City in Ruins

Six years on from the devastating earthquake in my home city of Christchurch it was so very special to spend the evening prior to the anniversary in the care of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band who performed in Christchurch.
I enjoyed the whole three hour experience – the energy, the big-heartedness, the brokenness and the joyfulness of all that was offered.

20170221_205907But in particular I (along with the other 30,000 people it seemed) was moved to the core by his rendition of My City In Ruins.  The opportunity for collective lament in a sensitive ten-minute long rendition of the song was hugely helpful.  To be carefully lifted from lament to hope with the words ‘Come on, rise up, rise up’ was healing in the sense of being able to recognise from this distance that a rising had indeed taken place.  Slowly but surely a foothold in the future has emerged, for the city, for the majority of its people, and for me in my work and my other modes of life.  We have been held.

It was great to be invited into the kind of space where I could traverse the journey.  I hadn’t expected to be moved so deeply.  Thanks Bruce!  Thanks for the genuineness of your empathy and care.

Site Blessing

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An opportunity to gather a small circle of people (only as many as we could find flouro vests for) to offer a site blessing for the new church building at Bryndwr… a long way down the line from the earthquakes that begun in 2010!

God, in many different ways you call us into partnership in your creativity and we sense your delight in what comes of it.

We pray for a joyful spirit in all that happens here, that all of those involved will have sense of what kind of community they are building for and in whose name it will be commissioned.

 

 

Who started it?

Jan city (1 of 1)-10This lovely piece of street art was tagged recently – the artist Ash Keating acknowledged that the white paint tag was probably an expression of distaste at the initial vandalism by Ver0 – an insurance company not always appreciated in post-earthquake Christchurch.

It does give one cause to ponder the nature of vandalism.  If it is a dedicated sign does that legitimize it over what someone does with a spray can?  I am well over random pointless tagging around the city, so I am no advocate for that expression of street art.  If people have something to say and it is clever (like Banksy) then bring it on within reason.  But I think I do understand the second time the Keating piece was tagged – but the Vero tag is what dishonoured Keating’s work.

 

 

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/75661922/advertisement-led-to-tagger-destroying-large-christchurch-artwork-says-artist

Christchurch City Tour

Yesterday I accompanied my mother on an open-top double-decker bus tour of the central city in Christchurch.  It was an excellent trip – hands-free for the photographer(!) and a helpful perspective of the many changes this city is undergoing.  The largeness of the vacant lots stands out, but also the progress.  The commentary on the bus was excellent – informative and at times quite funny.  They also began the tour by wishing my mother happy birthday – she was 80 yesterday!  We completed a splendid morning with a yummy lunch at Christchurch’s Cafe of the Year, Hello Sunday.

Hello Sunday

Anne and I snuck out on our day off for a taste of the new-ish menu at Hello Sunday.  We have a bias.  Sam, our 24 year old is the head chef and food designer there – so any advocacy about his food is reflective of parental pride and all that.  But… the cafe won Best Cafe of the Year in the 2015 Hospitality Awards plus three other awards including People’s Choice – so other people back us up!

Also, if we want to eat a meal prepared by chef Sam then we seem to have to pay for it!

We are not complaining… the food was remarkable – exquisite Turkish influences with egg, asparagus with pumpkin with a hint of fennel… light yet lasting… beautiful to the eye and a delight in each bite.

And the chef was in a crazy mood – lots of fun.

It is fantastic tracking the development in the vibe and food quality as Hello Sunday draws near to its second birthday.

Yum!

http://hellosundaycafe.co.nz/

 

Christchurch New Zealand 30 May 2015

Recently I found some archival versions of emails I sent out into the wild blue yonder of cyberspace 4 years ago in the aftermath of the major Christchurch earthquake sequence.  Here it is: https://preshist.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/bumpy-in-christchurch-from-rev-martin-stewart/

Sometimes it seems like a long time ago – even another lifetime.  The aftershocks are very rare now, at least the ones we can feel.  I am a 3.3 man – anything under 3.3 doesn’t register with me.  There have been 14 tremors in the last week…weak and light apparently… I have missed them all.  I am glad of it!

Sometimes it is like it never happened.  The house works, the animals are relaxed, the phone rings and the person contacting me doesn’t talk about their earthquake issues.

But then, like at lunchtime today, there is a rumble outside and the noise of it makes me wonder if an aftershock is coming…I pause…waiting for the escalation and revelation.  It is a truck.  I move on barely registering that this is an odd way to behave.  In the past I could never have imagined that this would be the staging of a significant part of my life.  My new normal.

But it is not normal.

In the city the roads are still all over the place, especially off the main routes.  There are cranes everywhere flashing their aircraft warning lights all night.  A good sign of moving on, I guess, but the gaps between these building sites are enormous.  There is a long way to go.

One of my sons has moved into a flat out east.  He is a block away from the ‘red zone’ – the buffer zone on both sides of the Avon River now devoid of houses and eerily silent when you risk the pot holes and drive along the once proud neighbourhood roadways.

I did an early morning photo-shoot out at New Brighton at Easter and it seemed as if there had been absolutely no attention given to the primary access roads to this significant coastal suburb.  It felt like I was entering a third world country.  I live out west, I am pampered.  I feel guilty.  How come, four years on, it feels as if the earthquakes have just happened out there?!

I received a phone call on Friday – a woman thanking Anne and I for arranging some emergency food for her daughter.  I heard that another daughter is living in a house where she is paying $430 a week in rent and the house exterior is plugged with goo because the damage from the earthquakes has rendered it beyond repair, but some landlord is still making money from renting it to people too poor to be able to afford to move somewhere else to a house in better condition.

Christchurch is no picnic.

I love my work and the community of people I interact with – I really love what I do and who I do it with – but living here continues to test me.

And then Japan and Nepal, and the devastating earthquakes there and I know that comparably we have nothing to complain about.

Meanwhile, in our church community we are anticipating that we will build on out two sites this year.  The St Stephen’s Church building in Bryndwr was demolished a few years ago.  The St Giles Church building in Papanui was demolished earlier.  We have combined to form The Village Church.  It seems to be thriving enough despite this precarious season of struggling churches.  The building process is another challenge again – we are building community-facing buildings rather than buildings with pointy roofs that are disused most of the week – there seem to be plenty of them about so we don’t feel the need to add two more.  We see this as an opportunity to re-engage and re-connect with the community if they will let us.  It is very experimental and kind of fun.  I worry that we will not have enough money to build these spaces – the building costs have risen dramatically and the demands for structurally sound buildings are, quite rightly, high, but also expensive. The politics of working between peoples hopes, aspirations, frustrations and expectations is challenging.  But that is what it takes to live and work here…handling the politics.

Christchurch has become a city of energy, frustration, anger, hope, wonder, divides, despair, desperation, progress, regress, opportunity, exploitation, possibility, imagination, and degeneration.  We have a long way to go.

Changes in Christchurch – the ‘Red Zone’

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The photo is the area where three of our churches walked out around $85,000 of supermarket vouchers to severely affected people in Christchurch. It is stunning to see what has happened. Hopefully all the affected people have found a new and better space in which to live. I know one family for whom the relocation has been successful albeit slow and at times massively disruptive.