THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN THE PAPAKURA DISTRICT
When I was growing up my father worked in Papakura. Occasionally Mum would take us down to visit him and to a small boy it felt like we had gone on a long journey. Of course we travelled by car and there was the motorway at least some of the way there. Part of what made it feel long was the fact that between our home in Papatoetoe and Papakura we passed through what was then still undeveloped farm land. So we really had left one place and travelled to another.
I marvel then, when I think about the kind of journeys made by Vicesimus Lush and others in the early days of the parish’s history. On horseback or by foot, with few roads formed, they would cover many miles to ensure that the worship of God was able to occur in the growing communities of the district. Lush is a wonderful example of a faithful parish priest, convinced of the love of God and totally committed to the care of his parishioners.
More than that, Lush was a visionary. Over the last few years we have ticked off a few sesquicentenaries in what was his very widespread parish. The provision of church buildings for those fledgling communities speaks of a confidence in the gospel and its place in people’s lives. If Lush helped to offer that beginning, many more have built on it over the 150 years with laity and clergy together building up the Body of Christ and engaging in God’s mission.
The recording of a parish’s history is an important task and I am glad that the decision was taken to add to Murray Mills’ original work and create a record of this last half-century. It traces the story as the parish emerges from the heady days of post-war New Zealand life. Church attendances had tracked positively alongside population growth and many new churches were built around Auckland to provide for that growth. Society changed dramatically over those next decades and church life across the denominations declined in front of our eyes. The Churches seemed powerless to know how to respond to this situation and in many ways we experienced a loss of confidence in our identity and our purpose.
I believe that we are beginning to recapture that confidence as we discover afresh that the essence of the Church’s life is a missionary one. When Lush set off to come to his extended area of responsibility in the Franklin district, he wrote about it as his “new missionary duties”. We need to the have the same mind among ourselves. God’s work is found in the lives of the people of the communities in which the Church is placed. The Church is the collection of those people whose lives have been touched and transformed by the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. God calls us to take that love and to engage in the needs of the wider community and make the gospel known. The leadership of successive clergy in the parish has encouraged this. It is certainly the pathway to a hopeful future for the life of the Church. But more basically, it is simply the reason that God called the Church into being.
The recording of our stories is an important task. It honours those who have gone before us and allows us to learn from them as we work out the mission of God in our own time. May God’s love urge us on and renew our confidence and our vision for that task.
11th Bishop of Auckland