Today the occupiers in the Octagon cleared their tents away and stored them in the Cathedral for a few hours so the official White Ribbon Day could be celebrated in the Octagon unimpeded. I thought that was a splendid example of goodwill from two groups who are both working for a better society for us all to live in and it puts some of the negativity generated by a few letter-writers in the ODT in a more generous and (I think) a more accurate context.
Last Sunday night the White Ribbon Riders (otherwise known as 'The Patriots') arrived in Dunedin on their ride through the South Island to promote the White Ribbon message of men saying no to violence against women. They were met in the Octagon, greeted by the Mayor, and then came over to the cathedral for the bikes and riders to be blessed and to share in a service where they told their stories and we listened to Lesley Elliot with her story. The Cathedral is the spiritual home for the Elliot family and it was wonderful to have Lesley share her story in this place which holds such poignant memories for her.
It was an extraordinary service in every sense: we had a wonderful kapa haka group from the students at Kings and Queens in South Dunedin; a small group of talented and courageous young people from the Samoan Assembly of God Youth Group from Lookout Point sang us a song composed for the White Ribbon - 'These Two Hands'; while, running through the service, the Cathedral Choir provided, as it always does, the most beautiful music.
I can now admit that I had been a bit anxious about how these various cultural and musical threads might hold together in such a formal setting as our Cathedral - but somehow, by the grace of God - they did. At the end, as votive candles were lit and the choir sang Samuel Wesley's superb 'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace', I had a new sense of what a cathedral can hold together in its service to the city and what a privileged ministry this is - in every sense: one is privileged to work with wonderful people and colleagues, and with outstanding community groups. This is a city where people do care and there is a real sense of community.