Category Archives: Reviews

“Church leaders and lay alike will find humble but passionate vision and wisdom here.” Review by Rosemary Dewerse of Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight.

‘Alifeleti Vaitu’ulala Ngahe
Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight: Engaged Ministry in Avondale Union and Manurewa Methodist Parishes 2006-2014

(Wellington: Philip Garside, 2014), 68pp.

Review by:
Rosemary Dewerse, Mission Educator, College of St John the Evangelist, Auckland.

(This review will be published in the December 2015 issue of the
Australian Journal of Mission Studies
.)

“In our part of the world where practitioners significantly outnumber academics in the field of missiology, we often do not benefit from their wisdom because they are too busy “doing.” This is especially the case with Pacifica leaders. In this remarkable little book Rev Ngahe, a Tongan Methodist minister working in Auckland, New Zealand, does, however, take the time to pause and record his ministry strategy across 2006-2014, a strategy that because of its deeply contextual and outward-facing commitment exemplifies missional church leadership.

Ngahe’s strategy is straightforward. He seeks out visual images that can capture his own but also his people’s imagination and then explores their riches as he leads his community in building connections within and beyond their own boundaries in service of Christ and the people.

For himself as a Tongan the image of a Fala (a mat woven by one’s family) keeps him humble in reminding him that when he joins a community he joins a history and comes to contribute to that. It keeps him open as a Fala’s purpose is to invite family and others into talanoa (conversation seeking agreed solutions). It also keeps him mindful that when he moves on it is good for the people to be continuing to weave a closely interlaced Fala.

When Ngahe arrived in Avondale, Auckland, in 2006 he found the local icon of the Avondale spider. This got him thinking about the care with which a spider (in his imagination, God) weaves a web that despite the weather holds fast. The legs of the spider he saw as us all doing God’s work in reaching out across the community web through good and difficult times. Such thinking saw him lead the renewal of a rundown church building by seeking and welcoming help offered by likely as well as unlikely groups (eg the NZ Methodist Church, local businesses, the Mormons, the Department of Corrections). The congregation had a vision of being ‘Christ’s light to the community’ by running a homework club as a way to begin reversing endemic unemployment in the area; it was a vision others wanted to support, though there was some discomfort at first amongst parishioners with some of their partners. Though Ngahe left in 2010, the club, and other community activities, continue to this day in the refurbished church.

In Manurewa the image drawn upon was the name of the suburb: in Maori it means “soaring bird.” There, as Ngahe notes, “the listening and storytelling took pictorial shape” (p26). A mural on this corner church was painted with the help of local businesses, community police, local graffiti taggers, and MPs, as well as church members. They and nearly 40 other community groups now see “The Corner of Hope” (the name of the Church) as a place of welcome and belonging for all people. Hospitality and transformation are the two key theological themes underpinning all that happens there.

For Ngahe it is clear that finding a language that embeds God’s mission in the local context and in words and deeds that all people can understand and feel embraced by is crucial. It is exemplified not only in his approach to his ministry but also in the way in which he has written this most accessible book. Church leaders and lay alike will find humble but passionate vision and wisdom here.”

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“The psalms and a number of the poems lend themselves to liturgical use…” Review by Lynne Frith of The In-between Land

The In-Between Land: Psalms, Poems and Haiku
By Mark Gibson
Review by Lynne Frith

Published in Touchstone October 2015

“There’s an element of risk for the writer in publishing a first collection of poetry. How will it be received? Will it resonate with readers? Will it sell? Mark Gibson has taken those risks and more, with this his first published collection of poems. These deeply personal reflections on his spiritual journey from the time of the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes carry with them the additional risk of self-exposure.

Not surprisingly, given the context, raw emotion is to be found in these pages. It is expressed in a way that will enable both those who have lived through and with the earthquakes and those without such direct experience to recognise and connect with the highs and lows, the despair, and the glimpses of grace and beauty.

The collection, as the subtitle indicates, is divided into three sections – psalms, poems, and haiku. The 15 psalms provide a prelude to the body of the collection – some 50 poems grouped thematically – and the haiku are almost a postscript.

It’s an attractively presented volume – the cover photo, presumably the poet’s own, though unattributed, draws us in to the natural world that features strongly in all the writing. The voice is consistent with the Mark Gibson many of us know, with his strong concern for ecology and the environment.

The psalms, in time honoured tradition, pick up themes of praise, lament, and hope. Take Psalm 3, for example: “when the sky is grey for days on end, / we praise you!” And, towards the end of the psalm, the phrase from which the book’s title is drawn: ‘O God, we praise you for your love / in this in-between and often graceless land.”

Psalm 8 cries out in lament: “how long will it take until the river runs clear again? / when will the inanga run once more.”

And Psalm 12 strikes a note of hope: “what unexpected joy can come / when we risk conversation with a stranger.”

The body of poems, with the unnecessary markers of place and date, gives the sense of being a journal. There are poignant lines in some poems. For example, in Twenty- Seven Reasons: “the kids have secretly / compiled a list with / twenty seven reasons / why we should return / to our old house.”

In other places, the essence of the poem is wrapped in too many words, as in No one comes: “open the doors / set out chairs / make everything ready / sit down and wait / anxiously watch clock / no one comes.” This would have been stronger if it had moved from “make everything ready” to “ no one comes”.

If I had edited this work, I would have placed ‘Torrent Bay Escapes’ at the end of the poems, inviting the reader to consider his or her place of escape to a safer, more harmonious environment, far enough away from the challenging realities of daily life. And there I would have ended the collection.

Whatever I might think about editing, the content of this collection does what it sets out to do, which is to tell the story of the people who lived through the earthquakes, to encourage appreciation for the natural world, and offer hope for the future.

The psalms and a number of the poems lend themselves to liturgical use, and I would expect that many readers will find a plentiful resource for their own reflection and nourishment.”

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“…insightful, and often deeply moving.” Review by Jim Consedine of The In-Between Land

Book review published on Tui Motu Interislands Facebook page 4 August 2015

The In-Between – Land, Psalms, Poems and Haiku
By Mark Gibson

Review By Jim Consedine

“Mark Gibson is a Methodist minister, a 6th generation Cantabrian, attached to the New Brighton Union parish in East Christchurch. He has been their minister right through the earthquakes and has been very involved in community re-building since. East Christchurch is the most damaged suburban part of Christchurch. Mark also leads the River of Life project and co-leads the Avon Otakaro Network – both based in the east.

These groups with others are struggling to maintain public access and ownership of red-zoned areas (earthquake damaged land where no building is permitted) between the city and the sea. They are struggling to make the Government and the local authorities hear what ordinary people from the grassroots say regarding their future. This struggle is reflected in much of the poetry.

In this, his first book of psalms, poems and haiku (small 3-line poetic observations), Mark shares with insight observations into the ordinary everyday things of life. One can feel the ground shaking as he describes huddling under the kitchen table, or being caught in his church, or being on the beach as the quakes rumbled. One can see the sunsets, hear the birds and wonder at the beauty of these parts. One can feel the creative Spirit of God echoing through the lines of this deeply spiritual man.

The In-Between Land is insightful, and often deeply moving. It carries the reflections of a man with a heart for justice and the soul of a real poet. Let’s hope we have more from Mark’s pen in the future.”

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“With imagination and insight the author shares acute observations on life…” Review by John Meredith of Greens and Greys

Book review published on Tui Motu Interislands Facebook page 12 August 2015

Greens and Greys
by Rosalie Sugrue

Philip Garside Publisher, Wellington, 2015, 212 pages.

Reviewed by John Meredith

“Rosalie Sugrue draws on her personal knowledge of people and places and weaves this into the fictional story of Molly Sinclair. As Molly’s thoughts and observations come tumbling out, the story reads rather like a diary. In other ways, however, it is a thought-provoking critique of social values and narrow-mindedness.

Molly has grown up on the West Coast in a secure and loving home. She knows the behaviour expected of her. In addition to her parents she has her church and Girl Guides as moral mentors. Nevertheless she is not wholly insulated. She is sexually harassed by an older man. Her brother is gay and, although never spoken of at home, this leaves unanswered questions in her mind. Later she has to face the incomprehensible suicide of her father. When Molly is diagnosed with a depressive illness readers are allowed a glimpse of historic conditions in a psychiatric hospital.

Moving to Christchurch as a student Molly is conscious of the values she brings with her. While she has a new freedom and is able to talk about sex and romance with her friends, she is also constrained by the rules and expectations of a church-run student hostel. New horizons unfold when she moves to teach in a small town. There is security in flatting with friends with whom she has shared student hostel life.

Eventually Molly embarks on her planned OE. She travels to England and Europe. Far from the constraints of home Molly is introduced to alcohol and sex. She finds romance but also experiences sexual abuse at the hands of an adult whom she believed wanted to help her. At one point fearing the consequences of pregnancy Molly considers suiciding. Returning to New Zealand she marries and raises four children. More confident in herself Molly embraces a feminist perspective and recognises how culture impacts on faith and ethics.

With imagination and insight the author shares acute observations on life as seen through the eyes of Molly Sinclair. Those who grew up in the 1960s and who are aware of how much attitudes have changed since then will feel they are on a journey with a fellow traveller. The story also recalls advertising jingles, jokes, sayings, songs and experiences almost lost in the mists of memory. The story depicts not just the colour of the landscape but the grey of confusion always washed with the green of hope.”

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“…extremely well written, thoughtful and engaging.” Review by Johanna Warren of Weaving, Networking, and Taking Flight

Book review published on Tui Motu Interislands Facebook page 12 August 2015

Weaving, Networking, and Taking Flight:
Engaged Ministry in Avondale Union and Manurewa Methodist Parishes 2006 -2014

by ‘Alifeleti Vaitu’ulala Ngahe

Published by Philip Garside Publishing Ltd, Wellington, 2014.

Reviewed by Johanna Warren

“The book is the study-leave report of a Tongan Methodist Pastor. He reflects on nine years of ministry in two parishes in the Auckland area. It is extremely well written, thoughtful and engaging. I found Vaitu’ulala Ngahe’s writing style fresh and alive. Sometimes a sentence would leap off the page with vigour and impact. Vaitu’ulala’s metaphors are lively and his descriptions and thinking are clear.

Vaitu’ulala began his reflections with three symbols or icons. He builds his theological reflection and his narrative around the mat or Tongan fala, the spider and the bird, which all opened up metaphors for exploring his ministry. The mat, crafted by the family and spread out for family discussions, with its unfinished edges always open to new weaving was a great metaphor for Vaitu’ulala’s ministry practice.

Vaitu’ulala found his other symbols in the places of his two ministries, Avondale and Manurewa. Avondale Town Centre hosts an icon of the Avondale Spider and Manurewa means “soaring birds”. Vaitu’ulala’s ministry and reflections are deeply grounded among the people of these places.

Vaitu’ulala reflects on the processes undertaken in Avondale and Manurewa to revitalise community relationships and begin new outreach programmes. His writing would spark reflection for parish leadership and offers examples of how to undertake such reflection and how valuable it can be. Vaitu’ulala also includes practical insights into practices for leading transformation in parish ministry and community outreach.

I would recommend this book to any pastor considering study-leave or planning a period of reflection before transition in ministry. I would also strongly recommend it as good reading for the leaders of parishes who are considering changing how they relate with their local communities. It would also be helpful to those feeling stuck or complacent in their parish life.

It was pleasure to read this book and it is one I can see myself re-reading as I reflect on my own ministry.”

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“…ministry is intrinsically linked to human need.” Review by Daniel Newman of Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight

Review by Daniel Newman – former chairman, Manurewa Local Board

 Weaving Networking and Taking Flight

“When Rev Vaitu’ulala Ngahe’s hands come together in prayer, I imagine big strong hands that comfort the lonely and the sick. I imagine hands that direct public service and selfless giving to others. I imagine hands that build furniture, till soil to build gardens and wield paint brushes to beautify public places.

The central theme of Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight is a contemporary perspective of Godly public service, the principle of applying a theological perspective to communities within Aotearoa New Zealand. It is an inspiring narrative of service that provides an insight into the progressive perspective of the Methodist Church of New Zealand.

Rev Vai puts at the heart of his journey an understanding that ministry is intrinsically linked to human need. The narrative of the book communicates his concern for social justice and human happiness, which goes hand and hand with ministry teachings and spiritual nourishment.

The book is a story of collective advocacy. Rev Vai is a sophisticated thinker. His days in Avondale and more recently in Manurewa reveal his appreciation of networking, building relationships, forming alliances, working collaboratively and communicating his message of service to others through multiple mediums.

The narrative is reflective. Rev Vai offers an insight into nine years of ministry and the importance of building healthy and hopeful communities. He reflects upon a holistic notion of health and hope, which requires an equal attention to the spiritual, physical, emotional and cultural well-being of the whole community. He ties this reflection back to Christ’s transformative work among the people and communities of his day.

The connection between the selfless giving of Christ and the transformative work of contemporary Christians has not changed through the generations. To this end Rev Vai provides an insight into how service can and should be offered to those around us. It is a lesson for all of us, not just those who minister and tend to our spiritual needs.

The book tells the story of three people who tagged buildings. Those people asked Rev Vai if they could join the church community, to which he replied that they were more than welcome to come. It is through this process of reconciliation that Rev Vai led a renaissance within the hearts of those people, as well as some initially ambivalent members of the wider church community.

Rev Vai asks the church to live out its theology of hospitality, a challenge that demands a leap of faith. He invites people with complex lives and challenging histories to become equal partners in the house of the Lord. The Manurewa Methodist Church is located on ‘the corner of hope.’ Through his work Rev Vai encourages people to throw open its doors to all; no one is declined the opportunity to enter under its roof.

Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight is a story of one man’s journey. It is a blueprint for service that provides an insight into ecumenical leadership in the context of communities in south and west Auckland.

From the days of the early missions to this land, from the early Wesleyan missionaries at Mangungu, at Kawhia, Manukau, Kaipara and Raglan, the Methodist Church of New Zealand has always placed great currency on the bi-cultural foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand. Methodist teachings acknowledge the foundational role of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the importance of personal virtue, the value of sobriety, equality, and peace.

Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight contextualises these principles in the modern world. It is a story of inspired service.

People should read Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight. This book is a blueprint for those people who want to help build a stronger community, but who do not know where to start. The way to serve is outlined within its pages.”

Daniel Newman, June 2015

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What should we be offering to Kiwis dealing with death?

Earthed in Hope

Article in Anglican Taonga – Pentecost 2015

Lloyd Ashton asked Alister Hendery what should we be offering to Kiwis dealing with death.

 

Alister_page_8_Taonga_Pentecost_2015Alister Hendery’s new book Earthed in Hope – Dying, Death and Funerals, a Pakeha Anglican Perspective was launched in Wellington last November. It is the fruit of a life that has specialised in death.

Over the course of 35 years in ministry, Alister has taken more than 1500 funerals – both as a priest and celebrant. He has also worked as a counsellor specialising in grief and loss.

Death is even a feature of Alister’s chosen sport.

A few years ago he took up powerlifting.

The demands of wrestling with a loaded Olympic bar saw him through the more intense periods of writing his book, he says.

He found too, that one of the sport’s three lifts became his favourite:

The deadlift.

“I’m often asked,” he says, “whether I find such a concentration on death depressing.

“On the contrary. It’s life-giving, it adds a sense of immediacy to life, teaching me to measure the present moment and to rely on the grace of God – believing, as I do, that the life I have and the life I will know after death is a gift from the One who created me and loves me.”

If appearances are anything to go by, that’s not mere talk, either.

Because Alister Hendery has an impish grin, a twinkle in his eye, and a ready wit.

Alister decided to write his book because he was appalled by the “acute lack of any serious writing about funeral ministry” in New Zealand.

He wanted to do something about that, to offer resources for funeral ministry – but also to kick-start conversations about death and bereavement.

Because death, he says is a subject we don’t talk about nearly enough.

It has been marginalised, even in the church.

“I go to Anglican funerals,” he says, “where the word ‘death’ is not used.

“The church has been seduced by a societal obsession with the beauty of youth.

“Of course youth matters. But not at the price of ignoring the elderly, and putting things like ministry to the dying and dead into a second tier.”

That lack of deliberate reflection about death and dying is all the more serious, he says, because the Kiwi Zeitgeist has changed.

“How we approach death, how we mark it, what we believe about it, what we do with our dead, has changed radically over the past four decades – and funeral ministry is caught up in this windstorm of cultural change.”

While the church has moved inexorably from the centre to the periphery of our culture, he says we haven’t seen the opportunity that lies at our feet.

“2016 marks the beginning of the demise of the baby boomer generation.

“The funeral industry is positioning itself for this development, but is the church readying itself with as much energy and commitment?”

We haven’t grasped, says Alister, that funeral ministry is “at the edge of our connection with society.

“It’s the place where the gospel and contemporary culture most keenly interact.

“Because it’s the area, as the Prayer Book says, that touches us most deeply.”

Alister began research for his book in 2010.

Within a year, Pike River and the first of the Christchurch quakes had happened.

“Suddenly, with Pike River, you had what one commentator described as the first expression of public grieving on the social networks.

“I was able to download literally thousands of postings, and a picture very quickly emerged.

“And I can tell you that neo-Platonism, the belief in an immortal soul, is alive and well. People are reverting to ancient images of the ferryman crossing the Styx.

“There is no concept of the Judaic-Christian belief in the resurrection of the body. It simply is not out there.”

‘You never find closure’

In the wake of Pike River, Alister got tired of hearing the word closure being bandied around.

It comes, he says, from a 1970s model of grief. “The idea that if you achieve certain goals, people will be able to move on.”

“But human being just don’t work like that. Grief is a time of utter chaos. And we each grieve uniquely. It can’t be stylised in the form that the media present it.

“You never find closure to grief.

“It is always a part of you.

“We look for change. Radical change.

“But that’s not closure. I would go so far as to say that the whole psychological linear model is feeding people a lie.”

“I was watching a movie on day, and suddenly my eyes filled with tears. And it was a grief 30 years old.

“It was almost as though it had tapped me on the shoulder and said: ‘Just pay attention’.

“I didn’t need to go to a therapist. It said: ‘Just notice me. I’m still here in your life.’

Alister is not picking a fight with celebrants. After all, he’s been one himself.

“The church could learn from good celebrants,” he says, “about personalising and expressing the uniqueness of this death.

“What celebrants can’t do, is draw on the richness of the church’s tradition. And the strength of hope that we have, as we look beyond this death.

The celebrant funeral, he says “is often almost entirely retrospective.

“It’s for the living. But the church says” ‘No. It’s not just for the living. It’s for the dead, too.’

We acknowledge the retrospective – but we say there is a prospective dimension. There is a hope.

“That is still the gift the church has. But what the church needs to do, is to learn to speak the language of the people around it.”

Alister Hendery was ordained in 1980.

He’s now 61.

“Because my life on earth is now more memory than future,” he writes, “I am increasingly mindful of my own mortality.”

Having officiated a hundreds of funerals, he now practises a discipline:

“As I leave a funeral, I take a moment to be still, and in that stillness I say to myself:

“One day this will be me.

“One day, I shall not walk away from this place.

“Should I forget this, the liturgies of the church remind me of my mortality and the need to prepare for death – my death.”

And the last words of his book are a quote form what he considers to be an “utterly brilliant resource” – the New Zealand Prayer Book:

There is nothing in death or life,
in the world as it is,
or the world as it shall be,
nothing in all creation,
that can separate us from the love of God
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39)


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Praise for Earthed in Hope. eBooks now $9.99

The following review by Rev John Meredith appears in the June 2015 issue of Touchstone – the Methodist Church’s monthly newspaper.

 “Alister G. Hendery,
Earthed in Hope.
Dying, Death and Funerals. A Pakeha Anglican Perspective
.
Wellington: Philip Garside, 2014, 300 pages.

Hendery remarks that over the past four decades funeral practices in New Zealand have undergone sweeping changes. Celebrants who are not clergy conduct well over half Pakeha funerals and offer a highly personalised, life-centred alternative to churches. Although the church is no longer the chief provider of funeral ceremonies, Christian faith has a realistic approach to death and grief that is grounded in undying hope in God. Writing from an Pakeha Anglican perspective, Hendery addresses significant issues of Christian faith and practice and touches on matters relevant to all who exercise funeral ministry.

A funeral marks the ending of a human life and, as Hendery points out, people today have a wide choice in style and content of a funeral service. When a minister of the church is requested to officiate it cannot be taken for granted that the community for this funeral either understands or accepts the Christian story. Listening is a key part of the minister’s preparation. It is also important for a minister to accept that profound feelings of the loss of a physical presence cannot be assuaged by religious formulae.

At several places in the book the author stresses that whatever form the funeral takes, the most effective feature will be the embodiment of compassion by the minister. While those attending the funeral may forget what was said they will probably remember the attitude of the minister.

While a minister of the church is a spokesperson for the gospel, Hendery stresses this does not mean imposing on people. Ministers must be flexible and willing to offer guidance rather than ruling on matters such as choice of music and form of tribute.

Hendery expresses concern about the way euphemistic language may diminish the reality of someone’s death. Too often a person passes away to become the deceased. Instead, the author prefers unambiguous language. His practice of referring to someone who has died as “the dead person” indicates both respect for the person and an acceptance of reality.

The idea of closure, as it is popularly termed, is addressed thoughtfully. Writing of the pastoral care of people who are grieving, Hendery suggests that while, over time, those who have been bereaved may become reconciled to their loss, this does not mean that closure, is an appropriate end to the experience of grief. Those who are left continue to relate to those who have died through memory and abiding influence.

For those concerned with funeral ministry there is much in this book that will repay careful reflection: how God and Christian hope are presented, the avoidance of euphemisms and idealistic eulogies, ritual at and after the funeral, funerals following suicide, funerals of children and children at funerals. Hendery states: We need to be able to look death in the face and be willing to wrestle with the theological, spiritual and emotional demands that this takes. Earthed in Hope offers significant help for those who are serious about doing this.”


eBook editions of Earthed in Hope have now been reduced from NZ$14.99 to NZ$9.99.
Click here to order your PDF, Kindle or ePub edition.

 

“…rich with stories, metaphors and invitations for ministering across cultures…” Review of Weaving, Networking & Taking Flight by Jione Havea

The following review by Jione Havea — Senior lecturer in biblical studies at the United Theological College & School of Theology, Charles Sturt University — will appear in the August 2015 issue of the Uniting Church Studies journal.

 Rev Havea is a Tongan Methodist minister and is the Principal Researcher with the Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre.

 Weaving, Networking & Taking Flight
‘Alifeleti Vaitu’ulala Ngahe

(Wellington, Philip Garside Publishing Ltd., 2014),
pp. 68. ISBN 9781501004476 (pbk).

“This slim book is rich with stories, metaphors and invitations for ministering across cultures, generations and languages, written by a Methodist Minister in Aotearoa New Zealand. Ngahe reflects on his ministry over nine years at two parishes (Avondale and Manurewa) and identifies stepping stones for those who wish to be involved in what he calls “engaged ministry,” which simply means to be not just saying it, but doing it (p. 11).

Ngahe values the practice of reflecting on one’s experience and ministry, and then sharing the wisdom gained with other colleagues and other ministry agents. Those are the motivations for Ngahe’s work and I hope that this book will inspire other Pacific islanders to reflect and share, instead of hiding, their experiences, stories and wisdom. This hope echoes a biblical opinion: that the lamp which is not lit and placed on the table is of no use to anyone.

Ngahe developed his reflection according to three metaphors borrowed from the life practices of three different subjects: weaving of mats by Tongans, spinning of webs by spiders and the flight of birds. On first view, these metaphors could be unpacked toward defining forms of ecological ministry. Maybe that is a task for another series of reflections! At a deeper level, the metaphor from Tongan mat-weaving represents Ngahe himself, and his place in the two parishes, represented by the other two metaphors. Ngahe is a Tongan weaver who “net-works” with a spinning spider (hence the word “networking” on the title of the book) representing Avondale, and a bird in flight representing Manurewa (a name that consists of two Māori words: manu translates as bird, and rewa translates as kite).

The first metaphor is weaving. Weaving is a communal activity in Tonga, and the outcomes are various kinds of mats for different persons and for different purposes. Mats are made of the interweaving of strands and at the end, the edges are unfinished. “They remain open and ready for more strands to be woven in” (p. 14). This is how Ngahe saw his ministry at Avondale. A mat was already being woven, when he arrived. That mat was unfinished. He wove more strands into that mat; then it was time for him to move on, leaving the mat for the next minister and the community to add more strands. In this regard, ministry is never finished off. One comes to the mat (read: ministry), adds a few strands, then leaves the edges unfinished for others to join in the weaving.

The second metaphor comes from the Avondale Spider, which is an icon at the Avondale Town Centre. Ngahe reflects on the process and art of spinning a web. The hardest part is the first thread, and finding an anchoring point for the web. Once that’s in place, then the spider goes back and forth to weave its intricate web. For Ngahe, the spider is in a process of net-working. This is valuable insight for engaged ministry: get the first strand anchored then net-work with other churches, other organisations, and other social bodies, to cooperate in building the web (read: community).

The third metaphor, bird in flight, is inspired by the name of Ngahe’s second parish: Manurewa. Similar to the spider, the bird has to struggle to get off the ground as it starts its flight. But once it is in the air it floats, almost effortlessly, like a rewa (kite) that is being carried by the wind. Mission is like this also. It needs a lot of help to start its flight, but once it is in the air, it will glide almost effortlessly. This is how Ngahe experienced his ministry at Manurewa, where the support of the community made the mission of the church almost effortless. Almost!

One of the strengths of this book is the way Ngahe explains the three metaphors with stories of his ministry, which was always engaging the community in different mission projects, including working on a car park mural at Manurewa. For Ngahe, mission is about hospitality, compassion, empowerment and hope (pp. 42-43).

The chapter on theological themes is worth reading and reflecting upon (chp 5). Ngahe invites further reflection and engagement around the theologies of hospitality, which requires breaking down the barriers that come with social status, and transformation, which needs to be at the physical also and not just in a spiritual exercise. Ngahe closed the book with his ten personal (chp 6) and ministry (chp 7) learnings, which reads like a “top ten list” (à la David Letterman) instead of a list of “ten commandments.” Personal and the ministerial experiences are indeed interwoven, and reflection on one leads to reflection on the other.

I commend this book not just for Tongan Methodist Ministers but also for all ministry agents who are involved in intercultural and engaged ministries. Who isn’t? In other words, this book is for you as well!

I hope for two kinds of responses to Ngahe’s work: First, for readers to critically engage his proposals. Do the metaphors work? I’m conscious that some are scared of spiders, for instance, while others eat them as a snack. What other metaphors would you weave into Ngahe’s mat? Second, I hope that this work will inspire Pacific Islanders to reflect on your ministries, write your stories, and share your wisdom with the rest of us. If you don’t, then future generations of Pacific Island ministers will have to learn from non-Pacific Islanders. You may of course write in your Pacific languages. In other words, you don’t need to write in English. But writing in English is also an opportunity for non-islanders to learn from the rest of us.

Finally, I look forward to the outcome of the next nine years of Ngahe’s ministry and for his further sharing of his reflections and his gifts.”

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Fraser Boyd featured in Upper Hutt Leader, 25 March 2015

Newspaper Article

Author tackles fiction

Upper Hutt Leader 25 March 2015, pg 12

Upper Hutt Leader article 25 March 2015 150w

First time author: Fraser Boyd undertook a lot of research before writing his first novel. (Upper Hutt Leader, 25 March 2015)

“Upper Hutt’s Fraser Boyd had done a lot of writing in his time before he turned his hand to fiction.

The former technical writer and Air Force photographer has recently had his first novel published.

Never to Return Home tells the story of Boyd’s wife Margaret’s great-grandparents, who emigrated from Ireland to Otago in the 1860s.

Boyd said his interest in their story began when his wife embarked on a family history project. Scant details were available about their lives in New Zealand, so Boyd used his imagination to fill in the gaps.

Boyd, a morning person, would get up bright and early to work on the story.

“It took three years’ spare time,” Boyd said.

“I don’t think I found it too difficult,” he said. “Once it flowed, it really flowed.”

Boyd said he wanted to rewrite the novel about five or six times, often realising he had skipped some years in the story.

Once Boyd had finished his manuscript, he showed it to his family before it went to publisher Philip Garside.

After that, there was a “huge amount” of rework by the editor.

“I write long sentences,” Boyd said. “Some had to be cut in half.”

Boyd said he was amazed how much information is available to help with writing a piece of historical fiction.

“It’s surprising how much you can find when you put some strange words into Google.”

In one instance he had found a complete history of the Port Chalmers Quarry.

Boyd said the whole process had been a big learning experience, but he would recommend it to others who felt they had a story to put to paper.

“Based on my experience, I would say ‘do it’.”

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