Celebrating St Patrick in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, 21 March, 2019
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Earlier this week we asked our IrelandXO global community to let us know how they had celebrated St Patrick's Day. Elaine Bolitho from Wellington in New Zealand wrote to us sharing a different perspective on celebrating our Irish heritage this March.

Celebrating St Patrick in Wellington, New Zealand.

Picture above, from the NUC St Patrick's service:  When Alyson asked Sanna and Layla about the St Patrick’s Day cards they had created, Sanna explained how the shamrock leaves could be lifted to see what was underneath!  (Most people wore green)

I’m writing from Wellington, in New Zealand, the first country in the world to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. I am part of the worship and education team at Ngaio Union Church (Methodist/Presbyterian base where everyone is welcome).

We decided to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a special service, honouring St Patrick and learning from his life. We encouraged everyone to wear green and our children enthusiastically joined in. Our first song was to the tune Londonderry  Air, the second St Patrick’s breastplate (and we didn’t do too badly!) The third one, written by a New Zealand minister for harp accompaniment sounds  very Irish “I arise this day with God and God will arise with me’ and we ended singing one of our favourite blessings ‘May the road rise to meet you.” We had green flower arrangements (well it is Lent!) and chairs arranged in three groups to symbolise the shamrock, and activities for the children.

The service was all ready to run with when on Friday the dreadful mosque shootings  took place. Our minister decided we would still run with the plans-  we would not let  evil actions overcome the fabric of our life any more. Love would go on and after the planned video we would look at the things St Patrick had experienced and stood for to guide our way forward. We incorporated lighting tea-light candles for the Christchurch victims from  big candles labelled Hope and Love, a minute’s silence followed by this prayer.

Picture below, from the NUC St Patrick's service: Helen (wearing a scarf woven in Muscat in Oman) reads Psalm 27 after asking people to listen to: how well this matched St Patrick’s own story and attitudes; and how this could guide our attitudes to the dreadful events in Christchurch. In the foreground is the memorial for Christchurch, with a picture of the mosque where 40 of the 50 victims died, small blue bowls from Damascus in Syria, and candles of peace and love from which people later solemnly lit the waiting tea light candles. A̶ minute’s silence was observed after the lighting.  

St Patrick's Service Wellington

Afterwards many people said how much the appreciated learning more about St Patrick, and ways for looking at things and actions where we could follow his inspiration. I think far more people than usual were actually relating to the service and talking about it over tea, coffee and goodies afterwards.

The service was also a good ecumenical link with one of our boys (age 14)  who attends St Patrick’s (Catholic) College  - Partson was interviewed  about what the college stands for.

Picture below, from the NUC St Patrick's service: Vicky interviews one of our teenagers, Partson, about his school – St Patrick’s College -  its values and how they celebrate St  Patrick’s Day.

Wellington St Patrick's service 2019

The service was led by our all-women Worship and Education Team, and even though it was her Sunday off, our minister came to fill her pastoral role to people who were so distressed by Christchurch events. And yes we do have plenty of men too, including David who played his fiddle in a lively manner, with the pianist, for all the songs. Unfortunately the rest of our Celtic Plus Band was not available last Sunday.

This has grown rather longer than I set out to write –but I thought you might like this rather different perspective from St Patrick’s Day parades (we do have them sometimes in Wellington), Guinness and leprechauns.

Elaine Bolith is a member of the worship and education team at Ngaio Union Church in Wellington, New Zealand.