Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Turangawaewae - A Place to Stand

On Saturday I stepped into Dennis’ shoes and danced around a while. He wore my scarf while we sang. This was the first time we’d met. We, along with a couple of hundred others, had gathered in a high school hall in Rotorua for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ). The General Assembly meets every two years and is attended by both pastors and lay people from throughout the country who meet to discuss and discern the direction of the church.
That morning Mark read to us these words from Colossians 3:12-14:
 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Mark encouraged us to swap a piece of clothing with the person next to us by way of acknowledging and practicing what it means to be clothed with these characteristics, hence the reason why my little feet were sliding around in someone else’s shoes.
The thing with General Assembly is that there are certain discussions that keep reoccurring. The sexuality in leadership debate is one of them. The PCANZ have been talking about this for longer than I have been alive, and I suspect the discussion will continue until I too am old and grey.
As I wore Dennis’ shoes I found myself wondering what it would mean for me to stand in the shoes of those on either side of this debate, to consider things from their point of view, to see things from their perspective. I was attending General Assembly as an observer, which meant I didn’t have any speaking or voting rights. Neither did Dennis, he was there as a chaplain. As an observer I had the opportunity to, well, observe. This enabled me to wander about in someone else’s shoes, and to wonder.
I wondered what it was like for those who had been my age when this debate first began to gain traction. I wondered what it was like to be a part of a minority who advocate for change. I wondered what it was like for those who took this personally. I wondered if it was possible not to take this personally. I wondered what it was like to take a strong stand. I wondered if anyone else wondered what it was like for anyone else. I wondered what Jesus was saying.
I wonder if you wonder where I stand. I wonder if you expect me to tell you where I expect you to stand. Instead, I stand here and I wonder…
If we are going to make a stand, may we stand firm in the faith, may we stand in solidarity and not in opposition, and may we remember that Christ stands in our place with his feet in our shoes.


  1. Thanks so much for the reflections Cate. I will live with them a while. ... Welcome to assemblies, once you've bitten the apple it's hard to go back... Something about adrenalin addiction perhaps.

    1. Hi Bruce, I am relatively knew to all this General Assembly business. I attended GA10 as a youth commissioner, and my experience as a ministry intern this time around was something else althogether. There were many things I loved about GA and I'll certainly be back for more.

  2. Keep wondering Cate, your poetry is a good tonic after GA12. I do not expect you to tell me where you expect me to stand. Martin Stewart has pointed us in your direction and I am grateful for that...

    1. Hi Adrian, did we meet at GA? I met lots of people, so I'm not sure if I'll remember. Thanks for your encouragement to keep wondering. Sometimes I feel like a should know a heck of a lot more than I do, but I suspect that when I stop wondering and stop asking questions then I'll start to think I know everything.