A reflection by Anne Stewart – Keeping on knitting…
In April 2018, when I was first installed into the role of Moderator for the Alpine Presbytery
I began with a confession. It seemed a good posture to start that particular journey with! I
confessed that I am a knitter. I rediscovered this passion when our grandson Finn was born
nearly three years ago. A lot of wool has passed through the needles since then! What led
me to confess this to the Presbytery was the call that I felt to do my bit in the work of
knitting together the part of the Presbyterian family that we call the Presbytery.
I believe God to be a knitter, we heard this morning from Psalm 139 how it was God who
formed our inward parts, who knitted us together in our mother’s wombs, making us
fearfully and wonderfully made. It is this knitting work of God’s that I felt, and still feel, the
call to be involved in.
To me this ‘knitting together of community’ lies at the base of all we do as a church. We
might present as doing other things, like cutting toenails, or weaving, or singing songs with
children, or selling clothes, and so on – but the essential purpose that calls us into all of
these actions is the call to be together as a community. Communities are fluid beasts, so
our knitting always includes some casting on and off, increasing and decreasing. This is
creative work, and the desire, always is to grow the garment into something, when brought
together, that is quite beautiful and which can be useful in God’s work of engaging with our
world. Because we are a diverse bunch of characters, we might have different ideas about
what we are creating – that’s what gives us, as a faith community, a bit of colour and
interest. But the bottom line is that as single strands of wool we are weak and of little use,
but when knitted together we are strong, beautiful, and a whole lot more use!
Today you could say that we are doing some casting off. We are at the close of this piece of
our time together. However, next week we pick the stiches up and begin another chapter
in our life together. Casting off, and then picking up the stitches and continuing to knit is
not new, actually it is exactly what we have been doing for quite a long time now. A lot of
stitches got dropped when we were shaken to bits by the earthquake season of 2010/11,
but we picked them up and found a new shape for our garment. We moved from our
broken places of worship to our halls and made a life for ourselves there. We gathered
together, to be better together and we became The Village.
We moved together to the Lamb & Hayward chapel and continued the knitting there. In
time we made our way here, to the chapel at St Andrew’s College and worked intentionally
on our knitting, as we tried to deepen our relationship with one another and with the
school. Each place we gathered in had its own special nature. Many of us loved the
intimacy of being together in our halls. Others enjoyed the view from the window at Lamb
& Hayward. This chapel has been special in the way that it has enabled us to grow together
as The Village. Here the past has blurred into the future, leaving us often forgetting how
we got here because here, as The Village, we are simply who we are now. Here we have
noted the sadness of some losses along the way, and the joy of some additions, and what
they have brought to our life together.
Today is an ending, of a sort, but only because there is a beginning beckoning. I don’t think
we should fear endings. Of course, there will be some sadness for some people and we
need to respect them and their feelings. My Franciscan Friar, mentor friend, Richard Rohr,
in one of his daily reflections, talks about how the pain of something ending can be an
invitation to our souls to listen at a deeper level, which sometimes forces us into a
surprising yet welcoming new place. Most of us would never make that journey to a new
deeper place without something ending. We rarely choose endings, except of course when
they bring the end of pain. But, generally, we avoid them because they are seldom
comfortable experiences. Yet it is in these times that we are invited to learn the freedom of
letting go. Some of you, I know, were reluctant to come here, and then some found they
were deeply and profoundly changed by the experience. Others not so much, but you
made it work.
Many of us were forced into changes that required letting go, during the lockdown. There
were lessons learned from this, and still more to learn yet, I imagine. Change is a reality;
we deal with it every day in some form. What gives it a transformational quality lies in how
we deal with the letting go. Nothing can fully come if we cling to what has been, or are
locked in the past by the straitjackets of nostalgia. What will pull us into the new are the
things that unite us, the things we believe in, and what we strive for. We want children
actively involved in our life together, because they matter and because we are better for
having them among us. We want a deeper involvement in our local communities and active
participation in them. We want to build bridges for people to enter a worshipping life.
These are our yes’s that bring us together and make us strong.
It was in 2014 that we formed as The Village. At the time of the joining we used the
metaphor of marriage. After a time of courtship, St Giles and St Stephens got married,
which we celebrated in a ceremony on 1 December that year. In the same way, as we leave
our families when we marry, to form a new family, we left behind St Giles and St Stephens
and became The Village. Our next move is not about us splitting up, (there is no divorce
imminent!), it’s just us (The Village) being all grown up and giving up renting to move into
our own homes. As I said earlier, you have the choice each week, to worship and do life
together on a Thursday at Papanui or Sunday at Bryndwr – you can do either, or you can do
both – but you cannot do neither! Well, of course you can, but I would rather you didn’t!
The choice about where you worship, and when, is yours, as always, but whatever we do,
we do as The Village.
At both worship events we will be striving to reflect how we are as The Village. So, there
will be food at both – we love food, there will be relaxed and informal interaction – we love
being together and we will offer respectful dignified invitations to go deeper in our faith
life. There might be conversation times, we might use art, music, and drama. Maybe I
should stop there in case I oversell what we might struggle to deliver, but these are our
hopes. We will continue to gather so we can be one, in both of our sites. The knitting is
Next week, as I said before, we pick up the stitches and we continue the knitting. We do
this because this is the work that God calls us into. Knitted together we can become as
unified and together as God is in Godself. Mature in our oneness, letting the world around
us see that we live into, and out of, that enormous love of God that we understand has held
us in our very formation in the womb, getting about loving people in the same way that
God loves us. I think I can honestly say that there is nothing that puts those outside the
church off us more, than evidence of our divisions. That doesn’t mean we all have to be
and think the same way but our ‘yes’s’ are always greater than our differences, and we
should reflect this in our life together.
The things that bind us are our focus, our love of God and God’s creation, our following Jesus and learning to be like him, and celebrating the Spirit that blows through and around us, lifting us, freeing us, and inspiring us.
We enter this new period in our life together, as one. Then we learn how to be in our new
spaces. That’s how the creative work of God goes. Come with me, be with me, God says,
and help me show the world how I love them.…