E-news Friday 8thOctober 2021
Another week has slipped by quickly and so much has been happening. Covid is not only still with us but making itself felt. One of the statements made during the week is significant: only 3% of people in hospital with covid had been vaccinated. It does point up how important it is to be vaccinated – so if you haven’t been vaccinated please take advantage of the free service.
I will keep this part short because there are a number of items to follow:
- Information from Parish Council about the process we will be using in relation to the Call of a new minister. Please read this carefully.
- An article by Ian Harris following the death of Bishop John Spong.
This Sunday’s service will be the first of two where I will be looking at the Bible – what it is and what it isn’t! There are a wide variety of views on what the Bible is and a lot of disagreement over its content and its importance. I will be adding my “pennyworth”! This Sunday will focus mainly on the Hebrew Scriptures and the following Sunday will be about the New Testament.
This Sunday is also our shared brunch/lunch in the Hall after the service. Let’s make an effort this Sunday to get together and catch up with friends. It would be helpful if you could bring a little extra food just in case we have visitors. If you are bringing something like a loaf or a slab of cake or a pie would you bring it already cut into serving size pieces. This will make it easier to serve in these level 2 Covid days!
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Update on MINISTRY SETTLEMENT BOARD (MSB) process
As mentioned in the notices during last Sunday’s service, we are waiting for COVID levels to make it possible for our candidate to come and preach.
When we are able to schedule this, we will send out updated information packs a fortnight ahead. On the weekend itself there will be two events.
The first will be an afternoon event on the Saturday at which the candidate will be introduced to the parish by the Parish Council and people will have an opportunity to meet and chat with the candidate over afternoon tea.
The second will be Sunday service, when the candidate will lead the service and preach, followed by a congregational meeting at which we will have an opportunity to share our thoughts about the candidate before voting.
For official PCANZ purposes we are only able to return the count for Members and Associate members, but, for our internal information, we will also be offering Whanau members the opportunity to cast a vote.
In keeping with General Assembly’s principle that votes should be based on having been present to hear the discussion, you will need to be present at the Sunday service and congregational meeting to receive a ballot paper and vote that day.
Once the votes are counted, as previously outlined, the count is forwarded to Central Presbytery for approval. They then send that on to the candidate’s Presbytery for their approval, after which the candidate is informed and has the opportunity to accept or reject the call.
We had hoped that we would be able to schedule this for the weekend of the 30th and 31st of October, but that is looking increasingly unlikely. We’ll let you know as soon as we can.
[Please be reminded that this is an employment process and our candidate is entitled to such confidentiality as we are in a position to offer. The e-news and the recording of the service on the web are more public than a mail-out to members of the congregation, which is why the candidate is not named in this notice.]
Acting Convener of Parish Council
A TRIBUTE TO BISHOP JOHN SPONG by Ian Harris
Touchstone – October 2021
There are those who think nothing in the church must change, there are those who know it has to. American Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, who died on September 12 aged 90, was emphatically one of the latter.
Many New Zealanders know that well. He visited four times between 1991 and 2001, speaking to appreciative audiences and stirring hostility among those who prefer not to be disturbed by new thinking.
Spong has long been in the forefront of such thinking, but he didn’t begin that way. Early influences in his North Carolina home were Presbyterian fundamentalism and high-church Anglican fundamentalism, and he grew up absorbing all the prejudices of his time and place about blacks, women and homosexuals.
Driven, however, by a deepening understanding of Christian faith, an uncompromising intellectual rigour, and a discipline of study from 6am to 8am every day, he became over time a champion of racial justice, women’s equality and homosexual liberation – especially in the church.
Spong was acutely conscious of the huge expansion of human knowledge in recent times, and the need for Christianity to take account of that if it is to be relevant to men and women of the 21st century. This led him to probe beyond interpretations cemented into traditional church life and find a way of understanding scripture, for example, that is in sync with the world we actually live in.
His motivation was to go deeper into the heart of the tradition in order to identify and affirm more appropriately its core. He was willing to explore beyond creedal formulas about God, the work of Christ, the church, prayer, worship: if they don’t connect, they are not much use. Biblical literalism appalled him.
A living religion is in a dialogue between spiritual insight and new knowledge, he said. It is therefore always in flux and always evolving. Arrest the process and it slowly dies: “The heart cannot worship what the mind rejects”.
Spong was prepared to follow the evidence wherever it led. He abhorred dishonesty and anything that stood in the way of expansion of life. A key to this was “Christpower”, a term that summed up for him the sense of love, forgiveness and expanded being associated originally with Jesus. Christpower offers the ability to change, to grow and to embrace the radical insecurity of life as free, whole and mature persons, which is the essence of faith.
A major contribution was Spong’s exposition of the Jewishness of Jesus’ life, reflected also in the gospels and Paul’s letters. Early in his career it spurred him to reach out in dialogue with the local Jewish community. Breaking down barriers became a central theme.
The responsibility he felt as a leader – he was Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, from 1979 to 2000 – prompted him to share the insights of his studies more widely through a succession of books. He wrote 26 in all, introducing his theological hot potatoes with “A bishop rethinks the meaning of Scripture”, “A bishop rethinks the Virgin Birth and the treatment of women by a male-dominated church”, “A bishop rethinks human sexuality”.
Spong saw himself as struggling for a Christianity of integrity, love and equality. While many responded with warmth and gratitude, antagonism from the church’s conservative wing gradually led to his disillusionment with its institutional workings.
“The church of my dreams and visions,” he wrote, “the church I had glimpsed periodically, the church I loved, was being drowned in a sea of dated theological irrelevancy undergirded by biblical ignorance.”
In his later years Spong’s prime audience became those who were open to a new Christianity for a new world, an audience of “church hangers-on and dropouts, atheists and agnostics, anyone on a spiritual journey who is seeking meaning, integrity and God”.
Always he knew how to ask the right faith questions. Inevitably, this stirred controversy. And anger: “Burning you at the stake would be too kind.” And appreciation: “You have made it possible for me to remain in the church.”
I honour Spong not for having all the answers for a church in transition, but for his commitment to spurring it on that journey, mindful of what it’s really about: “True religion is, at its core, nothing more or less that a call to live fully, to love wastefully, and to be all that we can be. That is finally where life’s meaning is found.”
The fact that secular audiences could hear him gladly but many in the churches could not is worth reflecting on.
A PASTORAL MATTER
As some of you know, Lloyd Jobson and Molly Seah have some serious health issues at the moment. Lloyd has nearly completed a course of radiotherapy for a growth in his shoulder. When asked how we could help they suggested that we remember them for a few minutes before the six o’clocks each evening. To know that people are remembering them at that time would bring a sense of comfort and strength to them at this time. So I leave it to you to decide how you might do this: a short prayer or visualising them or remembering something about them or simply wishing then comfort and healing.
To view the full e-news click here: https://mailchi.mp/ff37693cec1c/this-weeks-newsletter-from-st-andrews-on-the-terrace-4808402