Singing the Lord’s song in a strange land

President Dr Deidre Palmer delivered this reflection for Closing Worship at the Pacific Conference of Churches in Auckland.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

There has been much singing over this time together
One of the warmest memories I will carry with me from this conference is the singing
Singing in the bus on the way home last night
Singing praises to God in our opening worship
Songs of lament -by the rivers of Babylon there we sat down and there we wept.
Singing in harmony- as a symbol of the Ecumenical movement - Christian community woven together by God’s Spirit - different voices, different languages, raised in praise and hope

The theme has raised up theological themes about the Lord, whose song we are called to sing:

We have spoken of God’s faithfulness.
We have remembered the liberating and redemptive work of God in our lives, the liberation and redemption that have brought us here.

We echo with the people of Israel the God who is our liberator:
“We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt and God delivered us with a mighty hand!”

In the first Bible Study, we heard of a migrant God who crosses boundaries with us and dwells with the least of us.

We have brought to remembrance our God who endures hardship with us.

I recall the Moderator’s address - calling for a spirituality of vulnerability - vulnerable to God, who became vulnerable in the person of Jesus.

And we have heard in the reports and proposals that have been brought, God’s call to us to embody God’s vision and desires for God’s world.

We have responded by supporting calls to protect our children and nurture families and communities in which our children are safe, deeply loved and are able to live the abundant life God desires for them.

We have responded to God’s call by committing ourselves to eliminate violence, particularly against women and children. We have committed to creating communities of women and men that are marked by equality, respect, mutuality and love, where we all can flourish.

We have responded to God’s call to be advocates for justice in supporting self-determination for our sisters and brothers in West Papua, Maohi Nui, and Kanaky.

We have heard stories of modern slavery and promised to sing God’s song of protest against all those situations where people are exploited and dehumanised.

We have heard the cries of the earth and the ocean, as we grieve the degradation of the environment and we commit to participating in God’s healing and renewal of the earth.

In her address to our gathering, the Queen spoke of a theology of hope and resilience.

What is the hope that you carry as we are sent out from this place?

What are the memories of this gathering that will strengthen your song of hope?

Our song of hope is strengthened
As we remember the intergenerational Christian community that we have experienced here and remember the recommendations from the youth delegates: “we call on our leaders to affirm the voice of our young people at all levels of decision making”.

Our song of hope is strengthened as we remember the women’s pre-Assembly gathering and the resolutions the Assembly passed calling us to address gender-based violence, climate change, child protection and equal access of women in theological education. And I will remember the conversations with the most amazing women, who are leaders in our churches and have worked to ensure that women’s voices are heard, as they sing with Mary and other faithful disciples of Christ of God’s Liberating and reconciling love
What will you recall that will bring hope and give you the courage to continue to sing the Lord’s song?

And along with our remembering, we look to the horizon of hope before us that includes God’s call for us to be the Body of Christ, unified in love and faith, trusting that God will lead and guide the Ecumenical adventure that is the Pacific Conference of Churches.

Our very existence as an ecumenical body is a sign of hope for us within the global Communion of Churches and a witness to God’s reconciling hope in the world.

Alongside our Moderator, Deputy Moderator and General Secretary, God commissions us today to be the people of God in the Pacific and faithfully sing God’s song of liberation and transformation in our world.

As we are sent out, sisters and brothers in Christ: let us pray:

May God our Creator renew in us the creative Spirit that brings healing and life to our world.
May Jesus the Christ, uphold us in grace and love
May the Holy Spirit fill us with the courage to be bearers of God’s song of hope in the world, Amen.