The Melanesian Martyrs' Memorial Church of St Andrews

Vicars Report to AGM, 2017

The Anglican Parish of Kohimarama

Vicar’s Report to the Parish A.G.M, 2017

Rev’d Stephen Baxter


Dear Friends.

As your Vicar I feel very blessed and privileged to work among such a caring and loving community of people.  That is not to say that we all get it right all of the time, or that any of us are perfect, far from it.  This past year, and in particular the past five months, has thrown up some challenges for a few of us which have been difficult, however those of us involved are working through these.  It is forgiveness that is at the core of our Christian faith, and it is my hope that this call to forgiveness will carry us through this time so that we are stronger in faith and more committed to each other in love.

St. Andrew’s depends upon the contribution of many people to accomplish the many ministries we undertake.  I wish to acknowledge the contributions and faithful dedication of all of you who contribute to our parish community.

At the time of writing this report I am not sure if Leith Hamilton will be putting her name forward for People’s Warden, or what the outcome of an election for this position would be.  I would however like to take this opportunity to thank Leith on behalf of the parish for the ten years of amazing service that she has given to us as People’s Warden.  Leith has worked with me on many projects and helped me make many decisions for the parish over that time.  She has attended to her role as Warden diligently and faithfully along with the many other roles that she has been involved in within the parish.   We have been lucky to have had her as our People’s Warden for so long.  I would also like to thank her for the personal support she has given me over that time.  Thank you for your service to the parish Leith.

I feel very blessed and would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Roger Seyb who has agreed to stand again as my Vicar’s / Clergy Warden for another year.  Roger has now served as my Vicar’s Warden for five years.  His continued leadership in his roles as both Synod’s Representative and Warden offers us a great deal of stability.  I would also like to thank him for his friendship, support and wise counsel over this past year.

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 (Deacon & Synod’s Rep), Leith Hamilton (People’s Warden), Amanda Jeffs (Parish Recorder), Peter Jeffs, Roger Seyb (Vicar’s Warden & Synod’s Rep), Liz Smith, and Rev’d Dr. Paul Yeomans (Assistant Priest – who left in November).  Personally, I would also like to thank our Vestry members for the support and encouragement they have shown me.

It is with mixed emotions that we say farewell to Amanda and Peter Jeffs as they return to the U.K.  We share in their happiness as they return to be close to their family, but are sad for ourselves as we farewell two very dear friends who have given so much of themselves to our parish.  Peter and Amanda were married in the Parish.  Amanda was our Parish Secretary for a number of years, has been a Vestry member and Parish Recorder for a number of years and has served as a Trustee on the ‘Kids’ Club Trust’ since we started the trust.  Peter has also served on Vestry for a number of years, has blessed us with this guitar playing as part of the music group and was the architect for our Bell Tower, which he also oversaw the construction of.  We will miss you both very much Peter and Amanda but look forward to keeping in contact with you and seeing you when you visit New Zealand.  We will be holding a farewell for Peter and Amanda before they leave.

Last November it was my unfortunate task of withdrawing Jaedra Elizabeth’s ability to practice as our Parish Counsellor and to withdraw my permission for the Rev’d Dr. Paul Yeomans to act in the role of a Priest within our parish. These were not actions that I took lightly.  I would however like to thank both of them for the contribution that they made to our parish in the two years that they were with us, and wish them well for the future.

As always it is a pleasure and a delight to work with our Deacon Assistant The Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightley, who was ordained to the Diaconate last November.  Kay has made a significant contribution to the life of our parish this past year.  She has helped lead our worship and has preached what can only be described as outstanding sermons on a regular basis.  Her professional background has enabled her to assist me with a number of challenging pastoral situations in the parish, and she has helped lead our Spirituality Group and Youth Group.  Kay has also assisted around the parish in many other practical ways.  We look forward to celebrating with Kay as she is ordained to the Priesthood later this year.  I would also like to thank Kay’s husband David for his support of Kay in her ordained role which I recognize has a significant impact on their family life.

The role of Parish Treasurer is never an easy one but Jill Benton has once again done an outstanding job of keeping Vestry abreast as to where our parish finances are.  This past year Jill oversaw the handover of our Parish accounts into the Diocesan Consolidated Accounting System which is administered by Trust Management.  Trust Management is an independent company which is owned by the Diocese and which administers its finances as well as those of other charitable organizations.  The movement of all Parish accounts across the Diocese into the Consolidate Accounting System has come about as a result of Government changes regarding charities.  As Treasurer Jill still needs to organize regular payments with Trust Management and keep abreast as to what is happening with our accounts.  She also has to liaise with Trust Management over many other practical financial matters.  In her role as Treasurer Jill is also a Trustee, along with myself, of the Kohi Parish Investment Trust which is currently in the process of being incorporated into the Diocesan Consolidated Accounting System. I am aware that the changes in our accounting system have required considerable time and effort and I would like to acknowledge Jill’s commitment and diligence.  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, the refurbishment of the parish kitchen and hall and she has contributed greatly to our fundraising ventures over the past year.

In terms of our finances, I would also like to thank our Parish Recorder Amanda Jeffs, Warwick Langley, who looks after our parish banking and Eileen Phipps for her assistance with the Kohi Parish Investment Trust and helping with the finances of the ‘St. Andrew’s Kids’ Club’.  The Parish Office now produces and distributes the envelopes for our envelope system which for many years was looked after by Don Wormald.  In particular, I would like to thank Eileen for the huge amount of work she has done for our Trusts over many years, in terms of keeping them in order and producing accounts for the auditors.  Few parishioners will be aware of the considerable amount of work this has been for Eileen and that she has continued to help with these trusts even while she has been in poor health over the past few years.  So, extra special thanks to you Eileen.  Within the next few months our Trusts will be handed over to Trust Management and incorporated into the Diocesan Consolidated Accounting System.  With Amanda leaving us I am grateful that Warwick Langley has agreed to be our new Parish Recorder.

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 rosters, and 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 also very much valued The Rev’d Geoff Hickman starting Evensong services, which have been well received, and for the wise council and support Geoff has given me personally during the year.

As a worshiping community we are extremely blessed to have Brent Nicholson as our organist.  Personally, I am immensely grateful to Brent who is always a great pleasure to work with.  Brent’s commitment to the parish through his gift of music has been outstanding and the quality of his playing is often commented on.  A big thank you from us all Brent.

Having now been involved in what is termed a long term ministry here at St. Andrew’s, a lot more people both within the church and wider community 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.

Our Spirituality Group has now been running for some seven 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 and also Marti Anderson for her ongoing commitment to its life.

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.

 During the year it was decided that the Meditation Group which has been run by Camilla Needham would try meeting for several afternoons during the year rather than monthly with the hope that this may attract more people and people who had not tried meditation before.  Camilla and Kay are organizing the first of these on the 9th April as a lead into Holy Week.  Special thanks to Camilla for her ongoing commitment to the practice of meditation within the parish.

The Pre-School Music group has continued to grow.  At times, it is difficult to fit everyone into the hall!  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, and say a special thank you to Helen Goodwin who is there almost every week and without whom the group would be difficult to run.  I would also like to thank Jill Benton who is now helping Helen.  I am aware that both Helen and Jill need more support which is something we will address this coming year.  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.

It was with sadness that we received Jan Dillon’s resignation as our Sunday School teacher and as a member of the Worship Committee earlier this year.  Jan has done some wonderful work with children over the years, first assisting Lois Bambery to run the Sunday School, as she was when I first came to the parish, and then running it herself in later years.  Jan’s commitment to our children has been outstanding and her contribution will be missed.  With Jan’s resignation I am grateful to my wife Jo Baxter, who has been helping Jan over the past few years, for being prepared to take up Jan’s mantel and run the Sunday School in the interim.  Over the next year or so we will be making some changes to 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 four years.  The aim of the program being an opportunity for ministry among families in our area as well as being economically viable with a potential to contribute to the parish budget.  Leith Hamilton, Amanda Jeffs and I have continued as Trustees this past year.  With Amanda Jeffs resignation at our last trustee meeting I am grateful to David Wolfenden who agreed to take over from Amanda.  David was appointed by Vestry at our last meeting.  David has been a committed walking school bus volunteer for a number of years, so has first had experience of the program.  The program has two paid staff one of whom is Agnes Bautista who is the ‘Program Manager’.  There are also 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.  As in previous years the program has seen a small increase in attendance which we expect will continue with each passing year, until the maximum number we can cope with is reached.  Agnes 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 small profit to the parish which was basically what we were earning from hall rentals a few years ago. This past year we have contributed over $10,000 to the parish budget.

 Our youth continues to be an area of significant concern.  The Rev’d Dr. Kay Brightley and I started a new Youth Group a year ago, focusing on the pre-and early teens in the parish.  This group has had good attendance over the year 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 within this 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 Kate Cook who is leading Mothers Union this year and Susan Bowkett who is M.U secretary.  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 organized teams of parishioners to participate in these important ecumenical services.  Thank you Nancy, you have done an outstanding job.  Kay Brightley is taking over this role until we find someone to take on this responsibility.

I would also like to acknowledge Rona Patterson who started our Line Dancing Group a year and a half ago.  The group has attracted a number of members from outside the parish and members have danced at several Mothers Union events.  The donations collected have gone to supporting children in our own parish, and the group is about to send a donation to Melanesia.

This year we have also 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.

Our Selwyn Centre has now been running for six years. I am always impressed by the stimulating and interesting program that the program’s Coordinator Janet McCallum provides for those who attend, and would like to thank Janet for her commitment to these elderly people which often extends 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 is always in attendance and who helps with transport.  I would also like to thank the Selwyn Centre Committee, Lynne Lett, Leith Hamilton, Ann Bone and Margaret Bell, for the support they give to Janet.  Thank you also to Jill Benton who has assisted the program with its finances.  The program has continued to grow under Janet’s leadership and continues to receive 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 can I say a heartfelt thank you from us all.  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.

Vestry has spent a considerable amount of time and money in trying to establish the facts relating to our western boundary.  This has included a professional boundary survey which has shown that our boundary is not where we thought it was, and that it is in fact largely in keeping with the current hedge line.

I would also like to thank Agnes Bautista, our Parish Secretary, for her commitment to this role and for her support this past year.  Agnes 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 Agnes.

Last year 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.  With a year’s space I will be asking our new Vestry to review the plan and the relevancy of its goals.  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 that in this past year we have successfully fundraised for missions and raised a significant amount of money which we sent to Melanesia via the Anglican Board of Missions.  We have achieved this as well as keeping up our four hundred dollars we give per month to the Anglican Board of Missions which is on top of our Diocesan mission’s parish quota.

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 coming year, on the 30th November, we will be celebrating sixty years since The Right Reverend S G Caulton, Bishop of Melanesia, laid the Foundation Stone of St. Andrew’s.  Next year we will be celebrating sixty years since the church was built and dedicated by The Right Reverend Alfred Hill, Bishop of Melanesia.  These are two significant events 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.

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 directions 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.