Vocation and Location – holding the two?

Because we have a high focus on encouraging people to think and live more deeply in their neighbourhoods we are often asked how does that work with busy work lives? What about our work? and where is God calling me? Recently Steve summarised some of our thinking around locations and vocations – its worth a read:

We believe in holistic or ‘wholistic’ mission. Every part of life is important. God created everything good according to Genesis 1, and ‘everything is beautiful in its time’ according to Ecclesiastes 4. But in reality we all have limitations of time and resources and capacity so we can’t do or be a part of everything we want to. We have commitments to work and family. Both individually and collectively, we make decisions where to put our resources, our energies, our time, our passion and these decisions can change over the course of our lives.

For some of us, as individuals, work is very time and energy consuming, but we know that God has called us to serve Him wholeheartedly in and through our work (Col 3:23, Eph 6:7). For others of us, or at different seasons in our lives we have more time and energy to be involved in relationships and mission closer to home and in our neighbourhoods. That’s all part of our particular ‘Me Journey’. But also, collectively, some of us sense a call – a vocation – which fits with our passions and gifts to become involved together in specific ministries of the church, which use those gifts as special service to others wherever they are, while others are more involved together in the locations we live in, in our neighbourhood communities of faith. These are different kinds of ‘We Journeys’.

Both the Me Journeys and the We Journeys, the professional and the personal, the vocational and the locational are important to God, and as a church we celebrate and want to maximise the impact of all. People, especially marginalised people, need professional services of multiple kinds, and some of us are involved in delivering those. And people also need specific, trained arms of the church –our ministries – to support them at particular times in their lives for particular needs for them and their families.  And people also need personal, day by day, life by life engagement with neighbours who follow Jesus, that they might experience the heart and the hands and the feet of Jesus through us. The kingdom impact that we long for, comes in the mix of professional services acting on or to people and a community, ministries acting for people and communities, and local neighbours walking alongside people who are embedded in the community.  All three are needed and this mix of professional services, ministries and neighbourhood communities can all work together forming a rich web of support for transformation. Jesus talked about us being like salt and light (Matt 5:13-16) for those around us, which make life brighter and better and are ‘signposts’ to God for them.

In different seasons of our lives, our locational and vocational emphasis will vary. In modern western societies the emphasis has almost exclusively been on vocation to the loss of local networks. We are encouraged everywhere to focus on our vocation often without mention of or an equal focus on our location. It’s time the pendulum swung back to help this imbalance to be corrected. Without people who give of themselves to nurture local community life, despite all our professional services and church ministries, old people will continue to be isolated and lonely, children will fear playing in parks and parents will fear their children walking or biking to school. Vulnerable families will lack neighbourhood connections and baby sitters and sharing of vegetables and recipes and a bowl of sugar and a word of advice and a shoulder to cry on. Teenagers will lack mentors and the sense of being known and of belonging where they live; immigrants and new comers will remain socially isolated. It takes a village to raise a child. More than that it takes a village to help us all flourish at every stage of life. This is why SWBC is encouraging neighbourhood communities as a vital expression of the kind of redemptive communities God wants in our society in our time, to complement and maximise the kingdom impact of our professional services and ministries, and to share Jesus love in very practical, down to earth, neighbour to neighbour ways.

A Great Read

I recently got a copy of Craig Blomberg’s latest text (2016) titled – “The Historical Reliability of the New Testament‘; and am reading it on holiday.

This 800 page thoroughly researched and very readable text is very encouraging. Coming from such a reputable scholar who has been researching and writing in New Testament studies for at least 3 decades it is, as the reviews indicate, a reliable summary of the debates and latest scholarly understandings on the reliability of the New Testament.

I haven’t read it all yet but have made my way through the chapters on the gospels. Especially John’s gospel. When I first studied theology, John was one of my first papers. The B.D. I did forced me to read widely on the critical debates around who wrote the gospel, when and was it reliable. I remember there was much debate and the more liberal scholars led the debate. Now Blomberg sites a shift in the studies of John that show the richness, authenticity and integrity of the gospel.

While there is a media wide and general public perception that the New Testament can’t be relied on, Blomberg convincingly and thoroughly proves otherwise. I am relishing his writing on John – my favourite of the gospels and the disciple I personally gravitate to.


Easter Sunday Quotes

Our Easter Sunday service was based on John 20 v 1-10 and the disciples running to the tomb on Easter Sunday.

A high resolution copy of the painting is found here.

And an explanation of the back ground to the painting here.

the two quotes I used were:

Sebastian Moore said – “In the risen Jesus we meet our deepest desire personified. It is almost too much to believe – and in fact most of us do not fully believe it. Otherwise we would not lead such humdrum, mediocre, sort of dragging lives. But occasionally the dream takes hold and we feel more alive, less afraid of life and the future, and we have some inkling of the incredible beauty and mystery of our lives and of our universe.”

John Macmurray  – “All religion. . .  is concerned to overcome fear. We can distinguish real religion from unreal by contrasting their formulae for dealing with negative motivation. The maxim of illusory religion runs: ‘fear not, trust in God and he will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you’; that of real religion, on the contrary, is ‘fear not; the things you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.”

( John Macmurray, Persons in Relation (London: Faber & Faber 1961), p. 171.)


Wainui Hui (10-12 March)

This weekend we are holding our fourth core camp. And this one is much bigger! In July 2011 a small group of people interested in forming, being part of talking about local intentional communities met at the Wainui camp site for a weekend together.  This was the first faltering steps towards forming multiple Neighbourhood communities as an integral part of our church. Then three years later a slightly bigger group camp back to Wainui for a second camp. Last year (2016) those in local community cores and our youth leaders met, at Wainui campsite, to further develop our community dream. This year we are going one step further still by inviting elders, church staff, ministry leaders, life group leaders, worship leaders and youth and children’s leaders as well. In total 207 leaders from across the church will be at this the fourth Wainui Hui.

Put simply our vision is to see individual people and our local communities transformed by Christ. We are partners in God’s transformation work in us and in our neighbours and neighbourhoods. We are praying for and long to see communities transformed to look and be more like the kingdom promises of Jesus.

So these 207 leaders from across the church will be focusing this weekend together on this vision and how we are all part of it.

I’m very excited and nervous about he weekend. I’m sensing the power of sharing what God is showing us together. Talking through how we can be part of it and hearing from Dave Andrews (from Brisbane) and Vicki Buck (ex Mayor of Christchurch) who will be joining us.

We’d love your prayers for this important weekend


Our 150th Celebrations

This weekend (15th and 16th of October) we celebrate the 150th birthday of our church. What started from very humble beginnings has become a home, a place of belonging and contribution to the communities of our city and a globally shaped and connected church. It is amazing what God by His Spirit can do in the hearts and lives of a few willing people.

So this weekend we have a massive street party of Lyttelton St from 5pm to 8pm. Everyone is welcome! we will have food vendors, horse rides, bouncy castles, a church story exhibit, animals for the kids, bands, magicians, kapa haha groups etc etc. To have the street party we need to close Lyttelton St from Cobham St to Neville St. Be there it will be great fun!

Then on Sunday the 16th of October we are having our 150th celebration services. These will not be about long winded speeches and reminisces of the past but a celebration of all God has done and an opportunity to thank God. Give God the glory and anticipate and listen to the Spirit’s voice for the next chapter – our chapter!

Global Giving and Support

Our latest Global Exposure team have recently returned from Asia. They have learnt lots, experienced the reality of life for the majority of the world and sensed God speaking to them personally.  They were away while  we as a church had our Global Mission week.

Global week this year was great with our Global Night market always a popular event and great speakers from Servants and Sari Bari.

Thank you to God and people’s commitment to generously respond to God’s work internationally. The church last year (September 2015 to September 2016) was $405,000. Promised giving at the end of the 2015 Mission week was  $542,000. The actual giving when we came to September 2016 was $571,000.  this is a wonderful result. It shows God’s Global call on our lives and the commitment and faithfulness of the people of the church. Fantastic

Looking ahead into the 2016-17 year. we received 275 promise forms (these are the forms people fill out indicating their financial commitment  to global mission for the year ahead). This was up from 242 forms the previous year. In total  $518,000 has been promised.

Thank you to everyone who financially supports God’s heart of the peoples of the world through the church’s mission programme.



Partnership in school building

We have continued to look at building possibilities for the future of the church. While we have focused our energy on our local mission initiatives through grass-roots redemptive communities and our many great ministries reaching specific needs of people; we are also very committed to being able to gather together as one church.


We hugely value the times we gather from all our local communities, ministries and vocations to be together to worship God, hear scripture, pray together, share our stories and be reminded of God’s mission that needs us all. Both locally and globally. We gather together in this way so we are reminded of our identity together as one church.  To sense again our personal belonging to this body of Christ.  And to gain and give encouragement for the week ahead as we scatter across the city for another week as God’s people in our vocations, locations and ministries.


As we grow the grass-roots we also need to prepare for how we will gather as the church grows. So we have continued to look for appropriate facilities. Either bare land to build on or existing buildings we could renovate to make into a gathering space for worship.


Our ideal would be a venue big enough for us all to gather together at once. But it seems that is a prohibitively expensive option.


So we have been considering two gathering places across the South West of the City.


Recently something quite unexpected has happened. We were invited to a meeting with the chairman of the the Sockburn primary school board of trustees and Hope Presbyterian church leaders. The chairman explained that Sockburn school was going to be moved to a new site in the centre of Wigram. The new school wants to build a strong community hub and would like to include both churches in programmes like after school care (which Hope is already doing for Sockburn) and other connections. One specific collaboration they are open to is sharing the building and use of the school hall. The leaders from Hope church said that their building focus was towards Rolleston and West Melton so they wouldn’t be able to look at this as well.


The proposed suggestion is that the school provide money for the school hall and SWBC also contribute to the hall building costs. This would enable a bigger and better appointed hall to be built than the school could afford on its own. In return the church would have the usage of the hall on Sundays on a long term, well documented, lease basis. It could be somewhere from 70-99 years that the church has an agreed lease for Sundays.


This would give us two venues for Sunday gatherings and would allow us to have two 10am services. One at Spreydon and one at the Wigram school hall.


Why do this?

Our 9am is often full and when a building is regularly 80% or more full it becomes a restriction to greater growth. [While you can say there are free seats in the front row the late arriver typically doesn’t see those as an option]. At the same time our 11am is growing. This year the number of children alone has more than doubled. So we need to plan ahead.


The school is in a great location in the heart of residential Wigram. The proposal involves a school-church partnership in the community which fits beautifully with our local vision. The multi-purpose nature of the school hall reflects the multi-purpose usage of our gym at Spreydon and comparatively it is an inexpensive way to provide more space which allows us to keep our financial focus on mission more than buildings.


At this stage we have simply got a team of appropriately skilled people together and asked them to research this option further and we are asking the church to pray. We know this will raise many questions and we have many questions about this too. But we want to do now is listen to the voice of the Spirit and be open to what God might be calling us into.


At this stage there is nothing on paper but we are considering it and continue to remain open to other options. The time frame will be tight because the school and the Ministry of Education have a tight time frame to work within.


We will keep on informing you as progress is made.


After talking about this on Sunday a number of great questions were asked so I have put them below and tried to add a few comments from our thinking at this stage.




1.     Does this mean we would become two churches? – This is absolutely not the direction we would be heading in. We want to be one church together in mission spread out across many locations, vocations and ministries.

2.     Won’t the two gathering spaces become two churches over time? – we will continue to work hard to be one church with one vision and direction and trying to link all we do together. Our rhythms, elders, pastors, speakers, calendaring of events and communication would all be one. At the moment we do this across three Sunday gathering points – 9am, 11am and 7pm. We would need to work harder to do this across two 10am’s and at least one evening service.

3.     What about ministries during the week? We have many ministries spread across the south west already and we sense this peppering of ministry locations will continue. For example, pre-schools. Presently through our trust arms we have 4 pre-schools operating. This could grow over time to 6 or 7 spread across suburbs.

4.     What about the Halswell site? (Balcairn St) The Halswell buildings are used for many ministries and events and we sense that will only grow in the future.

5.     Why not use the Halswell site (Balcairn St) for a second 10am service? – this was one option we looked at in detail last year. But the building is just too small. The school hall we are talking about with Wigram school would be around the same size as the Spreydon gym.

6.     How will we pay for our contribution to the school hall? – we would need to do this together. As previous generations have given sacrificially for the future of the church we would need to look to God and each other to cover the costs. The good news is the cost is much much lower than it would be for us to buy land and build on our own.

7.     Isn’t it a better investment to own our own building rather than a long term lease? Yes, it would be better in the long term to own a buiding. But owning also means many millions of dollars.  A 70-99 year lease gives the church a long window of time to prepare for the future. This site also gives the potential of a great school-church community hub in the heart of residential Wigram.

8.      What happens at the end of the lease? Probably the final document would be a licence to occupy for an agreed time period. The length of the time period is dependent on how much of the original cost of the hall the church was contributing. At the end of the licence to occupy the church could negotiate with the school an ongoing rental arrangement or move elsewhere. If we were to proceed we would have decades to prepare.

9.     Surely we want a 7 day a week venue not just one day a week? We presently have ministries spread across many different locations and we anticipate that will continue. Some churches look to build one big site at which most of their activities and ministries happen. Today with the car parking requirements of the city council, the size of our church and range of ministries  we have operating that would require a very big site.. We sense a continued peppering of sites across the South West.

10.  Would the school allow us to use the hall in the evenings? The primary use of the school is for school purposes but we and Hope Presbyterian will be doing everything we can to develop a great relationship with the school. So we would anticipate being bale to use the hall at other times outside of school usage.

11.  Would we being paying towards maintenance, and other ongoing costs? These details need to be part of the negotiation with the School and Ministry of Education. There are a number of scenarios that could be followed and we will need to update everyone as these are discussed and the finer detail around them clarified.

12.  Will we be asking people to move to the new school based gathering? And would we expect people who live nearby to go to this Sunday gathering? We do encourage people to connect with their local community during the week. [This can be as simple as knowing our neighbours or attending one or two neighbourhood community events a year. For others it means being more fully involved in community activities throughout the week and many others are re-framing their lives around their local communities. Different people connect with their communities in different ways and we celebrate every connection whether it is big or small, regular or a one-off.] But, for an hour and a half on Sundays the key thing is that we gather together for worship, teaching, stories and prayer. Where we do that is less important. And we’ve learnt from recent years that trying to ask people to move isn’t great. So we would now say to people go to the gathering that fits you best.

An after thought. Reading our church history shows we have always been a church on the move and we have changed church name and location readily. The church has from the beginning been part of planting new congregations and later bringing them back. Reading our history has reminded me we need to be ready to move….

A man of peace

This week an 86 year old priest was killed as his throat was in a tragic act of violence. He was leading communion in a small service in a quiet church. I struggle to see two more polar opposite acts. On one hand young zealous fanatical men cutting and killing an unarmed man so crudely and violently. And on the other extreme the victim. An 86 year old man with more than 50 years service as a priest, much of it to the people of the same small community, holding and sharing the bread and wine of the prince of peace.

Have a read of this interesting article from the guardian about this man of peace –


Father Jacques Hamel died as a priest, doing what priests do

http://www.theguardian.com/ commentisfree/belief/2016/jul/ 28/father-jacques-hamel-died- as-a-priest-doing-what- priests-do?CMP=Share_ AndroidApp_Gmail


Great work Duane – well done!

Great to see the beach being handed over to DOC and celebrate from a distance a hopeful and collaborative campaign. Well lead Duane!


Have a look here for a nice write up on the hand over:-


Prayer and insight

Tomorrow (Thursday 5th and Friday 6th May) our core leadership team are away for two days praying and searching God for the next things we need to give focus on as a church. We are grateful to have his window of prayer and planning and want to be very open to the leading of the Spirit. If you are praying for us and have a word or insight could you please send it through to Alan at ajamieson@swbc.org.nz

thank you