What's happening in Motueka

What's happening in Motueka

Russell Pickersgill-Brown

Russell is the vicar at Motueka parish.

What's happening in Motueka

a white church

'So, what’s your position on church growth?' One of the big questions I was asked by the nominators in September 2015, and my response? 'I don’t have one. It’s not my church. Jesus said he would build his church. If you ask about my approach to things of the Kingdom, I can answer that.'

This is the important start to all that God has been doing in Motueka.

So much has happened since then, so many people have been involved, there’s been much prayer, celebration, and times of tension. All in God's journey for a parish of faithful, intentional and authentic followers of Jesus.

We are blessed with five wonderful congregations: St James, Ngatimoti, St Barnabas, Riwaka, St Thomas Motueka, 9am & 10am, and Tuesday Messy Church.

While on sabbatical in January 2020, I was determined to yield to God's purposes for the parish. One morning I asked him what he wanted to talk about? And his blunt answer?

“I want my church back. I’ve been to yours and I didn’t like it very much. I want you to come to mine.” How do you respond to that? I would be back in the parish in March, so I would address it then.

What happened? COVID happened, that’s what!

This was a fantastic opportunity for the parish to pause, examine what God may be doing and reimagine our worth-ship of him.

My background in TV enabled us to be online in that first week of lockdown. I put together a studio space at home until Anna and I set up in the old church and I filmed, edited and produced a multi camera, 9am pray book style service template. Weekly after that I inserted different hymns and a sermon to enable me to present a new service, weekly, on YouTube.

I did the same in the auditorium, often on the same day. Each required a quick clothing change as the ‘template’ service would have been noticeable if details like my shirt being different. This detail is important as the viewer would notice such a glaring mistake and it would not appear fresh and genuine. Authenticity was important to me.

Over that time I created two types of communion service, Maunday Thursday, Easter services, “What’s in a Word” studies and Anna created “Ponder Points.” All of which could be viewed and applied in a home setting.

I did all the creative as well as the postproduction, and I was determined to shoot each service in a way that made it accessible to the viewer by presenting it as much like being there as possible. We were sometimes reaching over 100 views a week.

Pastorally we also created a phone tree and rung everybody in the parish regularly to continue that connection. Then, when were able to get back together I had not forgotten, or ignored, God's challenge to me during my sabbatical.

As I said at the start, it is God’s church after all. What to do?

Let Him lead.

9am is a robust, rich liturgical service and I was determined to continue with that format. This gave the parish faithful, continuity and a foundation for the future. 10am was different. This fellowship had been enjoying a relaxed style for some years and although it had followed the flow of many church services - gathering, recognition of God as Holy, a response through worship, hearing the Word, the pinnacle of Communion and the song that lead toward dismissal - I needed God to lead us in the way he wished to move.

For the first few weeks I arrived on a Sunday with very little prepared except a general idea of where God was going. We were overwhelmed by the authenticity of the gathering we enjoyed and still do, to this day.

10am begins with Wairua Tapu or similar and the service builds from there. We always have a testimony, sharing time for encouragement and for application and I have introduced a discussion sharing time midway through the message. The elements of worship, and communion are always present, and we are now enjoying a wonderful rhythm that I believe is led by God and in tune with his desire for us to be authentic, intentional, and honest when we gather in his presence and in his house.

Throughout the pandemic, the stutter of ’traffic lights’ and the polarisation seen throughout our various social media, communities, and workplaces, I was determined to include everyone, consider everyone, and never desert from preaching Christ and him crucified. We all acknowledged our position on the pandemic, government and other emotionally charged events were for talk over coffee not for the pulpit. We were blessed with two service spaces each Sunday and able to adhere to the requirements of providing safe and respectful space for everyone. And so we gathered in grace and love toward each other, and our various fellowships are still of good heart and determined to continue in that way to this day.

Lately our 10am service has continued to gather at 10 but now starts with coffee and a chat and osmotically we move into worship later. It is how we would gather in our homes, why not gather like this as extended family in God's house?

Our Tuesday the Messy Church gathering sits, therefore, in the shelter of an authentic and intentional church. We welcome many families to gather monthly, to learn of the things of faith, to have fun and to enjoy food. Many families enjoy a rare time where they can all sit at the table together; others simply feel welcome and appreciated and then others treat the 4th Tuesday of the month as their church.

We, like many, were challenged by the COVID restrictions and wondered how we could keep contact and be able to support these families. We decided that we would do “Messy Church-in-a-bag” during full lock down. These bags were packed with goodies, craft to make and scripture verses and then delivered personally to the gates of each house. We supported these with a short online Messy Church video explaining and encouraging. Then when we still couldn’t gather due to numbers, we invited our Messy Church whanau to come to “Messy Church drive through”. We had an activity pack, a meal for each occupant in the car and were never turned down when we asked if we could pray for them.

As a parish we have been blessed through this time of disruption. I, as vicar, believe our blessing has come from obedience to his call to be creative in our outreach, intentional in our witness and authentic in our service.

We believe he is doing a new thing and we are continuing to seek his ways, as our ways often turn out to be hard work for little result. His burden is light and he has not finished with his bride.

We gather intentionally in the presence of God, we grow authentically to know Christ, and we go with the authority of the Spirit. Shalom.

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We have invited these writers to share their experiences, ideas and opinions in the hope that these will provoke thought, challenge you to go deeper and inspire you to put your faith into action. These articles should not be taken as the official view of the Nelson Diocese on any particular matter.