By PHILIP CHANDLER
Despite ‘sadness that his parish churches, like all others, are closed during this most important week in the Christian calendar, a Queenstown minister says his congregation’s never been more connected.
Anglican vicar Reverend Dr David Wright notes that due to New Zealand’s Covid-19-induced lockdown, this will be the first Easter that churches in Christendom have been closed since 1208.
That’s when Pope Innocent III was locked in a bitter dispute with King John over who should be England’s next Archbishop.
The current closure means, for example, that all Holy Week Anglican services at Queenstown’s St Peter’s, Arrowtown’s St Paul’s and at Glenorchy have been cancelled, along with Good Friday’s ‘Ecumenical Walk of the Cross’.
Wright says that Holy Week, starting with Palm Sunday, “is the fundamental basis of the Christian faith”.
“This is a terribly, terribly difficult time for those people who really feel the effects of not being able to come to a physical building to celebrate Easter.”
To counteract that, though, Wright’s putting Sunday and Easter services on his parish website, www.stpeters.co.nz, and also adding Bible readings, reflections and prayers every day.
Daily 9am morning prayers, hosted by Dunedin Bishop Steven Benford, are also being uploaded via Zoom.
“There’s a lot of this stuff now which is going on through the wonders of technology that is keeping us all connected and keeping us all together.
“The real positive thing we need to take away from this is that [this crisis] has put us into isolation, but it hasn’t.
“It’s actually made us look at wonderful new ways of getting connected with each other, and on a much wider level.”
As of Monday afternoon, 1153 people had seen Wright’s Palm Sunday online service, with viewers from as far away as the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Singapore and Australia.
Fortunately, despite a number of what he calls “seasoned” parishioners, only very few don’t have online access.
During this crisis, Wright says he and his pastoral care are also religiously ringing parishioners and those on the parish roll “just to find out, ‘is everything ok in your bubble?'”
“That stimulates our people to live the life of the risen Christ and show that they love and care for other people.”