The pope prayed for the victims of the Christchurch earthquake.

Many were pleased that after this quake the Archbishop of Canterbury sent a message to Bishop Victoria Matthews:

We are all thinking of you constantly in the wake of (the) terrible news, and our prayers are with you. The devastation of the Cathedral is dreadful, but, as you have said yourself, it is only a sign of the real human tragedy, whose scale is so serious. We thank God that you and your people are there to offer strength and comfort to all those caught up in the personal suffering this has brought.

After the quake, the Salvation Army was very visible. I also met four “chaplains” who were clearly, distinctively identified. In conversation with them I discovered these had come here specially as members of the Assemblies of God Church. The Salvation Army members had also flown in specially. The Baptists organised a meeting of over one hundred church leaders to share what was being done, what was needed, and what could be offered. I have more than once expressed here how some “younger” denominations have leaped right over the tiring controversies and divisions and are rolling their sleeves up and in a missional way are meeting the real needs of real people. Many others have much to learn from this.

On the up-to-date Anglican diocesan website I cannot locate where church services are being held – even if you go to the specific “churches and parishes” section of the site. I wonder how those who, in this time of need, want to go to a service, would find their way to an Anglican service? The Catholic diocesan site gives clear Parish and Mass Information.

It has been interesting to see different approaches to worship after the earthquake. Some congregations focus, in their information, on letting their regular congregation know where they are now meeting. Some denominations (the Roman Catholics I have pointed out are a good example of this) provide information where, in the local area, you can find a church service. This latter, Roman Catholic, approach is also more possible because they have held to a common prayer approach to worship, so that wherever you go, visitors and regulars and people misplaced from their regular worshipping community will know what to expect. Anglicans in NZ have increasingly abandoned such a “franchise” approach – “common prayer” is now mostly a congregational phenomenon rather than a diocesan (or provincial) one. IMO both are important: care for the regular congregation and openness to welcoming new people and visitors who come for particular reasons (and need to be provided with a sense of what they will be expecting – a “safe” environment).

A final thought in these meanderings: My friend and colleague, Rev Peter Carrell, whose ministry is ministry training and theological education in our diocese, has advised worship leaders to “stick to the book” in leading worship. IMO that is normally the case – not just after an earthquake. Regulars here will know I am not advocating a rubrical or formulary fundamentalism, but an intelligent, well-formed use of liturgy of which “the book” is descriptive (rather than primarily prescriptive). The earthquake has graphically revealed what is always the case: we are not in control. People always arrive at worship with a variety of needs – rejoicing at a birth or new love, grieving over death, the loss of a job, the breaking of a relationship, in need of forgiveness, angry, seeking meaning, … Liturgy, worship, should and can be the context in which God meets each person individually and us all as a community…

Please add your own thoughts to my meanderings…

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