As we move towards opening our redeveloped complex, the whole world is dominated by ‘change’. The Presbyterian Church of New Zealand has been declining for years and the future is set to test us further. Our new national Moderator, the Reverend Andrew Norton, writes of the immediate future, “The Church is facing shock waves of enormous change”.
I am coming to see that the timing of the opening of our new complex is significant. We will not just have a new facility. This Redevelopment journey may well have equipped us to face ‘the shock waves of enormous change’. Our new facility will come on stream at a extremely tumultuous time not just for us, but, for the whole world. The advances of technology and the facility of the world-wide-web will be available to us. The life of our small church and community centre could be shared far and wide.
I mentioned the significance of this timing and the possibilities before us to a group of elders (church leaders). One astute individual shot back, “But are we up to the challenge”?
Actually, I am not sure. Our Minister , Reverend Pauline constantly urges us to use the new complex in new ways. She implores that we must not slip into the role of being landlord of a large facility nor do what we have always been doing but in a rennovated setting. But I have been wondering what if we try new things and they don’t work? Will we retreat back to business as usual?
What I long for and I believe we all want is that the new facility will be used to the glory of God. Hmm! Just what will that mean?
I have been humming a chorus about change I first sang in Sunday School. Written in 1890 by Albert Simpson, it goes;
Yesterday, today forever,
Jesus is the same,
All may change but Jesus never – Glory to his name
(Based on Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”)
I believe this sentiment with all my heart. We do not worship an old book, the Bible. We worship the living Jesus whom we meet in the Bible. Let us not forget that the Bible scholars, the chapter and verse men of Jesus’ day, hated him. Fundamentalists the world over all claim they are ‘people of the book’ – naming some holy book or other. Today heinous deeds are committed in the name of God and are justified by reference to a verse in a sacred book. We value the Bible above every book, but when it comes to discerning the path ahead we are not people of the book. We are people of the spirit – the spirit of Jesus. Whenever the spirit of Jesus and some verse from the Bible seem to be in conflict, the spirit of Jesus always trumps the verse.
In the verses of Simpson’s hymn, (I just quote the chorus) he talks of the living Jesus coming to the sinful, the sick, the disabled and the grief stricken of his day. And in our time I would add to this list the addicted, the disconnected, the depressed and the newcomer with no English and no friends. Whoever else our new Centre is for, it is for them! I am certain that rooms, chairs and internet access will not be enough to meet their needs. If the healing presence of Jesus is to be known in our facility, in this time of change it has to be through us.
Our architect Pip Cheshire was looking at the cover of our recent ‘Welcome’ magazine. He read the line on the cover which states “Actually, it is not about buildings – it is all about people”! He said. “That’s the truth. All we are doing is building a stage on which the real drama can take place”.
In the next act in the life of our Church and Community Centre, we will all be players on that stage. The backdrop will be the ‘shock waves of enormous change” Andrew Norton writes about.
Pauline’s and my prayer is that the life-healing, life-affirming and welcoming spirit of Jesus might be known in us and through us, whatever we have to do and whatever it takes! Jesus still lead on.