We thank Torranice and every member of this amazing youth group for providing a space in which the community could gather, mourn and think about how to move forward.
Below is what I had planned to say. As I started to speak the rain came down and I needed to cut back on my thoughts. If I’m completely honest, I also felt overwhelmed so wasn’t as coherent as I wanted to be. Overwhelmed by the love in our community, by the tragic event that drew us together and the task that lies before us.
Kia ora, for those of you that don’t know me I’m Rev Emily, part of a faith community here in Mangere called Church in Progress.
I grew up here too, I still live here. I can tell you that this situation we face here tonight is not new.
In fact, it is thousands of years old. We are coming up to Christmas and I’m sure most of us here will know the Christmas story. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was an unmarried mother. Fortunately for her Joseph chose to stand by her.
But what would her options be without his support? Her faith community would have shunned her. Society would have pushed her out. Where would she live?
Mary would have been faced with very limited options. Mary would not have had access to the resources so would have needed to provide for her and a baby. The judgement upon her would have been too overwhelming to even consider living as a solo parent.
She too could have chosen the same path that leads us to gather here today.
We come here today to mourn but we also come here to ask ourselves if we could have done better. I think we can do better. We must do better.
We need to ask ourselves what part we play in this tragedy.
Are we ready to consider why this happened in our community?
We are all looking for answers. Which is frustrating as we don’t have them.
However, I would like us all to prayerfully consider the links between this tragedy and over-crowded housing. For a family in sever poverty, living in a car … is a new pregnancy a cause for celebration or one which brings a cloud of doom?
It’s good that we have come here tonight, it’s good that we light candles, but can we do this without also actively fighting against poverty?
Will we also ensure that we vote in the next election? Will we take responsibility and vote for people and policies that put money towards mental health, education, sexual health services. Or will we choose to not vote at all … or vote for people we think only have our best interests at heart?
We can go from here making a commitment to engage with our neighbours. We don’t need to pretend we don’t see their need as we hear them arguing, or struggling to get by. We can choose to get involved. We don’t need to think it’s too hard.
This, what we are doing here tonight – THIS is too hard.
Can we ask ourselves why this family didn’t go to a local church for help?
Why our churches sometimes make it shameful to talk about sex and how to prevent getting pregnant.
Why it’s easier not to talk about.
Why we find it too difficult to talk to our children about sex? So we don’t.
We need to take away the taboo of talking about sex, poverty and how we prioritize spending our time and money. Both out of the government purse and our own.
I stand here for all the Mary’s and I’m trying to make it my problem too. Will you?
Thank you to the youth who have lead the way in gathering us together today. Thank you for seeing a need and taking action. We can learn so much from you.
Because of you – there is hope. By this simple action tonight we know that it is possible to work together to make positive change.
Before we finish tonight let’s have a moment of silence to send love to this baby. We send love to the mother, the father and the extended family. To their friends, who might be here tonight, who know what has happened, but don’t know what to do.
Let’s all think how we can pray, act and live differently.
Final blessing adapted from a prayer written by the Christian Mother’s Union
“Faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is charity.” Loving God, bless those who see the plight of parents, and who are meeting those needs. For those who are exhausted, give them renewed strength; For those who feel overwhelmed, give them courage; For those who feel fearful, we prayer for peace and compassion. Amen