On Tuesday, Stuart became our Vicar. Today is his first Sunday as our parish priest.
My role changes from that of Bishop’s warden to Vicar’s Warden.
I know you will all join me in welcoming Stuart and Christine to our parish family and praying for their ministry with us. Welcome Goodins!
The marking of Stuart’s arrival may be one of the most informal in our parish history. No installation service with a grand procession including dignitaries from the diocese and city, nor fine choral music, exhortation by the bishop, presentations of the symbols of the Vicar’s office, and of course supper. Nevertheless, the orderly administration which marks our Anglican church’s respect for our mission has been observed. Papers have been signed and Bishop Justin has appointed Stuart. We are delighted and rejoice in this event.
When it is safe for us to meet physically, we will hold a celebration of Stuart and Christine’s arrival. Of course, it will be a little different than we had planned, but the health of our people is our highest priority at this time. Delaying our “party” is a small sacrifice when we consider what is at stake.
Stuart’s first official was to attend our Vestry meeting on Wednesday evening by Zoom. I’m pleased to tell you that I have not received any notice of his subsequent resignation.
Many of us are missing our loved weekly practice of taking part in the Eucharist. Our tradition at St Peter’s has been to celebrate Holy Communion together regularly. Our participation in The Lord’s Supper joins us with Christians throughout the ages and gives a taste of eternity. Today’s readings and the collect highlight this especially:
You break the bread, we recognise you, you are the fire that burns within us; use us to light the world.
To quote a Catholic priest I heard speak recently “for us, communion is a big deal”. But as Christians, we have an absolute obligation to do what is best for our community. At present this means following the directions of our health officials to keep our community safe. It is the least we can do. But we can still use our energy, our skill and our goodwill to “light the world” at this time recognising that the Lord is “the fire that burn’s within us”, when many are feeling worried and stressed. As you may recall, I have spoken before of the Christian gift of hope – our right and our obligation to be hopeful for ourselves and for our community. This is particularly important in our current crisis.
We have been blessed by access to internet liturgies provided by our own Diocese of Wellington on movementonline, from All Saints Church in Dunedin, and from St Michael and All Angels in Christchurch. Many of us, and other Anglicans and Roman Catholics throughout the world have been interested in the idea of “virtual communion”- households taking bread and wine while linked up to a presiding priest in a video meeting. After some study, my personal view is that it is theoretically possible in emergency situations. However, in a pastoral letter last week our bishops wrote that this would not be authorised in our diocese. Instead, we are asked to consider time this as a form of fasting. That letter can be found on our website and our Facebook pages. Fasting is a spiritual discipline which has a long history and is familiar to us, particularly in times when focus on a concentrated discernment is occurring, and in preparation for the next season of our lives. At St Peter’s, we consistently claim our place in the Anglican tradition and will respect our bishops’ decision on this matter. Over the period of the Covid-19 emergency, our diocese has moved together as a community of faith and the ways we have joined together have resulted in our becoming closer. It is important that we remain committed to our participation as a member of the diocesan family and remain faithful to our common mission in this region. We are in a very unusual time and that calls for special commitment from each of us.
Eventually we will be able to meet in our church building and rejoice that we have got through this together. We will be able to sing, to hug each other, to cheer Stuart and Christine, to pray and share Communion together. What an event that will be!
In the meantime, please continue to keep contact and sustain each other, to observe a regular discipline of reading and prayer, and keep faith.
As part of our passing over the keys to Stuart, I had planned to publicly thank all of our team members who have helped us to keep our parish prospering through over the last 15 months as we waited for a new Vicar. There will be a time for some speeches on this later. However, right now, I want to express our thanks to all of our clergy team and lay people who have made an amazing effort to maintain the vibrancy of our life together. We have had some challenging times but we have survived in friendship and reasonable health. Many of you have all invested a huge amount of your own time and energy in keeping our parish life going. You know who you are. You have my gratitude and admiration.
I look forward to sharing the peace with you in a few weeks’ time.
Blessings to you all
26 April 2020