The Melanesian Martyrs' Memorial Church of St Andrews

Vicars Report to AGM, 2018

The Anglican Parish of Kohimarama

Vicar’s Report to the Parish A.G.M, 2018

Rev’d Stephen Baxter


Dear Friends in Christ.

I find it hard to believe that in February I celebrated my fifteenth anniversary of being Vicar of St. Andrew’s.  They have been fifteen years, which for the most part, I have absolutely loved.  Hardly a day that goes by that I don’t feel extremely blessed and privileged to work among such a caring and loving community of people.

Looking back we have had a very successful year in which we have achieved a huge amount as a parish.  To achieve all we do as a community we depend upon the contribution of many people to accomplish the many ministries we undertake.  I wish to acknowledge the contributions and faithful dedication of all who contribute to our parish community.

Wardens are important people in any Anglican Parish. They share with the Vicar the direction and stability of the Parish.  Our Wardens this past year, Camilla Needham and Roger Seyb, have done an outstanding job in this regard. I would like to thank both Camilla and Roger, both of whom are stepping down from their positions and from Vestry, for their much valued friendship, and support of me personally over this past year.  Camilla has served as Peoples Warden for one year and as well as being actively involved in other areas of parish life Camilla has meet with me on a regular basis and represented the parish at community occasions such as funerals.   Roger has been my Vicar’s Warden for the past six years.  His continued leadership in his roles as both Synod’s Representative and Warden has offered us a great deal of stability.  Roger is also stepping down as one of our Synod Representatives, having serviced two terms.  On behalf of the parish I would also like to thank both Camilla and Roger for their commitment to the parish this past year.

I am very pleased to announce that David Wolfenden has agreed to be my Warden for the next year.  David and I serve as trustees together on the Kids’ Club Trust and David helps with the Kids’ Club Walking School Bus.  I very much value David’s wisdom and I am looking forward to working with him and Ann Bone as our People’s Warden.  Thank you both for taking on these important roles within our parish.

Once again we have had a very committed Vestry who have ensured the smooth running of the Parish. Special thanks to Jill Benton (Parish Treasurer), Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightley (Priest Assistant), Leith Hamilton, Anna Holt (Synod’s Rep), Camilla Needham (People’s Warden), Brent Nicholson, Roger Seyb (Vicar’s Warden & Synod’s Rep), and Liz Smith.   Leith, Brent, and as mentioned above, Camilla and Roger are stepping down from Vestry.  On behalf of the parish I would like to thank them for their time on Vestry, and on a personal note thank all of our Vestry members for the support and encouragement they have shown me and for all they have done for the parish this past year.  Unfortunately with the new A.G.M election process it is not fate accompli as to who our new Vestry members are, however, I would like to thank everyone who has put their name forward for election.

As always it is a pleasure and a delight to work with our Priest Assistant The Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightley, who was ordained to the Priesthood last November. This was a time of real celebration for the parish. Kay has made a significant contribution to the life of our parish over the past year.  She has helped lead and develop our worship, our Spirituality Group and Youth Group.  Her professional background has also enabled her to assist me with a number of challenging pastoral situations in the parish.  Kay has also assisted around the parish in many other practical ways.  I would also like to thank Kay’s husband David for his support of Kay. I recognize that her ordained ministry has a significant impact on their family life.

The parish owes a huge debt of gratitude to Jill Benton who has once again done an outstanding job as our Parish Treasurer.  Jill has diligently kept the Vestry abreast of our parish finances as well as continuing to deal with the challenges of the Diocesan Consolidated Accounting System.  In her role as Treasurer Jill is a trustee, along with myself, of the Kohi Parish Investment Trust.  I am aware that the changes in our accounting system over the past few years have required considerable time and effort on Jill part. I would like to acknowledge Jill’s outstanding commitment as our Parish Treasurer.

I would also like to thank Jill for the many other ways she contributes to parish life.  Among other things, Jill is currently helping with Pre-School Music, and has more recently taken on more responsibility within this.  She has organized groups to help at the Auckland City Mission, has contributed greatly to our fundraising ventures over the past year, both for missions and the parish, and works with me on the Property Committee.  This past year Jill has organized the refurbishment of our parish kitchen and is currently overseeing the upgrade of the Vicarage and parish toilet area.  These have been difficult projects to manage but Jill has done a fantastic job. Thank you Jill for everything you do for us as a parish.  It is greatly appreciated by us all.

In terms of our finances, I would also like to thank Warwick Langley who has been our Parish Recorder this past year and who looks after our banking, a task that Warwick has done for some years without fuss.  Warwick is also our liaison person with the ‘Oraki Food Bank’.  He collects the food parishioners donate each week and take it to the food bank, as well as attending their committee meetings.

Corporate worship is the heart of our life as a parish.  It centers us as the people of God in this time and place so that we can more effectively minister within our community.  We are fortunate to have a number of people involved in organizing as well as taking part in our worship.  I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the leadership of our worship this past year.  Our worship committee members, musicians, worship leaders, chalice assistants, servers, readers and intercessors, welcomers and sides people and those who minister to us through their gifts of hospitality over morning tea and through their floral work.  In particular, I would like to mention Margaret Wilson who despite having stepped down a few years ago as our floral coordinator has continued to help with flowers on many occasions throughout the past year.   I would also like to thank Helen Goodwin and Liz Smith for their help with our rosters system, which at times can be time consuming to organize.

Thank you to Cannon David Bindon, who has contributed to the parish for many years, The Rev’d Geoff Hickman, The Rev’d Spencer Kombega and The Rev’d Ben Wate for their assistance with services and preaching during the year.  Spencer and Ben have contributed despite their heavy work load as students at St. John’s College, and this has been appreciated.  I have very much valued The Rev’d Geoff Hickman’s Evensong services, which have been very well received.  Geoff’s services are always inspirational, interesting and spiritually fulfilling.  I would also like to thank Geoff and Robyn Hickman for the continued wise council and support that they have given me personally during the year.

As a worshiping community we have been extremely blessed to have Brent Nicholson as our organist these past few years.  Unfortunately for work and personal reasons Brent has had to step down from playing on a regular basis.  Personally, I am immensely grateful to Brent who has always been a great pleasure to work with.  Brent’s commitment to the parish through his gift of music has been outstanding.  A big thank you from us all Brent.

I would like to thank Liz Smith who has been actively involved in our music since I came to the parish.  During my time as Vicar Liz has been the one constant person throughout all the various changes in musicians and musical events.  Liz has regularly played at the 9.45am service and organized the Nine Lessons and Carols Choir for many years.  As we look towards the future Liz and I have some exciting thoughts in terms of modernizing and developing some of our music. I would also like to thank Liz and Suzanne Walton for organizing our All Comers Choir which has begun  singing on a more regular basis. As conductor Suzanne chooses relevant and inspiring music and makes choir practices a fun experience.

Having now been involved in what is termed a long term ministry here at St. Andrew’s, there are a lot more people both within the church and wider community who seek out my advice and pastoral assistance.  This has required an increasing amount of time over the years, and is in constant tension with the balancing all of my other responsibilities as Vicar.  I am therefore very grateful to have the support of our Pastoral Care team members, Jennifer Copeland, Rob Smellie and Janet McCallum as well the support of The Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightely.  Thank you all.  Special thanks to Jennifer Copeland who has taken over the prayer circle from Nancy Wormald.

Our Spirituality Group has now been running for some eight years.  This group discusses Spirituality in a broad sense and at times includes members from outside the parish.  I would particularly like to thank The Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightley who has helped me with much of the program this past year.

 The ‘Course in Miracles Group’, which meets on a monthly basis, has a steady number of people attending, and continues to welcome new members from outside the parish.  This course provides challenging but essential insights into our faith, and support for those who attend.

This year we decided that we would try running meditation afternoons rather than having a mediation group that runs on a monthly basis.  Camilla Needham and Kay Brightly ran a very successful mediation afternoon during the year which was well attended.  It is hoped that we will be able to run more of these in the future.

Thank you to our Pre-School Music Committee members and other volunteers who help with this group.  I would especially like to thank Margaret Baker who chairs the committee and runs the roster.  I would like to make special mention of Helen Goodwin who has been the main person on the door since we started Pre-School Music some twelve years ago and without whom the group would have been difficult to run.  Helen has decided to step down from a leadership role within the group and help in other ways.  Out of its funds the Pre-School Music Committee has paid for children’s resources for Christmas and Easter as well as other items for the Parish.

Thank you to Jo Baxter who has led Sunday school this past year.  Jo has done some wonderful work with our children.  She has tried to introduce modern technology into the lessons and has recently tied showing the 9.45am congregation what the children have been learning at the end of the service.  As in recent years, Jo has had to cope with fluctuating numbers of attendance and at times a wide range of ages.  Over the next year or so we will be making some significant changes to our Sunday school in line with our strategic plan with the aim of increasing attendance.

 ‘The St. Andrew’s Kids Club’ Holiday and Before & After School Care Program has now been established for just under five years.  The program offers an opportunity for ministry among families in our area as well as being economically viable with a potential to contribute to the parish budget.  David Wolfenden, Leith Hamilton, and I are the current Trustees appointed by Vestry.  At the end of last year Agnes Bautista, who was the Program Manager for the Club since it began, left to have a baby.  I would like to thank Agnes for the huge contribution she made in helping to establish the Club.  The program now has three paid staff two of whom are managing the program, Annie Li and Lisa Scroggins, the other being Annabelle Hale who is looking after the accounts.  With increased numbers we will soon be adding a third part time person. In addition we have a few volunteers who help walk children from school in the afternoons and help with transport during holiday programs.  We are very grateful to these people for this ongoing support.  This year the program has seen quite a dramatic increase in attendance.  The program provides a stimulating environment with opportunities for children to learn about God and faith.  The program is self-funding and over the past few years has returned a profit to the parish which has been much greater than what we received when we rented out the hall to community groups.

Our youth continues to be an area of significant concern.  The Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightley and I started a new Youth Group two years ago, focusing on the pre-and early teens in the parish.  Over this time the group has had good attendance and has achieved its goal of bringing in youth from outside of the parish.  While it has done well the group is still very tentative.  Kay and I are beginning to explore the possibilities of how we might be able to build a children’s and youth ministry in keeping with our strategic plan goals.  The employment of a Children’s and Youth Worker is a possibility that we are currently looking at; however, we would not employ someone until our current potential is fully reached within the parish.  Children and Youth is an area we must focus on as a parish over the next ten years not only because it is important for our future but because children and youth have the right to be ministered to as part of the church of today.

The Mothers Union makes a huge contribution to our parish life.  They are always behind parish activities and for that I would like to say a special thank you.  Special thanks to Susan Bowkett who is our current Mothers Union leader.  Margaret Wilson continues on the Diocesan Executive Committee.

I would like to especially acknowledge Nancy Wormald who has been our World Day of Prayer representative for many years, and who has done an outstanding job of organizing teams of parishioners to participate in these important ecumenical services.  Nancy and Kay, who is taking over from Nancy until we find someone to take on this responsibility, led a wonderful World Day of Prayer service at St. Andrew’s on the 2nd March.

I would also like to acknowledge Rona Patterson who started our Line Dancing Group two and a half years ago.  The group has attracted a number of members from outside the parish and continues to grow.  The group has danced at several Mothers Union events and Rona has run two very successful afternoons for the parish, one of which was a fundraiser for the Wate family house project.  The weekly donations collected have gone to supporting children in our own parish and the wider Diocese, as well as children’s organizations in Melanesia.  Thank you Rona for all the fun and enthusiasm you provide through this group.

Two years ago we started a Men’s Group.  The focus of this group at this stage is purely fellowship and is open to all men in and out of the parish.  The group has met at the Kohi and Attic bars during the evening, and been to the movies.  It has enabled a number of men in the parish to get to know each other a lot better.

It was with regret that I recently accepted Janet McCallum’s resignation as our Selwyn Centre’s Coordinator.   Janet has done a fantastic job of leading and developing the Selwyn Foundation Center since its inception at St. Andrew’s seven years ago.  She has always provided a stimulating and interesting program for those who attend.  I would like to thank Janet for her commitment to the elderly people who have attended the group, which has often extended outside of her Selwyn Centre hours.  I would also like to thank the volunteers who help out at the Selwyn Centre on a weekly basis, especially Janet’s husband John McCallum, who has always been in attendance and who has helped with transport, for his positive and active involvement.  Thanks also to the Selwyn Centre Committee, Lynne Lett, Leith Hamilton, Ann Bone and Margaret Bell, for the support they have given to Janet, and to Robyn and Geoff Hickman who have lead the Centre when Janet has been away as well as supporting her at other times.  Thank you to Jill Benton who has assisted the program with its finances.  The program receives funding from the Selwyn Foundation and contributions from attendees.  With Janet’s resignation we are currently looking for a Center Coordinator to replace her.

Good stewardship of our property is important not only for us now but also for the generations to come.  I would like to acknowledge those individuals who have contributed in a number of ways to our parish plant this year through their time and financial contributions.  To all these people I would like to say a heartfelt thank you.  Special mention must be made of Elizabeth Jollands and Margaret Wilson for the contribution they have made to our gardens over the past few years, and as already mentioned Jill Benton for her work on the Property Committee.

As was stated at last year’s A.G.M the Vestry has spent a considerable amount of time and money in the past two years trying to establish the facts relating to our western boundary.  This included a professional boundary survey which showed that our boundary is not where we thought it was, and that it is in fact largely in keeping with the current hedge line.  Our neighbours have now begun building and asked that we contribute to a new fence along our shared boundaries which Vestry has agreed to.  The new fence will be in place within the next couple of months.  Vestry needs to consider if it will extend the fence along the next property boundary.

Recently a group of parishioners have formed a group to start a small Community Garden, which will possibly involve a few planter boxes around the church.  The first of these will be in place within the next month and will be situated outside the Vicarage at the far end of the carpark.  Thank you to those who are involved with the development of this new project.  Its aim is to provide food for those in need and also be an example in our community of environmental and nutritional care.

I would like to thank Agnes Bautista who retired as Parish Secretary late last year for her commitment to this role.  It was a pleasure working with Anges for four years.  Nicole Way stepped into the role of Parish Secretary for four months.  I would like to thank Nicole for her help and support during what was a difficult administrative time.  Parish Secretaries are often called on to take on tasks beyond their normal roles and so I would like to thank both Agnes and Nicole for their support in this way also.  I would like to welcome Annabelle Hale as our new Parish Secretary.  Annabelle brings with her a wide range of professional administrative skills having worked in the corporate world.  Although Annabelle has only been in the role a few weeks I have really enjoyed working with her in this capacity.

In 2016 we developed a new strategic plan to take us through to the year 2026.  It is pleasing to know that some of the plan’s goals have already been achieved, and that some are in progress; however, we also have a long way to go.   I will be asking our new Vestry to review the plan and the relevancy of its goals and further discuss the plan with the wider parish during the year.  Obviously, any strategic plan is a work in progress and needs to be reviewed from time to time.  It is helpful however to have a plan that is particular to a point in time for review purposes.

While we have done financially well over the past few years, due to some significant donations, it is important we continue to give generously through our weekly giving so that we do not eat into these donations and go backwards in terms of our general running costs.

I am pleased to report that in this past year we have successfully fundraised for missions, giving a significant amount of money to the church in Melanesia via the Anglican Board of Missions.  We have fundraised for the Wate family home in Melanesia, which was destroyed following the earthquakes there last year, and we have kept up the four hundred dollars we give per month to the Anglican Board of Missions which is on top of our Diocesan mission’s parish quota.  I would like to thank those who have given of their time to the Anglican Trust for Women and Children and to the Anglican City Mission during the year.

As a parish, our statistics this year show that we remain very stable, as in keeping with previous years.  We have had a slight increase in people on the parish role during the year and maintain a healthy number of people involved in parish groups and studies.  Our statistics are something to be celebrated in a time when churches over all are in decline.

This year, on the 30th November, St. Andrew’s Day, we will be celebrating sixty years since the church was built and dedicated by The Right Reverend Alfred Hill, Bishop of Melanesia.  This is a significant event in our history as a parish.  I know parishioners will support the planned events surrounding these occasions as we celebrate our history and look forward to the future.

As a Vicar who is now in what is termed a long term ministry I’ve had the privilege of realizing and witnessing first hand that a parish, as it exists in its present moment, is made up of not only those who are currently involved but also those who have gone before us.  Each person adds to the continuum, leaving their mark upon the community, making a parish what it is now, and thus giving each parish its own special identity.  The contribution of those who have gone before us are still very much felt today.  In our turn, what we do today for the glory of God, both as individuals and as community, has a dramatic effect upon our parishes’ future. So let us strive so that those who come after us will be in a positive position to carry on the mission of Christ within our Community of Kohimarama / Mission Bay.

May the love of God and the presence of Christ continue to go with us, and may the Holy Spirit make it possible for us to do more, as we seek and move in the direction that we believe God is leading us as the people of St. Andrew’s, Kohimarama.

It continues to be a privilege to serve you as your Priest and a joy to work among such a wonderful group of people.

May God bless and keep you.  I remain, faithfully yours in Christ.