Post Card 7: November Aotearoa/New Zealand

Ruth sits with Rev. Bosco Peters in the Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand

Post Card 7: 1st26th November Aotearoa/New Zealand: Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch 

Post Card 7: 1st – 26th November Aotearoa/New Zealand: Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch 

November brought a change in focus, along with a change in temperature. Having travelled through intense coastal and desert heat with dear companions across thousands of miles in Australia, meeting over 30 First Nations/Aboriginal leaders, having been welcomed into 10 different households, two retreat centres, and countless church communities and having swum off three separate islands in three oceans, we were now ready to arrive in Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand.  

Our time in Aotearoa/New Zealand was more self-programmed, and the temperature, particularly the further south we have travelled, was much more like summer in the UK – warm with hints of rain… While the pace has been slightly slower; the welcome has been equally full and generous.  

Being hosted by the Dudley/Tombs family in both Wellington and Dunedin, and by the Ryan family in South Dunedin, we feel we’ve been given the very best of introductions to this beautiful country. Meeting with Associate Members at various events has been a highlight, as was the time we spent at Karitane with Hilary Oxford-Smith, second year New Member of the Iona Community. Evenings with the congregation of Knox Church and then with colleagues and friends at the Centre for Theology and Public Issues at the University of Otago were hugely stimulating and rewarding experiences. 

In addition to these moments of deep connection, here are some more highlights: 

Ngatiawa River Monastery: playing a key part on the Urban Vision network within Aotearoa/New Zealand, and supported by the Anglican Diocese and the current Bishop, Justin Duckworth, this remarkable group of around 20 adults with 8 teenagers and young children, live in Christian community in the hills just north of Wellington. They offer a ministry of presence and availability, each relying on employment outside the Community for income, while opening their doors wide to the traveler, the stranger, the regular visitor and co-community explorers like us. They host a rhythm of daily worship and wholesome meals around the kitchen table. The day after we left they were welcoming around 40 people to join them for a weekend of learning and festivities as they deepened their immersion in Māori culture and language together. Built out of a strong commitment to following Jesus, a passion for social justice, inclusion, and prayerful Christian worship, I was particularly struck by their patterns of discernment (they have a discernment month annually), their youthfulness and youth focus, and their radical openness to welcome all. 

The Seedling, South Dunedin: we spent the best part of a week with the Ryan family, friends who had joined us in the UK, including a week on Iona, in the UK summer of 2023. Jono and Julie, with Daniel and Luca, made a commitment a number of years ago to live amongst the folks in South Dunedin in Christian community. An evening spent in prayer and reflection with some of the Seedling Members introduced us to the solidarity they share in this area of multiple deprivation; the wisdom with which they have joined in with community projects such as a sewing network; the power of their creativity as they write and lead and sing their way through worship rooted in the lives and longings of their neigbhourhood. Jono had come to Scotland earlier in the year to find out about similar intentional communities such as Bert, the Gorbals Group and other expressions of Christian community particularly in Glasgow. In a quietly powerful way he and The Seedling are leading the way in modelling what this means within the Dunedin context. 



Kamautaura/Quarantine Island: having met Peter Matheson first online and then at Knox Church in Dunedin, it was a huge privilege then to spend the best part of a day with him and others visiting Quarantine Island. Nestled in the bay just west of Dunedin, near Port Chalmers harbour (home of the Presbyterian ‘The Iona Church’), this island was for many years used as a first stop for ship-loads of migrants who arrived with illness on their boat – hence the name. In the 1950s a team of visionary church leaders, including Peter’s father recently arrived from Scotland, established the St. Martin Community on the island, inspired by George MacLeod and the Iona Community experiment. Now the island is managed by a conservation community. And although the St. Martin Community folded a while ago, the spirit of that part of the island’s story lives on. After a day of clearing sapling trees of invasive grasses, counting birds, and monitoring pest control, we met in the tent-shaped chapel for a time of reflection and sharing of vision before heading back to the mainland. The synergy between those of us from the Iona Community, and the conservation team was immense. We talked a lot about Camas, about living close to the earth, about weaving stories of mystery and faith and doubt into the everyday lives of people working to honour all Creation. We left feeling sure that there might be more to do together.  

Transitional Cathedral, Christchurch: After 12 days of holiday in the north of the South Island, mostly spent tramping around the Abel Tasman national park, and playing in wakas and kayaks in the warm ocean, Nick and I headed south for our final destination before our return journey home. Hosted by Fiona and Andrew Taylor in Christchurch, we were honoured to spend our final evening with members of the Anglican Cathedral in that city. Built as a symbol of renewal while the original cathedral is reconstructed after the devastating earthquake of 2011, and known affectionately as ‘the cardboard cathedral’, this place of worship exudes both provisionality and steadiness in its walls and its worship. The steel shipping containers and the cardboard infrastructure give a sense of that transition between things material and things spiritual. As we walked through this city in transition, seeing all around us the flux and change in building sites and shored up structures, in weary and curious people treading lightly on earth aware of the beauty and the danger, in equal measure, the words of George MacLeod come to mind – an appropriate sign off, I hope, as this Creation Care pilgrimage really does come to an end, while the deep, life-long journey of Creation Care fully begins: 

‘Invisible we see you, Christ beneath us.
With earthly eyes we see beneath us stones and dust
and dross, fit subjects for the analyst’s table.
But with the eye of faith, we know You uphold.
In You all things consist and hang together:
The very atom is light energy,
the grass is vibrant,
the rocks pulsate.
All is in flux; turn but a stone and an angel moves.’ 

Image credit: N. Austin

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