The mood was somber at St Paul’s this morning as our priest in charge, Mathew Newton, shared the news of the tragic helicopter crash in Wanaka that claimed the life of one of our own, Jerome Box, and put 4 more of our boys in hospital.

A ‘boys weekend away’ skiing adventure went horribly wrong last Saturday when, at 12.20pm, a helicopter carrying 5 members of our church family, crashed into the slope of Mt Alta.

Passengers on board with Jerome were Dave Reid, Dave Bensley, Craig Peirce and Greg McLeod along with pilot, Dave Matthews and guide, Mark Sedon. Also on the ski-trip, and thankfully present to rally around those injured, are Jonny Grant, Phil Skinner, Logan Batts, Ben Green and Steve Copley.

Newt spoke of Jerome this morning, “He was an amazing man of faith, he lived life at full throttle and had a real sense of adventure about life - he loved skiing and was a very experienced skier. Jerome also dearly loved his family and is survived by wife, Adelle, and two young children."

As a church, it is hard to know how to respond, what to say or what to feel as we process this sad tragedy but do know that we do this and are in this together. We urge you to pray and keep on praying for the Box family and friends, for privacy, comfort and the presence of the Holy Spirit as they pull together, grieve and process.

Please pray too for those who were injured but survived, for their recovery and for their families and friends; for the rest of our boys down south who are rallying together; for our church leaders, especially Jonny in the thick of it; for the medical teams who are working with our injured and for all affected by this tragedy.

Says Newt, “Those who survived have a real mixture of feelings around this - they are a very tight group of friends who have experienced an incredible shock together and are trying to make sense of it all. Some also have a strange sense of guilt about being one of the survivors and really they are trying to deal with losing a really close friend. For the injured, the sense for them is not necessarily just the physical injuries but really the emotional trauma of the whole incident - that’s what is hitting them hardest.”

When asked this morning, “What scripture is giving you strength as a church?” Newt responded, “We opened the service today with Psalm 121, that verse that says ‘I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.’ This frames up the whole incident. This tragedy takes place in the context of God who created all things and that even this can’t move beyond the scope of God’s strength.”

He continued, “Faith forms the absolutely foundation of our ability to face the tragedies of life squarely. Central to this is our faith in the resurrection of Jesus. This is why we are not just whistling dixie when we are praying and supporting this family - we have our hope firmly and squarely in the resurrection of Christ. Faith is absolutely critical to walking through this together.”

In a statement of faith, alongside the tears of grief, St Paul’s church family joined to sing ‘Sovereign’ by Chris Tomlin this morning, the lyrics of which seem somehow even more pertinent today:

"Sovereign in the mountain air
Sovereign on the ocean floor
With me in the calm
With me in the storm

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you
In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you."

We will keep you informed of ways you can help support our families in the coming days and weeks. If you are keen to make a meal(s), please coordinate through Angelfood, rather than approaching the families directly. It is important that we allow appropriate space and privacy at this time. 

If you personally need someone to talk to, do get in touch with our pastoral care team - we are on stand-by and here to help.

Thanks and much love to all.