Friday, March 18, 2011

National Christchurch Memorial Service

Hagley Park, Friday 18 March 2011.

Highlights for me were:

The arrival of the USAR teams.  Each group that arrived was greeted to a heartfelt standing ovation.  These are the people that put their own lives at risk to pull people from the rubble.  They got the heroes’ welcome, and it was well earned.  The service seemed to be as much a tribute to the emergency workers and volunteers, to the community spirit of the people of Christchurch and Canterbury than it was remembering those who perished.

The two minutes silence.  It was eerie standing in such a huge crowd and it was completely quiet.

Mayor Bob Parker’s speech:  I think one of the reason’s Bob Parker has been so popular over the last six months is his ability to articulate so well what we’re all thinking and feeling.  In this case what spoke to me was where he said that we find meaning in what has happened by finding inspiration for moving forward and rebuilding.

Prince William’s speech:

The quote for the week; “Grief is the price we pay for love.”  Also the tribute he paid to the Canterbury spirit:

Courage and understated determination have always been the hallmark of New Zealanders, of Cantabrians. These things, the world has long known.

But to see them, so starkly demonstrated, over these terrible painful months, has been humbling.

Put simply; you are an inspiration to all people.

I count myself enormously privileged to be here to tell you that.

We just think we’re coping like anyone would cope.  We’re not doing anything special.  But if we can inspire others to step up and become more, then we’ve made a good contribution to this world.

Prayers: Among the prayers of the faiths, the following stood out for me:

Lord, at times such as this,
When we realize that the ground beneath our feet
is not as solid as we had imagined,
We plead for your mercy.

As the things we have built crumble about us,
We know too well how small we truly are
On this ever-changing, ever-moving,
Fragile planet we call home.
Yet you have promised never to forget us.

Do not forget us now.

Comfort us, Lord, in this disaster.
Be our rock when the earth refuses to stand still,
And shelter us under your wings when homes no longer

Pierce, too, hearts with compassion,
Who watch from alongside,
Move us to act swiftly this day,
Too give generously every day,
To work for justice always,
And to pray unceasingly for those without hope.

And once the shaking has ceased,
The images of destruction have stopped filling the news,
And out thoughts return to life’s daily rumblings,
Let us not forget that we are all your children
and they, our brothers and sisters.
We are all the work of your hands.

For though the mountains leave their place
And the hills be tossed to the ground,
Your love shall never leave us,
and the promise of peace will never be shaken.

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth,
Blessed be the name of the Lord,
Now and forever. Amen

(Author unknown, originally written for the Haiti earthquake).

Amazing Grace:  What can I add to this.  Wow.

Our National Anthem: I think New Zealand has one of the best national anthems in the world – it’s a prayer.  Look at the words of what we’re praying. 

The “Crusaders anthem” video montage at the end.  Another standing ovation to the rescue workers, and also the ordinary volunteers who have helped in many different ways these last few weeks.

Dave Dobbyn: Welcome Home and Loyal.  This guy’s songs really strike a chord in these times. 

Overall, I felt this service, as well as acknowledging the lives that have been lost, also paid tribute to the rescue workers, volunteers, and also ordinary Cantabrians who just helped their neighbours is whatever way they could.  This generation is going to be a very special generation, especially the students and youth that served above and beyond what they thought they had in them.

I felt that we are a community, not just a city full of individuals, and it’s shared experiences like this that link us together into that community spirit.  I’m glad I made the effort to take the family to this event.  I think watching it at home on TV, you’re watching it as an individual. Being there, I was part of it.  I was standing with the crowd, weeping with the crowd.  I was connected to the community that we were paying tribute to.  It is together as a community that we will come through this, and rebuild a new and better Christchurch. 

Kia Kaha.


  1. (I guess Blogspot just ate my comment. Take #2)

    You don't know me. I wanted to write and say thank you for posting this. I'm an American who lived in Christchurch a few years ago and has visited NZ several times. I consider it a second home to me.

    It is so good to hear about the memorial service. I couldn't watch it online sadly. Late last year I planned a trip to visit NZ again and I'll be arriving later next week. I was gutted to hear I'd be barely missing being at the service.

    You're so write about the community. That's part of why I wanted to be there, to join in on that. That's why, oddly, it's been hard to not have been still living in Riccarton in September and again in February (I had to write about it myself too ). I'm an outsider there by being American, but being together with people in events like these will always weave the community together, and stronger.

    It's been incredible to read about how people have stood up to support one another. A special generation indeed.

    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts (and the links) of the service. I am so glad that I'll be down there again in the coming weeks.


  2. Thanks for your encouraging feedback Philip. It's always nice to know someone's actually reading this!

    It may not seem like much, but your emotional support and prayers do help. Just being a listening ear to someone who needs to de-brief can make a huge difference.

    I hope you have a safe and successful trip.