The Rev. John Hunt, 30 years minister to the people of Papanui, preached his retirement sermon on Sunday 20th February. This last Sunday 28 February, we learned through an Interview with Rev. John Hunt that the Church he ministered in is now beyond repair although a final assessment by engineers is still to be carried out. He spoke of three generations of families who had worshipped at the Church and his interest in Celtic spirituality reflected on the symbolism of stones as wonderful listeners. The stillness of the walls, he noted, share with us the songs, tears and prayers that they have heard over the years.
Last September, after the earthquake while attending the Presbyterian General Assembly I was able to view the interior of the St. Giles Presbyterian Church Papanui. At that time it had badly damaged and seemed unlikely to be repaired. However, it remained standing and as with a number of Christchurch buildings decisions about its repair were being considered. The congregation has worshipped in the Church Hall since September and continues its mission to the community.
John recalls the September earthquake service in his interview noting that it was rather a ‘beautiful’ thing to see 170 Presbyterians hugging one another as they gave each their support. He quoted a very apt verse from Psalm 46: God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and mountains fall into the ocean depths …The almighty is with us. the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Our prayers are with the people of St. Giles as they not only come to terms with this terrible disaster that faces their city but also as they look ahead to calling a new minister.