Forty years ago a small group of Christchurch diocesan priests decided to take a practical move to greater mutual support by gathering Monday to Friday twice a year with the simple aim of sharing our lives and giving and receiving support.
Back then those who gathered were a youngish group, mid 20’s through to 40’s, and serving parishes and chaplaincies across the Christchurch diocese from the Hurunui in the north to Waimate in the south, and from Westland to Christchurch city and the Chatham Islands.
In those early years campsites and hostels were the venue of choice, cheap enough and providing an environment where we could spend time together from early morning till bedtime, with every moment an opportunity to pray, to share deeply and honestly, to eat and drink together, to walk and play, and talk and listen and pray some more.
As the group aged we began to prefer the comfort of tourist-town holiday-homes, but last week we broke away from this recent routine to cross the alps to Blackball, the iconic coal-mining West Coast town, to live the week together in the famous “Formerly the Blackball Hilton” hotel.
We even made it to the front page of the West Coast Messenger.
Comments from the twelve who attended included: “a wonderful time and peaceful place”, “great to be together with fellow priests, encouraging and helpful”, “a refreshing time on the Coast”, “a privilege to be a part of the honest and open sharing.”
In those early years of the 1980’s when younger priests began to meet together many older priests became nervous thinking we were planning a revolution. They labelled us “Solidarity” after the Polish trade-union movement. We liked the name and it stuck.
Our gathering is now an annual time of solidarity and our gathering last week was deeply encouraging, a reminder that as diocesan priests we share the adventure of faith together, and immersed in the lives of the people of the diocese.
Please keep us in your prayer.