A Minister’s Week in Christchurch

The Rev. Sandra Wright-Taylor  of St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church Avonhead,  shares with us some of her activities over the last week.  It is indeed a stressful time for many ministers as they deal with families grieving for those who have died and those who have lost their homes and belongings.  Her comments highlight the added stress and busyness of others such as funeral directors and cemetery staff, Boards of Governors’, and the locals who are offering support.  Drinking coffees in local cafes has proved a useful point of contact for Sandra as she offers pastoral support.

It’s been one of those weeks!  Four funerals all due to strokes and stress following the earthquake.  Next week I will take part in a service to farewell my neighbour who died in the PGC building.

Funerals at crematoriums have become quick and slick affairs.  There is basically an hour to get in and out and somewhere in between we celebrate the life of the one who has died and offer care for the family left behind.  It’s a clock watching exercise, with no room for open invitations for others to speak, or concertos to be played, as you are acutely aware people are arriving for the next service.

I had a graveside service the other day.  A service was already in progress and alongside the plot where I was leading the service, were two plots waiting to be filled. Two other plots had already been used that day.  This is a quiet cemetery that risks being filled very quickly at present.  One of the first things the funeral director greeted me with, was what I needed to do in the event of an aftershock. We carefully chose a gathering place should things shake. I am glad to say the earth behaved. Today a funeral director told me, he knew of only three churches in the city with pipe organs and how popular they had become for families.

Senior College at St. Andrew's

Things change at the flick of an eye!  Last week I attended the St Andrew’s College Board of Governors meeting, hoping to sign off the documents to ask the Ministry of Education for permission to reopen..  Only a few hours before our meeting, it had been established that the sewerage pipes were shot and some of the streets around the school had broken pipes. People have been flushing for a while, and we wonder where it has all ended up!   

The documentation to re-open a school following the last earthquake is an entirely new beast to anything we had experienced before.  It is time consuming and detailed with so many boxes to fill and crosses to tick.  The pressure for some boards has had its toll.  We hope to re-open on 21 March and so another board meeting has to be convened to sign off documents. Preparatory School kids can go next week for a maximum of 90 minutes – after that its deemed that kids would need a loo! Secondary kids bladders must be better because they get 2 hours or so!  At the moment we are waiting for large tanks to arrive that can collect human waste.

It took me just on a hour to get home at lunchtime today. Normally at the worst of times it takes just over 10 minutes.  Traffic is courteous as people are much more gracious at letting cars in. I was gagging for a coffee, but alas one of my haunts is now a pile of rubble.  I have been drinking a lot of coffee in the last couple of weeks or so, and found that ‘loitering with intent’ at the local cafes has been important.  Often there are people sitting alone, looking around to see if there are familiar faces.  I have met a number of locals, heard stories and hopefully helped people feel in a better space as we have said our goodbyes.  I’m not one for clerical collars, but there are times lately when doors have opened and stories poured out.  

People in the parish are doing loads of washing for those on the other side of town.  The local Baptist church co-ordinates it to save too much traffic going to where it wouldn’t be welcomed; just small ways of making a difference.

Thank goodness for people who offer a place to escape, and fill the water bottles.  Yes we have water, but it all needs to be boiled. Amberley’s water is ready to use!- a lifesaver. Tomorrow is Sunday. Who will be there? Who has gone away to catch up on sleep and get away from things? Who is there because they are more desperate than usual to be alongside another….  And as we gather we remember those who are worshipping in unfamiliar places, some outdoors

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