Services since the Christchurch quake (February 22) at Christ’s College where I serve, have not been in Chapel but in shifts in the gym. For the final service of the term we were all together on the Quad with the temporary classrooms and the tent and buildings being repaired. Those who have been repairing our buildings joined us, and the students did a haka for them in appreciation of all they have done.

This is part of what I said:

Some of you might think – you haven’t really had Lent. There wasn’t the usual Ash Wednesday; the talks about prayer; about giving things up; about being especially generous and caring; and usually this Lent term ends with the removing of everything from on and around the altar area in chapel.

But just like we’ve had learning thrust upon us – we’ve had Lent thrust upon us. We’ve been thrust into Lent – with silt for ashes; the altar area of chapel has been cleared for work to be done there; and maybe we’ve prayed more than ever before – really prayed; and we’ve had to give up things – real things. And there’s been caring for each other and for others – real, genuine generous caring.

Palm Sunday the Cathedral congregation begins its use of our chapel building. The Cathedral website has:

Although from aerial photographs it looks as though the Cathedral has suffered damage only at the west end, this is not the case. The building has suffered significant failure along its entire length. … The west wall, although braced, is still in danger of collapse and there is damage to all other walls as well. It is inevitable that the Cathedral will need to be de-constructed before any reconstruction can begin.

pausing from shovelling silt

Yesterday I drove a group of students (their initiative) to the Eastern suburbs to help out; on roads that were reduced from state-of-the-art to rough, gravel tracks; where people have houses without basic amenities and not sealed from the elements; and winter is coming; and the simple gesture of shovelling some silt makes their week/month. Sam Johnson, well-known here for setting up the Student Volunteer Army, was my Chapel Prefect (read “sacristan”).

Recently, I met a couple from Barcelona. They came to Christchurch with the expectation of seeing a few damaged buildings – but had no idea that they would find the centre of the city closed. Today I met a woman from Jakarta. She asked directions to the cathedral and did not really believe me that you couldn’t go there. I walked her to the nearest vantage point – she asked as we walked, “are they demolishing those buildings because they do not like them?” I regularly receive messages from overseas – and thank you! – asking, is everything back to normal now? Or, good to hear things are getting back to normal.

Yes. Normal. A new normal.

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