22 Plays for Good Friday

Greetings all!

I have just received a copy of Rev John Hunt’s just published booklet called ‘The Drama of Good Friday’.

It is a collection of 22 short dramas based around characters and events in the gospel narratives of Good Friday.

I want to alert you to its practical usefulness and encourage you to get yourself a copy.  They are selling for only $20.

John Hunt, as many will know, has been at the forefront of looking at the message of Jesus through a Celtic lens.  These plays are not Celtic as such, but the heart of the Celtic approach is to focus on the width and breadth of everyday human life and express the heart of God’s love in all the places we find ourselves in.

That’s what John brings to these plays… heart and soul, as well as food for the mind.  He has recently retired and had time to compile this collection from his long ministry at St Giles.

One of the plays that really stands out to me in one on the character of Joseph of Arimathea meeting Pilate to arrange the burial of Jesus’ body.  Not only does it expand our understanding of the awkward place Pilate found himself in, but it identifies the tensions Joseph might have been wrestling with – he was part of the Jewish Council – part of the system that led to Jesus’ death, yet he believed… and he offers in this dialogue a hint of resurrection. It is cleverly done… John has captured the dialogue tightly and thoughtfully.

22 plays – imagine that as a resource!!

John has copies of the books – $20 each.  You can order one by emailing him… johnburton.hunt@xtra.co.nz

Best wishes



Remembering who we are

I am not a big fan of Nationalism – too much flag-waving looks like rivalry to me and conjures unhelpful arrogance and sometimes quite uncritical or blind obedience to some of the worse aspects of what governments can do to their people and the people of other countries.

However, in New Zealand’s case, we have a national anthem which is really a prayer that invites a helpful way of being.  But also, because we have two official spoken languages NZ English & NZ Maori (the other official language is sign language), we have the opportunity to unite in the manner that the prayer expresses by singing it in both languages.

Unfortunately because race relations are not always as brilliant as we would hope, there is quite a group within the majority non-Maori populace who ignore the Maori renditions and wait for the NZ English version to be sung.

I was at an event during the week when we sung both versions and I was quite disturbed by the attitude of some people near me who were quite hostile about the Maori version being sung.  I found out a little later that these people were people of faith, yet they expressed things that I could only interpret as racist.

It got me thinking about Christian people and some of their attitudes, and how, in my view, there is no Biblical warrant for people of faith to be racist.

I began to wonder what part I might be able to play in enabling the congregation I have responsibility for to offer some leadership in situations where racism prevails.

Tomorrow I am going to start by inviting them to sing our national anthem in Maori… it is a little thing, but I figure that with almost all of them being non-Maori, if they can, in their various social settings, sing the anthem with confidence in Maori as well as in English they will in some small way be offering some leadership.  Those acts might just enable some forward steps as we move to be a country that cherishes its diversity and further honours and respects the tangata whenua (the people of the land).

Here are the Maori words of the first verse of the anthem – the English version follows:

E Ihoa Atua,
O nga Iwi Matoura,
Ata whaka rongona;
Me aroha noa.
Kia hua ko te pai; Kia tau to atawhai;
Mana-a-kitia mai

God of nations! at Thy feet
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our Free Land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star,
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/

getting on but pausing to reflect

The news on TV and in The Press has been saturated with one year on earthquake stories. The images are horrible and frightening, but many of the stories of people being rescued, their rescuers, and the battles people have had in their recovery have been heroic.

Thus the whole experience of moving to mark the earthquake tomorrow has been mixed… tears and pride, shock and delight, feeling overwhelmed and determined…

We missed much of the earthquake imagery as it occurred last year because of power cuts and our TV breaking.  we were glad to miss it – the experience of the many shocks, and the stories from people we knew (especially our two sons) were enough at the time.  I was caught up in a myriad of work-related activities and communications.  In so many ways the first two months after last February’s quakes are a blur.

Anne and I will attend the Anniversary Service in the park tomorrow – recognising that we are torn – one half spectators and one half participants.  As ministers we are nervous of how colleagues will perform… we hope for sensitivity.  Our denomination has been left out of the preparations – maybe that is necessary, but we wish people would communicate.  That aside, we have been so involved for so long that it will be good to just let something come at us and hopefully offer solace.

Earthquake Anniversary Pending

I was asked to prepare the following statement for Wednesday’s anniversary…

“It is with very mixed feelings that we approach the first anniversary of the horrible earthquake that caused the deaths of 184 people and untold damage to our city.

There is mourning: we have lost so much, loved ones, friends, homes, church buildings, public buildings, our city centre.

There is on-going fear: this seismic event is still with us and may be for years to come.

There is uncertainty: people are wondering where they will live, whether they will get insurance, and whether their jobs will last.

There is despair: some people are barely coping emotionally and many feel that there are diminishing options for them when all of their resources are tied up in dilapidated houses with mortgages and little chance of selling up.

Yet there is also hope and joy and gratitude and wonder.
We have been and still are undergirded by the generosity of so many people across the country and from overseas.
We have discovered deeper dimensions of what it means to be a community together.
We are relearning what it means to look out for one another.

Interestingly, the grade averages for our secondary school students sitting NCEA at all levels increased in 2011.  Despite all the disruptions, Canterbury students performed to a higher standard than any other region.
Despite all of the hardship there is also a resiliency down here that is something to treasure and celebrate.

The Christian community in the city is playing their part in the recovery.  Building on the support that has come from far and wide, churches of different denominations have been working together to offer care and support in the worst hit communities and are being careful not to duplicate what others are doing.

In the Presbyterian community we are gradually moving into the ‘what’s next?’ phase.  It is not easy.  We have lost a number of buildings and quite a few others are still deteriorating.  Some of our communities are foundering and will struggle to survive in their present form, but others are doing remarkably well considering the challenges they face.

It is a season for mourning, but also one for dreaming, imagining and daring, and we value your continued prayers for us.”

Rev Martin Stewart
ex-Moderator of Christchurch Presbytery (just!)