Another sign of an increasingly secular world was the recent closure of XploratioNZ, a widely diverse non-denominational group that has met weekly for over 20 years to discuss religious issues. However, as members have aged, numbers have dwindled.
When it was begun by Presbyterian ministers Jim Veitch and John Currie, at a time when there was interest in new discoveries about the Bible and life in earlier times, XploratioNZ quickly gathered more than 80 members from all over Wairarapa. At the meetings, held on Sunday afternoons, first at St Luke’s Church [now Crossways] and more recently at the Lansdowne Presbyterian Church, there were films, discussions, and speakers about many subjects, including aspects of progressive Christianity, the problems associated with living in a secular age, interfaith relationships, and other world faiths.
For example, Bishop Richard Randerson and former journalist and theologian Ian Harris spoke at different times about Christianity not surviving unless it understands Jewish storytelling or midrash, using symbols and metaphors to make sense of Jesus’ life and death. Cushla McKinney, an atheist, believed “… this would enable the Church to refocus on the positive aspects of belief, which it shares with many different religious traditions, while shedding … negative and exclusionary practices … This encompasses the best aspects of humanity; love, grace and our potential to survive and transcend the problems and tragedies that touch us all, and provides hope and purpose to people’s lives and relationships.” Another vivid memory is the visit of theologian Bishop Jack Spong from the United States.
At the final annual general meeting [AGM] on Sunday, November 26, chaired by Rev Pat Jacobson, early members John Allan, Daphne Pratt, George Bain and Bill Orange reminisced about the early years of the group and the new insights, perspectives, and challenges offered by Jim Veitch and other speakers. Other members, such as Dr Owen Prior, Barbara Hewson, Jan Veitch, and Geraldine and Ray Coates, were also remembered, and gifts presented to Jim Veitch, Pat Jacobson and Pauline Coy, recognising their work and leadership over the years.
The group’s remaining funds will be divided between First Church in Martinborough and Crossways Church to go towards education in its widest sense rather than be offered to individuals.
Happily, because of the strong friendships in the group, from February it will continue in an informal manner, meeting once a month in people’s homes.