SECULAR SUMMER CELEBRATIONS
Few fellow parishioners who follow the daily news will have missed the publicity attributed to the stated opinion of our race relations conciliator and human rights commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy that in an increasingly secular society with a growing number of ethnic communities serious consideration should be given to de-Christianising our most celebrated annual festive days. She based this on the assumption that other believers could feel excluded, estranged and disadvantaged in terms of their human rights. Mention was made of most recent statistical information indicating that 47% of the current population had no religious affiliations. Not unexpectedly this generated a lot of public comments, some for and most against the proposal.
While it cannot be denied that church attendance at Christmas services is in decline and celebrations centre predominantly around social activities and the exchange of gifts, there is also sufficient evidence that the majority of citizens of European and Polynesian stock are familiar with the story of Christ’s birth and the significance of its commemoration. Without wanting to denigrate the importance of ethnic and cultural harmony in our country it is necessary to state that by virtue of immigration newcomers must be prepared to accept the customs of its people in return for recognition of their own identity and practises. We can never forget that Aotearoa New Zealand is founded on Christian principles, which are equally shared with Tangata Whenua. We are welcoming to new settlers and encourage and support them in their cultural celebrations. In a similar vein we invite their participation in activities that identify us as citizens of this country. Intending immigrants, who have a problem accepting and adapting to our way of life have the option of other destinations of choice.
In fulfilling the duties of her office, Dame Susan has a responsibility not only to bat for unassimilated ethnic minorities, bearing in mind that those of us of Celtic, Germanic and South Slavonic descent are ethnically diverse and entitled to her services. I can see a conflict of interest between her official position and that as patron of the Auckland Regional Migrant Service, which may affect her impartiality. Most New Zealanders will agree that Christmas as an institution is non-negotiable. Abolishing it in name would be tantamount to refuting the birth of Christ.
Rev Alf made us aware of the adoption of heathenish practices into our Advent and Christmas celebrations involving candles as a source of light. With uncertainties about Christ’s actual birthday we can also assume that the celebration of Hanukah, the Jewish Festival of Light, which varies could have coincided with the Saviour’s birth. It is observed this year on 13 December with an invitation from Auckland’s Hebrew congregations to gentile Christians to join them in their celebration in Albert Park between the hours of 5.30 and 9.00pm involving traditional food and entertainment.
I take this opportunity to wish those of you who will not be worshipping with the rest of us, a most joyous festive season and safe return after the Holidays.