Newsletter

Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

ST NINIAN’S PARISH NEWS;  JULY 2022

 

Around the Parish:

While the church building strengthening programme has been our main focus, our community life has continued

Future Ministry:  A Ministry Settlement Board has been formed.  Members are Hugh Catto, Jean Fryer, Hugh Thorpe, Mary Bullock, Anne Kay, Patricia Crumpton from St Ninian’s. Hugh Perry is convener. Jill White from St Martin’s and  Lesley Compton from St Mark’s represent Presbytery. They have met several times and are working hard to present our wishes and Mission.

Easter services: Thanks to Rev Stephanie Wells for her refreshing Easter services which were well attended and appreciated.

Parish Council:  Following a discussion around our mission plan and how to best keep in touch with members no longer able to attend worship, and others who are out of Christchurch, agreed to purchase a conference camera with money donated by the Blokes Group. We are being advised by Aaron Marshall who has helped St Martins put their services online. We will apply to the presbytery for a grant to purchase any other      necessary equipment.

Crosses:  It was great having Rob and Dawn Ferguson visit and for them to be here for the raising of the crosses.

A happy crowd of St Ninian’s folk were also present. Rob’s article and photos were published in a recent copy of the Alpine Presbytery Newsletter.

Pulpit Supply: We have been well served this year with a regular group of ministers: Rev Dr Barbara Peddie  (twice a month), Rev  Hugh Perry and Rev Stephanie Wells, each month. Rev Geoff King prepared a service for one Sunday in May and then caught Covid so was unable to present it. Pam and Lois filled in for him.

Worship preparation: Thanks to Jean Fryer who regularly puts the chairs out each week and turns on the heating early on Sunday mornings. Thanks also to Perk Tabak who brings a lovely floral arrangement each Sunday, (oftentimes bringing it on the bus) and to those who help set up the organ and sound system.

Treasurer: Kelvin Chapman has stepped into the void to act as Treasurer and complete the annual accounts for us. He had produced a budget for the June Standing Committee meeting. We are grateful for this extra work he has undertaken on our behalf. The National Church had told us last year that they would be consolidating all churches’ accounts but this is now not happening for this year and each church needs to prepare individual accounts for 2022.

Music: Margaret Wallace has retired from providing music for our         worship. We wish to thank her for her years of regularly playing organ music. Lois Dalton is now playing alternate weeks with Glenys Graham. We are blessed to have such proficient musicians in our midst who are willing to offer their time and talent to us.

Covid: continues to be on our minds. Recently a few of our members have tested positive. We are still wearing masks for worship and not having morning tea. Communion bread is served with tongs. We know that all of our attending congregation has been vaccinated.

The Crosses

Sometimes you don’t know the significance and deep emotional connection to something until it’s not there. In the Feb quakes, at St Ninian’s, Riccarton, two Oamaru stone Celtic crosses fell down from the  highest points of the roof- one at each end. The roof looked bereft. Out of the     fragments I was able to construct a life-sized template of exactly what was now ruined. My mate, Noel, a talented      patternmaker reconstructed the two crosses from lightweight materials in time for me to present them to the congregation as I finished my term of   ministry there over five years ago now. On Monday, 30th May the replacement crosses were reinstated, to the emotional delight of gathered members of St Ninian’s congregation. Both Noel and I were there to see them go up. The church has almost finished its earthquake strengthening and   refurbishment, and the crosses have returned- such an amazing wee thing, but it turns out so important to the identity of that wonderful, growing congregation in Riccarton. As several said, the building feels complete again.   –  Rev Rob Ferguson

Noel and Rob

St Ninian’s church, Upgrading the structural performance of the church.

 Our stone church received only minor damage during the 2011  Christchurch earthquakes, the most visible damage being the loss of the Iona crosses at the gable peaks at both ends of the church. There was some  cracking inside the church, most     noticeably in the chancel arch.  Initial assessment of the damage was that the rating was just above the 33% NBS, meaning that the church was not          regarded as “earthquake prone” and could still be used.

As part of its response to the possibility of further earthquake damage, PCANZ required that all buildings owned by the church that were used by the public should be upgraded to at least 67% of NBS.

It was during our investigations of the best way to upgrade the church that the damage to the chancel arch was assessed to be more serious than previously, resulting in the building being designated as “earthquake prone”.  So from February 2020 we entered a period of exile, firstly to the lounge and then, in response to Covid, the hall.

Detailed designs for upgrading the church and the tower were completed in early 2021.   Tenders were called for the work.  In May 2021 3 prices were received, with the tender from Consortium Construction being the lowest price.  After due diligence, acceptance of the Consortium tender was recommended to the congregation.  Following agreement from the congregation an application to the Church Property Trustees (CPT) for approval to proceed with the work was prepared and submitted to     Presbytery.   After some further to-ing and fro-ing approval was received from CPT in November 2021.

Following contract negotiation and building consent application      Consortium were able to start work in February 2022 and have, at the time of writing, only to replace the pews in the church to complete their work.

This has included steel bracing in the roof of the church as well as    significant work on the tower, including additional foundation work and a new wall in the vestry.  Cracks in the walls of the church have been repaired and the walls repainted.  As a condition of the building consent we have had to install a compliant access ramp and a new fire alarm system in the church.

We have also replaced the two crosses that fell down in the           earthquake.  Before Rob Ferguson left St Ninian’s, he and his friend Noel Collins were able to reconstruct the crosses, based on fragments recovered after the quake, in lightweight materials.  It was great to have both Rob and Noel present on 30th May to see the crosses placed back in position and to see how        important these are to the church building and the           congregation, with a    gathering present to watch the event.

We have been fortunate in having Rangzen as   project managers.  We could not have negotiated the complexity of current regulatory requirements without them.  Consortium have also been great to work with.  They operated with a much smaller yard around the church than we had thought might be required and have coped with the curious wanting to see progress in the church.  Perhaps a couple of morning teas with the Muffins group helped. We have all been kept up with progress through the photographs distributed as the work proceeded.

We won’t know final costs for a month or two, but expect that we will be within the sum approved by the congregation and by CPT.

It is on this basis that we have upgraded the switchboard in the foyer and much of the electric wiring in the church.  We also made the  decision to have the floor of the church sanded and refinished while the pews were still stored.  Whether we replace some of the pews with chairs is beyond the scope of the church strengthening group – perhaps it is the start of our new journey in our refurbished church.

Exile stories play a significant part in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  They have survived because they are important in the development of all faith journeys, including ours.  The question now is how our exile experience will influence our future.   Kelvin Chapman

Acknowledgement:

Post earthquake St Ninian’s parishioners have explored many avenues of going forward. They have dealt with disappointment, frustrating obstacles and concerning expenses. The giving of time,    talent and resources by all  parishioners and several other folk has been  instrumental in bringing to fruition the most satisfactory upgrade and renovation of the church, and the purchasing of new chairs.

Special mention is given to Noel Collins and Rob Ferguson who replicated the Celtic crosses atop the church. To those who fronted the mahi: the Church Strengthening Committee of Kelvin Chapman, Hugh Catto, Lance McKechie, Graham Luxon, and Ian Fryer; to  Pamela  McKechie, Jean  Fryer, Barbara Chapman and others who helped keep our community together and worshipping in the lounge and hall. We are all so grateful for your time and effort.   Parish Council

Remembering Rev Maurice Brown

A Celebration

It was almost a year ago, in May 2021 on a clear afternoon that we gathered in the    Khandallah Town Hall in Wellington to celebrate the life of a remarkable man, Maurice Brown. Maurice had asked that we wear colourful clothes to this event. He wanted us to truly celebrate together.

We walked in to the hall where the walls were covered in his beautiful art work. Maurice was extremely creative and  talented. Flowers were a passion and he painted them perfectly. There were also scenes from the many places he had travelled in.

Maurice’s niece, Rachel Hayward opened the proceedings and handed over to Graeme Brown to speak  about his father. Graeme has his dad’s sense of humour and made us laugh and cry regaling us with a very  interesting life story.

But before that began we were treated to a cello recital of Le Chant des Oiseaux by our own James Bush. He was warmly thanked by Maurice’s daughter, Kate, home with her family from Vancouver.

Graeme told us that Maurice was born in India in 1935. His father was on an engineering assignment there and then they returned to Scotland. Maurice studied horticulture but then migrated to New Zealand and went to Knox College in Dunedin where he did his degree in Theology. He met and married Mary after a whirlwind romance. Maurice didn’t just take her flowers but a whole tree on their first date!

Maurice’s first Ministry was in New Plymouth and then they moved back to Dunedin, to St Clair Church. Those were happy days for the growing family now of Katie, Graeme and Jennie. (I know from my parents how the parishioners of St Clair loved that family!) Then came the move to St Ninian’s in 1978 – and the manse garden was suddenly transformed and the area behind the church too!

Maurice, Mary and family quickly became a much loved part of the church community. Mary supported Maurice throughout his ministry in her constant, caring style.

Graeme spoke of how meaningful the family’s time in Christchurch was to them. Maurice was a warm and creative Minister, who drew families into the church.  Many St Ninian’s families were represented at the celebration, including the Cormacks, the Paulings, the Boyds, the Bushes and the Haywards. Those friendships were very important to the Manse family and continued through the years.

Some of Maurice’s creative ideas during his time at St Ninian’s were     legendary! They included rolling huge Easter eggs down the aisle to the delight of all, arranging donkey rides for Palm Sunday, Christmas Eve  midnight services when the church was packed and candles almost    burning the place down! Maurice had a wonderful ability to create an  atmosphere entirely appropriate to any occasion – whether it was an   occasion for celebration, mourning, reflection or fellowship.

Graeme reminded us of Maurice’s youth work and the connection with St Teresa ‘s which he put much effort into as well as his parish care. He was compassionate and caring in his ministry, as we well remember. The   family had received so many letters and cards from grateful parishioners, remembering Maurice’s impact on their lives.

Graeme had some delightful stories about his dad, the true Scot. We surely remember him addressing the haggis in the old church hall but  didn’t know it was wrapped in a pantyhose? Or how he wore his kilt when hiking, it being the best cover should he need a blanket in the hut at night? From Christchurch Maurice and family moved to the parish of St John’s in the City Wellington. Many of the parishioners from that church came to join the celebration and share their memories of Maurice.

In his retirement , Maurice had more time to spend gardening, painting and expressing his creativity and sharing those talents with his    grandchildren.

He wrote books for the grandchildren,      including a book for Graeme’s son,     Matthew called Wee Graeme, about the Lochness Monster.

His granddaughter Emma read a poem she’d written about her Pa and Zach read another. All four including the youngest , Abigail, had learned to draw and garden with       Maurice, their Pa.

Maurice’s illness was kept very private at his wish, and known only to his      immediate family. Graeme paid a    moving tribute to Mary for her care of Maurice during his illness. Mary and Maurice also had the love and support of their daughters, Jennie, who lives in Wellington, and Kate, who came back to Wellington from Canada with her family to live for some months.

Jennie had asked her father some time before what he’d like to be       remembered for and he said, “ As a good gardener. I think if you are good  at nurturing plants you might have the skills and sensitivity to grow a  family.  Like plants, your children are so different in their needs at        different stages of life. A good gardener also knows how to stop and    admire the results of his/ her labour; so should a good parent. My        children are not clones of their parents. I’d say they are very fine hybrids.” Graeme (well over 6 feet) added to those wise words that he’d been   nurtured into a bean sprout.

Graeme finished by asking us to charge our glasses and drink a toast to a loving husband, loving father, loving friends and family. That’s exactly what we did in fine style, staying on to enjoy what had been a most memorable and moving occasion.

Rest peacefully, dear Maurice after a life so very well lived.

Jan Hayward, Sister-in law

An Easter Message from the Moderator, April 2022

Tensions, temptations and taunts

The temptation of Jesus speaks to me of our human condition stretched to the limit! That in turn speaks to us at this time, as we enter a third Lenten season under the shadow of Covid, with angry protestors camped outside Parliament, hospitality and tourism businesses going to the wall, and heightened anxiety in response to the fast-approaching Omicron wave. We are being stretched.

For us, as for Jesus, there are tensions, temptations, and taunts to cope with.

In my mind’s eye I can see the tension on the face of Jesus as he came to the end of his 40 day fast. The biblical text simply says, ‘he was hungry’. I read a quirky novel once that went into graphic detail about how a fast this long would actually affect him! The haggard tension on his face from the sustained deprivation would be palpable. We too know tension from sustained pressure. We face ongoing cycles of planning and cancellation, anxiety and relief, hope and despair. Most of us have relationships strained by differing opinions.

At this point of extreme vulnerability for Jesus, he is tempted to take false paths. What are the temptations we face at this time of vulnerability? Early in the pandemic the temptations were around economy verses health. Now it comes to us in the form of demonizing those who disagree with us, and some proclaiming individual rights versus the good of all. And there are the taunts. The devil saved this best for the last when it came to Jesus – “if you are the son of God…”. I see this kind of behaviour on TV, and I hear it on the deck after a game of golf: politicians mocked and even threatened, police belittled, and school students teased for wearing masks! It is hard to deal with.

So how did Jesus deal with the tension, temptations and taunts? Huge  resilience indeed. And the text gives two sources for this resilience, still available to us today. One was the filling of the Holy Spirit. The other, a deep and informed use of scripture that empowered him to combat the misinformed misuse that was thrown at him

As we navigate the tension, temptations, and taunts in our context this Lent, may we too draw on these deep spiritual resources to sustain us

In a season popular for what we can give up, I have always thought the emphasis should be more on what we can take up! Now, as much as ever, we need to be taking up spiritual practices which allow us to be more and more open to the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit and to the scriptures that carried Jesus through a time such as this.

Right Rev Hamish Galloway

Moderator Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

moderator@presbyterian.org.nz

 

 

Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

ST NINIAN’S PARISH NEWS;  JUNE 2021

From The Minister                                                       

 You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to write a farewell letter that isn’t a farewell letter. In two weeks my two year appointment as your “stated supply” will come to an end – but, I will be taking some services each month as a “pulpit supply” for a while. So it’s not really time to say “goodbye and thank you for having me”.

But I do thank you. This is a great congregation to work with. We have had an unusual time: who would have thought that after nine years of using the church building, it would suddenly be declared unsafe? Who would have imagined that with the arrival of a virus, none of the buildings on site could be used, and no gatherings could be held anywhere? Who would have predicted the way in which the St Ninians people adapted to all these upheavals, and continued to be a loving, caring, worshipping community? It was especially obvious throughout the weeks of lockdown, when everyone stayed connected, sometimes in very ingenious ways. And then all came back together once the ban was lifted. I know that didn’t happen with all congregations in this city. That’s one of the ways in which this community is special. It has been a privilege for me to walk this journey with you.

I particularly value the way that for you, faith is active. It’s a lifelong journey and a continuing exploration. Never stop asking questions. Life will always throw new challenges and new knowledge in your way, and it’s important not to put all the challenges in one basket, and your faith in another, sealed basket labelled ‘don’t touch’.  Our God is the Creator of all of life and creation never stops, so why should we expect our understanding of God’s relationship with creation – and with us – to stand still?

And now you face yet more upheavals in the coming months and years. It won’t be easy – as I know from the Durham Street congregation’s experience.  There were years of work and many, many discussions and arguments and obstacles, but importantly, everyone came out at the end feeling that their voices had been heard, even if the end result wasn’t what they, personally had wished for at the beginning. And we made time for celebrations and laughter along the way.

GO FOR GOLD

 On Friday 4th June, eight St Ninian’s folk travelled to Rolleston, seven starting in Riccarton and Sheila joining the bus in Templeton. We didn’t see much going there as there was a fog blanketing the area, however it started to clear as we neared Rolleston.

We stayed on the bus as far as the terminus at Brookside Park and then travelled back to the shopping area. This gave us a look at the many new housing areas springing up in Rolleston. We had an early lunch at the Black and White Café and managed to get a table together amongst the many mothers and toddlers and other locals. Lovely food and great service. A brief wander to the shops before catching the bus back to Templeton – this time seeing the views. We had a coffee and cake stop at Sheila’s home before heading back to Riccarton.  A good day was had by all.

Sheila Nokes

ROCHESTER AND RUTHERFORD HALL

 R & R provides student accommodation at the University of Canterbury.  It is an ecumenical venture between the Roman Catholic church (The Rochester part) and the Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist churches (the Rutherford part).  The hall opened in 1972 on Ilam Road when the University was moving from the centre of the city to the Ilam site and was also used as accommodation for the Christchurch Commonwealth games in 1974.

Originally it was run as two separate halls, with a common dining room, but this was changed in the 1983 to a single hall run by an Executive Council that represents the two Trust boards.  It sounds complex but in practice it works well and must be one of the more successful ecumenical ventures in NZ.

Each Trust board appoints its own chaplain; the Rutherford chaplain is currently Helen Sturgeon, minister of Riccarton Baptist.   Both Maurice Brown and Clive Pearson have served in this role.   The Rutherford board also runs, and provides prizes, for an Art competition that is well supported and highly regarded.

R & R accommodates 192 first year students, coming from more than 100 NZ secondary schools, with at 3 or 4 times this number listing R & R as their first choice for accommodation at U of C.  It thus fulfills one of the reasons for its establishment – where parents with children coming to U of C would contact ministers in Christchurch seeking suitable accommodation.

R & R has a strong focus on pastoral care (where did that term come from?) and has been at the forefront in developing a pastoral care code for all residential halls following the unfortunate death of a student in one of the University Halls in 2019.   R & R has a high ratio of residential tutors to students and focusses on building caring relationships within its community.  Central to this is the dining room and the quality of meals. Our present caterer gets marks in the student survey that any home cook would be proud of.

R & R lies within our Parish boundaries as they used to apply.  As well as the chaplains, Ron Cormack and Barbara Chapman have been involved in the Rutherford board while Jessie Dodd served on the Rutherford board and also as Chairperson of the Executive Council for many years.  Kelvin is currently on the Executive Council.

Tom and Jessie Dodd’s house on Clonbern Place has a common boundary with R & R and was purchased by R & R when they moved to Nelson.  Since then R & R has purchased another five houses/units on Clonbern Place.  These provide accommodation for an additional 9 R & R students, with the other houses providing rental accommodation for 2nd year students as well as providing both land and an asset that would be available for future developments.

Kelvin Chapman

MASSIVE CHANGE THAT MUST COME

 With the birth of modern science in the 17th Century, human thinking broke with ancient philosophy at every point, and so began a process of domination over Earth. DesCartes  had pointed out that scientific knowledge  would permit a man to make himself  “as if the master and owner of nature”.

If nature is no longer mysterious or sacred but can be reduced to an inventory of merely physical phenomena, devoid of meaning or value, then there is nothing to prevent us from harnessing it in whatever way suits us. So in the 17th Century, most thinkers concluded that science would save us from the tyranny of nature. We could foresee – and so learn to prevent – the catastrophes so regularly visited on us by nature.

For this vision, to take shape,only one more step remained: that the project of the Enlightenment be integrated and “docked” with the world of competition, so that the engine of history – the evolutionary principle – ceased to be linked to any vision or ideal, to become instead the mere outcome of competition.

Hence the fearsome and incessant development of technology,

tethered to and largely financed by economic growth and the fact that human power over nature has become completely automatic, uncontrollable and blind because it everywhere exceeds the will of the individual. Thus the inevitable result of competition. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment aimed at emancipation and human happiness. Technology has become the opposite: a process without purpose – devoid of any objectives. Ultimately, nobody knows the direction the world is moving, because it is automatically governed by competition, and in no sense directed by the conscious will of humans collectively united behind a project at the heart of a society which, as recently as  last century, could still think of itself as the “common weal.” And it is just this disappearance of ends in the interests of an over-riding logic of means  that constitutes the victory of technology.

The democracies are fatally wedded to the structures of the technical world, being bound to the liberal creed of competition. So an unlimited and automatic proliferation  of technical forces  is triggered. Nietzsche summarised the turmoil of his age when he pronounced “God is Dead.”

_______________________________________________________________________

Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

ST NINIAN’S PARISH NEWS;  MARCH 2021

FROM THE MINISTER                                                                           

 In Lent and Easter, we have a number of readings from John’s gospel. John the Evangelist was the last of the gospel writers. He sat down to write somewhere around 50 years after Jesus died in Jerusalem. He never walked the dusty roads of Palestine with Jesus and his friends, sharing in their conversations; never shared the excitements and risks and discoveries of those years of mission; never knew personally the man called Jesus of Nazareth. But he did know and experience the post-resurrection Jesus, and he wrote of him with passion and with joy. John did experience the reality of God’s transforming love. John could sing – as a much later Italian poet, the great Dante, sang: “I have seen the hope of the blessed”.

John’s gospel isn’t a biography. It’s not a reporter’s narrative. And it isn’t set in ordinary time, our time, chronos, but in God’s time, kairos. That’s why it doesn’t matter that some of the stories contradict other Gospel accounts. John introduces Mary of Bethany as the one who anointed Jesus’ feet. That’s how the early church remembered her. Martha was remembered too, but Lazarus sank back into obscurity. But for John, although the climax of the Bethany story is the raising of Lazarus, its centre is the conversations Jesus had.

John presented Jesus as the powerful healer who can bring life out of death. The raising of Lazarus isn’t a freak of nature, but a demonstration of God’s power for life. Maori would say, this is kia ora theology – a theology of life. Secondly, John presented Jesus as one with passion – one who knows and shares in the anguish of others. The dominant culture of that time – and let’s face it, of our time too – was the way of power and social control. That was and is, never the way of the incarnate God, shown so clearly to us in Jesus. In the scene at Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus is engaged not in any sort of social control to enforce God’s realm, but in dismantling the power of death and disintegration. He does this by submitting himself to the pain and grief present in the situation. A dominant culture doesn’t admit to the presence of pain and grief.

John’s narrative says many things to us, on many levels. It’s not a call to us to try to call our dead back to life. Resuscitation isn’t a thread in God’s weaving of God’s creation. Our dead are in God’s hands, whatever meaning we choose to put to that phrase – and we may not call them back. Their journey is no longer any business of ours. One of the ways in which our society can go off the rails is to deny death as a necessary stage in our journey through life.

I do think we are called to break out of the bonds that tie us to death and disintegration that hold us back from transformation. We’re called to have the courage to step out onto new paths, to take risks, and walk in faith and hope. Each one of us is called to break out of the things that bind us. This is one of the hardest things to do. It’s so terribly easy to hang on to old habits and old hurts, and the deeper the wound, the harder it is to let go. That never stops God from challenging us to make radical changes. Nobody actually asked Lazarus if he wanted to come out – imagine a scenario where he refuses to answer that imperative command, “Lazarus, come out!” Some of us do refuse the call – or refuse even to hear it.

The heart of this gospel story is that the fullness of new life is possible to all who believe in Jesus. The message for us, in the season of Lent, is that we too are free to embrace the new promises and possibilities of life available to us through Jesus.

Rev Barbara

 

                                                    WORLD DAY OF PRAYER

 This year’s service on March 5th was held at St Ninian’s.  Because of Level 2 Covid restrictions we distanced appropriately in the hall. Neighbouring churches from St Peter’s Church Corner, Upper Riccarton Methodist and Our Lady of Victories were all in attendance and helped with the service.

The service entitled ‘Built on a Strong Foundation’ was written by a group of women in Vanuatu and so our decorations included pictures, maps and artefacts from there. The service started with a procession to a greeting song by women from Vanuatu and the placing of items – shells, necklaces and local fruits on a table and also an open bible and a lit candle on the lectern table. The women in the procession wore a salu salu , a garland.

We used hymns from the St Ninian’s hymn book which fitted with the theme of the service and we received many positive comments about the music. Lois played the keyboard for us.

As usual, we ended with a time of fellowship by sharing morning tea together and we also received grateful thanks for this.

One of the reasons I enjoy the World Day of Prayer each year is that as well as spending time with ladies from other local churches there are always things to discover about the country writing the service.

Vanuatu is a Y shaped tropical archipelago with over 80 islands, 65 of which are inhabited. It has more spoken languages than any other place in the world! It has 113 spoken languages  and innumerous dialects. By 2004 less than 100 of these languages remained due to the use of Bislama.

Bislama has evolved from broken English, French and traditional languages. Due to its colonial history, English and French have been adopted as the official language of education.

In 1774 Captain Cook came to the islands and named them the New

Hebrides because the islands reminded him of the Hebrides of Scotland.

In 1906 the New Hebrides became a colony ruled jointly by Great Britain and France called the Condominium Government with separate administrative bureaucracies, medical systems, police forces and school systems. By 1978, the people were calling for independence.

Vanuatu gained independence in 1980 and the Republic was founded on its traditional Christian principles. The people’s faith in God is part of their Constitution. The inhabitants of Vanuatu are known as Ni-Vanuatu. Most are Melanesian descent with a Polynesian minority on the outlying islands. A mix of Europeans, Asians and other Pacific Islanders also live on the archipelago. Studies predict that in 2021 Vanuatu will have 312,000 inhabitants. Most of the people live in rural areas. Port Vila is the largest city with 45,000 inhabitants, accounting for 19% of the country’s total population.

In the past 20 years, there have been changes for women in Vanuatu. The gender gap in literacy and education has narrowed. In some provinces, girls outperformed boys in school attendance. Since independence, five women have been elected to the National Parliament.

Sheila Nokes

CELEBRATIONS

Celebrations are important. NZ has a new moveable date celebration, Matariki .  We have fixed date celebrations like 25th December,

Christmas, or our birth dates. Personal memories may be tied to never-to-be forgotten events that changed our lives forever, changes that become molded into the fabric of our being, not  ‘closure’  in the sense of being accomplished and forgotten.  And there is Easter, that moveable date celebration.  Easter falls early this year, Easter Sunday falling the

4th April.

It was Easter Sunday when we learned our son Grant had been killed on the 18th April,  in a fall whilst climbing Mount Aspiring. This year as usual there are two days of remembrance.   That Easter Sunday I sat in the pew hearing “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!”  whilst  I was saying to myself  “Grant is dead, he is dead indeed”. My self talking was my way of

cementing the terrible reality of death.

Good caring folk offered consolation– how fortunate I was to have a faith, to live in the knowledge that we would meet in heaven—it must

be comforting to know he died doing something he loved- or even- rest assured Grant is happy now.  The pit of grief is not the time to enter into a discussion about life, death and everlasting life. I thought of Job’s comforters, but I did not have the faith of Job.  I felt more like Rachel, weeping in lamentation for her children, and not being comforted.

My awful Easter impelled a brutal reassessment of my faith and

accompanying beliefs. The mystery deepened, love was highlighted. Love, I determined, did not die with my precious dead. Love remained with me,  accompanying  and empowering me to live on with hope – most of the time!

Tricia Crumpton