Reflections on four months Stand Down

Reflections on four months Stand Down


Explanation: One member of our church has made two official compalints against Pauline. In his second complaint he has been joined by one other person. Because of the first complaint, the Commissioners ruled that Pauline and I (for me it was voluntary) were to have no ontact with church people or access to the church and community centre buildings for this four month period. – the Stand Down The complaints which accuse Pauline of bullying behavior and governance issues are to come before a national Presbyterian body of adudicators in 2020. On Novemr 24 2019 our initial four mont stand down conluded and we we weare able to lead worship on that day. I prepared the short essay which follows and read it to the congregation on this occasion.The shorte essay wich follows

Today for the first time in four months I am back in the church. I want to share with you some of what has happened to us at that time.

Firstly you should know that this time has not been relaxing. It has been nerve-racking and exhausting. The reason for this being we have had to face multiple issues and prepare so much information right through this period. This includes this last week during which there have been meetings on difficult issues and papers to sign. As we resume our duties, some issues related to the second complaint against Pauline are yet to be resolved. I wish I could say we are back refreshed and ready to go. That is not the case. We are bone-weary.

I expect those of you who have been part of this church during these stressful days must also be tired out.  I apologise to you all for being part of the disharmony that has drained us all.

During these months we have lived mostly out of suitcases. It was too painful for us to stay in the manse and not be able to talk to you or enter the church buildings. We visited family in Australia and thanks to friends, we have stayed at a number of locations in the North Island. But, in all of these locations our phones worked and emails arrived the result being every day, including today has had its new tensions.  The scenery does not make a paradise. New torments seem to obscure beautiful surroundings.

It was a time of role reversal for us. For years our home has been a refuge for people in painful situations. For these last months, we were the recipients of kindness and all we could say was ‘thank you’. We had no counsel to give, no devotions to lead. We felt we were the beaten up person and all we could do was to ask for help.

Over these last four months when we were so occupied with our own problems many people we met along the way have shared with us their problems. It has really reinforced in me that New Zealand is not the land of the long white cloud, it is the land of the long black cloud. In this incredibly beautiful country, many people live in the shadow of grief and face debilitating issues. The causes of this distress are many and various. We have heard about family disputes, addictions, dishonesty, corrupt officials, the destructive power of prejudice, and of couples crushed by incomprehensible and unfeeling bureaucracy. These people have shared themselves with us on our painful and bewildering journey. We are thankful for their companionship. Pauline and I are part of this motley crowd.

What’s next for the family of which we are a part, which gathers in the St Heliers Presbyterian Church and Community Centre? I believe in the truth of our motto, Reaching Out and Welcoming In. This applies not only to newcomers. I think it is a guiding rule for all of us.

I look forward to this Christmas season. I want to hear and experience the messages of this time as if it were for the first time. I want to catch the  ‘joy to the world’ feeling again. I hope you do too!

Stan Stewart   November 21, 2019


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