“Be calm, be sensible, be compassionate, be a good neighbour,” Bishop Victoria Matthews asks Christchurch Anglicans. File Photo: Marites N. Sison
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, one of the top priorities of the Anglican diocese is to find churches with solid structures and running water that can be set up as relief and pastoral centres, said its bishop, Victoria Matthews.
“I want to open up 24/7 a place where people can come and pray and receive pastoral care. And a place which clergy can use as a base to go out into the highways and byways to offer pastoral care,” the Anglican Taonga reported Bishop Matthews as having said. (Anglican Taonga is a publication of the Anglican Commission on Communications of the Anglican Church in Aoteaora, New Zealand and Polynesia.)
Bishop Matthews has called on Christchurch Anglicans to find ways of helping anyone in need. In a message posted on the diocese of Christchurch’s website, she said, “I join you in giving thanks for the extraordinary work done by emergency workers. This even more devastating earthquake calls us to reach out into the community and make sure no one is overlooked. In short, be calm, be sensible, be compassionate, be a good neighbour. Pray for confidence that God will see us through.”
Bishop Matthews said the Feb. 22 earthquake was more devastating than the previous one that struck outside Christchurch Sept. 3.
The death toll from this recent quake has risen to 75 and there are fears that more people are trapped in the rubble of buildings that have collapsed. Damage to buildings and property was more significant, and the emotional toll on people, worse, said Bishop Matthews.
“I saw lots of people who looked absolutely terrified and many, many people who were just enormously anxious to make sure their children were safe,” Bishop Matthews said in an interview with Radio New Zealand. “…(There was) just an enormous outpouring of anxiety, ‘Are my loved ones safe?,’ which is totally understandable.”
Other churches, apart from Christchurch Cathedral, which was partially destroyed, were also “significantly damaged,” said Bishop Matthews.
St. John’s Anglican Church in Latimer Square, already severely damaged from the previous earthquake, saw one of its walls cave in. Oxford St. Baptist Church “is now down,” said Bishop Matthews.
Asked whether she had been surprised at how devastating the earthquake was, Bishop Matthews said, “I’m no expert, but I’ve been saying, particularly about the Cathedral, ‘what do we know about accumulated weakening?” She said that “much more came down” after the September 3 tremor. “Obviously, something’s been going on every time it’s been shaken to the core.”
Seismic experts have said that the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch at 12:51 local time was part of a continuing “after-shock sequence” of the September temblor.
Bishop Matthews has called daily meetings of key diocesan staff to map out the diocese’s relief and pastoral efforts.
Bishop Matthews was in a public building when the earthquake struck. “We went under the table very quickly. There was a lot of flying glass,” she told Radio New Zealand. “When we got out, we realized that the building across the street, part of Christchurch Club, had completely come down. My first thought was for my staff.” All 14 diocesan staff at the Anglican Centre managed to get out safely.
Bishop Matthews said her home, which already suffered an estimated damage of $200,000 from the previous earthquake, is now “five to ten times more damaged.” She added: “I have seen it and I don’t think I’ll be sleeping there tonight.”
Meanwhile, the bishop of the Canadian Anglican diocese of Edmonton, Jane Alexander, said she was relieved when she received an e-mail from Bishop Matthews assuring her that she had survived the devastating quake.
Bishop Matthews was former bishop of the diocese of Edmonton.
“We are obviously incredibly relieved to hear from her. It was worrying,” The Edmonton Sun quoted Bishop Alexander as having said. “We had emails from people all day long wanting to know how she is and what they can do to help.”