by JEFF DILLON
The issue of social distancing actually resulted in two denominations coming closer together briefly – with St Joseph’s Cathedral parish in Dunedin agreeing to a request from the nearby Anglican St Paul’s Cathedral parish recently.
An early morning fire in the roof of St Paul’s Cathedral could not have come at a worse time, being within a week of a planned confirmation service and other formal appointment ceremonies. The cathedral was rendered unusable, with water damage and electrical wiring needing replacement.
Offers for the St Paul’s congregation to join either Anglican Sunday services at All Saints’ Dunedin North or St Matthew’s had to be declined on the basis of numbers. It was expected that the confirmation and other intended services would attract the maximum allowed gathering of 100 people. Adding to the complications was the directive for social distancing under Covid-19 alert level 2, which then meant neither of the two inner–city Anglican churches were able to be used.
The physical distance between St Paul’s Cathedral and St Joseph’s Cathedral is not that great in Dunedin, so the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Rev. Dr Tony Curtis, approached Bishop Michael Dooley with the request to use St Joseph’s Cathedral. Bishop Dooley was sympathetic in the circumstances. He commented, ” I had heard of the unfortunate fire in the roof of St Paul’s and, when I was asked about the approach from the Dean to use St Joseph’s Cathedral on that Sunday afternoon, I was very supportive. It was a practical way we could help our Anglican brothers and sisters. I discussed it with Msgr John Harrison, and he was very happy for the St Joseph’s parish community to host the St Paul’s congregation for their confirmation service”.
So worshippers and a choir from St Paul’s came to St Joseph’s Cathedral on the Sunday afternoon to celebrate a Eucharist service on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and witness the confirmation of a young girl as well as the licensing of a new canon and of a priest for St Paul’s.
The confirmation ceremony was celebrated by the Anglican Bishop of Dunedin, Rt Rev. Dr Steven Benford, and the young girl was Ziva Curtis, the Dean’s daughter. It so happens that Ziva attends a Catholic school – Sacred Heart School in North East Valley. As Dunedin Anglicans do not have their own primary school system, it is not unusual for Anglican parents to enrol their children at Catholic primary schools to get the benefit of a religious–based programme.
Ziva took part in her classmates’ confirmation preparation at Sacred Heart School, and she and her mother attended and observed the confirmation ceremony celebrated by Bishop Dooley on the Wednesday night before her confirmation. Her confirmation was planned to happen as close as possible to when her Catholic classmates were confirmed.
There are other examples of mutual respect and collaboration within the religious communities in Dunedin. Bishop Dooley commented on this aspect by saying, “There is a good ecumenical relationship in the city, where we respect our different religious traditions, but try wherever possible to work together and support one another. I meet regularly with the Anglican Bishop Steven Benford, and I appreciate the opportunity for us to share about our ministry and to pray together about it”.
Another example happened earlier this year when Bishop Dooley and Msgr Harrison, as well as clergy from other denominations, were present at the service during which Dr Curtis was installed in his position at St Paul’s. In addition, there is a tradition whereby Churches around Dunedin city take turns in hosting the celebration of Pentecost.
With temporary repairs undertaken in the meantime at St Paul’s, services will resume there. Both Bishop Benford and the Dean have expressed publicly their grateful appreciation for St Joseph’s coming to their aid in their time of need.