Derek McCullough, Minister for Christchurch, NZ, Checks In

By Eric Cherry

Derek McCullough—who is the minister and leader of the UU church in Christchurch, New Zealand—suffered the destruction of his home during the terrible earthquake last week. Derek and his family are fine and have asked the UUA to publish this letter and photos so that his friends and colleagues in the US will know that he's doing alright. PLEASE NOTE A “Causes” page has been set up on Facebook by the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists. UUs around the world are encouraged to show their solidarity with our sisters and brothers in New Zealand by joining the cause.

Dearest Family and Friends,

Please excuse the group email but I'm sure you will understand that this is the first time since the earthquake that we have been able to get internet access.

It has been a harrowing ordeal but we are counting ourselves as extremely lucky. There are still many people missing and sadly so many casualties that it forces one to try to keep perspective. Not always an easy task.

Derek and Marion were Very Lucky as Derek had been working at the computer in the living room only a few moments before the quake. He went into the kitchen to make Marion a cup of tea and was able to grab her from her seat by the window and pull her under the table just before the windows shattered and her chair was covered in glass and debris. The dining room wall is now in our neighbours front yard. [gallery] Mom and Dad were having a wee nap and were abruptly woken to their drawers and all and sundry being thrown on top of them. Their granny flat, luckily, fared quite well and although many, many breakages we have been able to salvage most of their furniture and possessions. Our house did not do so well and will have to be demolished.

We cannot really go into it safely so have only been able to retrieve either things that are necessary (if we can find them) or sentimental. Really not much at all but in the end they are only things.

People have been fabulous, generous and so helpful. There is a wonderful community spirit that transcends the tragedy and keeps us all looking forward.

We were able to stay at Derek's sister's holiday home in Castle Hill for a few days where we did the 3 hour commute each day into the city to do whatever we could do and then could retreat to her peaceful home each evening with hot water, flushing loo and electricity. We are now staying at another relatives' home in Lincoln. She has moved out of her place so the five of us (Derek and I and his mum and my folks) can be together. It is a beautiful home with everything working and we are so appreciative. We have had several offers of short/long term rentals—again overwhelmed by peoples' response to our 'homeless' situation. We will be renting a place 2 doors from Derek's sister, Mary, which will put us close to her and her family. We can't move there for some weeks yet but that's okay as Mash and family will be visiting in a few weeks so our current 'home' is a great spot that feels safe.

We got to see Caleb tonight. He was working in the Emergency Dept the night of the quake and after a few days took his family down to Dunedin. He arrived back in Chch tonight and we had a great reunion. His family will stay south for a bit longer...very unsettling with no schools, etc.

We are still finding things to laugh about and we continue to play our ukuleles. Caleb, Dad and I had a great session tonight.

Thanks to all of you for your messages—they mean a lot! Lots of love,

Rebekah and Derek and whanau

About the Author

Eric Cherry

Eric was the Director of the UUA’s International Office since August 2007. Prior to this Eric served for 12 years as a parish minister with UU congregations in Burlington, Iowa and N. Easton, Massachusetts. Eric has long been involved in the UU Partner Church movement, serving as the English...


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