A time to forgive

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday 17th August 2012

IT was all about family, forgiveness and reconcili¬ation during the Anglican Hohola Holy Family parish’s 52nd anniversary on Sunday, June 29.
The small church building was filled with parish¬ioners, their families, guests and former parish priests who were there to celebrate the church’s milestone.
With the pews filled, church members worshipped with hymns, prayers and Bible readings as they would on other Sundays. But this Sunday was differ¬ent; it wasn’t just the anniversary they were celebrat¬ing, they were also welcoming the return of two of its long-serving members.
During the sermon, parishioners were reminded of what it meant to be a family, not just at home but in the church as well and strengthening bonds that made them a family even during the toughest of times.
The church was reminded of a dark day in its his¬tory, a day it never thought would happen – when one of their own, their family, betrayed them.
Roderick Gore and his wife Cheryl had been core members of the church, especially with the youth group, until 2009.
It was during this year at a church council meeting, when it was discovered that K12,000 was missing from the parish’s account.
It was an emotional time for the church with pa¬rishioners angry, frustrated and saddened by what had happened.
It was even more heartbreaking for them when it was revealed that the funds were taken by two people they never imagined would steal church money.
Roderick and Cheryl Gore, who grew up in the church, were asked to leave, and they did.
It was a tough time for the couple, not only because they left the parish, the one place they held close, but as husband and wife.
As time went on, the church grew and the couple dealt with their hardships for three years.
Then on June 29, the anger, questions and tears were put aside and joy filled the little parish.
The Gores stood before the church – with members of the Mother’s Union, youth, church council and Sunday School by their side, and with tears in their eyes, they apologised.
"I acted alone…and I am sorry," Roderick said.
"To my children (youth), my fathers and mothers (in the church) and church council, I am sorry.
"And if my actions affected any of you emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually, I am sorry."
Cheryl said leaving the church was one of the hard¬est things she has ever had to do.
"I was brought up in this church. I was looked after and looked to in this church. I didn’t know where to go,
"I was lost."
After their public apology, the parishioners wel¬comed them with open arms, songs of praise and tears of joy.
Church council chairman Alfred Kaniniba said he was happy this day had come, even more so because he did so as chairman.
Kaniniba was chairman three years ago when the incident happened and had stepped down because he felt he had failed.
"I thought, how could this have happened on my watch?"
But God’s timing is always right and Kaniniba was reinstated this year, the year that would see that dark moment come to an end.
After the service, a delicious meal was laid out and parishioners ate, laughed, talked, sang and cel¬ebrated in the spirit of the day, enjoying being a fam¬ily. Guests and parishioners were also entertained by dances from younger members of the church.
When everyone thought things were winding down, Roderick took the microphone and another surprise was unveiled.
During the mass, the Gores had presented the church with equipment for the youth as well as ma¬terials for the Mother’s Union and Sunday School. But their "apology" did not end there.
As Roderick was speaking, Cheryl walked up ac¬companied by the Oro mothers, some youth and a few of his friends with a huge "bondo" (food offer¬ing) for the church.
Another one was brought out for his father-in-law who had taken them in when they were asked to leave the church. Roderick said, at that time when they were at their lowest, he had felt the true mean¬ing of God’s love with his father-in-law.
As the day wound down and people settled with their full tummies, it was clear that this church, this family, had become, in a way, whole again.
The parish has come a long way and overcome many obstacles. And even though members come and go, those that have pushed on to build the church has seen it grow from strength to strength.
This anniversary was testament to that.
The Anglican Hohola Holy Family is exactly that, a family. And it intends on staying that way for an¬other 52 years and beyond.