Letter from America
Dear Ralph and all our NZ family:
Once again we are pleased to receive the newsletter, bringing us up to date on “the community of St. Aidan’s.” We are always glad to read names of our friends who are still part of the SA family.
Each edition finds you providing a relevant and challenging message about the current and future ministry of SA.
Being several years and thousands of miles removed from you, we cannot fully appreciate what the church and its neighbors are going through with the continuing call for responsible leadership; from the perspectives of both the ordained ministry and the lay membership. But, having formed our own relationship to St. Aidan’s over many years, with the interim pastorate in 1982-3 (nine months) and the visiting pastorate in 2007 (four months) we feel that we do know what are some of the difficult moments you are facing.
The overwhelming secularism of any country will cause the institutional church to constantly seek a frank review of just where it is headed; how, when, and by whom. (Here in the U.S. we can only imagine what the Church (big C) will have as its challenges, considering the kind of national leadership that has taken over.)
Obviously, this is the situation that St. Aidan’s and some of its neighbors are confronting. (Of course, you well know that New Zealand, and the U.S., as well as European countries share in this phenomenon). The younger generations are leaving us, and we keep wondering what we did wrong? There is a resurgence among the more conservative and fundamentalist organizations, but, in my own humble opinion, their portrayals of our basic Christian heritage and beliefs have resulted in more personal-gratifying emphases, rather than what I consider the real mission of the Church, namely seeking a just society for everyone.
But a look at church history shows that there have been major changes in the Church’s (big C) ministry, and in the end, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still alive, in spite of our own discord in the way we deliver the “good news.”
I wrote a major paper during my seminary and early years in the ministry; the concept of a “larger parish”, whereby several ministering “stations” or local parish sites would compose one cooperative ministry; with perhaps a small ordained and more broad support staff, such as teachers, counselors, administrators, social workers, etc. Sorry to say, my bright idea did not get past my paper!
What your newsletter seems to mention is the need for St. Aidan’s and its neighboring churches to consider such a cooperative effort.
I think this would be a good idea, and then this larger parish would be able to make itself heard in the surrounding areas as one coordinated ministry that could confront the kinds of problems facing a changing society. This sort of ministry can still recognize traditions that had a real place in the past (such as denominational loyalties), however, it could build upon those still-relevant beliefs and actions that each cooperating group brings to the larger parish.
I like this idea very much. (And wish “age” would allow me the opportunity to participate in such a program.)
We do have St. Aidan’s in our thoughts and prayers, and wish the best to all of you as you find the means to see new visions and have new dreams that will continue the heritage and legacy of this wonderful Christian family and community “on the Shore.”
John and Jean Biggers