Thursday, 8 May 2014

Kerikeri

I had an early start. The plane for Auckland left at 6:50 am so it was a drive to the airport in the dark and the steady, cold, Dunedin rain. I sat near the back of the Airbus A320 and sipped my coffee from a paper cup and managed to meditate for a bit. The sun rose just as the Seaward Kaikouras broke through the morning cloud and we landed in Auckland at 10 after a brief stop in Wellington. The plane to Kerikeri was one of those little Beechcraft where you get to have a window seat and an aisle seat simultaneously, and the only people on board who weren't Anglicans were the two guys at the front twiddling the knobs. We were met by some of the locals and there was a drafting gate - bishops to the left, all others to the right, and us in the purple shirts were driven off to Waimate and the old mission house.

We met, eight of us from six dioceses, in the little newly restored Sunday School hall. We celebrated the Eucharist in St. John's church, and we wandered around the old mission house where, in the 1830s,  Sarah Selwyn waited patiently for her husband to return from one of his six month perambulations around his diocese. The Department of Conservation people had removed the little ropes from the doors for us and so I went from room to room, looking at the household effects that had been there, some of them, for almost as long as the house. In one of the rooms I saw this:
It's a little chaise longue or daybed that is pretty unremarkable except for one fact: it is the first piece of furniture ever to be built in New Zealand. Some missionary or other cut down a tree about 200 years ago, sawed the lumber into boards and knocked together a little something to sit on. And a jolly fine job he made of it too, for it's still here and still looking pretty robust. I looked at those few bits of  shaped wood and somehow it seemed to me to encapsulate the spirit of those remarkable people; those early ones who came out here, thousands of miles from all that was famiar to them, and comfortable and safe. They gave up everything to share what they knew with people whom they didn't know.

The old mission house is spacious and intriguingly unpredictable in its architecture. It is sparsely furnished and the bare wooden walls aren't painted or papered. It is simple, strong, functional and enduring. Like the chaise longue. Like the faith of the missionaries.

We went back to our meeting room and were fed a delicious lunch of soup and bread. We sat in the little hall with its tall board and batten walls and discussed some of the issues which have brought us all to this end of the country: gay marriage, constitutional reform, episcopal electoral processes. These are important things to consider, but I couldn't help thinking as we talked that perhaps we were missing something. And that perhaps it was the strong faith which was somehow evinced by an old daybed and a quirkily designed old house; the faith which built a church that has survived 200 years in Aotearoa, and which the church needs to find at its core if it is to survive another 200.


4 comments:

liturgy said...

Thanks for blogging daily through General Synod Te Hinota Whanui 2014. Looking forward to following it from a distance digitally. I have put a link here from my General Synod 2014 post. With prayers and thoughts

Christ is Risen!

Bosco
www.liturgy.co.nz

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Bishop Kelvin, I hope you were just using your poetic license when you said that what might have been missing was 'the simple faith' that had informed the hearts and minds of the early missionaries to Aotearoa.

I really hope that that, amongst our bishops of ACANZP, there would still be something of that spirit of intrepid evangelical excitement that brought people like Williams and Selwyn to our shores.

My hope is that the Church will be able to bring new light into the arguments about gender and sexuality issues in our Church - despite a certain tendency to dwell in past understandings of our common humanity - that will see the end of institutional homophobia and misogyny. Because:

Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

(Praying for you all!)

Kelvin Wright said...

I didn't use the word "simple," Ron. I used the word "robust" a couple of times, though. My point was that these tupuna believed the Gospel: believed it enough to give up pretty much everything and move across the globe to live in what was then a pretty dangerous place. And it is this commitment, not the simplicity of the faith or otherwise that founded our church and which our church needs to find again if it is to survive. Bishop Justin spoke today of the tyranny of the therapeutic in the church's proclamation; and of how we need to go back to a more Biblical model of sacrificial faith. Which I agree with. And which is not too dissimilar to what I was trying to say above.

Kelvin Wright said...

I didn't use the word "simple," Ron. I used the word "robust" a couple of times, though. My point was that these tupuna believed the Gospel: believed it enough to give up pretty much everything and move across the globe to live in what was then a pretty dangerous place. And it is this commitment, not the simplicity of the faith or otherwise that founded our church and which our church needs to find again if it is to survive. Bishop Justin spoke today of the tyranny of the therapeutic in the church's proclamation; and of how we need to go back to a more Biblical model of sacrificial faith. Which I agree with. And which is not too dissimilar to what I was trying to say above.