8th National CW Hui

Although arriving in in dribs and drabs, there was nothing dribby or drabby about the 8th national CW hui held at the Otaki CW farm in late March. Up to 60 people gathered, including many children, for three days of discussions, planning, prayer and celebration. Shelley and Adi Leason and their family were the primary hosts for the hui, regarded by many as one of the best for a long time. Among the participants were Mike Lloyd and six others from The Gathering, Papatoetoe, who put the hangi down and produced a stunning feed for guests at the Briggs Well blessing.

The hui commenced with a lengthy discussion about where we were at and what the future held. The energy of the young people present quickly recharged the batteries of the older folk and led to a development of great hope for the future. Each person gave an input as to how they saw themselves in terms of future goals and commitment, before, in a very fruitful exercise, we reviewed our goals as CWs. Later we joined a further 200 people gathered to bless the Mark Briggs Well on the Leason property. (Cf box below)

A session on militarism followed led by Edwina Hughes from Peace Movement Aotearoa at which we looked at the role New Zealand was playing in response to the war/violence erupted around the world. The non-violence of Jesus and CW pacifist stance formed the basis of our focus. New Zealand’s peacekeeping function, which had been enacted in East Timor and the Solomon Islands where no blood was shed as a result of our involvement, was highlighted as a role that could be developed to enable international commitments to be met. The combat role, which we have left ourselves open to as a result of our coat-tailing the US into Iraq, was condemned as counter-productive. We called for New Zealand troops to stay at home.

On the Saturday, after people had recovered from the Friday night dancing, Fr Peter Healy led us in a short retreat as we allowed the Spirit to seep into our hearts and speak in the silence. This was followed by a workshop on Earth Community Needs, an ecological view of where our planet needs to head if it is to survive. ‘God has given us the privilege of guardianship (kaitiaki) of the earth’, said Sarah. Another good workshop followed on hospitality, in which the joys, struggles and kaupapa of CW hospitality houses was shared. Francis Simmonds, who has been living at Suzanne Aubert CW for many years, led this korero. Smaller workshops followed: on writing led by Kathleen Gallagher, health care by Orewa Hinga, and the spiritual meaning of Tolkien’s works led by Finn Leason.

An outdoors largely bare-footed celebrationary Eucharist, adjacent to the Mark Brigg’s Well, concluded the formal part of the hui. More than 60 adults and many children joined to thank God for the delight of being present and having the Spirit direct our lives through the CW spirituality. Readings from Dorothy Day and Fr Thomas Berry, the great cosmologist/ecologist, complemented the scripture readings of the day, with Jenny Dawson leading the discussion. It was a Spirit-filled time, appreciated by all.

That led into our spit-roast meal and barn-dance under the awnings in the open air tent, with music for 150 provided ‘til late by Jack Leason, Liam Gallagher and the CW All Star band. On the Sunday we joined the local Otaki parish community for the Eucharist before concluding with the poroporoaki and farewells. The cooking team led by Shelley, Dianna, Jo and Apples were singled out for special honour for all the hours they had put in behind the scene preparing acres of lovely food. No CW gathering celebrates on an empty stomach! As they say in the CW, justice is good but food is essential!

Mark Briggs – WWI Conscientious Objector

More than 100 people gather on the Friday evening of the 8th national CW hui to celebrate the blessing and opening of the Mark Briggs Well. Mark Briggs, a great-uncle of CW Shelley Leason, was a WW1 conscientious objector and one of 14 sent to the front line in France.

After Pat Hakaraia, a local kaumatua, had welcomed us, Adi Leason spoke of the myth of redemptive violence ‘where you kill the baddies and we all live in peace and harmony.’ He reminded us of the power of redemptive suffering as practised by Jesus. He described Mark Briggs as one who practised this to an extreme degree. In reflecting on the nature of water, he called the Mark Briggs Well, ‘a well of love, a well of healing’.

Poet and medical doctor Glenn Colquhoun was the main speaker. He outlined the journey of Mark Briggs which led him from a background of pacifism and a prison cell in Wellington to the ‘No 1 field punishment’ inflicted upon him by NZ soldiers in France. Among other things this included starvation rations, physical and emotional abuse, and him being dragged two miles to a position just short of enemy lines and ‘being tied by his ankles around a 3 metre post on a slight angle so that prisoner’s weight went on these points as they hung forward’.

Eventually, due to the intervention of an official, he was repatriated to New Zealand. He recovered to the point where he became a member of the NZ Legislative Upper House of Parliament. He was one of only two members there to oppose New Zealand’s involvement in WWII. Glenn concluded his presentation by singing a new poem he has written called ‘William Little’s Lament’, about another heroic WW1 CO who was shipped overseas. William Little stood by his principles of non-violence and was harshly punished. He died unheralded in France.

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