From Women's Studies News Letter
Back in college a month after the February quake, I still find it hard to comprehend what it is that has happened to my home in Christchurch. I, like many, was initially traumatised by the news of the earthquake. We waited desperately for news from home, the extent of the devastation still unfolding in the city.
Under the weight of constant aftershocks, anxiety and sleep deprivation, it became increasingly apparent that coping mechanisms in Christchurch were crumbling. The opportunity to be a part of the St Johns College relief team to the Maori Mission in Christchurch was an absolute gift. Before moving to college, I had volunteered in social service agencies for over twenty years and knew the city well. However, the
experience of ministering to community within the midst of an emergency, which in effect was still unfolding, challenged me anew to examine how I both experienced and reflected Christ in a disaster.
Although I had experienced the rolling aftershocks, and seen the impact on the city after the initial quake, nothing could prepare me for the shock of standing in front of
my home church. There I was, holding in the palm of my hand, a piece of what was left of the building, the place where I had prayed I would one day be ordained.
In that moment of contemplation, standing on my sacred ground, my solid ground, the words of theologian Jon Sobrino flooded into my being:
“There is a lot to do when an earthquake strikes, but the first thing- without which nothing else we do is enough- is to let ourselves be affected by the tragedy, not to turn away or soften it. This is not a way of promoting masochism, or demanding what is psychologically impossible. It simply requires an initial moment of honesty toward the reality.”
Surrendering that moment towards the honesty of what was occurring allowed me to be fully present in my ministry.
During my time in Christchurch, the full blessing of my experience of Clinical Pastoral Education became increasingly apparent. If for no other reason than the removal of my initial hesitation at being alongside people in trauma, I was exceedingly grateful for those days ministering in Middlemore’s Psychiatric Unit. Yes, the physical building of my church had been reduced to rubble, but that little piece of it, which only
I knew was resting in my pocket, became a touchstone as I worked for the
next few days; my solid ground when meeting with those for whom there was little certainty. A gentle reminder perhaps, that though a building is a building, solid ground is not necessarily that on which I stand, but on that which is my sure footing in the realm of God. This love, that in those tired moments (when it would be easy to join those around me whom. had fallen into quiet chaos and fear) is the love on which I firmly stand. That grounding faith, in those moments, holding me as I hold those fearful and uncertain, as we stand together on the solid ground of God’s enduring love.
On the last night of our time in Christchurch I find myself once more standing in the grounds of my church with my father and my brother. In the last light of day is revealed the great church window, shining untouched through the rubble.
Such emotion bubbles up
on attempting to understand this trip
a liquefaction of competing thoughts - emotions
- pure and tainted.
Questions that few have the breath to answer
ambush the weary
demanding some logical pattern
amidst that which resists form.
How can one in such a place not ask what it is the land demands
when she rolls over in desperation
shaking loose the shackles of archaic churches
waking long dead church fathers.
To one born of old eyes
such questions find a safe harbour behind my teeth
until the only sound that feels safe leaving my mouth
- a lament, is cried into the ground.
“Where is your sacred ground?
Where is your place to stand?”
In the end all that can be done is to dig a hole
and give these questions up to the earth.
It is in the reflected in the at the end of a long day
arms of God where solace is to be found in this place,
through a pile of church rubble
a window unharmed displaying the colours of Gods enduring love
 Jon Sobrino, Where is God? Earthquake, Terrorism, Barbarity, and Hope (New York: Orbis Books, 2004), 7.