Timaru churches commit to one-parish concept

By Angela Singer 

A very special summit was held in Temuka in March that resulted in four Presbyterian churches committing to becoming a single parish with four congregations.

The vote at the Churches in Timaru Summit 09 delivered a very big YES to Trinity, St Stephen’s, Chalmers and St Paul’s churches working together towards becoming one parish, in order to be more effective in mission.

The Rev Helen Martin, who led the transitional group with the Rev Ian Hyslop, says 89, 86, 73 and 95 percent of each church respectively voted in favour of the commitment, which she describes as “quite a remarkable result”.

Ian, moderator of the Presbytery of South Canterbury, says the Presbyterian parishes in Timaru have been on a journey together for the past couple of years “looking at ways of being more effective in ministry and mission”.

“The Rev Bryan Gilmour, a transitional minister from the Uniting Church in Australia, has been working alongside the Timaru parishes for nine months, meeting with small groups of folk to share their dreams for the Church.”

A highlight of the summit day, Helen says, was the talk given by guest speaker Moderator the Right Rev Dr Graham Redding. “Graham spoke about the present reality of post-Christendom. For many, his talk was like an epiphany. They came to a new realisation that if we are to be effective in mission, we must pool our resources and work not only more efficiently, but also differently.”

Helen says that recently a thank-you evening was held for the original vision establishment team, and one of the team spoke of how Graham’s summit address helped her to understand the changes that had occurred in the Church during her lifetime.

A ministry team is forming, Helen says, with each member of the team bringing the strengths required. Recent appointments to Trinity and St Paul’s are the Revs Chris and Mary-Jane Konings. In Chalmers, the Rev Evan Stenlake from the Uniting Church has been appointed as a short-term transitional minister.

Now that the parishes have made a commitment, Helen says, they have to “find ways to make it happen”.

“The next thing is for the combined sessions or boards of managers to meet from 26 May onwards, over two or three months, whilst they work through the governance structure.” These combined sessions’ meetings were voted on at the summit day. Helen says that the vote on this motion was 63 percent, not the 66 percent required, so one parish did not give its mandate.

Helen is confident the ministry team is listening to any concerns that have emerged from the Timaru summit day. “The ministry team are very aware of the people who voted against becoming one parish with four congregations, and are working hard at pastoral care of these people, who must not be left out of the mix at this stage. We believe that by listening to their ongoing concerns, we can make the final outcome all the better.”

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