What did we envisage our new “church” in Kerikeri would it be like? Anything like it has turned out to be?
I guess I dreamed it was possible. It was like a glimmer of a vision, and the thinking and preparation was focused on working out what might just create the environment in which that vision would happen – an environment particularly of welcome. A place where we would want to spend time; a place where people with no church interest would find themselves happy to be; a home. Our church home; our communities’ open home.
Detail has had to be worked out on the hoof since we opened last December, and things will need to develop further. For example, how we organise ourselves as host volunteers has unfolded with time, and it has exceeded expectations. The hosts seem genuinely to enjoy being here – not a chore but something to look forward to. There’s room for more people to be involved, including friends and family of church people and community members generally. It is simply a matter of being present, giving a friendly welcome to people who arrive for events or to look around, doing a few odd jobs as appropriate (but no pressure), and generally enjoying the company of others. So there are many people who would make good hosts.
In terms of preparing then, there was a glimmer of a vision, but a clear sense of the spirit and values that were to centre the building. That’s been crucial. In our faith terms, the centre is Christ. Unpacking that in terms that speak beyond our faith basis, it is a spirit of hospitality, the “know me before you judge me” kind of respect for people, wanting to be with people different from ourselves, and a conviction that Christ is present in people and their community building activities in ways that don’t fit traditional expectations.
I also had a hunch that our building would, through its architecture and atmosphere, draw out the Christ in people, whatever their spiritual understanding or beliefs about life. Toi Te Rito Maihi’s window design has that to a T. A wow factor, a peacefulness, and a message of weaving connectedness that draws any and all of us out of ourselves and brings a sense of peace and belonging.
Again, being “at home” in this place.
Cornerstone–Whare Karakia o Manako. The English the name conveys strength and stability and, for us, our foundation in Christ. The Māori name is a house of prayer and of the whole community, using as it does the village’s name from before Europeans arrived. Threads are therefore being re-woven into the full web of life in Kerikeri.
Rangimarie Peace Shalom, Robyn