are two key points in this prayer Jesus prays for our time as church.
they may all be one – one heart and mind in Peterson's paraphrase.
the world may believe that in Christ we touch the divine, we see
God's way of well-being for all things.
two points are our basics for assessing ourselves as church, and for
making commitments for being church for the future.
this means depends on the world that we're in. Specifically it's
about the community we're in, so it's different for each of our
congregations. At the moment we're doing a lot of thinking and
planning for Kerikeri, and next week that will be the subject of our
congregational meeting. This week we'll think about each in their
principles are the same: Jesus' prayer is that those who believe
will be one and that the world will believe: unified and “mature in
oneness” (Peterson) and good evidence to the world that God, that
love, is at the foundation of all that is.
purpose is to enable others to connect to God, or in less in-house
terms, to the spirit at the heart of all living. In other words –
of Genesis 2 and Revelation 22 – the river of life is for everyone:
let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires take the
water of life as a gift” (22:17)
thoughts are in relation to two headings:
spiritual nature of the local community
is a place of different faiths and no faith, different fellowships of
Christians and other faiths, alongside many who hold firm to a
secular world-view. There are those with no time at all for things
spiritual (sometimes claiming the title “atheist”) and others,
many others, who are spiritual but not religious. Faith without
community. As a person known to be connected to “church” I get
assumptions made about me that mean people often don't expect any
common ground with me. About values maybe – good morals – but
life-beliefs or philosophy of life no.
everyone I know has some faith. They have life-beliefs, their values
stemming from them (values are too abstract to hold if they're not
rooted in one's understanding of reality). But there's been a
general misconception that faith equals religion, that faith lines up
with being part of a religious group.
considering the faith-views of people in the wider community in
Kerikeri, what could be evidence for them that love is at the heart
of all things. What could open up the possibility of seeing that
there are resources in the life of Jesus that bring well-being for
people, for us as individuals and for us as community, resources to
unify. For we are fragmented as a community. With different
cultures and interests and financial situations, ours is a community
that can be divisive and lonely.
what potential is there for unifying? What potential for people who
are spiritual but not religious to grow in their spirits, to grow in
the relationality and genuinely live in a world bigger than
themselves? What might facilitate that? How might we work with
the Holy Spirit, follow its lead? Because we know the Spirit is at
work all the time and we trust where it leads.
who can be evidence of love at the heart of all things, are not just
Union Church of course. In Kerikeri six churches work well
together. Our fifth Sunday gathering at the end of this month is to
enhance that working together. It's to be a forum to talk together
about vision – each of us for our own community of faith and for
the Kerikeri community. That the world might believe.
six churches are variations on the one theme of Christ, and if any
one of them disappeared Kerikeri would be missing something. Three
of them, Baptist, Excite, and Frontline are making strides connecting
new people into faith in Christ. Adults, children, young people,
“people being saved” to use their language. People finding
community in Christ.
of them bring to the mix distinct strands of church life and worship
– Anglican, Catholic, and our Union of Methodist and Presbyterian.
We each fly a flag (or two) that new people to Kerikeri connect up
with, because it is their faith connection, a flag that people who've
been away from church for a time can reconnect to. We build
community among ourselves and outward into the community; we build
relationships with others through our service, our practical
unity as churches is found in mutual respect and encouragement. It
is also to be found – and this is the purpose of the forum – in
doing things together and in making better links between what each of
us does best. As variations on the one theme of Christ we can work
better if we collaborate and interconnect, being seen by the world as
an almost seamless web of Christ-centred community-facing people.
what do we the Union Church bring in particular to the web?
offer a vision for Kerikeri that is probably beyond the scope or
faith perspective of the other churches. Our vision is of “Community
Space with a Spiritual Heart”. Picture for yourself (easier now
that we see the shape developing) a place of welcome and belonging
for diverse people in this fragmented community; a place where you
don't have to be “Christian” to feel at home, to be at home in a
spiritual sense; a place where Christ is the unifying factor –
symbolised by the woven cross at the inmost point and underpinned by
our faithful presence week by week as a worshipping community.
a church with a long-standing reputation for being open, letting
people be as they are, and not judging others. So this is a group of
people, kaitiaki of a building, who can be trusted; trusted that the
space we offer – building and grounds – has no religious strings
attached, no membership criteria to belong there. Genuinely open
space for people to be together however is right for them, as they
farewell a family member, mark other life passages, or do community
projects and build community well-being together.
space with a spiritual heart will also be a place where people do
their own spiritual exploration. Our understanding of faith
need not be in charge (the mistake I believe of the Church), but
rather permission is given for things beyond our direct oversight.
Of course we'll have our conditions for the use of the facilities,
but beyond that we will trust the Holy Spirit to take the lead. Our
task will be to keep providing the Christian heart, by being the body
of Christ and praying again and again, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill
this place, bring peace and well-being to all.”
will be curious and the space will be a point of connection to us as
church. I envisage growth in our group, as people of faith and
kaitiaki of a place of open faith.
oasis in the midst of a busy town. There's a ministry here I know
we can do: we're not too old for it, we're not too few in number.
And for me, and others to come, I see a ministry of interface, of
outreach and interaction with the wider community in all its facets.
An agent of hospitality, as only Jesus can teach it.
is a district where spirituality is to large extent part of the
fabric, much more than I've experienced anywhere else. Even for
newcomers, there is something about it, “something in the air”
that makes it natural to think of matter plus spirit, of edges
between the everyday world and mystery, and to pray as part of
community events and meetings. I have very different conversations
with the children during Bible in Schools at Kaeo Primary compared
with Riverview Primary. God's not necessarily a question or a
problem; Spirit is simply part of what is, the matter for discussion
with them being how we understand it.
bring connection points for the people in the district who claim a
place with Christian faith, whether it be a close connection or very
loose or in between – Catholic, Anglican, Brethren, Methodist,
Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Mormon, Ratana, Te Haahi Mana Motuhake o
Aotearoa, Te Wai Pounamu, me Wharekauri (Nau's church), and Jehovah's
Witnesses. For many people here, more than I've seen elsewhere in my
adult years, a denomination is part of their identity, or part of
their local community identity, even if it's a nominal link. Also
there's New Beginnings, which began as Baptist. It is a church doing
a wonderful job drawing in people who have not been Christian, or
have been Christian in a different way and make a new commitment to
faith, growing through these means the numbers of the “saved”.
Each church in fact has a very important place: if we were without
any one, something would really be missing. We are one in
co-operation and collaboration, in our support for one another and
our common conviction that Christ is our centre. Christ-centred,
to the community's call has been a big part of our visible unity.
Our community has divisions: it's multiple communities in fact, in
different localities, with different interests, with different
whakapapa. But our churches are visibly not divided.
– unifying – is about relationships: it's about building
relationships and therefore building respect and understanding.
Within our churches we must keep working on this. Are we a community
of faith with unity of the kind that means each feels safe to be
ourselves? Or do you hesitate a bit to do things because they
might be criticised? (Is there something to work on here?)
our churches we need to build relationships as we respond to the
community's call for events like the service before ANZAC day, and as
we plan other events we know the community will appreciate, like
carols in the churchyard. Our working together is sowing seeds for
the community's working together. And, as Jesus says in his prayer,
it is evidence that he and his way are of God. This is the true
Spirit of God, to be ourselves and feel safe being ourselves in all
our differences and yet to
have a common heart and mind for the well-being of all.
is important, but so also is what we do as a unique church. How can
we, as Methodist/Presbyterian Union, best be followers of Christ in
the community and thus serve our community?
Honour the distinctive service and role of the other churches,
thankful for them all and aware of where their mission gifts and
skills lie, as distinct from us.
Be available to all for whom the Methodist and Presbyterian heritage
is part of their identity.
Keep the flag flying, that is, be a visible presence of the body of
Christ through our regular worship. A symbol of God's presence even.
Be Christ-shaped people in the community, nurtured, encouraged, and
challenged in that role by regular prayer and worship and study.
Provide “Community Space with a Spiritual Heart”. This is the
vision of our parish's Kerikeri project, but it's also happening in a
fact, this building for me has helped formulate the Kerikeri vision.
A building open to all where people can feel at home, hold their own
kinds of gatherings, secular or spiritual; a
place where standards of behaviour and expectations of positive
relationships are part of the building itself, so to speak. We as
body of Christ set the tone for the building and our regular worship
helps feed that and firm it up, week by week.
Kaeo, if less so than Kerikeri, there are people who claim no time
for religion. Some are spiritual but not religious, others would
deny even the word spiritual. Yet
everyone I know has some
faith. They have life-beliefs, their
from them (values are too abstract to hold if they're not rooted
in one's understanding of
reality). But there's
been a general misconception that
faith equals religion,
that faith lines
up with being part that of
a religious group.
building provides an important interface with the community: how we
relate to people who use it or enquire about using it, taking an
interest in them and their projects, going the extra mile if need be
to get things arranged; showing hospitality as the kaitiaki of this
we draw people in by doing this? Not obviously so. A huge part of
people feeling they want to be at church on Sunday morning is what it
feels like when they are there, or what they imagine it will feel
like. And that's largely about relationships – how they relate to
us, predominantly you as the congregation. Do they feel good with
the future, as Kerikeri develops resources for people who might be
curious about church – things to look at around the building,
pamphlets to take home – we can piggy-back on that and make a more
visible connection for Christian faith in the foyer where visitors
How to be Future Church in this community – how to let Jesus'
prayer for us take hold and lead us into new ways of connecting with
our world of Kaeo.