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.

Covid-19 update for Treasurers

PCANZ has just issued a useful guide to the Government Subsidy for employers which does seem to cover local churches and their ’employment’ of ministers. Below is an extract from the latest Treasurers’ Newsletter. The full March Newsletter can be found here.

The impact of Covid-19 will have financial implications for many parishes and we (PCANZ) have started to receive some questions about this. We want to remind treasurers that terms of call are set by presbytery and if congregations need to raise concerns about their financial viability, and in particular their ability to fund their minister’s stipend or staff salaries and wages, the first step is to engage with presbytery.

We note the Government has announced a set of financial packages relating to the impact of Covid-19. We have now received confirmation that parishes and other charities are able to apply for the subsidy. Details on how to apply are below. We have also sought advice from the Book of Order Advisory Committee about whether ministers are eligible, and our advice is that ministers may be eligible (as ministers are called and are not employees, it isn’t clear whether they qualify). Again, we are seeking further advice on this point and will provide a further update as soon as we have more information.

To ensure your request is considered, we recommend that any parishes wishing to make an application to the Ministry of Social Development for financial relief do so. The turnaround on claims has so far been quick and the full 12-week subsidy is paid up front.

To be eligible, the parish must have suffered, or are projected to suffer at least a 30% decline in revenue compared to last year for any month between January 2020 and the end of the scheme in June 2020. One would assume that proof of turnover will be required at some future point and there may be claw-backs for parishes who receive the subsidy but cannot demonstrate a decline in income.

Parishes are required to enter a NZ Business Number on their application. If you do not have a NZBN you can apply for one. Please click here to be taken to the Charities Services website which provides information on the process you will need to follow.

Undertakings required by the Employer

  1. Employers will need to declare that, on their best endeavours, they will continue to employ the affected employees at a minimum of 80% of their income for the duration of the subsidy period. This is the equivalent of keeping people working 4 out of 5 days of the week.
  2. Employers must also have taken active steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and sign a declaration form to that effect.

Parishes can apply to MSD for the subsidy at this link: https://services.workandincome.govt.nz/ess/employer_applications/new

Leave Payments

The leave payment is to cover employees and contractors who:

  • Need to self-isolate in line with Ministry of Health Guidelines; or
  • Cannot work due to being diagnosed with Covid-19; or
  • Cannot work because they are caring for dependents who are sick or who are required to self-isolate.

The weekly amounts are the same as the wage subsidy above, but the employer must reapply for this leave every 14 days. It can be paid for the entire period the employee is sick but on the basis the employee cannot work from home.

Rapid changes to our worshipping lives

As of Saturday 21 March 2020, there was a step-change in the New Zealand way of life as a result of our government’s response to the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

All Methodist and Wellington Anglican Diocese church services are suspended. The remaining Dioceses and the Presbyterian Church is giving the same advice from now on.

Continually updated advice is available from https://covid19.govt.nz/

We must all be shocked and heart-broken at the loss of life and social disruption that is occurring around the world. We know that there will be further changes in policy for New Zealanders as the alert level increases.

Church communities and other religious societies have networks for offering practical help within and beyond their membership. Our faith is based on an understanding of togetherness and unity that will be needed in the months ahead.

UCANZ committees will use Zoom for all meetings from this week. UCANZ staff, Adrian and Margaret, will be working from home for the foreseeable future. The current landline may be replaced, but meanwhile,
04 479 2026 (Tues-Thurs working hours) for MARGARET
and 021 035 3456 (better reception at home) for ADRIAN.
Emails unchanged.

Be strong, be patient, be kind.



A survey sent after the recent biennial Forum was completed by 10 people (that’s 15% of attenders) and provided some valuable feedback for the next Forum. The hosting was scored very highly – close to perfect! The speakers were nearly all rated in the good-excellent range, the workshops more various: from fair to excellent. The business sessions were less appreciated and the panel session only ‘fair’ – and, as the Panel compere, I would agree!

Comments were positive: “family atmosphere”, “really good experience”, “good to know we are not alone”, and “brilliant hosts”, were matched with “deliberation on election a waste of time” and “the Partners have no idea!”

For the future, we have noted that small group discussion after the speakers would be appreciated; the ‘self-help’ workshop should happen again – asking what CVs want, identifying the issues and opportunities…

Two anonymous ‘haiku’s were submitted:

I am glad I came                                                   Friendly occasion
Hearing and meeting new people                Good stories to think on
Feelings of welcome                                          And take home after

If the next Forum is in the Lower or Mid North Island, who would like to host it in October 2021? Suggestions to me, Adrian Skelton, in your own time.


Professor Peter Lineham, one of the speakers at the recent UCANZ Biennial Forum in Alexandra, provided long-term and in-depth analysis of the state of uniting congregations. You can view his presentation here.

Given dramatic downward trends in all major denominations (Catholics are a partial exception due to immigration) the resilience of union churches is remarkable. Are we part of the elusive rising trend of “Christian – no further definition”, which accounts for 307,926 people in the last census – almost as many as there are Anglicans in New Zealand.

Rather than being a “failed experiment”, might cooperative ventures freed of denominational strictures and property ties be the idea whose time has come?