Kia ora e te whanau

This last week has been full – Friday saw the joy of being part of the now ‘Rev’ Lyn Heine’s ordination in Greymouth. Lyn’s infectious ‘joie de vivre’, along with her insight and long experience with people, will continue to be a blessing to the people of the West Coast district in the years to come.

Sunday offered me the privilege of preaching at the 150th Anniversary of the Greendale Church. Ably  led by Rev ‘Aunty’ Lyn Sopoaga in her own joyous and inimitable way, it was a day of celebration of what has past and hope for the future.

For Touchstone May 2024

The Methodist Monthly ‘Touchstone’ is the only national communication within the partner churches that I’m aware of. I have a regular column. So, I reproduce my latest offering here….

Change or Die

What gathered steam as a great idea in the 1960s, and almost came to fruition as a form of organic unity in the 1970s, stumbled at the last and crashed to never rise again. I’m talking about the ‘Plan for Union’. By the time the final vote was taken, and it was discovered that the numbers weren’t quite there, the whole thing collapsed – my hunch – more out of exhaustion than a lack of desire.

In the mean-time, the vision, the dream – had nevertheless caught on. Local groups continued to see their future as being together. Around the country today there remain over 100 Co-operating Ventures (CVs) – parishes of different denominational partnerships – no two looking exactly alike. While there have been more dissolutions than new such ventures over recent years, the dream remains alive – if not within the partner churches, yet within the CVs themselves. The reality is that the Partner Churches have, for reasons of their own, steered away from CVs as a viable option from the future. The forming of new CVs is no longer the automatic default option when faced with the possibility of closure, or the possibility of a new church venture in new communities. It seems the general commitment to our current CV model of ecumenism is one of death by attrition.

This is where we are. I have, perhaps, a unique vantage point, a viewing place that allows me to see differently. I have the privilege of being able to engage with the partner churches (Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian) at national, regional, and local levels. And it is a privilege. I get to see both the best, and the worst. I’ve met amazing people! It’s easy to be critical of church leaders – yet it also has become clear to me why so many of them are in their roles – the grace of God in them has so often been so obviously recognised. Yet, it’s not enough. Alone, the future looks dire.

My hunch is that our future will need to be together in some way. Yet we are collectively burying our heads in the sand. All the partner churches are engaged in rear-guard actions hoping that the latest ‘shiny object’ in terms of an overseas programme, throwing money at a problem, or simply magical thinking, will reverse our decline as denominations. It won’t. At some level we continue to look backward to the ‘glory days’ when our churches were full, our Sunday Schools amazing, and fellowship groups fully engaged – imagining that if we can rediscover the essential ingredient of our denominational secret sauce, then all will be well. It may. It’s unlikely.

We may need to move to a more permission-giving model of resourcing parishes/ congregations in the future. What I have noticed, is that where CVs are allowed to explore their own way of being church in their specific community – supported, yet unencumbered by denominational strictures – they have a chance of making a go of it. Tragically, we often regard these churches as problematic, as they lack enthusiasm for bowing the knee to denominational priorities.

UCANZ is providing an opportunity for a conversation about our future. We are planning our Biennial Forum for Kings Birthday at the end of May 2025 in Auckland. The theme – Our Future Together. This is not just for those involved in CVs – it’s for church leaders across the board in all our partner churches who have a concern for the Church’s  future.

Personal and Leadership Resources

Adam Hanft challenges a metaphor that I admit to having used fairly consistently over the years.

How Calling Everything a Journey Legitimizes Lethargy

It really got me thinking about the way our words shape our behaviour – while I was reading, I became aware that ‘being on a journey’ doesn’t even necessarily need to imply any clarity about the destination. The article can be read here: https://www.inc-aus.com/adam-hanft/how-calling-everything-a-journey-legitimizes-lethargy.html

Minda Zetlin mines the insights of Wharton Psychology Professor Adam Grant in this article:                       

The Best Leaders Share These Contradictory Traits

To quote Grant – “Often our highest potential people are the ones who can diagnose a problem that nobody else has seen, and then figure out how to tackle it,”

The article can be read here: https://www.inc-aus.com/minda-zetlin/star-psychologist-adam-grant-says-best-leaders-share-these-contradictory-traits.html

Homilies

Trevor Hoggard canvasses the lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, Starting with a discussion on the replacement of Judas by Mathias as the twelfth Apostle as the disciples awaited the day of Pentecost. His sermon can be experienced here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekeAn_o3WEM&t=2s

My response to the Gospel text of John 17 vs 6-19 is titled ‘The Unseen Hedge’ and considers the level of ‘protection’ that Jesus prays for the Father to bless his followers with. In this homily, I ask what our lives, and the world, would look like if we took the words in the gospel text seriously.  It can be experienced here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pu1Y2S0LQM

But wait, there’s more! Since Thursday the 9th is Ascension Day, I’ve also put up a homily based on the Acts 1:1-11 reading for the day (which can also be used on the nearest Sunday – which is the 12th) and titled it ‘Ascension in its context’.

It can be experienced here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VzWkv_IHbw

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Ngā manaakitanga

Andrew Doubleday

UCANZ Ministry Facilitator

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