By Rodney Macann
Like most of you, and particularly as a Cantabrian who now lives in Wellington, I was shocked with the news of the Canterbury earthquake.
We’ve been waiting for it in Wellington but it was so unexpected in Christchurch. I remember as a kid having my first experience of a quake in Cheviot, about 100kms north of Christchurch. In Christchurch, we didn’t feel them.
I’ve now visited Christchurch and want to share a few impressions:
1. The absolute miracle that no one died as a direct result of the quake.
2. Despite the fact that lives were not lost, the trauma for people living in the area is huge, particularly with the aftershocks and the knowledge that there could be another big one – potentially devastating with buildings already weakened.
3. Some of our churches, in particular Oxford Terrace and Beckenham, are facing major issues for the future. Assuming the Oxford Terrace main auditorium can be repaired, it could be two years before the church can meet there.
With both Oxford Terrace and Beckenham, the strong interest of the Historic Places Trust, with its total disinterest in the needs of a well-functioning church, is a major complicating factor. Pray for a lot of wisdom and guidance for the people of these two churches.
4. The financial implications for most of our churches are small compared with the pastoral needs of the people. Most of our churches will be well covered by insurance.
5. The response from our people both in Canterbury and outside of the region has been terrific. A number of the Canterbury churches have taken the opportunity to serve the people of their communities.
6. I met with a number of very tired pastors and I believe the adrenaline that has carried a number of people through thus far could be followed by a deep exhaustion. We need to find ways of giving support to our people in key leadership positions.
7. This is a time of opportunity. Biblically and historically, God meets with us in crisis. Again and again over the years that I have been leader of our movement of churches, I’ve come back to the first beatitude: God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him. The kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
Surely the kingdom is very close at this time. While we, as God’s people, live kingdom values among our communities, then people will see the goodness of the Lord and respond to him.
8. Even in times of stress, the smile that God gives need never be too far away. One of our new pastors to Christchurch and New Zealand – and also earthquakes – said that, at the moment of the quake, he heard two of his children who sleep in bunk beds arguing with each other. Each was telling the other to stop shaking the bed!
The pastor, for his part, told his wife this is the sort of thing that happens in New Zealand – don’t worry about it!