By Lloyd Ashton, Taonga News
Archdeacon Robin Kingston, the man who’s leading the organising of Thursday’s National Remembrance Service for the 29 Pike River miners, began his Saturday evening sermon at Holy Trinity Greymouth by saying how the tragedy was affecting him.
“I find myself at the edge of tears,” he said.
“They come and they go. There are times when I can laugh, there are times when I can bounce around, there are times when I can work really hard.
“And then, suddenly, the tears come.
“I’m so grateful that they do come – because if they didn’t, I wouldn’t know how to grieve.”
Face into your grief, he was saying to his community. Talk about it. Don’t camouflage it. Do the things that hurt. Go to the services. Attend the vigils.
Because if you don’t acknowledge that you must grieve, he said, you won’t heal.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, as he sat down before a posse of journalists to begin a press conference about the Remembrance Service... you could see that, once again, he’d been blindsided by his own grief.
His voice cracked. His eyes misted. The moment passed quickly, and he was on with a powerful 20 minute press conference, outlining the plans for Thursday clearly, directly – no corporate spin doctoring here – taking the questions, and doing it all with a West Coast colour and tang about his delivery.
In the early days of the playing out of this tragedy, there was talk at the highest levels about the need to have a national memorial service at the Wellington’s Anglican cathedral, in the heart of the capital city of the country.
There was talk too, that it should be held at ChristChurch cathedral – which, in a way, is the de facto South Island cathedral.
But that was never going to happen.
The leaders on the Coast – civic, spiritual and business – were adamant about having the service on the Coast. That’s a debate that’s now settled and behind us.
Mostly, having the service in Greymouth is about West Coast pride and dignity – the Coasters have always been independent-spirited, and they want to honour their boys on the turf that was their home.
But Robin, who’s been a priest to the Coast for 25 years, also knows that for psychological and spiritual reasons, for the long-term healing of the Coast, the grieving must happen here.
You can export coal.
But you cannot export grief.
Robin put that message succinctly in one of the interviews he gave yesterday:
“We hurt enormously as a community – and the rest of the country can share our grief.”
Tim Mora, the Vicar of Cobden-Runanga, and Chairperson of the Greymouth Ministers' Association, expressed that same weighing of the coast’s grief in a different way yesterday.
As he and his wife Nikki prepared to hang 29 little red cardboard angels on the Christmas tree at Cobden’s Church of the Resurrection, he reminded his congregation – before the television crews filming for their evening bulletins – that the Pike River tragedy is personal, for everyone on the Coast.
“The question,” he said, “is not: who did you know in the mine?”
“The question is: how many did you know in the mine?”
Those TV crews, the photographers and journos were ushered out of the church after the little red angels had been hung on the tree.
After they’d gone, the congregation exchanged the peace.
And you could tell by the tears that flowed then, by the intensity of the hugs, and later by the tears some folk shed as left at the end of the service, that the grieving here will go on for years.
Years, and years.