The Melanesian Martyrs' Memorial Church of St Andrews

Vicars Report to AGM, 2019

The Anglican Parish of Kohimarama

Vicar’s Report to the Parish A.G.M, 2019

Rev’d Stephen Baxter


Dear Friends in Christ.

As Vicar of St. Andrew’s, Kohimarama I feel extremely blessed and privileged to have worked amongst such a caring and loving community over the past sixteen years.  Recently when I was up at Eastridge I spoke to some people, not from our parish, who told me of a couple in our church who had raked the leaves off their front lawn and helped to get their garden under control when they were both struggling with cancers.  They had done this without letting on to the people who had done it.  For the last year or so I have also been in awe of one of our parishioners who cared for David Bindon up until he died recently.  This can only be described as one of the most remarkable pieces of ministry I have witnessed.  These are just a couple of examples of the love exhibited in our community and the wider community on a daily basis.

On the 30th November, St. Andrew’s Day, we celebrated sixty years since St. Andrew’s was built and was dedicated by The Right Revered Alfred Hill, Bishop of Melanesia.  This was a significant event in the history of our parish.  In the same week it was with sadness that we saw the closure of St. James, Orakei.  This was not an easy time for the St. James congregation.  I would like to take this opportunity to welcome those from St. James who have made St. Andrew’s their new parish home.  We are glad that you have joined us and trust you feel the welcome we extend to you into our parish community.

Looking back we have had a very successful year in which a huge amount has been achieved 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 St. Andrew’s parish community.

Wardens are important people in any Anglican Parish.  It is often the case that Parishioners are not aware of the level of responsibility and commitment this role requires.  Our Wardens this past year, Ann Bone and David Wolfenden, have done an outstanding job. We are fortunate that Ann is prepared to put herself forward for election again and I am grateful to David who has said he would be my Warden for another year.  Ann and David’s continued leadership offers us as a parish a great deal of stability.  Personally, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Ann and David for their continued friendship, wise counsel and support of my priestly ministry.

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), Ann Bone (People’s Warden), Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightley (Priest Assistant), Peter Cotton, Roz Edwards, Anna Holt (Synod’s Rep), Rona Patterson, Liz Smith and David Wolfenden (Vicar’s Warden). On behalf of the parish I would like to thank our Vestry members for all they have done for the parish this past year, and on a personal note thank all of them for the support and encouragement they have shown me.  I would also like to thank those who have put their name forward for election once again, and take this opportunity to especially thank Anna Holt who is stepping down from Vestry as one of our Synod’s representatives.

It was with sadness that we fare-welled our Priest Assistant The Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightley last Sunday.  Kay was with us for almost five years.  She came to us as an Ordinand and was Ordained to the Diaconate and Priesthood during her time with us.  Kay made a significant contribution to the life of our parish both in terms of our worship and leadership as well as in many practical ways.  Her professional background also enabled her to assist with a number of challenging pastoral situations in the parish. It was a pleasure and delight to work with Kay and I am going to miss her.

Once again the parish owes a huge debt of gratitude to Jill Benton who has done an outstanding job as our Parish Treasurer.  Jill diligently keeps 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 also a trustee, along with myself, of the Kohi Parish Investment Trust. 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.  Jill helps with the Pre-School Music and is on the Committee of the Selwyn Centre.  She has organized groups to help at the Auckland City Mission and is our Parish Coordinator for the City Mission’s Home Ground project.  She has contributed greatly to our fundraising ventures over the past couple of years, both for missions and the parish, and works with me on the Property Committee.  This past year Jill has organized the refurbishment of the Vicarage and parish toilet area.  These have been difficult projects to manage but Jill has done a fantastic job and we are all grateful for the outcome. 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 ‘Orakei Food Bank’.  He collects the food parishioners donate each week and takes it to the food bank, as well as attending their committee meetings. Warwick has also managed the finances of our Annual Garage Sale for many years.  Thank you Warwick.

Corporate worship is the heart of our life as a parish.  It is at the heart of our life as a community centered in Christ so that we can effectively minster beyond ourselves to the wider 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, those on the flower roster and those who minister to us through their gifts of hospitality over morning tea.  Special thanks to thank Helen Goodwin and Liz Smith for their help with our rosters system, which are often time consuming to organize.

I would also like to thank the clergy who have supported the parish over the past year.  Many thanks to 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 contributed despite their heavy work load as students at St. John’s College, and this was appreciated.  I have also very much valued The Rev’d Geoff Hickman’s Evensong services, which Geoff has lead over the past few years.  Geoff’s services are always inspirational, interesting and spiritually fulfilling.  It was with sadness that we fare-welled Ben, Ethel and their family at the end of last year as they returned home to the Solomon Islands following the conclusion of Ben’s studies at St. John’s College.  With Geoff and Robyn moving out of the area we also may not see as much of them as we have been used to, however we are delighted that Geoff will continue to lead our ever popular Evensong Services.  I am immensely grateful for this.  We wish Robyn and Geoff well as they settle into their new home.

I would also like to take this opportunity to give thanks for the life and ministry of Canon David Bindon who died a few weeks ago.  David was Vicar of St. Andrew’s Kohimarama from 1980 through to 1986, becoming a parishioner during his time as Commissary to the Archbishop of Melanesia.  David’s role as Commissary and his ongoing connection to Melanesia helped our Parish to strengthen our connection with Melanesia over the years.  David helped with services in the parish up until a year or so ago when his health began to deteriorate.  David will be greatly missed.

As a worshipping community we are extremely blessed to have a number of talented organists.  It has been wonderful to have Brent Nicholson’s talented musicianship return.  We were also delighted to welcome Sharon Martin as one of our organists this past year. I am immensely grateful to both Brent and Sharon who are both a pleasure to work with.  Thank you also to Jo Baxter who stepped in from time to time during Brent’s absence.

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 ideas 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 lots of fun.

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.  I am therefore very grateful to have the support of our Pastoral Care team members, Jennifer Copeland, Rob Smellie, Janet McCallum and Elizabeth Jollands who joined the team this past year.  Thank you also to The Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightley for her support in regards to pastoral matters over the year.  Special thanks to Jennifer Copeland who has runs our prayer circle and sends out cards to those we are praying for each week.

Our Spirituality Group has now been running for some nine 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 with much of the program over the past few years. With Kay leaving Roz Edwards has kindly offered to assist me with this group in the future.

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.

Our Pre-School Music Group has now been going for some fourteen years.  Thank you to the 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.  Margaret does a fantastic job.  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. Numbers attending this group naturally fluctuate a great deal.  Last year the group had quite low numbers of attendance however, these have picked up significantly this year.

Thank you to Jo Baxter who has led Sunday school this past year.  Jo has done some wonderful work with our children, catering for fluctuating attendance numbers 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 six years.  The program offers an opportunity for ministry among families in our area.  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. Last year the Program contributed $14,000 to the parish budget.  David Wolfenden and I are the current Trustees appointed by Vestry.  The program currently has four paid staff, and in addition, 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.  Each year the program sees an increase in attendance, however this will of course even out over time given that we are currently only drawing on children from Kohimarama School. The program provides a stimulating environment with opportunities for children to learn about God and faith.

Our youth continues to be an area of concern.  The Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightley and I started a new Youth Group a few years ago, focusing on the pre-and early teens in the parish. This group is still very tentative and with Kay’s leaving support is now required to run this group.  Vestry is beginning to explore the possibility 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 urgently focus on as a parish, 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 also like to acknowledge Rona Patterson who started our Line Dancing Group three and a half years ago.  The group has attracted a number of members from outside the parish and continues to grow.  Rona is now also taking the odd class on a Tuesday morning.  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 and New Zealand.  Thank you Rona for all the fun and enthusiasm you provide through this group.

Three years ago we started a Men’s Group.  The focus of this group is fellowship, and it 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 the movies.  It has enabled a number of men in the parish to get to know each other a lot better.

Jennie Henry has now been our Selwyn Centre’s Coordinator for just under a year.  She has done a fantastic job of providing a stimulating and interesting program for those who attend.  I would like to thank Jennie 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, and especially thank Robyn and Geoff Hickman who have lead the Centre when Jennie has been away as well as supporting her at other times.  Thanks also to our Selwyn Centre Committee, Ann Bone, Jill Benton, Margaret Bell, Diane Levien, Leith Hamilton and to Lynne Lett who stepped down during the year but who continues as a volunteer.  The program has now been going for eight years.  It receives funding from the Selwyn Foundation and contributions from attendees.

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.

The Community Garden which we built and planted during the year has proven to be a success, with produce being given out after services including to families in need.  The garden is also an example in our community of environmental and nutritional care. Thank you to those who are involved in this project.

I would also like to make mention of Jill Benton’s work on the Property Committee.  Jill and I are currently working with the Trustees of Eileen Phipps’ estate to organize the implementation of the ‘Long Term Maintenance Assessment Plan’ that the estate is funding.  To date this has taken Jill a significant amount of time. Some of the projects that this involves are significant in their scale and it is envisaged that this work will be carried out over a number of years.  As information comes to hand we will keep the parish informed.

I would also like to thank Annabelle Hale, our Parish Secretary, for her commitment to this role and for her support this past year.  Annabelle has been in this role for just under a year now.  She is always cheery and happy to go that extra mile for anyone who comes into the office.  It is a pleasure to work with you Annabelle.  Annabelle has also taken on the role of our Vestry Secretary.

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 yet again successfully fundraised for missions.  Last year we raised funds for the Wate family home in Melanesia, which was destroyed by an earthquake, and this year we have raised funds for the Kombega family home in Papua New Guinea which was destroyed by fire.  We have also kept up the $400 we give per month to the Anglican Board of Missions which is on top of our Diocesan mission’s parish quota.  I would also like to thank those who have given of their time and money to the Anglican Trust for Women and Children and to the Anglican City Mission during the year.  Special thanks also to Ewan Christie for designing our wonderful new tea towel and to Jill Benton for coordinating screen-printing and packaging. The first $500 raised from the sale of each tea towel will go to assist in raising funds for the Auckland City Mission’s HomeGround Project, but beyond this tea towel sales will be used to raise funds for St. Andrew’s on an ongoing basis.

Over the past six months we have undergone our Parish Review as well as my Personal Review, both of which were organized through the Diocese and proved to be outstandingly positive.

Our Parish Review was extremely affirmative, and showed that as a Parish we are succeeding in every aspect of our life together in terms of the Diocesan Healthy Church Model.   However, it was also a valuable exercise in highlighting our opportunities for improvement.  The Review confirmed with Diocesan statistics that over the past sixteen years we have maintained steady numbers, and even achieved 3% growth in the past three years.  Importantly it showed that we are unified in terms of how we currently see our life together and how we want to move together as a parish into the future.  The Vestry is currently in the process of updating our strategic plan as a result of the Parish Review and has changed the structure of the plan to bring it in line with the ‘Healthy Church Model’ which the Diocese is encouraging parishes to adopt. 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.

In terms of my personal review I would like to thank everyone who took part, for their extremely positive feedback and their wonderful affirmation of me as your Priest.  After sixteen years in the parish as your Vicar I feel humbled and encouraged.  I want to acknowledge the love of many of you who have walked beside me over these past sixteen years, which has helped shape me to be the person and Priest that I am today.  To all of you, thank you.

As we look forward to another year, 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 community of people.

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