WelCom May 2017:
Thirty years ago an ecumenical ‘Convenant’ was established between four inner-city churches of Napier to forge a stronger Christian church for the city through working together. The churches involve St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Trinity Methodist Church, and the Waiapu Cathedral of St John the Evangelist.
The four churches celebrated their Covenant’s 30th anniversary at a service at Trinity Methodist Church in January this year and at a luncheon in Napier on Sunday 12 March.
The Covenant unites the churches in their witness to Christ and to serve their churches and community as they celebrate God’s presence among them.
A newspaper article, recorded at the original signing of the Covenant, quoted Monsignor Tim Hannigan of St Patrick’s Church: ‘Basic human nature and bigotry over a long history have separated us. The Covenant is a more Christian way. The witness of the Christian church will be stronger because we are working together.’
Among their actions the churches prepare an annual civic service to pray for the Napier City Council, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the local MP, as well as for various city communities. Mayor Bill Dalton addressed the anniversary service thanking the churches, ‘that at times help remind the Council of its task to address particular needs and issues facing Napier’s communities’. Also attending were Councillor Paul Bailey representing the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Stuart Nash MP.
Rev Tony Franklin-Ross, minister of Trinity Methodist, said, ‘Ecumenical covenants represent an important sign of Christian unity, but not as an interim step towards integration. It is, rather, invoking a serious commitment to a living process, a willingness to be faithful, to change and to be open and honest with each other. It is to have a focus on the mission and purposes of God.
‘Over the 30 years, the Covenant between us has become part of the living fabric of our four churches and faith communities, of being in a relationship with each other, sharing our parish lives, and representing this in worship together; but importantly exploring what we together can do witness to God’s vision of justice and peace in our diverse communities of Napier.’
Every year the churches observe weekly Lenten services together culminating on Good Friday with a walk with the Cross through the city in witness to Christ.
The Covenant will be reviewed in 2018. Part of that review will include the relationship it has to the Catholic Parish of Napier as a whole.
Napier Inner-City Churches’ Ecumenical Covenant
‘Believing that God is One, there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; that God calls us to be one in Jesus Christ by the power which the Holy Spirit gives; that we are called to hold together the rich variety of our heritage and of our ways of worship within the one Body; that we are called to venture together in work and witness for Christ, and to commit ourselves to each other and to serve our Church and our City, as we celebrate the presence of God working amongst us to make all things new.’
In January 2014 the four churches pledged a renewed commitment to their Convenant for a further five years ‘to do together all we can, not to do apart what we should do together, and to continue to work and pray for the reconciliation and unity of the whole Church in our Land, and throughout the World.’ They declared ‘this Covenant in no way weakens our ties and responsibilities to our individual denominations’.
Through the Covenant the churches pledge to: pray for each other’s congregations at Sunday services; foster communication; study together; encourage co-operation among youth and other organisations; mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; work for justice and peace; witness commitment to Christ; observe Lent together; work with other church associations for the community; support civic leaders with prayer; and explore common worship and discipleship.