Posted by: preshist | March 9, 2011

UPDATE FROM REV. MARTIN STEWART IN CHRISTCHURCH

It is great receiving responses from  people as different we each share our experiences.  I particularly appreciate Geoff King’s contributions as they contrast with mine as he participates in what is happening from a different angle.  I hope people don’t get bored by our writings – I think there is value in sharing things for the sake of the many who clearly feel deeply for what has happened and is happening, and there is a degree of therapy in writing about it as well.  Please tell me when to give it a rest if I rant on for too long!

Anne and I managed to scramble two nights away – it took forever to get to our friends 3 hours south – prising ourselves out of Christchurch and then catching up with family who were keen to touch the wounds and see for themselves that we were still alive.  I have been encouraging colleagues to attend to getting some rest and figured that I needed to heed my own advice.  We had a great time away – no aftershocks, no jobs to do – we were spoilt, but at this stage I feel ambivalent about whether it was worthwhile.  Neither of us slept well, the boys were still up here, and the challenges of what is ahead came to visit me both nights from 3am until dawn.

I feel kind of flat now – the first time that some despair has entered into the frame.  We have heard that people very dear to us are seriously contemplating moving away to Australia – their going will have a major impact on us.  I can hardly blame them if they take up that option – they are scared and struggling.  It has crossed my mind several times after this second earthquake that many of those who have chosen to hang on and tough it out will not handle another one.  One more big one and I hate to think what will happen.

It is still early days, but the combination of stuff here is a very heavy load to bear… here are just a few things that are a weight for me

 – the names of the dead being released at the rate of three a day,

 – parts of the CBD being closed for 6 months,

 – one third of the CBD buildings being trashed,

– some 70,000 people having left the city (and not all of them intending to return),

 – 3500 jobs lost (so far),

 – up to 100,000 of the 140,000 home in Christchurch suffering damage

– around 10,000 homes to be demolished,

 – and the perpetual threat of more aftershocks

And this one  – I struggle to see how some of our churches will keep going.  Our weakest ones have been hit the hardest and there isn’t a lot in reserve in the rest of us to carry them for very long – not many of us are all that strong.  A lot of what we were doing in the city was quite precarious before the two earthquakes… it is a real worry!

There is a lot in this city that is operating on survival mode.  It is kind of right that the churches are part of this – our rightful place is suffering alongside everyone else whose business and livelihoods are in jeopardy, weeping with those who have lost loved ones, and asking serious questions about the future.  A lot has been flattened here… so we will feel flat from time to time.

Many here are only able to take things day by day – maybe that is all that the church can do for now.  I recall Jesus having something to say about that.

One of our small parishes is New Brighton Union.  Darryl Tempero has been in contact over there and taken them some food parcels as well as spending time alongside the makeshift Parish Council and their minister Mark.  Darryl has just sent the following report of what they shared: “Many elderly, some in rest homes, have been relocated.  A number of members in places like Bexley have suffered significant damage to their homes.  Many have left town, and there was some discussion around caring for people as they return.  They felt like their ‘flock was scattered.’  There will be issues around shock as people see their houses again after being away…  They gathered on the beach on the first Sunday, and on the boulevard on the second (70 attending), with a number of people joining them that don’t usually attend church.  They have said: “we have to go back to the beginning and figure out what church is like without a building.”

Time for some sleep!

I look forward to what the new day brings.

Martin

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