Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

A Word for Cyclone responders

Bishop of Christchurch Peter Carrell shares a theology of support for people facing the tough edge of disaster response.

Bishop Peter Carrell | Photo: Kris Singh Anglican Missions  |  24 Feb 2023  |

At a time of disaster such as this we need a theology of support for all the people bearing the burden of care in the frontline response. 

We have already seen heroic acts of service to our communities from many people who are on the frontline, and for this we should be both thankful and proud.

Yet as we care for those suffering as a result of this Cyclone, as the enormity of the challenge of its devastation becomes clear, the temptation is to be overwhelmed, to feel it is so big we cannot do anything. 

Our other response might be to be heroic, working like superwomen or supermen to make that crucial difference, to try and lessen the load for others.

But at some point we have to pause, to take heart and remember that Jesus does not ask us to make all things good or to solve everything that's wrong.

Instead, he asks his disciples to be faithful in small things (Matthew 25:14-30), which may be as small a matter as giving a cup of water (Matthew 10:42) or giving some clothing or food or drink or visiting someone in prison (Matthew 25:31-46).

In other words, a focus on service, on achieving small tasks, is fine. In fact it is good.

In the aftermath of a disaster, when our initial adrenalin boosted responses slow, we will still need our stamina, our quiet strength to uphold the necessary plod through each day – and then for days, weeks, months and even years.

Through that long haul, rest and recreation is essential.

The people who need us this week will also need our help next month and even next year. 

This wisdom was underlined for all of us in Christchurch and wider Canterbury in the time following the 2010-2011 quakes.

So we are called to do what will keep our own spirits up, and to aim for a steady approach with time put aside for the important task of rest.

And as part of a persistent, day to day, long haul response, reading the Bible, praying the Daily Office, and gathering for acts of worship and communion can be vital for our spiritual health too.

Communing with God and with others is important when times are tough as well as when everything is trucking along fine.

Apart from me, Jesus says, you can do nothing (John 15:5)

Working together is another way to stay the course.

Encourage your people to visit homes in pairs, or tackle a cleaning up task with a team, so that a mountain becomes a molehill, and from one region to another as we pray and give, we do so together as a fellowship of Christians.

"Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." (1 Corinthians 16:13)

One of the great themes in Paul's writings to the early churches is local fellowship - how members of a congregation love one another - and how love for one another means taking up a collection for the saints in Jerusalem (e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:1-3). 

To help our communities on the frontlines please support the Anglican Church's Cyclone Gabrielle Appeal