I read an article in Adventist Today on Sabbath called ’The Theology of Difference’ by Thandazani Mhlanga and I really connected with what he wrote and thought it was a great message for our country, our church and especially our unique expression of ‘church’ at Papsda.
He talked about the fact that humanity is 99.9% genetically the same, yet we spend a lot of our time focussing on what makes us different to one another. Our difference he says, is a part of God’s original intent. God made us the same but also unique. Our differences are God-given and are good, after all, God declared his creation … very good.
He goes on to say that … “diversity is God’s signature of love on creation. It’s no wonder, then, that the enemy of everything that is good is on a mission to weaponise our differences against each other. Sad to say, the enemy has been quite successful in this endeavour. A disturbingly significant number of our conflicts are rooted solely in our differences”.
What if we could be a community that embraces our diversity and our differences? What if we were a community that put other people’s needs and wants ahead of our own? What if we really listened to people to understand how and why they think differently to us and continue to include and love them? What if we saw our diversity as God’s signature of love on humanity?
I think it’s fair to say that we have never seen anything like the challenges that have been presented to the Church, our Nation and even the World in the last couple of years. This is new territory for everyone, and we’re all endeavouring to work through this “season” in the very best way possible.
As New Zealand continues in the ‘Traffic Light’ framework many organisations, businesses and individuals are having to make decisions they have never made before. Over many months, with much research, discussion with you, and much prayer, our leadership team have assessed the options available to us.
In deciding on the best ‘Way Forward’ for our church, we choose to keep who God is and how He loves and includes everyone at our core. We keep our unique mission and values front and centre. We value inclusive community and our complex will continue to be open to everyone. Jesus broke down every dividing wall & we don’t want to put any division back up. Also, as much as possible, and in line with scripture, we want to comply with Government directives. Therefore, our current plan to work through the next part of this season is this:
1. We will NOT use vaccination passports, but will continue to follow government guidelines and meet in groups of no more than 25 while we remain at red.
2. EPIC and 360 environments will meet in person. See the ads in the e-update for more info.
3. A mini Papsda @ Your Place will be created each week.
4. If you are 18+ we want to encourage you to create & meet in groups of 25 or less. You can book a space at Papsda, you can meet outside or in homes, but ideally you will meet on Sabbath some time as we continue to uphold our value of Holistic Living. Papsda @ Your Place will introduce a topic and provide discussion questions each week so, as a faith community, we can continue to journey together. There will be groups available to join at Papsda and we will advise the times and leaders of those groups through our e-update. Once they reach 25 people they will be full. If you need help starting or finding a group please contact any of our staff team who are happy to help you.
5. Together, we’ll trial this for 6 weeks, and we’d love to get your continued input, to hear what is working well and what perhaps needs tweaking before continuing to move forward.
I really believe that as we continue to be an inclusive community, as we continue to love and embrace people for who they are and how they are uniquely different to us, God will be seen in a really tangible way and that will transform our families, our workplaces, our schools, our churches and our communities. Thank you for continuing to walk this journey with God and others and for keeping that at the heart of all we do and let’s continue to embrace diversity in 2022.