This week we were planning to spend Tuesday morning playing games and having fun together – an annual event to welcome and connect with new students. Friday afternoon changed all that. As a theological college, as a Christian learning community, we felt compelled to gather to pray.
So on Tuesday Carey’s staff and student body gathered together for prayer and reflection in response to last Friday’s terrorist attacks. This time of prayer took the form of a hikoi, or a journey, as we moved through a series of stages or stations: remembering, grieving, confessing, interceding, supporting, and affirming. It was a journey into, and then out of, the darkness. I thought it was very special.
We started in Carey’s dining room, where we remembered that God is with us, even in the darkness of evil. We then moved into our Maori learning space, where we lamented what has happened, expressing our pain, articulating our anger, our confusion, our questions.
From there we journeyed into Carey’s darkened chapel, one candle burning. There we confessed the reality of sin and racism in our society, our history, our churches, and our own hearts. In response we signed with our finger prints a commitment to resist racism, wherever we encounter it, in Jesus’ name.
This was followed by a time of intercession, with prayers offered in Arabic and English, as we lit fifty candles, representing the fifty victims. We prayed for the city of Christchurch. We prayed for our students affected by the massacre.
We then emerged from the darkness, back into the light of Te Whare Oranga, where we compiled a book of condolence messages for our local Muslim community. We will be presenting this to our Muslim neighbours in the near future. We finished with songs affirming God’s love, and asking for the grace to be bearers of that love.
You can read the order of service here. Feel free to share or use it if you think it might be of help.
As a theological college, as a Christian learning community, we have not published any formal statements. There is a place for that. But this is our response: to look up to Christ in prayer, to reflect on the tragedy through Scripture, and to reach out to our Muslim neighbours in love. May God give us the grace to continue to do each of these three things well.
Dr John Tucker