Minister saying goodbye

The Rev Graham Langley and his wife, Rose, are looking forward to the next chapter of their lives after Mr Langley's 23 years as vicar of the Balclutha Anglican Parish. Photo by Helena de Reus.
The Rev Graham Langley and his wife, Rose, are looking forward to the next chapter of their lives after Mr Langley's 23 years as vicar of the Balclutha Anglican Parish. Photo by Helena de Reus.
It will be a bittersweet moment for the Rev Graham Langley when he conducts his last church service in Balclutha tomorrow.

Mr Langley (65) has been the vicar of the Balclutha Anglican Parish for the past 23 years since arriving in the country from South Africa.

The parish covers most of South Otago - Balclutha, Clinton, Clydevale, the Catlins, Kaitangata, Owaka and Stirling.

Before he became a priest, Mr Langley worked as a civil engineer in both South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In South Africa he trained in the Anglican ministry, and was ordained, before serving as a non-stipendiary priest - serving the parish on a voluntary, part-time basis. He moved to New Zealand with wife, Rose, and their two sons, Paul and David, in 1989 to take up the ministry full-time.

''We've always loved the smaller places, so Balclutha has been great. We have all kinds of people here with a range of backgrounds,'' Mrs Langley said.

Parishioners came from a range of church backgrounds, creating more of a community church than an Anglican church, she said.

Mr Langley said the parish was involved in a range of activities in the community as well as attending to parishioners' spiritual needs.

The parish had worked with other churches in the area to start a combined churches' foodbank, as well as creating a ''parish mealbank'' of frozen meals to be given away as needed.

Mr Langley also serves the church as an archdeacon, and visits the Otago Corrections Facility at Milburn each week to talk to prisoners and helps to take services there.

Mrs Langley was a volunteer chaplain at Balclutha Primary School and has also taught Christian education in several schools.

''We've always aimed to be a church which reaches out to the community and beyond, offering opportunities to explore the Christian faith, to strengthen relationships, and meeting practical needs.''

''We have a deep concern for world issues, too, supporting mission partners and projects in other countries.''

The Langleys made the decision to leave the parish in order to have a break before starting something new.

''We are just taking time out. It's time for a break. The church needs new ideas and new leadership,'' Mr Langley said.

''It's still an emotional event,'' Mrs Langley said.

Mr Langley agreed.

''It's a bit like a bereavement. The parish has to let go of us, and we have to let go of the parish.''

The couple plan to stay in Balclutha for the foreseeable future, but plan to travel back to South Africa and then on to the United Kingdom before returning home to New Zealand.

Meanwhile, the parish has extended the call to interested ministers, and the Rev Bill Sim, formerly of St Luke's in Mosgiel, will be the interim vicar from February 19.

A farewell and thanksgiving service will be held for Mr and Mrs Langley tomorrow morning at 9.30am at St Mark's, followed by a barbecue lunch.

-helena.dereus@odt.co.nz