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Better together?

Bishop Helen-Ann reflects on Te Pouhere Sunday

Te Pouhere Sunday

A few days ago, I posted a reflection on the feast of Corpus Christi.  In it I pointed out that one of the phrases that the Apostle Paul uses frequently in his correspondence with the early Christian communities that he founded is 'in Christ.'  I said that 'Paul was well aware of the frailty of humanity and its tendency to divide rather than unite.  His answer: that as long as we commit to being 'in Christ' then we can make progress in participating in God's mission.'

Today we celebrate Te Pouhere Sunday, the day when we give thanks for our constitution as a Three Tikanga church (the day when, let's be honest many ignore it, or don't want to give thanks for it).  In this Diocese, our bi-cultural relationships in particular are key, but we also acknowledge the many connections that we have with our Pasifika sisters and brothers.  In mid-July I shall be spending a few days in Tonga teaching clergy.  I am looking forward to sharing with them, and learning from their insights.  As we enter into a period of parish review and renewal in the Waikato, sowing new seeds which we and others will, God-willing water, we will be looking to deepen relationships with Tikanga Maori.  Together we will be discerning how best we can be 'in Christ' with one another.

Now you won't be surprised that space features in this reflection too!  Back to Mars again, or not quite.  I recently finished reading The Wanderers, a new novel by Meg Howrey.  It tells the story of three astronauts who are on a simulated mission to the red planet.  More than that, it is a probing study of how their loved ones are affected by their prolonged absence, as well as the effect of isolation on the astronauts' sense of identity.  

'So it will not only be Mars that they will discover for themselves, when they come here.  It will be a discovery of distance.  An understanding of what the word far can mean.'

Three individuals living in close proximity to one another on a journey which will stretch human appreciation of how far one can go.  In the novel, the astronauts interact, but it is the journey of their inner lives and that of their families 'on earth' that gives the narrative a feel of the infiniteness of outer space.  

The opportunity and risk in any relationship lies in the bringing together different identities to make something new.  An opportunity because that something new is full of potential.  A risk, because it takes hard work and failure may at times be the result.  As the different Tikanga chart their course to infinity and beyond (to quote that heroic fictional astronaut Buzz Lightyear!) the opportunity lies in the ways in which our journeys can align and support one another.  The risk lies in our choosing at times to go it alone and to forget the other exists.    Put simply, we cannot afford to veer into the territory of the latter.  This is why Paul's words are both important and helpful.  Important because they remind us of the central focus of Jesus Christ, and helpful because they point us to the means by which we stay together: it through Christ's body that we are united.  

That deeper sense of unity has been on display in the response to the horrific Grenfell tower fire in London.  Communities that have already been affected by terror attacks have instinctively come together to provide support and relief.  But divisions have also been highlighted, which underlines the all too real fragility within society.  Scratch the surface here too, and you can see where the fracture lines run.  These grooves of vulnerability lie in all our relationships, sacred as well as so-called secular.  The key is not to become overwhelmed, and that is why we need each other.  We cannot afford to walk alone, rather together we must speak out against injustice and pain, advocating for that cry of mercy that is always a breath away.  

Our feet are firmly planted on earth, much like the astronauts in the story who are only pretending to journey to Mars.  But questions about our direction of travel, and our capacity to sustain life on the way are mission critical for us at this time.  

How will we respond, and plan for our future?

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia changed its constitution in 1992 to have three tikanga equally alongside one another, working together: Tikanga Māori, Tikanga Pākeha, and Tikanga Pasifika.  'Tikanga' is a Māori word which when translated means roughly 'a way of ordering one's life.'  It allows each part of the church to attend to its life and growth according to its culture.  Note that the Province includes the Pacific islands of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa.  Pākeha is a Māori word referring to those of European descent. 


Story Published: 18th of June - 2017

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