Tag Archives: Christian ministry

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 7

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 7

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Psalm 7

O Christ of the poor and the maligned,
the suffering and the weak
we give thanks for your love
that binds us together
in our small congregations
in the broken east.

You know our struggles and our fears
our doubts and our burdens
our deep weariness
you are our constant companion
giving us the strength and inspiration
we need day-to-day.

We never feel like we have enough people
or enough resources
to meet the challenges
or respond to the needs
of this shattered place

But strangers are welcomed
food and drink is offered
someone listens when pain is shared
people are accepted just as they are
help is given in small ways

One day a week we gather
in a circle like a family
in a plain and ordinary place
to celebrate our faith and trust in you
to seek your guidance
restore our energy
keep our hope alive

It’s never easy but
we continue to find our way
through the mess and chaos
the grief and the loss
sustained by your life within us
and the warmth of community

So it hurts and angers us
when we hear that big wealthy churches
in the west of the city
don’t think that we are performing.

They say that we are not up to scratch
we are failing and should be shut down
we don’t match their vision
of what a church looks like.

Give us courage in the face of such judgement
and the laughter and wisdom
to deal with “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Help us not to get caught up in their negativity
but in your grace and joy.

O Christ, we thank you for your loving solidarity
with the widow, the poor, the small and the downtrodden.
In the midst of our struggles we are not alone.

From The In-Between Land: Psalms, Poems and Haiku by Mark Gibson (2015)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 5

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 5

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Prayer

God of goodness, gaps, and glitches
help us to see each other for what we are.

God of struggles, strengths, and strategies
help us to cope with what we have.

God of difficulties, disabilities, and delights
help us find joy in who we are.

God of individuality and invisibilities,
enable us to understand how life is harder
for some than it is for their peers;
Give us a readiness to ease difficulties,
remove barriers,
and create level playing fields

Bless us with the will to appreciate
the courage, creativity, and skills
required to live with impairment;
along with the discernment to realise
impairment is merely a fragment
of personhood.

Empower us all to live in fullness,
valuing what we have,
and knowing we are loved. Amen.

From: Lay Preaching Basics by Rosalie Sugrue (2018)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 4

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 4

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

33. A Farmer’s Prayer for Daily Work

O God, in the burst of spring growth,
let me rejoice.

In the first plantings of crops,
bring me hope.

In the summer heat,
shade me.

In the dried up hills
water me.

In the harvest work
sustain me.

In the big decisions
guide me.

In the autumn chill
warm me.

In the driving rain
shelter me.

From the howling winds
protect me.

In the slush and mud
encourage me.

In the lonely hours
stand by me.

In the beauty of each dawn,
let me wonder at your creation,
and the peace of the earth.

From The Shepherd’s Call – Te Karanga o te Hēpara:
Prayers and liturgies for rural Aotearoa New Zealand
By Bill Bennett (2018)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 1

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 1

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Psalm 5

My friends, sometimes the best thing we can do is go to the beach,
or wander into the wetlands, to get close to the divine again.

The challenges we people of the east are dealing with at times seem
as high as the Southern Alps, and they can get us down, really down.

So taking time out of the mire and the mess to restore our waning spirits
is on some days simply essential.

On the beach I can gain a better perspective on things.
The vastness of the ocean reminds me of the immensity of God’s love.
It extends way beyond the horizon that I can see.
There is nothing that I am facing or in the grip of
that God’s love cannot absorb and transform.

When I really listen to the roar of the ocean,
instead of the noise of my thoughts,
I can hear God saying this over and over again.
The surf seems to shout eternally, “L-o-v-e,” in one long rolling sound…

When I feel the fresh, clean wind blowing on my face
there is a sense of being cleansed.
All the heavy things that pollute and clutter my mind
are somehow wonderfully dispersed.

So what I’m really trying to say is that a walk on the beach
can be a holy and healing experience.

As Adam and Eve discovered the divine walking in the Garden,
and Galilee fishermen experienced the same presence
in Jesus walking on the lakeshore,
we too can experience the divine walking with us on New Brighton beach.

It is the go to place when we are looking for new inspiration
and release from things that bind and blind us.

The quiet wetlands are another place to go to get closer to God.
Amongst that great seeping silence there is space to be and meditate.

On a still day all that breaks the silence is the song of birds.
There is something calming and comforting being close
to these beautiful and graceful creatures.
Like the dove that hovered over Jesus
they speak powerfully of the presence of God’s Spirit.

O God, draw us again to the places of beauty and life that surround us.
In these sacred places restore our strength and health.

From The In-Between Land: Psalms, Poems and Haiku by Mark Gibson (2015)

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Lay Preaching Basics – Reviewed in Touchstone 2018

Review in Touchstone October 2018 by Rev Dr Lynne Wall.

(Touchstone is the monthly newspaper of the
Methodist Church of New Zealand.)

 “If you have ever thought about becoming a worship leader or a lay preacher, this book is an excellent starting point. Rosalie Sugrue is a competent lay preacher of many years’ standing, who in this book has generously shared from her own treasure trove of experience, wisdom and creative resources.

In the first part of her book, Rosalie introduces the reader to the Bible by providing basic information about content, characters and concepts in both testaments. There is enough to stimulate the mind and encourage further exploration by referring to the up-to-date bibliography at the end of the book.

The author then moves to the nitty-gritty of how to plan a service of worship, giving general outlines and practical tips along the way. There are examples of orders of service, sermon outlines and pointers on presentation.

But this is not just a ‘how-to’ book. Rosalie reminds the would-be worship leader that worship must be meaningful and relevant for the particular congregation. As she reminds the reader, “It is about engaging the soul.” What might suit a café style service in the local parish will not be suitable for a rest home service of worship. She encourages the use of participation, silence, music and visual aids.

The rest of the book is a rich and varied selection of resources for use in worship, most of which are from Rosalie’s own pen. They are the fruit of her background and experience as a teacher and are tried and tested if used in the right context. There are ideas for the different seasons and festivals of the church year, time with children, themes for opening devotions, dialogues and plays, reflections and meditations.

The section of prayers and liturgical resources is particularly useful for the beginning worship leader. For example, there is a fine prayer for Disability Sunday which begins, “God of struggles, strengths and strategies, help us to cope with what we have…”

 It is too easy these days to ‘copy and paste’ material from the internet, even reproducing whole sermons as one’s own. Rosalie reminds us that the sermon “Is the one piece of a service that cannot be taken from a book” [or the internet]. She suggests prayerful preparation and mulling over of one’s random thoughts on a passage of scripture which will help “You explore and firm up on what you believe.” This is what congregations want and need to hear.

This is a practical book which will inspire, encourage and educate anyone who has a calling to lead worship in their local congregation or region.”


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When the Tui Calls – Reviewed in Tui Motu

Review by John Thornley for Tui Motu Magazine.
Issue 219 September 2017 of

When the Tui Calls:
Rural Ministry — Origins and Futures

By Bill Bennett. Published by Philip Garside Publishing Ltd, 2017.

“Described as an “essay”, this 65-page book provides an informal and readable introduction to rural ministry. Parts one and two cover the historical origins in Roman and Celtic religion, embedded within parish and monastic structures, moving through the Reformation and Evangelical revivals, from a post-medieval to the 18th-century industrial, to the urban world.

The story comes to New Zealand in the third part, “Clash of Cultures”, which covers the missionary and settler activities of Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic developments. This section concludes with the treatment of Māori Missions and Pastorates and with the independent Māori ministries in partnership models which emerged later in the 20th-century.

In Part Four, “Changing Patterns of Rural Ministry in the 20th- and 21st-Centuries”, the subheadings highlight the interplay of religious and secular conflicts and compromises that have been central to the story of rural ministry from the beginning. They include, “Rural Prosperity and Adversity”, “Affirming the distinctiveness of a rural ministry theology”, “Minita-a-iwi”, “The Impact of Political and Economic Changes”, “Rural Religion and Politics”, “Local Shared Ministry” and “The Near Landscape and Beyond”.

Bill Bennett is the ideal writer of this book. As an Anglican Pākehā minister he has been a major mover and shaker in the development of a rural ministry theology and praxis in Aotearoa New Zealand. Much of his ministry has been in rural parishes in the Diocese of Waiapu as well as in Norwich and Lichfield Dioceses in England. His publications of prayers and hymns (both lyrics and music) are a taonga for ecumenical and bicultural worship services.

I strongly recommend this book for ministry formation, seminary and pastoral theology libraries and as a resource for lay and ordained ministers throughout New Zealand.”

Original review is online here:
https://hail.to/tui-motu-interislands-magazine/publication/KrJM98L/article/lOeKq7g

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Like a Dove – Review in Touchstone Feb 2017

Like a Dove – A memoir and biography in honour of Sione Tavo Manukia

By Rubinstine Manukia 2016, Philip Garside Publishing, 98 pages

Reviewer: Motekiai Fakatou in Touchstone February 2017

“Sione Tavo Manukia was a grandson of Arthur Frances Tindall, a missionary and trader to Tonga. Sione migrated to New Zealand in the 1970s. He was a man full of hopes and dreams with humble faith and a deep conviction about his purpose in life.

After he landed on the shore of Aotearoa, his balanced life grew immensely and started to unfold in new ways as he was nurtured by his parents.

His parents Sione senior and Sela Soakai Manukia were staunch Methodists and a local business couple. Sione Sr was a lay preacher and a steward for many years.

Sione’s inner most character was expressed through his ordinary life in extraordinary ways. He lived out his faith practically which explains why so many people, including those who have written in this book, pay tribute to him.

He was a man of tenacious courage coupled with an   enduring faith and a sincere compassion.

Sione’s strong characters have helped him and his family along with many other families. Through his tremendous efforts over the years they have realised their hopes and turned their dreams in to reality.

Throughout the years Sione faced many challenges but this book, written by his daughter, shows how a person can sustain him or herself through the pressures of life and still reach out to assist others so that they can reach their goals and reach their dreams.

The three main elements mentioned above – courage, faith  and compassion – are the three strands that weave together as a strong cord that strengthened Sione over the years.

This solid cord stems out of his great family heritage from both his paternal and maternal family.

His entrepreneurial sense of life came from his grandfather for whom he was a trader in Tonga and around the South Pacific during the early 1900s.

Sione’s steadfast faith was nurtured by his parents, and they encourage him to participate in the life of the church early on. This is where he deepened his faith and displayed it by hard work in dedicating his time and effort to honour God, support his country, and care for his family.

Sione Tavo Manukia is a compassionate father, committed preacher, successful entrepreneur, effective community worker and faithful man of God.”

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“This wise and wonderfully comprehensive book … will benefit many who carry pastoral responsibilities” Review by Anne Priestley of Earthed in Hope.

Doing Funerals Well

Earthed in Hope:
Dying, Death and Funerals – A Pakeha Anglican Perspective

By Alister G. Hendery
Published by Philip Garside Publishing Ltd

EIH_front_cover_20141015_100w_BReview by Anne Priestley, published in Tui Motu InterIslands Oct 2015

“A quick scan of death notices in a newspaper reveals the fading influence of Christian faith in this country. Many funerals now are held at a crematorium or a funeral director’s chapel. Some of these funerals will be taken by a minister of religion; but increasingly funeral directors and celebrants have taken over the traditional roles of a minister of the church. We live in a world where there are multiple views on “what comes next” after death, mostly at variance with the theological witness of scripture. Even church funerals often celebrate the life which has ended, rather than proclaiming Christian hope in the midst of grief and death.

This is the terrain surveyed by Hendery, a Pakeha Anglican priest. His writing is marked deeply by his trust and hope in God’s grace and equally by his long pastoral experience.

He begins with sociology and theology, chapters which are most lively when earthed in contemporary New Zealand practice. The second half of this book has a strong practical bent, as Hendery discusses pastoral and liturgical issues in journeying with the dying person and in the stages before, during and after the funeral service. He includes thoughtful commentary on the rich resources of A New Zealand Prayer Book /He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, the Anglican prayer book (this material, valuable for Anglican ministers, will be less useful to others). Here, as elsewhere, he provides ideas from a wide range of religious and cultural sources.

Hendery pays attention to the complexities arising from a death by suicide and to special questions concerning children and death. He is not afraid to criticise the Church for less than helpful theology and practice, both past and present.

Hendery’s theological commitments and generous pastoral instincts stand in unresolved tension — the tension of God beyond and God within. For me, this reflects a great challenge of funeral ministry: how to speak the language of the bereaved, in our changed and changing world, and also to proclaim faithfully the good news of God.

I also appreciated Hendery’s determination to be blunt. To say the words “die”, “death”, “coffin”. To face the fact of one’s own death. To accept that, facing death, we do not know everything.

This wise and wonderfully comprehensive book about funeral ministry in Aotearoa is not a quick read, but will benefit many who carry pastoral responsibilities.”

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Sample Psalm from Mark Gibson’s The In-Between Land

The In-Between Land: Psalms, Poems and Haiku will be released in print and as an eBook on 15 June 2015.

Here is a sample from the 15 Psalms that appear in the book.

Psalm 6

From the heart of this unfolding disaster I cry to you O God.
On the days that the earth shakes with great ferocity,
many people are terrified, and try to flee to a safer place.
Others stay and weep as they watch their homes bend and break.

Some have claimed that you are punishing us,
but this is such a cruel and untruthful thing to say.
It just adds to the fear.
I don’t believe you are that kind of God!

But it is not what the earth is doing that upsets me O God.
The earth is just doing what it has always done,
and we have just not been good at listening to it.

What disturbs and angers me is the way that the rich and powerful
are looking after their own interests first and adding to our misery.
Behind their carefully crafted media releases,
glossy brochures and feigned grief
they manipulate and exploit and act unjustly.

People live in cars and vans, or on the streets.
Three families crowd into a small house.
Landlords charge exorbitant rents because they can.
The market eclipses ethics and social justice.
Yet the political leaders deny there is a crisis.

O Compassionate One,
when the powerful say that they care,
but then abandon the people
to the jaws of greedy insurance companies,
it is easy to fall into despair.
It is easy to give up.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed.

The biggest disaster of all, the hardest to bear,
is the crumbling of truth,
the rise of deceit and the refusal to care.

O God of Truth, keep us strong in your ways.
In the midst of this catastrophic failing of human love
may your aroha forever hold and embolden us!

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“…rich with stories, metaphors and invitations for ministering across cultures…” Review of Weaving, Networking & Taking Flight by Jione Havea

The following review by Jione Havea — Senior lecturer in biblical studies at the United Theological College & School of Theology, Charles Sturt University — will appear in the August 2015 issue of the Uniting Church Studies journal.

 Rev Havea is a Tongan Methodist minister and is the Principal Researcher with the Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre.

 Weaving, Networking & Taking Flight
‘Alifeleti Vaitu’ulala Ngahe

(Wellington, Philip Garside Publishing Ltd., 2014),
pp. 68. ISBN 9781501004476 (pbk).

“This slim book is rich with stories, metaphors and invitations for ministering across cultures, generations and languages, written by a Methodist Minister in Aotearoa New Zealand. Ngahe reflects on his ministry over nine years at two parishes (Avondale and Manurewa) and identifies stepping stones for those who wish to be involved in what he calls “engaged ministry,” which simply means to be not just saying it, but doing it (p. 11).

Ngahe values the practice of reflecting on one’s experience and ministry, and then sharing the wisdom gained with other colleagues and other ministry agents. Those are the motivations for Ngahe’s work and I hope that this book will inspire other Pacific islanders to reflect and share, instead of hiding, their experiences, stories and wisdom. This hope echoes a biblical opinion: that the lamp which is not lit and placed on the table is of no use to anyone.

Ngahe developed his reflection according to three metaphors borrowed from the life practices of three different subjects: weaving of mats by Tongans, spinning of webs by spiders and the flight of birds. On first view, these metaphors could be unpacked toward defining forms of ecological ministry. Maybe that is a task for another series of reflections! At a deeper level, the metaphor from Tongan mat-weaving represents Ngahe himself, and his place in the two parishes, represented by the other two metaphors. Ngahe is a Tongan weaver who “net-works” with a spinning spider (hence the word “networking” on the title of the book) representing Avondale, and a bird in flight representing Manurewa (a name that consists of two Māori words: manu translates as bird, and rewa translates as kite).

The first metaphor is weaving. Weaving is a communal activity in Tonga, and the outcomes are various kinds of mats for different persons and for different purposes. Mats are made of the interweaving of strands and at the end, the edges are unfinished. “They remain open and ready for more strands to be woven in” (p. 14). This is how Ngahe saw his ministry at Avondale. A mat was already being woven, when he arrived. That mat was unfinished. He wove more strands into that mat; then it was time for him to move on, leaving the mat for the next minister and the community to add more strands. In this regard, ministry is never finished off. One comes to the mat (read: ministry), adds a few strands, then leaves the edges unfinished for others to join in the weaving.

The second metaphor comes from the Avondale Spider, which is an icon at the Avondale Town Centre. Ngahe reflects on the process and art of spinning a web. The hardest part is the first thread, and finding an anchoring point for the web. Once that’s in place, then the spider goes back and forth to weave its intricate web. For Ngahe, the spider is in a process of net-working. This is valuable insight for engaged ministry: get the first strand anchored then net-work with other churches, other organisations, and other social bodies, to cooperate in building the web (read: community).

The third metaphor, bird in flight, is inspired by the name of Ngahe’s second parish: Manurewa. Similar to the spider, the bird has to struggle to get off the ground as it starts its flight. But once it is in the air it floats, almost effortlessly, like a rewa (kite) that is being carried by the wind. Mission is like this also. It needs a lot of help to start its flight, but once it is in the air, it will glide almost effortlessly. This is how Ngahe experienced his ministry at Manurewa, where the support of the community made the mission of the church almost effortless. Almost!

One of the strengths of this book is the way Ngahe explains the three metaphors with stories of his ministry, which was always engaging the community in different mission projects, including working on a car park mural at Manurewa. For Ngahe, mission is about hospitality, compassion, empowerment and hope (pp. 42-43).

The chapter on theological themes is worth reading and reflecting upon (chp 5). Ngahe invites further reflection and engagement around the theologies of hospitality, which requires breaking down the barriers that come with social status, and transformation, which needs to be at the physical also and not just in a spiritual exercise. Ngahe closed the book with his ten personal (chp 6) and ministry (chp 7) learnings, which reads like a “top ten list” (à la David Letterman) instead of a list of “ten commandments.” Personal and the ministerial experiences are indeed interwoven, and reflection on one leads to reflection on the other.

I commend this book not just for Tongan Methodist Ministers but also for all ministry agents who are involved in intercultural and engaged ministries. Who isn’t? In other words, this book is for you as well!

I hope for two kinds of responses to Ngahe’s work: First, for readers to critically engage his proposals. Do the metaphors work? I’m conscious that some are scared of spiders, for instance, while others eat them as a snack. What other metaphors would you weave into Ngahe’s mat? Second, I hope that this work will inspire Pacific Islanders to reflect on your ministries, write your stories, and share your wisdom with the rest of us. If you don’t, then future generations of Pacific Island ministers will have to learn from non-Pacific Islanders. You may of course write in your Pacific languages. In other words, you don’t need to write in English. But writing in English is also an opportunity for non-islanders to learn from the rest of us.

Finally, I look forward to the outcome of the next nine years of Ngahe’s ministry and for his further sharing of his reflections and his gifts.”

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