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.

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

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

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 alot!
Lots of love,

Rebekah and Derek and whanau

About the Author
Rev. Eric Cherry


  1. Antje Paul, Germany

    Many good thoughts are going to you and your (U*U) family. You are an example that laughter and music help to overcome difficult times.
    Hope we will meet at the EUU retreat at Oberwesel.
    All the best to you!

  2. Leann Genovese

    Derek & Rebekah–
    I am so glad to hear that you and yours have survived.

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