Biennial Forum highlights

Attendees at the April 2021 UCANZ Forum were treated to a variety of presentations and workshops. Material from Rev Mary Petersen and Trudy Downes has already been circulated to participants.

Rev Tony Franklin Ross gave us a valuable survey of Ecumenism from a worldwide perspective. His notes can be accessed here.

Dr Emily Colgin spoke about the possibilities – indeed the necessity – or a religious response to the ecological crisis: necessary because the origins of the crisis can be seen as religious perspectives. Here is a link to her slides.

UCANZ Forum 2021

We gathered at El Rancho, near Waikanae Beach, for the 14th UCANZ Biennial Forum: “Hear what the CVs are saying to the Churches”. We gathered with April rainclouds, and departed with sunshine and joy!

We were 65 people from 35 parishes: although less than one third of the Uniting Congregations, yet a good range (in the North Island, at least) of urban and rural, large and small churches, with ethnic diversity increased from previous Forums. Accommodation was good, with a holiday camp atmosphere and good spaces to meet in.

Friday night was noisy with the chatter of speed-dating, once the CV cats had been herded. After hearty porridge on the morrow, Rev Mary Petersen set the scene, recalling earliest origins in 1943 (Raglan), 1947 (Tata), and 1951 (Marchwiel – the oldest to survive), but emphasising that where we’re going is more important than where we’ve been.

Exploring the history and purpose of CVs

Hutt City Uniting Congregations (HCUC) ministers, Anna Gilkison and Les Solomona, gave some insights multi-ethnic and multi-denominational church. The challenge to be multicultural is more than having multiple ethnicities. Indeed, there are many other cultures to be aware of: generational, theological, socio-economic, LGBTI, urban/rural, and regional.

Rev Tony Franklin-Ross explored ecumenism in the wider context with a scholarly survey of Receptive ecumenism, Empathetic ecumenism (“a lifestyle, not a task”), Differentiated ecumenism (unity requires more than ‘being nice’), and Ecumenical catholicity (we can experience catholicity deficit if we do not accept each other). Are we prepared, as uniting congregations, to go beyond the boundaries we already work within?

Trudy Downes, the Care Taker of the Methodist Church, explored the scary side of compliance issues but provided some reassuring strategies – and chocolate! Theatre maker and social justice provocateur, Jo Randerson, was absent due to illness, so we had to “give voice to it” in different ways.

We elected nine local churches representatives to Standing Committee by acclamation, including three first-timers. The open floor of the business session became quite heated with different voices seeming to ask for (a) sight of the annual report from UCANZ to Partner Churches, (b) a report from Standing Committee to the Forum, and (c) a report/summary of the event we were attending.

Methodist President Andrew Doubleday, Presbyterian Moderator Fakaofo Kaio, and Jenny Chalmers (standing in for absent Anglican bishops) were in the hot seat for Question Time, tackling such questions as: What is making the denominations retreat behind the barricades? Do you believe in the viability of the Cooperative Venture? How can bureaucracy be simplified for property issues? What aspects of your denomination are unique to your particular brand?

A final presentation on Sunday morning reminded us of ecological readings of the Bible. Dr Emily Colgin explored the Principle of Interconnectedness with specific reference to Genesis 2 and Jeremiah 31. 35-37 and work with the Anglican Indigenous Network and Anglican Communion Environmental Network. Worship from HCUC brought proceedings to a ‘Uniquely Uniting’ close.

The Rubbish Challenge

PCANZ minister living in Burnham, Rev Sylvia Purdie, is inviting you and your whānau to join in a transformational journey over 10 months. Blelow is the first episode of The Rubbish Challenge. For future editions – suitable for publication in your local church newsletter – please follow Sylvia’s instructions below.

Remember – pollution is simply an output you do not use. So use it!

10 Steps to Less Waste in 10 Months

A resource for churches and whanau. Please copy and share (free copyright).

More material and videos at: www.conversations.net.nz/rubbish-challenge.html

Written by Silvia Purdie

Step 1) February: Consider

Bible verse: Ephesians 1:22 

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything.

‘Big Idea’: Mission is Gospel in Context

Christ is Lord of everything and the Gospel of Christ is good news for every-where. Mission happens at the points of connection between the eternal truth of salvation and the messy specifics of human life. In our time we face huge environmental issues. Following Jesus takes us where ever he leads, even into the rubbish dumps of the world.

Questions – for reflection & discussion

Whose problem is our rubbish? Is it a problem for God?

It’s great to throw things in the bin and someone else takes it away … but where does it go? What impact does it have on the environment? Is it our responsibility?
Is this something our church/group/home would like to address this year?

Action Steps for February

1. Download the ‘Waste’ study guide from A Rocha’s ‘Rich Living’ series:

www.arocha.org.nz/resources/rich-living-series

2. Read and talk about with others

3. Watch Silvia’s short video at: www.conversations.net.nz/rubbish-challenge.html

4. Decide to do the Rubbish Challenge 10 Steps this year.

For a church this could involve taking a formal proposal to the leadership/Council.

Prayer

Almighty Creator, all things come from you. You call us to be responsible stewards.

Jesus Christ, you are in all the world. You call us into mission to all the world.

Life-giving Spirit, give us strength to follow Christ, in the little things and in the big things.

Amen.

2021 Forum at Waikanae – El Rancho

We all hope that next year will be easier for churches – indeed for all citizens. Some ways of working will clearly be different. UCANZ Biennial Forum has been brought forward so as not to clash with Presbyterian and Methodist national gatherings later in the year.

The Forum will be residential (2 nights), starting on Friday afternoon, 16 April, and concluding, before lunch on Sunday 18 April. We have an impressive line-up of facilitators ready to help us speak our concerns to the Partner Church heads present. Ecumenical-minded ministers Mary Petersen, Anna Gilkison, Les Solomona, Tony Franklin-Ross, and Marilyn Welch, together with Jo Randerson, Trudy Downes, and Dr Emily Colgin will stimulate our thinking and doing.

Take advantage of an Early Bird price of $220pp, which includes accommodation and food and events, by completing the registration form here.

A Call for Action after Covid-19

Quakers officially known as the Religious Society of Friends, Te Hāhi Tūhauwiri, have applied to join the national ecumenical club, the National Dialogue for Christian Unity. This is their recently released Call for Action…

We Quakers find hope in the communal response to the Covid-19 crisis across our nation.  The collective action of New Zealanders has demonstrated how much we can achieve together in a short time. We see the current pandemic as a warning which creates an unprecedented opportunity for systemic change and as a call to remodel our nation guided by the principles of sustainability, non-violence, simplicity and equity.  This is a transformation that will require redistributive and regenerative economic, government and social policies that ensure all members of society benefit in an equitable manner. 
 
Our vision is of a society that is inclusive and respectful of all people. We affirm the special constitutional position of Māori and a Treaty-based, bi-lateral system of government. We seek government which leads with integrity, shares information based on evidence, and engages with communities prior to decision-making.  We oppose violence at every level and look to practices that bring peaceful dialogue and non-violent management of conflict.
 
Quakers have a strong sense of the sanctity of creation. We are committed to the development of systems and new societal norms to rebalance climate disruption, preserve biodiversity and water quality and enable New Zealanders to live simpler lives within sustainable natural boundaries.  We support the use of national resources to provide housing, low-carbon transport, and regenerative food production to benefit future generations.
 
We see that society has been putting profit and consumption above other considerations despite clear evidence that earth’s natural limits have been exceeded.  Consumer lifestyles have been destroying the natural ecosystems required by future generations.  Decades of neoliberal economic and social policies have allowed a few people to set the agenda and benefit disproportionately. This has condemned many to low wages, poverty and insecurity whilst also degrading the environment.
 
Quakers consider that the current pandemic offers the people of Aotearoa New Zealand a chance to reassess the situation and to create a new sense of community and purpose. The Light of the Spirit has inspired Quakers through the generations into social and environmental action.  We see this experience with Covid-19 as the impetus to find a way forward based firmly on the Quaker values of peace, simplicity, and equity
 
Quakers call on every person in Aotearoa New Zealand to bring about whatever changes they can to enable us to live in harmony with one another and with the planet.
 
 
Lesley Young
Yearly Meeting Clerk

Old religious quarrels return as covid-19 lockdowns ease

A current article in The Economist poses the question of what kind of churches we are…

“…imagine two camps that are defined by what they fear and dislike most. In one are religious groups whose strongest impulse is to improve the material lot of humanity, by fighting poverty or pollution. They are open to working with secular agencies, including governments and supra-national bodies, where they can be a force for the common good. In the other camp, faith communities believe the main challenge is secularism, the watering-down of old certainties, the threat posed by new thinking about sex and gender—all perceived evils deemed to be perpetrated by liberal elites and secular government authorities…

“To a degree the divide splits Europe and America, in part because of their differing collective memories. Americans abhor state-imposed religious orthodoxy, whereas Europeans have a theocratic tradition whose current form is emollient. The humanitarian camp is much stronger in Europe, at least among established Christian hierarchies…

“And even Scandinavian social democracy, on the face of things a godless creed, has clear historic roots in the region’s Lutheran tradition which emphasises good citizenship, says Nick Spencer of Theos, a London think-tank. For pious traditionalists, that Nordic example is a warning, not an inspiration: wherever religion merges with social welfare, they would retort, it virtually ceases to exist.”

What about New Zealand churches, and where are you?

For full article see link.

On the level : from garret to studio

It has been a long haul through levels 4 and 3. I have enjoyed speaking by phone with people in many cooperative ventures and hearing how creative worship leaders and pastoral carers have been. There have been too many Zooms, but we are just grateful for what is possible. Special sympathy for those who have been involved with bereavements at this time.

As we move to level 2 with an initial restriction to gatherings 10 people, public worship is still not permitted.  However, as David Bush has pointed out today, we are now free to:
1. Use the church office.
2. Run small groups (of 10 people or less).
3. Hire out premises to similarly small groups.
4. Visit people in their homes – with their agreement.

Presbyterian-convened CVs are able to claim relief from the national (Assembly Assessment) portion of the monthly levy in May and June. We await news of any equivalent assistance from the Methodist Church and the Dioceses.

For those with governance responsibilities there is a Covid-19-Legal-Handbook to download, made available through InterChurch Bureau channels.

We will soon be sending out our statistical requests. The financila form is now much simpler. One added detail is that the Government Wage Subsidy will be included in the eight allowance, so you you will not be taxed on these payments.

I have been working from home in sunny Napier but will welcome a return to Wellington soon. That will depend on a few factors, including a shift of office from the top floor of the Anglican Centre. Being optimistic, I expect from June our postal address to be:
          UCANZ, 8 Moncrieff Street, Mount Victoria, Wellington 6011
The new office is part of the Wellington Quaker Centre who have kindly made a venue called ‘The Studio’ available to us. We can be suitably distanced for the time being – but we’d love to see you! Bus routes 1 or 2. Phones are now 027 559 9042 (Adrian) and 0210 272 4771 (Margaret).

Radio Church Programmes from the Manawatu – available in Aotearoa and the World!

Methodist lay-preacher John Thornley  advertises his theology and hymn programmes…

Wesley Broadway offers weekly radio shows on the Manawatu People’s Radio. These can be downloaded via the On Demand service, and can be listened to at any time. Access via the website: http://mpr.nz/Show/wesley

Go to ‘Episodes’ and scroll down to ‘Wesley Methodist’ where you find a listing of recent programmes. Each programme lasts for 30 minutes.

What are the options? 

Theology- Colin Gibson, hymnwriter, gives 3 talks on the Trinity, each one illustrated by one of his own hymns.

Music: a variety of music, including religious and secular music, from within Aotearoa and overseas. You will find that the show shares hymns by New Zealanders, not only in May (NZ Music Month) but throughout the whole year.

Contact: John and GillianThornley at johngill@inspire.net.nz  or postal to 62A Albert Street, Palmerston North 4414. We welcome feedback, including requests for future programmes.