All posts by David Newton

John Stott’s Secret

by Chris Green

A few years back, I was invited to speak at a conference. It wasn’t huge, but it was one I’d heard of, and I was enormously flattered to be asked. It was also extremely well organised, so I had over a year to get ready for my talks (the organiser liked to announce the programme for the forthcoming conference as the previous one closed).

I gave my talk, it went OK, and I settled back to enjoy the rest of the speakers. The next morning I was making conversation, and someone asked me, ’Chris, how do you find time for all that reading?’

I was about to burble something about it not being difficult to read a bit and prepare when you have over a year’s notice, when a familiar, precise, and booming voice spoke over the breakfast table:

“He doesn’t find time. He makes it.”

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John Stott. Typically arresting – and typically true… Continue reading John Stott’s Secret

Waiorongomai 2016

Our Waiorongomai Retreat is coming up fast – now only three weekends away. If you haven’t registered please do so right away as we confirm numbers this coming Monday.

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Come and spend time with your fellow Covenanters at this beautiful location. We are also inviting other SMK-ers who are interested in becoming part of the renewing core of our church.

The key details are:

DATE:  Evening of Friday 5 August to mid-afternoon on Sunday 7 August
LOCATION: Waiorongomai Station, RD3, Western Lake Road, Featherston
COST: TBC but will be similar to previous Waiorongomai retreats. Subsidies available.

Past years have been lovely times of refreshment, teaching, challenge and time together. This year promises the same. See you there.

Yours in Christ
Erin & James King

God’s Earth – Our Home – Study Series

What’s Pope Francis saying?
The big themes and study series structure

Here is a really quick overview of the content of Pope Frances’ encyclical Praise Be to You! showing what we’ll cover each week in our study series. You might also want to check out my sermon notes on this site in which I give a slightly longer ‘first take’ on the encyclical.

Also included below are the bible studies and suggested video which act as a commentary on the chapter we are reading together that week.

Cheers, Matt Bartlett

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Download God’s Earth – Our Home series structure as a PDF or a PPTX file if that works better for you. Working from above, we tackle +Francis’ encyclical over five sessions like this… Continue reading God’s Earth – Our Home – Study Series

God’s Earth – Our Home

This sermon was given by Matthew Bartlett, October 2015, as a kind of late St. Frances Day sermon (it had been the week before). It’s a great summary of his first read through Pope Frances’ encyclical on care for our world – Laudato Si’.

Matthew took a clutch of texts as background to his comments: Psalm 24; Genesis 1:26–30; 2:15–17; 3:17–19; Romans 8:18–25; Matthew 6:25–27. Numbers in brackets (x) refer to marked paragraphs in the encyclical. Links to other sites are in red.

Watch this space for more as our lenten study
God’s Earth – Our Home progresses over the next five weeks…


Recently Michael Brantley spoke about St Francis’ impact on the world, and on his own life. In this address we will look at another person whose life has been shaped by that 13th century saint. Jorge Mario Bergoglio – Pope Francis as he is now called. In particular I want to give a brief ‘first response’ to my reading of his recent encyclical Laudato Si.

What’s an encyclical?

An encyclical is a circular letter. Popes have been writing them for about the last three centuries. Usually papal encyclicals are addressed to the bishops of some particular area, or of the whole world. In this case, Pope Francis writes, ‘Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet… From the outset he declares, ‘In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.’ (3)

Columnist Lindsay Abrams see’s the Popes encyclical as a “green Manifesto”, cataloguing a litany of woes. Though not pulling his punches, especially in the opening two chapters, Pope Frances himself, I think, would see it as much more than that. He writes…

‘The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. (13)

Why is it called Laudato Si’?

Laudato Si’ is medieval Italian. It’s a line from St Francis’s famous poem ‘Canticle of the Sun’, and means ‘Praise be to you’, or ‘Be Praised’, as in ‘Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day’. So the title is signalling that key to this letter is going to be Saint Francis, and about God.

What does it say?

Lots — it’s about 180 small pages. Continue reading God’s Earth – Our Home

Our (human) family and other animals

This post was first a sermon by Gillian Cameron on October 2013, to mark St. Francis Day and to promote the ‘caring for creation’ section of our parish library. The charm and simplicity of Gillian’s delivery only serve to point up the profundity of the issues she notes from Prof. Richard Bauckham’s great little book – Living with Other Creatures.

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A few weeks ago I was telling the Vicar about a book I’d just read – Living with other creatures by English biblical scholar Richard Bauckham – and regaled him with the story of Irish Saint Colman and his friend the fly. The upshot was David asked me to give today’s sermon on the feast of St Francis. Next time I’ll know to keep my mouth shut! But here goes!

Living with other creatures is essentially about how we – human creatures – relate to the rest of God’s creation.[1] Bauckham identifies two streams of Christian thought about the place of humans in the world: the first of these he calls the dominant tradition; the second he calls the alternative tradition.

Continue reading Our (human) family and other animals

Keeping the fast

‘Keep the sacrifices that are appointed,
and commit your way to the Lord.’

So said the Psalmist and it’s still Godly advice.


Dearest Covenanters. As most of you will know from service announcements, this lent we are going deep into Pope Francis’ encyclical in our study series God’s Earth, Our Home. The series starts next Wednesday 17th – more on that soon.

Meantime, why not do something related to our theme? Commit to a genuine lenten fast as the ancients did – either a no meat or restricted meat diet. To see why follow this link

Start your lenten fast this Wednesday by coming to our Ash Wednesday service to make your vow.

I for one will find this a challenge. The first couple of weeks are always the hardest but together we can do it.

Warm regards in Christ

Not another cause – but joyful repentance

A gift from God and the common home of humanity, the earth is threatened by our rebellion against God. In his encyclical Laudato Si’ (Praise be to You), Pope Francis challenges both Christians to praise and thank God for his glorious creation and all people  to work together with God to safeguard her.

We’ll be using Laudato Si’ as the basis of this year’s Lenten study series God’s earth – Our Home. Francis’ encyclical will set the agenda for much of our teaching next year. It’s a rich document and I’m receiving a great blessing from reading it – slowly. Though we’ll be handing out extracts for the study series, I urge you to get hold of a copy (only $21 from Book Depository) and read it joyfully as prep for our penitential season. 

 The summary below is adapted from Amazon. Given that  Francis’ concern is with ‘conversion’ and discipleship, I recommend also reading Matt Bartlett’s sermon God’s Earth – Our Home (to be posted soon) for a more insightful summary of Laudato Si’ themes and some helpful reflections on where too from here.

Grace to you, Newt


Popes Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and Paul VI addressed key themes regarding stewardship of God’s creation, but Francis is the first to devote an entire encyclical to the subject. The encyclical takes its name from Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures, which depicts cre­ation as “a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”. Pope Francis declares, “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

Francis calls for an “integral ecology” based on what Pope Saint John Paul II called an “ecological conversion”—a moral transformation linking the proper response to God for the gift of his creation to concern for justice, especially for the poor. He challenges people to understand ecology in terms of the right ordering of the fundamental relationships of the human person: with God, oneself, other people, and the rest of creation.

Francis examines such ecological concerns as pollution, waste, and what he calls “the throwaway culture”. Climate, he insists, is a common good to be protected. He explores notions such as sustainability from a Judeo-Christian perspective. The loss of biodiversity and the unequal distribution of resources, largely caused by the consumerism and excessive individualism of the wealthier nations, threaten the good order of creation, he writes. While valuing technology, he rejects efforts to repudiate the natural order, including the moral law inscribed in human nature. He cautions against an over-reliance on science to solve ecological problems and emphasizes the need for openness to God and awe for God’s creation.

Expounding the biblical tradition regarding creation and redemption in Christ, Francis stresses man’s subordination to God’s purposes for his creation – including humanity. He insists on the primacy of the human person in creation and rejects treating it as if it were “divine”, yet he traces the roots of the ecological crisis to man’s self-contentedness and the rise of practical relativism. While emphasising the need for political changes and the restructuring of the political economy, he implores people to change their hearts and their ways of life.

Waiorongomai retreat 2015

Hi there Covenanters. Just a reminder that our away retreat is this coming July 10th – 12th 

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Last year’s retreat at Waiorongomai Station was such a good time Emily and I thought why not stick with a good thing and do it again!

This year’s two topics are: Recovering the Centrality of the Cross and Recovering the simplicity of the Gospel. We’ve got the catering covered (well almost) and there’s a movie booked for Friday night (secret). Just thinking presently about a children’s programme and with a bit of luck we may have the new S. Mic’s Song Book finished in time to try out – along with a couple of new songs freshly composed by Hayden.

All we need now is you. So if you haven’t replied to Emily’s email of a few weeks back asking for confirmation that you’re coming, then please do so right away. We need to have the booking finalised by the end of the month – this  year the Waiorongomai people won’t take late bookings so you need to act soon.

Remember, you can invite people who aren’t Covenanters but whom you think would benefit from the time. There are also subsidies for students and unwaged – TBC once we get numbers sorted. Don’t let finance be an obstacle if you think the Lord is calling you to come.

Meantime watch the Covenanters fb page over the next few days for details.

Warm regards in Christ