Tuesday 19 June was an extraordinary day for Wellington. Not only did the brilliant sunshine belie the forecast storm but we had the World Youth Day Cross and Icon in Parliament, the Dalai Lama not quite meeting the prime minister, and the funeral of a great woman in the Wellington community.
I mention Margaret Nolan in this hallowed company because she was a great leader the Church never had.
In the 1970s Margaret and her husband Des were leaders in the Christian Family Movement and brought marriage encounter to New Zealand. In the 1980s Margaret—alone after her husband’s untimely death at age 46—started the Urban Training Centre for Christian Ministry where she brought the resurrection to people’s lives by teaching the skills of structural analysis—examining how the political, economic, social, cultural and religious systems influence people’s lives and how people can understand this influence and use it for the good of their communities. In this way Margaret did what today’s gospel exhorts us to do—she proclaimed the Kingdom of God, as a better life for those who are marginalised by a society that recognises only those who are earning a regular income or whose skin is of a certain hue.
Many people came to Margaret’s celebration to talk to her 10 children, and their children and grandchildren, of the great influence their matriarch had had in their lives. Margaret was at the start of a movement, just as the cross was the start of this great movement we call Christianity.
I’m sure the visit of the cross and icon to our two dioceses has made many of us think about what these two powerful symbols mean, and helped us to realise that, without Easter and the resurrection, Jesus’ death on the cross is meaningless. This is why it is good that the icon is travelling with the cross because that image of Jesus’ mother, the first disciple, reminds us of the power of the resurrection and of the Holy Spirit in our lives.