After a long interval, we are at last able to bring out SPOTLIGHT again; and this time we hope it will come out at least several times a year, supplied with regular news from our parishes and from other sources.
We hope the new typeface will meet with your approval; I was enabled to buy the computers, laser printer and photocopier thanks to a modest legacy from my Aunt Mabel, who must therefore be counted a benefactress of the Church and whom I commend to the prayers of all our readers.
We have had this equipment since May and could in principle have published earlier, but I have waited until we could publish settled service times for the foreseeable future. However, I did want to get this out in time for Christmas. It would in any case have been difficult to put this issue together any earlier, as things have just been very busy here at Ashley over the last months. The computer course has, at the time of writing, still not had an answer about government funding, but a steady stream of pupils has kept me in the classroom almost every day. We have now appealed for local support in the hope of keeping it going even if no funding is available; but hours will have to be limited to enable me to get other things done. We closed the course on the 4th of December in order to be able to go to Wellington for a wedding of a family friend and were very pleased to be able to spend nearly 4 days with our dear friends the monks at 70 Webb Street, to see the new Church, to hear services there, and to be shown the new farm. Anyone who remembers the farm and Church at Kiwitea will now at last, I am sure, feel no further regret: the new farm has as much character and will be a superb retreat site in years to come. We hoped to have photos for this issue, but they have been promised and will appear in our next.
The ordination of two new deacons for our Church is another milestone. Fr Deacon Michael Coumbias is now holding services in Auckland and we hope it will not be long before he is ordained to the Priesthood and full Liturgies will be held regularly again there. Meanwhile Fr Deacon Michael Elder has enriched the worship at Ashley, and on two occasions already in Dunedin. We hope that there will be frequent visits between Dunedin and Ashley from now on, not to provide services, as before, but for the sake of fellowship ands mutual encouragement.
Our source informs us of a few items of news:
A farewell party was held for Father Ilian after the Divine Liturgy on Sunday Oct. 25th at which he was presented with a salad bowl which had been turned by Jim Holland.
Since Father Ilian's departure Father Deacon Michael has been holding Orthros at 9.30 a.m. followed by a shortened version of the Divine Liturgy at 10.30 a.m.
Mary McIntosh continues to lead a whole range of fund raising activities which includes the making of jams and cakes by the parishioners and their sale at various functions such as craft fairs etc.
Auckland have a problem with a Gestetner which they would very much like to sell but nobody wants to buy. It seems that the machine has been overtaken by modern technology, but they say they always live in hope. Any offers? (Have you tried trading it in for a photocopier? Second-hand copiers are available now for a reasonable price, and firms will often agree to trade-ins to make a sale. - Ed.)
While speaking of technology. let us speak of electronic mail (E-mail). While it is no great trouble to retype contributed news, it would be really convenient if we could communicate by this method. The Wellington City Council is making access available without charge on application; anyone with a computer and a modem capable of 2400 baud and VT100 emulation can then send mail directly to anyone else in the world who has an e-mail address. I myself contact 4 family members, a friend and 2 parishioners by it already. It is doubtless the way of the future and much cheaper and faster than fax, and of higher quality (for text). Otherwise I hope I may receive news on floppy disks. Since I am instructing local people, I hope to be able to help our Church people also to master the computer - at least as a typewriter, which is really quite easy, and, as you can see, much tidier.
The arrival of Fr Ilian in Dunedin means that the Liturgy at 11 a.m at Ashley can now be every Sunday. We usually, however, cancel on the Sundays when Fr. Ambrose holds service in the Russian Church in Christchurch, to save travel. We have not received his plan for 1993 yet, but this year it was the last Sunday in February, May, August and October; and Saturday the 19th of December (S.Nicholas, Old Style).
Two things have helped to increase our involvement in the community: the Rangiora Helping Hand (the local food bank network) and the computer course. We have tried to establish spiritual contacts with those involved, and others in the community, by a series of ecumenical services for special occasions - patronal festival, Christmas carol service, harvest festival, week of prayer for christian unity, mid-winter feast - and the response to these has been quite encouraging. Recently the Ashley Church Committee called a public meeting to replace members who had moved away, and a good number turned out, a good discussion was held, and a committee of 8 was elected, including 2 members of the Orthodox congregation. We can hope for increasing understanding and co-operation as a result of these developments.
I am personally much disappointed that the idea of an Orthodox settlement has not made more progress, and that our land is not as well developed as it could be, but perhaps the ground is being prepared in the community in a more general way. In addition to appealing in a poster to the community, I have written to those who have showed interest in our mission to pray for the divine will to be realized here.
Father Ilian arrived in Dunedin in time to hold his first Divine Liturgy on Sunday the 1st of November. A week later, with Fr.Deacon Michael Elder, he celebrated the Patronal Feast of S. Michael. The family has moved into a house immediately behind the Church, even though the renovations are not quite complete, and both Fr Ilian and Khourieh Mary have been able to find work. In these difficult times this is indeed a cause for thankfulness.
TWENTY YEARS ON
It is just over twenty years since Fr Jack was ordained for S. Michael's, Dunedin. The anniversary passed without notice as the Bishop's telegram setting the date (Sept 10) turned up just after that date had passed. It is perhaps a good idea to pause and reflect on how much has or has not been achieved in that time.
When Fr Jack decided to ask to join the Orthodox Church as a priest, the Orthodox Church in Dunedin was served by Anglican Vicars. The Greek Church already had a Bishop in Wellington, and priests in Auckland (?), Wellington, and Christchurch. There was a Serbian priest in Wellington, and Fr Alexei Godyayev was serving the Russian congregations in turn. The Orthodox Liturgy was not conducted in English at all in New Zealand. To decide to become Orthodox at that time was a leap into the void, trusting in God alone. It had to be.
Today, the Liturgy is celebrated in English regularly in or near the 4 main centres. There are three New Zealand-born priests and a few dozen New Zealanders who have joined the Orthodox Church by choice. The Antiochian Church, which in 1971 had the oldest Orthodox Church (1911) but no clergy, now has two priests and two deacons,
and some well-informed lay people who support the Church well. Yet, one might apply truthfully to New Zealand the remark of Metropolitan Philip of New York, that Orthodoxy is still the best kept secret in America. Where the Orthodox Church is known to New Zealanders, it is still often confused with exotic customs which are found charming or alien according to personal disposition - but often the underlying Faith is barely glimpsed through the unfamiliar package.
It is a tribute to the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church that the essential holiness still shines through and claims hearts, even if the mind takes a while to catch up sometimes. Even the use of English does not altogether take away the strangeness of the Eastern style; on the other hand an incomprehensible language can sometimes even help to convey the divine mystery. Some souls are finding their way into the kingdom of heaven through this small collection of congregations that is Orthodoxy in New Zealand.
But Orthodoxy is not only a holy mystery; it is also christianity in its original, normal form. It is not only beautiful music and ceremonies, but also simple truth to heal confused minds, plain sense for a distracted, deceived world. The video "welcome home" that has been circulating amongst us shows how the "Evangelical Orthodox" found their way into Orthodoxy just by reading the Bible and early writers in an attempt to find the truth. They had no particular taste for Bishops, ceremonies, etc., but adopted what they found to be the revealed will of God, and it led them to everything characteristic of Orthodoxy before they properly realized that the Church they had discovered still existed and was called Orthodox; and then they sought to enter it. What do we still need to do to enable those who really care about truth to find it in the Orthodox Faith? Do we know why our faith is true? Could we explain it? Do we care about truth? When asked by Pilate what sort of King he was, our Lord replied that he had come into the world to bear witness to the truth, and that everyone who was of the truth heard his voice. Our world has almost despaired of truth; but it needs it as much as the ancient world did.
"What is truth, said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer." So Bacon began his famous Essay on Truth. There are jesters aplenty in our age, but also many who seek truth, and have so far found only one of the many half-truths, and they deserve better. Orthodoxy needs to be known as the Faith once delivered to the Saints, as the Faith of the Bible, as the Faith of sound reason, as the Faith of sane minds, and we need to be able to commend it as such.
FROM A SERMON AT THE CAROL SERVICE AT ASHLEY, 1991:
Christmas is a time for images. Not only in Churches, but in shop windows, Nativity scenes meet our eyes, alongside the other images, of all the things the merchants would like us to buy.
The image of the Virgin and Child is a very appropriate one for Christmas. For many christians it is more than that, a constant support. Those who have turned to her over the centuries have found the Virgin Mother a mighty protector. She was credited with saving the christian world a number of times from invasions and disasters. This is expressed in an Antiphon in the service books for her Feast Days:
O Virgin Mother of God, thou hast mightily destroyed all the heresies in the whole world.
Well, in the eighth century or so that could probably be said with truth. After that, the errors did increase again, and there are plenty in our day. Yet we can surely be thankful, this year, for the collapse of the great error of Bolshevism. Like my dear wife Agatha in Laughing Gas, it promised to make life one long heaven, but mistook the direction. An utopian earthly paradise that somehow became a hell; that killed more christians in the last 70 years than the pagan Roman Empire killed in the first 300. We can be thankful for its fall.
But it would be foolish to think that we have seen an end of tyrannies and false doctrines. The world seems to be heading now for an opposite error that might be almost as bad: the idolatry of Mammon that is commonly called Monetarism, in the name of which piles of food are allowed to rot because there is no profit, no one to buy, while people starve; in whose name money is placed before every human value; an idolatry promoted by simplistic, deceitful slogans. Let us nail tonight just one of these lies:
It is being said, as if it were an obvious truth, that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Let us nail that lie. The truth, in fact, is precisely the opposite: there is no such thing as a lunch that has been earned. All of us come into God's world as debtors to His infinite goodness. Into a world where He has provided everything for us, and we can never pay for it. And some of us manage to get hold of some of these gifts of God, and make others pay us money for them. But money or no money, every lunch that you or I or anyone ever eats in all his life is never earned, never deserved, but freely given by God in His infinite mercy, with the intention that there should be enough for all.....
FROM OTHER SERMONS..
Those who think Jesus Christ came to found an earthly utopia, to bring in a political kingdom of God, should do the exercise I did the other day; I typed the phrase "kingdom of heaven" into the computer Bible program, to see how often our Lord used it. I discovered a curious fact, and I don't know if anyone else has noticed it: the references to the kingdom of heaven are all in S.Matthew's Gospel. S.Mark, S.Luke and S.John. in the corresponding passages, call it the kingdom of God. I expect our Lord used both expressions, and the writers recorded what they remembered.
But whereas it is easy to talk of building the kingdom of God on earth as a sort of earthly utopia, it is much harder to interpret the kingdom of heaven in that way. The fact is, that in all sorts of ways our Lord made it crystal clear that the kingdom He was preaching was not of this world. His teaching, and that of the whole New Testament, points us to set our hearts, not on this world, but on one to come.
When people come to me for computer training, if they are at all interested in becoming typists, one of the first exercises I set them is to type one of those passages in which our Lord points us away from this world (in which, as the unemployed rejects of the capatalist society, they have little to hope for) towards the kingdom which He has always offered, especially to the poor: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth....Consider the lilies of the field...seek ye first the kingdom of God.... go, and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven...the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever......
It is not wrong to try to improve earthly society, either by giving to the poor, or making laws to protect the weak against the cruel; christian societies have always done so, and at times have made themselves some sort of icon of the kingdom to come; but it is not in earthly societies that we seek the fulfilment in this world of Christ's promises, but in the Church, as foretaste of the kingdom to come: the Eucharist, said S. Ignatius of Antioch, is "the medicine of immortality, and the antidote that we should not die, but live for ever in Christ Jesus... I desire the Flesh of Christ, and for a drink I desire His Blood, which is life incorruptible"
. A christianity that does not look beyond this life is not what Jesus Christ preached, and its hopes are vain because they all end in death. Those, on the other hand, who have left this world better than they found it, have been those who looked beyond it to the life of the world to come..