The news of the Canterbury quake on February 22 hit me in the guts. It didn’t seem real and it did seem too much.
I’d been in Christchurch the weekend before for a very happy opening of the great new worship centre of Lincoln Baptist and life had seemed to be becoming more normal.
I spent the first 23 years of my life in Christchurch. The Oxford Terrace church building, which is now a pile of bricks, was the repository of many great memories. The sense of devastation is one that has been shared by the people of our nation and they have responded.
Our Baptist family immediately started functioning as a family, with offers of help pouring into the National Resource Centre. A number of churches and individuals also made direct contact with Christchurch churches they had relationships with.
What does our theology say to us about this? When we were in Christchurch meeting with many of our pastors we had some visitors. They had flown into New Zealand specifically to reassure us that the quake was God’s judgement on the people of Christchurch, some sort of wake-up call to the people of New Zealand. We asked them to leave. I don’t buy into that nonsense. I believe in a God who is a God of love, and a God of supreme justice. I don’t even pretend to know exactly what that will ultimately look like.
The Bible gives us glimpses, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus both models it and invites our participation. What I do know is that, when there are disasters, God invites us to be partners in the working out of his love for this world. I have seen that again and again.
I was recently at Christchurch airport, delayed by fog, and had a conversation with a fellow traveller. He was from Christchurch and we started talking about the quake. I told him I worked for the Baptist churches and he immediately said, “I’m very impressed with the Baptists.” He explained why. He lived in the area near St Albans Baptist, and soon after the quake there was a knock on the door. A young woman armed with a clipboard told him she was from a local Baptist church and they were visiting people in the area. She methodically went through the list of things they had available For people. This included food, companionship and counseling.
Friends, this is wonderful. We can so easily be hard on ourselves but, if this is allowed, I was proud to be part of this family. I had a couple of hard days in prospect, but inasmuch as it impressed my companion at the airport, it lifted me. Thank you.
I should also thank our new evangelist, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, who encouraged people to go to church following the earthquake – and they did. Many of our pastors talked about the new people meeting with them on the Sunday, seeking God. It may not be fashionable or cool, but the quest for God and assurance remains one of our most basic needs.
• Rodney Macann, National Leader