CENTENNIAL SERMON TO CELEBRATE 100 YEARS OF ST. ANDREW’S PRESENCE IN HENDERSON 17TH JULY 2011 - By Rev. Fei Taule’ale’ausumai Davis
Psalm 100:8 “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Ephesians 3:7-21, 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
How do you condense 100 years into a 15 minute sermon? Easy, you don’t. Most of you have a copy of the Centenary booklet full of the wonderful memories of St. Andrew’s from its very first years as a church categorized as “an aided charge”, too small to support itself financially, which even then couldn’t sustain itself so had to revert to the status of being a “Home Mission Station”. St. Andrew’s has survived 2 world wars and a depression and, even now today, emerging from the recession we have survived. And how have we managed to survive for 100 years? “By the grace of God.” We have come thus far by the grace of God. “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
On one of my visits back to Auckland in 1994 I remember driving past the St. Andrew’s sign on Great North Road and thinking at the time “hmmm, that would be a good Parish to work in. There was not any special reason, it was just a feeling I had; I believe it was my first sense of call to St. Andrew’s. I knew absolutely nothing about this congregation or the crazy people that worshipped here. The only compelling feeling I had at the time was the fact that this was West Auckland, my home turf. I did not know that the minister at time Rev. Karel Lorier was leaving that year. I had just accepted the call to St. Andrew’s College in Birmingham, England so it remained just a passing thought at the time. Seven years later that sense of call was confirmed after Rev. Tino Scanlan took up the call to St. Paul’s, Manurewa. God alone knows the plans laid out for us long before we do.
Thank God for that notice board. But you know my only bone of contention with this place over the years is the Church buildings’ lack of physical visibility within Henderson. Unless you live on Tara Road or at the North end of Kereru Road you wouldn’t know that we existed. On the day of my induction here on January 23rd 2003 a few of my friends never made it because they couldn’t find the church. I have been told that there used to be a large wooden cross made from railway sleepers that you could see from Great North Road; unfortunately this was stolen some years ago. I’ve often been asked if my church is the Baptist Church or St. Michael’s Anglican Church. I even wondered why we put a house on the main road and the church at the back but anyway, as the saying goes these days, “go figure.” Last week I buried Sheena Mennie who was a member of Massey Presbyterian church until she missed the bus and followed the singing from the bus stop on Great North Road, along Phoenix house walkway to our church. She stayed with us from that day and came when she wasn’t in and out of hospital. I wonder how many more would opt for our type of church if they knew we were here?
I believe that this community of saints is quite unique because it prides itself in its “laid backness” we don’t point the finger or do a roll call every week to see how many Sunday’s you’ve missed in coming to Church. We don’t panic when people need to take a break, and why is that some might say? Because the reality is that almost everyone here is extremely busy, many of you work in the weekends. If you have a look at the photos of yesteryear particularly the Sunday school photo there are a lot of children in those photos, and this would be a similar picture in every church in New Zealand at the same time. Sunday school was the normal place to go on a Sunday. I was surprised when our family first moved to the Presbyterian Church in 1969 that some of the kids in my Sunday school class were dropped off at church by parents who didn’t attend. I didn’t understand why this was so. There used to be a time when children were to be seen and not heard, my how times have changed. When I see young families come to church today I celebrate the fact that you are here at all and think of how hard it must have been just to arrive here this morning. We don’t shush our children anymore; we celebrate their presence and their participation in our service of worship. They are not just the church of tomorrow, but very much the church of today. I am proud of the St. Andrew’s heritage of children taking up the offering on Sundays and all ages and generations participating in the sacrament of Holy Communion - it’s not just for those confirmed but for the whole people of God. Sure, as your minister I wish that the church was this full every Sunday, but as a realist I also understand the demands and expectations that society places on all of us economically.
We are the hands, the feet, and the voice of Christ in the heart of Henderson. By the grace of God we have come thus far and the one thing that remains sure and steadfast (as the Boys Brigade Motto reminds us) is the faithful stream of St. Andrews stalwarts who have remained the pillars of our church community over the years. Ministers have come and gone yet the elders and the families that have been the glue that have held this church together over its one hundred year history remain.
So when Paul wishes for us that we might be filled with God, he knows very well that this cannot happen by our own efforts. Instead it is the power of Christ at work in our hearts through faith. And as the Church, broken, as we are, inexperienced as we are, sometimes frightened as we are, Christ has called us, along with a host of others, to be the bearers of the Good News of God's love. For as we share this love, we learn it, we grow in it, and most importantly it transforms us, converts us, and embraces us in this love God which is Jesus Christ. And this kind of love does not seek to escape from the world, but rather to enter into its suffering that it might know the reconciliation and grace of Christ's love. (Love, 2007)
I love the words of William Loader who describes the church as being “God’s risk of love in history, as mature and immature as the average of its members, but God’s promise of the kingdom for now. Let us rejoice in the freedom of the Spirit that knows no bounds, that leads us beyond our fears and our barriers to the uttermost ends of the world, and that brings us back to the centre, to the Word of God borne witness to by Holy Scripture: God in whom we live and move and have our being and whose family we are.”(Loader)
And so it is with a deep sense of gratitude and thankfulness that I pay tribute to the wonderful men and women, youth and children, many of whom have died who have kept our church faithful and our worshipping community alive.
May God continue to shower us with the many blessings we have been privileged to receive and share over these 100 years. May our church continue to be that beacon of hope in Henderson that invites our local community to come, be, share, and witness the love of God in action at home. Thank you to all of you who without you we would not exist.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.
Love, J. (2007).
April 2011 to June 2012