Moderator's Anzac Message
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 24 April 2018
The commemoration of New Zealand’s involvement in both the first and second world wars has taken
on a new life in the last 20 years or so. Crowds have grown at Anzac Day services, particularly among
the young. Children and young people seem to make up at least a half of the congregation gathered for
this special day and they usually have to sacrifice considerable comfort as they turn up to dawn services
very early on those chilly Autumn days.
There is speculation about what is driving this unusual display of identification with generations past, but that it is exists is beyond question.
The connection today’s young people are experiencing with this violent part of our history is occurring
against a background of growing pacifist sentiment here in Aotearoa, and in the West generally. Indeed,
since the Vietnam War in the 60s, youth have generally been identified with an anti-military stance and a
latent pacifism that dislikes military solutions. This is, to my mind at least, as it should be.
There should always be a policy of military involvement only being considered after all else has failed. The results of military action are almost always relative and incomplete creating – at best – an opportunity to
resume building a peaceful and free state.
The question remains, however, whether military force is able to be a part of a Christian solution to the
political and social realities of human life. Can force ever be said to be a Christian option? Do we have to
settle for violence?
Whatever else may be said on this matter – and it is, admittedly, something that has occupied debate and discussion for centuries – several realities remain uncontested.
Firstly, fallen humankind, sinful humankind will use power to enforce its will on others and that includes
military power. In these circumstances, history often demonstrates that nothing short of a display of balancing power will stop the violence. Military action against Isis or Daesh (as they are otherwise referred to) is a good example. The terrorists who drove the violent Isis crusade represent no one but themselves
and have been disowned by most of the Muslim world.
A letter to David Cameron signed by the Islamic Society of Britain and the Association of Muslim Lawyers
made this very clear when it stated (regarding Isis): “It is neither Islamic, nor is it a State. The group has no standing with faithful Muslims, nor among the international community of nations.”
So this group who has no standing with the majority of peace-loving Muslims uses unconscionable force and violence to achieve its aims, and the only thing that will cause those involved in it to give heed to the voices of the innocents caught up in this violence is in fact, violence itself.
And this is, in the end, what has happened: a coalition of western military has supported Iraqi military, and Russia has supported the Syrian military to defeat Isis. It hasn’t been easy and the violence has still not abated, but the alternative was to allow a violent faction take root in the world. And this brings me to my second point.
In this life and in certain situations where the State or, indeed, the world is faced with power that chooses
violence – violence seems to be required to bring about a just solution.
In such situations, however, it must also be admitted that the outcomes are extremely limited and often, in
themselves, full of injustice. Innocent people are killed, violent people are exalted and the states which are left
are often not much better off than before. Despite this, one must ask whether the alternative would have been preferred.
Last century New Zealand lost thousands of men and women fighting a regime which chose violence to enforce its will on its own people and on the nations around it. It was determined to rule Western Europe and, in doing so, to rule the world. Today we no longer live with that threat because of their sacrifice. God forbid it should ever
happen again, but if it does, I wonder if we’d make that same sacrifice so that our children and grandchildren might live in relative freedom again?
Moderators Christmas Message: Christmas for the Lonely
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 22 December 2017
Christmas is a struggle for the lonely. Nothing compounds feelings of loneliness quite like seeing others celebrate a festival for families, and being asked common pleasantries such as if family are coming to visit. It’s not the fault of Christmas but it’s what happens. Christmas is hard on the lost. Who can begin to be found when everyone’s so busy with each other that no one’s even looking for the lost?
Christmas is tough for the unlovely. Those who feel rejected because of something they can’t help, struggle to feel valued at a time when value becomes synonymous with price. Christmas is great but I feel for the marginalised people who are forgotten at this time of year: the lost, the lonely and the unloved.
I wonder if we could focus on making a difference this Christmas, even for just one person who lies completely outside the circle of our own family, someone who just won’t get to celebrate unless we include them in some way.
Perhaps it’s a person living on their own. Perhaps it’s a solo parent living down the street. Perhaps it’s a couple of little ones you’ve seen playing around your place and you’re pretty sure they won’t be getting much in the way of Christmas fare on the 25th. Whoever and however you choose to help, if we each make an extra effort it would make a huge difference.
I recently watched a wonderful video talk by Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of The Justice Initiative, which among other things has saved many people from death row in America. The key phrase which still rings in my soul from that talk was the first point he made about justice: true justice requires proximity. That is, it requires us to get close to those who are suffering injustice. Isn’t this what Jesus did by coming to earth on this amazing day we celebrate as Christmas? Isn’t this the universe changing version of getting proximate? I certainly think so. I want us this year simply to ask ourselves who we are going to bring into our inner sanctum, to share with and to learn from, who is in the lost, lonely and unloved category.
I hope and pray that you might be greatly blessed this Christmas. Thank you for all you work and commitment to our Church. It makes a huge difference to me and to so many who travel with us in this journey of faith.
God bless you and yours this Christmas,
Richard Dawson Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
Christmas Call English & Te Reo
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 25 October 2017
Let us Pray!
As we approach Christmas and the end of another year I want to call the whole Church to prayer. I
am particularly aware of how important Christmas is both for the Church as a family and for her
witness in and to the world.
Christmas and Easter are still universally recognised as Christian festivals even if the depth of
understanding is not great. Many people only come to church on these special days. It is, therefore,
important that we recognise the opportunities we have at these times to bring a message of hope
and mercy to those who live outside the Church family.
I know many of you do engage the community in all sorts of creative ways at Christmas and I also
know that many churches put on special services to mark the occasion. Can I encourage you to
continue these traditions and to work as hard as possible to raise the Christ-child up at this time?
However, I also know that this is a very busy time for staff and especially for Ministers, so I want to
call the Church to prayer for our Christmas witness and especially for these people for this period.
Can you please distribute this letter as widely as possible amongst your people and so call them to
prayer for the areas I’ve listed below and can you engage in at least one special time of prayer in
your parish where people can come apart and spend some quality time in praying for these things?
The Church marches on its prayers. Let us, then, march together this Christmas.
Points for prayer:
1. That our witness this Christmas may be gracious and effective.
1. That we may find many ways to bless those who struggle with Christmas, especially the poor and distressed.
2. That we may bless our Ministers and staff through the Christmas period and ensure they get
3. adequate rest and refreshment over summer.
4. That we will find the needed resources to staff churches over summer.
5. That we will all experience peace and provision this year, which is at the heart of the Christmas tradition.
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ)
Christmas Call Tongan
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 25 October 2017Download file (PDF, 241.51kb)
Christmas Call Samoan
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 25 October 2017Download file (PDF, 246.11kb)
Christmas Call Cook Island
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 25 October 2017Download file (PDF, 260.16kb)
Christmas Call Korean
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 25 October 2017Download file (PDF, 257.49kb)
Christmas Call Chinese
Richard Dawson (Moderator PCANZ), 25 October 2017Download file (PDF, 323.01kb)
Let's be the best we can be
Kristin Jack, 23 February 2017
As we move into 2017, there is a real sense that God's Spirit is wanting to do something special here at Leith. It's a newness that will build on the many gifts, passions & dreams he has already planted in our hearts & that are just waiting to be fanned into flame. One of the things I love about our community here is the breadth & diversity of perspectives we have. We have folk from all kinds of theological & church backgrounds worshipping side by side, & learning what it means to simply follow Jesus - & help each other follow Jesus. I want us to keep building on this beautiful glimpse of they Kingdom among us, this pulling together of so many strands & creative ideas. Let's be the best & richest community we can be, drawing on our smorgasbord of traditions! Let's draw on our Word-centred tradition that honours & studies the Scriptures, seeking to apply it to all of life. Let's tap into the charismatic stream running through our community, & draw the best from it's love of worship, & Spiritual gifts; let's draw on the contemplative stream in our community, learning to be more prayerful & better listeners; let's draw on the passion for Social Justice & Peacemaking that's among us, & be propelled into action 'for the least'; let's draw too from our incarnational stream that sees God's presence & sacredness in all creation, & that responds to that with awe & a commitment to greater creation care. Let's be the best, most whole community we can be, drawing from the streams of every tradition that we have amongst us - all of which ultimately flow from Jesus himself. As Jesus said: "Whoever believes in me, streams of Living Water will flow out from deep within them" (John 7:38)
Kristin Jack, 14 December 2016
December - how did that get here so quick?! So often this is a month not so much about frankincense as franticness; not so much about myrrh, but about blur. It can be a frenetic month as we try to get work stuff ‘sorted’ before the year ends, while at the same time wrestling with plans for Christmas & for the summer break (if we can afford one.) For many people December is the most stressful month of the year. For many others, Christmas is the saddest and loneliest time.
And so we need the message of Advent - that Christ has come and is coming again - to really sink into our hearts. More than that, we need to continually invite Jesus in to be Lord of our hearts, our lives - and our schedules. Now more than ever, we need Jesus to be the core, the centre from which we operate. Psalm 46:9-10 says: God makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow, shatters the spear, and burns the shield. God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you….don’t let your hearts be troubled, & don’t be afraid” (John 14:27)
Make a conscious decision not to be overwhelmed by either busyness or loneliness this season, but to make Christmas a time when your relationship with Jesus is reborn. If you need to talk with someone, or pray with someone to help you get to that place - myself and Nancy and all the other dozens of ‘ministers’ we have at Leith are totally available.