A couple of weeks ago I watched the online commissioning service for Shirley Rivers, the newly appointed Director of Methodist Mission Northern. The service took place at Pitt Street Church in Auckland, under Covid protocols of a limit of 100 people, masked and vaccinated.
Bicentennial Snapshots; Stories from the Hīkoi
Watching online, I saw many friends. Rex Nathan was there, welcoming everyone at the beginning of the service. Marion Hines read from the scriptures. Jan Tasker presented greetings from Auckland Synod. I saw Nan Russell and Susan Thompson sitting in the pews. For those of us watching online, we had our own instant community, including Keita Hotere, Mary Caygill and Uesifili Unasa, to name just a few.
Arapera Ngaha preached that evening. Her kauwhau was a moving and compelling moment of storytelling. If you get the opportunity to listen to her sermon, I recommend it to you. I believe there is a Zoom link circulating in the Connexion. As Arapera preached, she recalled the names of people, Weteriana witnesses of the faith, long gone from us. She recalled the names of buildings and churches no longer standing and she took us back to her own childhood and gave us glimpses of an Auckland city and Aotearoa vastly different from that of today. All the while she wove, taking strands of service and witness, faith and unity, reminding us of our mission as Church, before coming full circle, welcoming Shirley to our common endeavour.
There is a Māori whakataukī: Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua - ‘I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.’ In this context, memory is sacred. It is carried and finds meaning in the reality of the present community, shaping its vision for the future. A recent example that comes readily to mind is the reciting of the text of Te Tiriti o Waitangi on Waitangi day during the ecumenical service. Communal memory can also be seen in the Hebrew scriptures with the biblical command of ‘Zakhor: Remember!’ To remember the Sabbath, to remember the covenant, to remember the exodus from Egypt.
In the naming of names, of people and places; in the recollection of memory and experience; Arapera reminded us once again of the inherent power in the act of remembering. To recall our own Weteriana story, our own hāhi history in this whenua, Aotearoa, and to boldly lay claim to our role as visionaries. For memory and vision must go hand-in-hand and each informs the other.
As we continue our hīkoi throughout this bicentennial year, Conference has already given us some direction on the stories the Connexion will be sharing e.g the history of the bi-cultural journey and our mission origins in Aotearoa. At the same time conversations up and down the motu are taking place and each contribute to composite narratives recalling 200 years of Methodism in Aotearoa. This is an exciting year for the Church and we look forward to the richness of what we will have to offer each other.