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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Churchgoers keep calm and carry on

Churchgoers keep calm and carry on

Last updated 12:03 17/06/2011
 
 Above: Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, post-September quake.  Below: After the February quake.

 
Their church building is destroyed but the congregation of the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church are determined to be part of Christchurch's future.

Their minister, CHRIS CHAMBERLAIN, wants readers who are thinking of leaving Christchurch to know that they are staying.


In the wake of the June 13 earthquakes, the sense is that many Cantabrians are struggling.

Monday's shakes have been like the last straw and some are considering pulling up roots and leaving our city.

Our unique and much loved Oxford Terrace Baptist Church building has been gradually reduced to the ground since last September.

At first, restoration was contemplated. But then in February its loss became a "no-brainer", and these last tremors are like the final nails in the coffin.

As a church community, we are also struggling.

The word "church" is all about people, so it is not the end for a group who began as the first Baptist congregation here nearly 150 years ago in 1863.

We are determined that the old white pillars on the corner of Madras St and Oxford Tce will be replaced, somehow, somewhere, with a contemporary facility that is "open" in its feel, that is useful to many, and that is connected to our city.

There have been opinions expressed quite widely about what the churches should do considering so many of their buildings have been destroyed.

For many organisations, in fact, the destruction of meeting places has brought a kind of release, and once distant and idealistic ideas of mergers now seem to be more than just a possibility.

Church communities, both Baptist and otherwise, have been making the most of the opportunities that our tough times have thrown up.

Even if our conversations ultimately become too complex to complete, it is clear that the experiences of the last months have brought closer together churches and other organisations with an interest in the support and welfare of the people of this city.

This can only be good.

In particular, though, the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church is not packing its bags and moving elsewhere in the hope of getting away from an unsettled city.

We are "keeping calm and carrying on", even if keeping calm is a bit of a pipe dream right now.

We are continuing to plan for a future which at this moment seems very uncertain.

We want to make this declaration in the first place for the sake of the many people for whom the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, on the corner of Madras St and Oxford Tce, has for a century and a half been a visible sign and symbol of Christian faith, hope and love.

We'd like readers of the paper, who may themselves be seriously contemplating moving away from Christchurch, to know that despite the difficulties and sapping effect of the quakes, we are going to stay.

We are open to new ways of looking at Christian expression in the city.

We feel more than ever the need to support our neighbours in the inner city, and to encourage planners and rebuilders in the difficult and drawn-out time that lies ahead.

At this point in time we have no idea what kind of rebuilding will take place, and whether it will be on this site or some other nearby, but we are clear that the same motives that drove the founders of this church are still at work in our thinking and actions.

We fully intend to keep this church and the good that it stands for a very visible and active presence in the central business district.

Wherever people live and work, there is a need for groups that enable faith to be expressed. There is also a need for people to serve and support one another.

There is a need for fair and just dealings with one another in the community, commerce and government.

At times, when our dreams of a happy and comfortable life fall apart, we need to hear that most fundamental part of the Christian tradition which is that there is a purpose to life, that the purpose is good and that God is good and benevolent and loving towards humanity.


* The Reverend Chris Chamberlain is senior minister of the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church.

- The Press

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