Antidote for fearful society
2002. St. James’s Anglican Church in Lower Hutt hosted a display of local community and social help organizations throughout the week ending with an ecumenical service on October 20.
St. James sent out personal invitations to forty community organizations and left the event open to other groups through an advertisement in the local newspaper.
There are twenty display boards set up in the church, including the Salvation Army, Christian Fellowship for the Disabled, Agape Budgeting Advisory Service, Council of Jewish Women, Victim Support, Super Grans, Samaritans, and Girl Guides.
“We’ve targeted whoever works with people. It is open to anybody and offers information on different community organizations to say what they are about,” says organizer Rev Frank Nelson, Vicar of St James.
The idea partially grew out of local incidents such as the kidnapping of baby Kahu and the murder of Kate Alkema. It was also due to St James festival speakers Justice Eddie Jury and Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright, who expressed the need for safety and community resilience.
Mr Nelson says the crimes make “you think about your community, and you try to get people to talk to each other. [The celebration] was a natural progression to acknowledge those who work in the community”.
In St James church timetable St Luke is the patron saint of doctors and healing and is celebrated about the time of the civic service. Mr Nelson was keen to use St Luke’s festival as a relevant theme of ‘people helping people’.
The service asks, am I my brother’s keeper?
“Should I be concerned about the well-being of the person next to me or should I close my eyes. Do we need to look after each other?
“How do you get on with people different from you? We live in a disjointed world. We are moving towards being more individualistic, more fearful, and more aware of crime.
“We don’t want to live in a fearful society. Yes, I am my brother’s keeper, and we don’t have to live in that fearful society. That would be a dream. The more opportunities people must get together and talk together, the better it is. We’re doing our little bit here.”
Mr Nelson does not know what will come out of the civic service and week-long church display, “but we should be working more closely together.”
“A few connections will be made, there will be greater awareness of people who work hour after hour, week after week, and they will be recognized a little bit. A lot of organizations work extremely hard but don’t get much credit.”
By Peter Veugelaers.
Published 2002, Challenge Weekly.