In 2003 the biggest people movement ever seen in New Zealand was completed in Auckland. Not many people were aware of what was happening. The old Auckland Hospital was moving into its smart new building, morphing into Auckland City Hospital which included Greenlane Hospital. The Auckland and Greenlane chaplaincies combined and together with local iwi blessed over two thousand rooms before anyone was allowed to move in. With military precision over nine hundred patients moved across. Over a thousand staff members needed to move into new units and wards. Knowingly, or unknowingly, the staff had emotional and spiritual needs as they transferred from their old unit or ward to the new. The hospital chaplains offered a migration ceremony to every staff unit.
At a typical migration ceremony, the staff gathered with all their memories, fears, and excitement. Some were happy to move, others were emotional and upset. There was grief, and anticipation. Some looked back and others looked forward.
At each ceremony the chaplain brought: a small pile of stones, a vase of water, and a bunch of mixed flowers. Each member of staff had the opportunity to take a stone from the pile of stones and, if they wished, talk about the stone representing something s/he wanted to leave behind in the move. We heard about unfortunate incidents. We heard about abusive patients, and appreciative patients. We heard about stress, and bullying, about surprise outcomes, and patients sadly missed. The staff member then left the stone on the floor. There was some silence, and a short prayer. With each staff member the pile of stones got bigger. In the prayers, some were for renewal, some for healing of memories, some for forgiveness. Some said: “Let it be”.
We turned to the bunch of loose flowers. We turned from the negative to the positive. Each member of staff was able to pick a single flower and place in the vase. Either in silence or with spoken explanation the flower represented some one thing that the staff member wanted to take to the new ward or unit. We heard of comradery and staff support. We heard about protocols, and culture. There was prayer of thanksgiving and hope. Then the staff were ready.
I took the stones away, and the vase of flowers was taken to the new ward or unit. We walked to the new ward with the precious taonga, and with excited chatter.
I believe that whenever we move, we can leave behind all those things that mar our life, or hold us back.
Migrants move from war, poverty, or injustice move by choice but they still grieve for their lost country. In prayer one gives thanks for new opportunities and for casting aside all that has beset us.
Just as we leave behind all that needs to be left behind,
I believe that when we move, migrate, we can take with us our taonga….. our treasure that can still enhance life.
Our taonga will principally be memories and learnings. Our taonga will also be our faith and the way it has weathered the changes of life. Our faith develops on the life journey. It is the strongest resource we can take with us. Our faith enables us to pray for others and to find abundant life.
I believe that St.Alban’s might be on a migration.
As the diocese sadly seeks to close this building we are likely needing to move to another building. I know no more than you know….. but we all know that a migration is on the cards. Our strength and even our joy is in the fact that we are already a community of faith and we find strength in being together.
In war-torn London, a small boy is found together with his family. They are the worse for wear and hungry. The boy is asked what happened to his home. His reply was: “I have a home but I haven’t got a house to put it in.” We have a home but we need a house to put it in.
I believe that we are all drawn into a future with hope and God’s promise
Jesus invites us into a near future and also a future further afield, a future with Christ’s return. We know the call: Marana tha………Come, Lord Jesus. It is a call we remember in the mass as we recall his presence with us in the now. It is a call in the dimension of time that takes us to a new country….. a country beyond our imagination. To quote St.Paul: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” Let us all take courage as we are drawn into the future.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were looking into the future but they were looking forward to glory; for them the glory of perhaps being on the left and on the right of Jesus in his glory. No wonder they got the ire of the other disciples! All of the disciples, however, were stuck in the culture of “a successful venture”. They were not thinking of a venture proclaiming the death and resurrection of its leader! In proclaiming the Gospel, Mark underlined again that Jesus was no divine man or miracle worker. Jesus is proclaimed as the Son of Man who is to be crucified. What’s more, the Christian Life is proclaimed as a challenge to “take up one’s cross” and follow the Servant path. The Servant Church avoids the arena of success and goes on the move to fulfil God’s purposes. The Church is not a business that aspires to success and glories in triumphal standing, but a dynamic community of faith that focuses on serving. As such, the Church is flexible, and may even move!
Auckland Hospital was drawn into a new future after a great migration. With prayer, purpose, and blessing Auckland Hospital City Hospital came into being.
If St.Alban’s faces a migration there can also be prayer, purpose, and blessing as it advances into the future. We have a home that can find a house. We are a community of faith that finds new life as a Servant Church.
21st Oct. 2018