“Restore us, O Lord, we pray,
bring us back to that place
where we once met,
as shepherds to the stable
after hearing angels sing.
Bring us back to that place
When our love was fresh,
To express itself in praise
To our heavenly King.
Restore us, O Lord, we pray.
This is an Advent prayer which I have prayed all throughout the year
as I have served you in this very short period of your vacancy.
I am grateful for the opportunity to offer ministry to you.
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Although a few of St. Aidan’s community knew me before this , and I
them, I don’t think we knew each other in this capacity. Over the
course of 13 years of ministry, I have come in contact with many
people. I have dealt with my situation. And I have come to know who
I am and what I am called to be. Being the person I am who likes to
please everyone, I think I sometimes forget the limits to how far or
wide one can go without getting lost somewhere. I see that in me. I
see that in others. I see that in the church as well. But even if you
are not lost, even if you haven’t forgotten; how often do you need to
remind yourself of why you are doing what you are doing? The
purpose… the meaning… of it all.
Coming to St. Aidan’s with a limited time of a year, was great
timing. I had finished a term with a parish in Lower Hutt and was
ready to move back to Auckland. I think I needed this prayer and in a
way, my time with St. Aidan’s was that. I was well aware of this
place St. Aidan’s which is very different from the time I knew St.
Aidan’s few years ago, although you were the lovely people you
always were. We are faced with a much smaller membership, are
shorter in people and financial resources and with part of the
building earthquake prone . I think you have shown me a great
resilience and sincere and deep Christian fellowship. The way you
responded to the study during Advent and Lent has shown me the
liveliness of your faith, eager to learn and love the Lord.
Church is not a building. Church is not something you do, on Sunday.
It is not something you carry on doing because you have done so for
so long and because your ancestors have done before you. Church is
a living and active gathering of people who love Jesus, who love God
and who are inspired by the Holy Spirit to worship, to learn, and to
be transformed and transform others and the world, with the Love
that God has for us through Jesus Christ. It is not doctrine. It is faith.
Church is faith. It is the people and the building, of Faith. Yet, we
are and have become everything else but faith, Jesus, God, Holy
Spirit, Scripture, love and justice of God etc. We have done away
with so much of who we are over the years, we have very little to
hang our thoughts on and therefore invent ourselves with the frame
of some other spiritual belief. And that is not who we are.
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One of the things you will remember from my ministry, one of you
told me is the prayer. The prayer especially during worship where I
re-introduced (for some) the concept of repentance. Metanoia which
is Greek for “repentance” is not a judgemental word, but a
restorative word. It means returning, turning around and turning
towards God, the Home. It does not necessarily imply ‘guilt’ or
‘condemnation’ rather it means ‘love’ ‘compassion’ and ‘belonging.’
Hence this prayer I started with. One advent in the recent past I
came across this prayer and was deeply moved by it. “Restore us,
bring us back”, “where we once met.” This to me is calling us to
remember that nothing else really matters but the love we
remember that God has, the love that made us come back again and
again to this place, this people, this Word and this prayer.
Though my journey here with you ends, I hope we can continue to
pray this prayer, a memory of our time together. And in God, we will
remember it with gladness and thanksgiving.
As we journey on in our faith, together and apart, we can trust and
be glad that we have a place to return, with God who welcomes us as
the father welcomed his Son. (Luke15:11-32)
I believe we are called to look back in order to move forward, to
remember the love we felt, the power of Holy Spirit upon our
shoulders and the warmth of love in our hearts.With those memories
we can walk tirelessly on this journey of life and faith, no matter
how Volatile, Uncertain, Confusing, Ambiguous this world might be.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor
things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from
the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38,38.
Michelle J S Shin
From the Minister
An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand