The Rt Rev Dr David Coles retires in February after
almost six years as vicar of the Wakatipu Anglican Parish and
more than 40 years in New Zealand ministry.
However, God works in mysterious ways and Dr Coles and his
wife Joy will travel to Copenhagen, where he will serve as a
locum in St Alban's for nine months, before they return to
Christchurch and their four adult children and six young
''Our grandchildren are very excited because Legoland is in
Denmark,'' Dr Coles said, laughing.
The 34th vicar since the first in 1869 and the former Dean
and the seventh Bishop of Christchurch for 24 years said
retirement beckoned because he will be 71 in March.
Dr Coles was pleased his workload of sermons and services,
baptisms, weddings and funerals increased during his time in
Queenstown, to such an extent the 150-year-old parish has
become one of the most significant in the Diocese of Dunedin.
''It's not as if people are going on the traditional track of
going to Sunday School, being confirmed, then being put on
the roll,'' he said.
''People are coming here from all different routes to us.
Some are newcomers looking for a place to belong and come
once and twice and get to know people and the international
dimension is changing dramatically.
''We still have a solid core of local people who are the salt
of the earth, but on any one Sunday we've got multiple
nationalities here and that's a reality and we've got to
cater for that.''
Dr Coles said there were now ''significant numbers'' of
Chinese visitors who either take a photograph and go, or
actually sit down for the services, take communion and join
in for morning tea afterwards.
''One of the key drivers in a ministry in a resort town like
this is how to provide a welcoming community for strangers
and visitors. One of my sort of mission statements is to help
turn tourists into pilgrims, so they're not just taking
pictures and having a look, they're actually joining us,
sometimes sharing food with us.
''We have overseas visitors who are just very pleased to have
a meal with Kiwis, which you don't get in a hotel or on a bus
Those decades leading Christ Church Cathedral put him in good
stead for Queenstown.
During his tenure, the cathedral had more visitors than the
Canterbury Museum and Canterbury Art Gallery.
He married Joy, baptised some of his grandchildren, took
funerals of friends and colleagues and led the community in
services for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and in support of
democracy in China in the cathedral, long before it was
shattered by earthquakes, so ''it's got huge memories for
me'', he said.
''It's always been a very important focal point for the
community and I believe and hope it will be again.''
Dr Coles has presided over 250 weddings out of the 1000
unions a year in Queenstown and reckons he has presided over
more than 1200 weddings since he was first ordained as a
26-year-old curate in St Mark's Church, Remuera, Auckland.
Asked what trends in weddings he noticed, Dr Coles said
''shotgun weddings'' were common before effective
''People are waiting longer before they get married and
they're often in their late 20s or early 30s when they do get
married, sometimes after they've had children.
''As the years go by, they realise the importance of being
committed to each other.''
Dr Coles' services are renowned for their witty informality
of tone, hospitality to both the faithful and the curious,
and topicality with parallels drawn between passages and
''I remember a bishop saying many years ago he preached with
the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other,'' he
Asked where he sees the parish and the Anglican Church
heading, Dr Coles saida growing interest in the Christian
faith was evident in Wakatipu.
One of the big changes in his congregation had been the
significant number who considered themselves members of the
church, but did not have an Anglican background.
''That's a feature across the churches. There's a more fluid
approach to membership. They come because they enjoy the
community here, they appreciate the kind of fairly relaxed
and informal worship we have, but still maintaining the
framework of the Anglican church.''