Kia ora, e te whanau,

We are all aware of the pain, confusion and destabilization that Friday’s horrendous acts of violence have brought to our city and our country. Eight years ago, we were rocked by natural disaster, now calculated hatred and evil have brought new fears and losses. Including a loss of who we sense we are and what our country is about. Many of us have sat with our refugee friends and said “You are safe here” believing that New Zealand and especially Christchurch are different. Believing that we are not marked, like other parts of the world, with violence and terror. Today we know the pain of the world in a new way and in this we need to be reminded of who we are and how we can affirm the faith and values we believe in.

Last year we welcomed three families from war-torn countries to be part of our community. Today they are scared and grieving. Four have been shot and all know family and friends who were killed or injured. Their neighbourhood communities, our refugee team and pastoral team are with them offering support and care. Your prayers for the families directly and those close to them would be enormously appreciated.

Many people from international refugee programmes, Baptist churches and other church leaders are sending us their prayers and concern which reminds us we are not alone. As we care for our Middle Eastern friends and grieve as a city, unknown friends around the world hold us in their prayers.

Tomorrow at our 9.00am, 11.00am and 7.00pm services families can choose to stay together or children can join the children’s programme. We will have three spaces available. A combined children’s programme will run in the Auditorium. Our Living Room will be open throughout the service for people to sit, talk or pray. You are welcome to stay in the service or move in and out to the children’s activities or The Living Room as you wish. Our services will be spaces of tenderness, gentle compassion and powerful hope.

We want to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in their grief and tremendous pain. We are together the children of Abraham and Sarah and today is a day to share prayer and care as family. We also want to pray for our police, emergency workers and hospital teams and thank them for their bravery, commitment and expertise.

Tomorrow we will also have news of Baptist and city-wide church prayer times that you may be able to support.

At a time like this I am deeply aware of God’s presence and the goodness, compassion and courage of our church body. You are very much in our prayers today.

For those asking what practical support can be offered to our Middle Eastern friends, we will be collecting meals at all of our services tomorrow and distributing them out to the affected neighbourhood communities. These meals will need to be halal for the families, otherwise you will need to specify that they are for the wider community supporters. For ease of distribution, please ensure that these meals are able to be frozen. Thank you for your aroha and support.