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Maori prayer for quake dead; Mrs Cundy’s escape

03 March 2011

by Ed Beavan and Muriel Porter

PRAYERS were said on Monday for the 22 tourists believed to have been killed in Christchurch Cathedral, New Zealand, by the earthquake last week. The city is still coming to terms with the disaster.

Jo Cundy, widow of Ian, the late Bishop of Peterborough, was in the Cathedral during the earthquake, but escaped harm. She was on a visit to a friend of his, the Bishop of Christ­church, the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews.

Mrs Cundy told the Northern Echo that she had just lit a candle in mem­ory of her husband when the earth­quake happened, but she and her cousin “somehow . . . were able to get through clouds of dust from the collapsing spire. We were shaken, but we were safe.”

After they got out, they walked to her cousin’s house, and saw “so much awful destruction”. Mrs Cundy is continuing her holiday in Dunedin, in the south.

A British couple, Richard and Janet Newton, from Sidmouth, in Devon, escaped from the cathedral cafeteria when the tremor struck.

On Monday, in a short ceremony beside Christchurch Cathedral, the Bishop in Te Waipounamu, the Rt Revd John Gray, led karakia, Maori incantations and prayers, for those who died there. He spoke of “dragging the canoe of grief and love” to the cathedral. Fronds of greenery were used to sprinkle holy water. Also present were the Archbishop, the Most Revd David Moxon; the Dean, the Very Revd Peter Beck; and Bishop Matthews, who led prayers for the rescue workers.

The Dean and the Mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker, have made a commitment to the rebuilding of the Cathedral.

On Tuesday, exactly a week after the earthquake, two minutes’ silence was held across the country, and church bells were tolled. The number of people killed now stands at 160; but the number still missing could bring it to 240.

The dome of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament has been badly damaged, and will have to be removed, as it poses a threat to the rest of the building.

A statement from Bishop Mat­thews, Bishop Gray, and Archbishop Moxon was read in churches on Sunday. It confirmed that many places of worship had been destroyed, but that the “people of God are re­sponding with courage and resolve to the present state of emergency caused by the recent earthquake and aftershocks”.

They praised the sense of “com­munity care and outreach” evident in the city, and concluded: “While we have been reminded in no uncertain terms that we are not in control, we hold fast to our faith in the Sovereign God and pray for the strength and grace to minister to Christ’s presence.”

Of the Anglican churches in Christchurch, St Luke’s in the City, St John’s, Latimer Square, and Holy Trinity, Avonside, have all suffered “devastating damage”, Bishop Matthews says.

The Revd James de Costobadie, Priest-in-charge of St Saviour’s, Sydenham, a church just south of Christchurch city centre which was also damaged, said that the “enormity of the situation is now beginning to sink in”. A former curate of Christ Church, Mayfair, in London, he moved to New Zealand in 2005.

He said that one member of his congregation was feared dead: Julie Wong had not been heard of since the earthquake. Her husband and six-year-old son survived. Seven families have lost their homes.

Mr de Costobadie said that the central business district would be inaccessible for at least six weeks, and the problem of mud on the streets was widespread. Many people were traumatised, and daily aftershocks caused more “stress and sleeplessness”. Many people had left the city for a break, and his congregation would meet in a park for the next three weeks.

On Sunday, they had their first service in the park, which, he said, was a “little surreal, meeting in peaceful and beautiful surroundings in bright sunshine after the devastation of last week. But it was a precious time of close fellowship and many tears, as we saw each other again, prayed, sang, and shared the Lord’s supper and lunch.”

He thanked people around the world for their prayers and offers of support, and asked for prayer for evangelistic opportunities, and for Christians to be strengthened.

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