Letter from the Rev. Geoff King
Today for the first time since the quake last Tuesday I stopped to have a good look at the building that used to be ‘my’ church. Whilst I’ve only seen snippets of TV news in passing whilst visiting other people, I’m aware that the shell of the Knox Church building on the corner of Victoria St and Bealey Ave has become very familiar in recent days, thanks largely to the fact that it stands on the outer edge of the cordon that’s been drawn around the inner city, which means that lots of presenters are using it (or the Carlton Hotel on the diagonally opposite corner) as a backdrop for their reports. I understand from a colleague’s comment in an email that one reporter even commented about the damage to Anglican churches whilst standing with his/her back to our building – I suppose that’s payback for the way my forebears had Robbie Burns turn his back on the Anglican Cathedral in a well-known city farther south!
On both sides of the cordon there are damaged and destroyed church buildings belonging to each and every denomination, but as Martin Stewart commented to a visitor to his congregation on Sunday, the destruction of our buildings does not imply the demise of our communities of faith. Whilst a number of our members have quite understandably left the city, those who remain are pitching in with the wider community, providing places to stay for displaced family members and neighbours, cycling around suburban streets with shovels strapped to backpacks, visiting, listening, delivering food and water and doing any one of the millions of things that simply need to be done at this time. It is both humbling and horrifying to witness first hand the destruction of homes and livelihoods, and to see people’s responses to this disaster. My sense is that whilst our church buildings have become a visible sign of the quake’s destructive power, the outpouring of and support that has followed is a tangible manifestation of what the Church at its best has always proclaimed as the Gospel of Jesus Christ: costly, self-giving, compassionate love. A couple of people have emailed me their condolences about the state of our Knox Church building; some have noted that we are now literally what we have always claimed and striven to be theologically: truly open to the community around us, embodying the all-embracing love of God as revealed in Christ in the world. I hope that in days to come we as Church can accept that challenge with all that it implies. I am deeply grateful for all the messages and prayers of support that are sustaining me and my colleagues as we each try to do what’s in front of us to the best of our ability, painfully aware that there’s always so much more we could do…
I’m closing with some words I wrote after my daily walk with the dog this morning. I’m still working on what I’m going to say this Sunday as the people of Knox join with the people of St Paul’s Trinity Pacific and the congregation of St. Andrew’s at Rangi Ruru…the theme (taken from the Gospel text for Transfiguration Sunday) is ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’
The birds were back this morning.
I could hear one or two of them singing
As silt-laden wind chased the dog and me around our broken streets.
The birds were back, and with them the song of something other than sirens
Or the low-pitched rumble of an earthquake,
Or the terrified screams of fleeing lunchtime shoppers
Or the muffled sobs of brave and bewildered men, women and children
Trying unsuccessfully to fight back tears.
The birds were back,
and as the sun strove vainly to pierce the swirling cloud of pulverised masonry and liquefaction
their song sounded
a bit like hope.