South Canterbury Presbyterian Church overcoming shortage of ministers

Coping with a shortage of ministers: Four Presbyterian parishes, almost a third of those in South Canterbury, are without ministers. However, the parishes have not suffered unduly, the newly appointed moderator for the Presbyterian Church in South Canterbury, the Rev Ian Hyslop, of Geraldine, says.
Coping with a shortage of ministers: Four Presbyterian parishes, almost a third of those in South Canterbury, are without ministers. However, the parishes have not suffered unduly, the newly appointed moderator for the Presbyterian Church in South Canterbury, the Rev Ian Hyslop, of Geraldine, says.
The Presbyterian Church in South Canterbury has been labelled courageous and innovative by the church's national leader as it adopts a team approach to overcome a shortage of full-time, ordained Presbyterian ministers in the district.
The ministries have become vacant through natural attrition.

Four parishes, almost a third of those in South Canterbury, are without ministers - Trinity, St Stephen's, Chalmer's and St Paul's, all in Timaru.

However, the parishes have not suffered unduly, the newly appointed moderator for the Presbyterian Church in South Canterbury, the Rev Ian Hyslop, of Geraldine, says.

There were a variety of ways to offer ministry, he said.

That view was shared by the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa-New Zealand, the Right Rev Pamela Tankersley, of Palmerston North, who visited the district in April.

‘‘South Canterbury was a presbytery with courage,'' she said.

‘‘It was taking innovative measures to minister wisely and effectively, facilitating creative ministries by working together.''

Mr Hyslop said it had been an opportunity to review needs, function and ministry context in the four affected parishes and, indeed, for the wider church.

Mr Hyslop was appointed South Canterbury moderator in March this year, taking over from Bill Penno, who had held the position for three years. It was a significant step for Mr Hyslop after 20 years in the ministry, which began at Edendale in Southland. For the past 12 years he has been the minister at St Andrew's Parish in Geraldine.

The South Canterbury Presbytery incorporates 13 parishes from as far afield as Twizel and Waihao.
Mr Hyslop said the four parishes without ministers remained relevant to the faith nevertheless.

‘‘These days there are a variety of ways to offer ministry. The transitional team approach is one model and it works well in South Canterbury.

‘‘Churches led by teams of people, for example, also included St David's, the Pukaki Presbyterian Church of Twizel, and the Waihao Co-operating Parish. They were all competent ministries,'' Mr Hyslop said.

Options within the transitional team concept included a mix of visiting ordained and lay preachers, and parishioners.

He said it was one model of ministry that had served the church well.

‘‘The way forward does not necessarily rest in any one model, but in a tailored resource that encompasses a variety of approaches. Teams supported by the wider church resource were but one.''

An example of teamwork was the establishment of ministry settlement boards in each of the four parishes without full-time ordained ministers. These boards had been asked to produce parish profiles which included buildings, finances, and specific needs.

‘‘The opportunity for such review is valuable and helps the church remain relevant.''
Mr Hyslop was positive about the Presbyterian Church's future in South Canterbury.

‘‘I am very confident of the future provision of ministry in Timaru.

‘‘The big heartbeat is for mission - in all sorts of ways. Mission can include teams and teams can include a mix of ordained and lay preachers and parishioners,'' Mr Hyslop said.

But were there going to be enough ordained ministers for the future needs of the church?

‘‘Well, actually, I put that very question to the national church body recently.

‘‘The answer I got back was yes, for four reasons.

‘‘One, the number of ordained ministers we had now; two, the number of new ministers presently being trained; three, the number of ministers joining the church from other denominations, and four, the number of overseas ministers wanting to come to New Zealand.''

However, it would be a very different future, he said.

‘‘That's the challenge of the church. We must communicate the faith with whatever tools are available.''
He said churches generally were grappling with change in society.

‘‘In the Presbyterian Church I bat strongly for the creative approach, using the fabric and resources of society for support.

‘‘An example of such support is our very own Presbyterian Support South Canterbury. This is an organisation providing a wonderful resource to the district in care.''

Mr Hyslop said to remain relevant, a church needed to move with the times. He had embraced technology in delivering his key messages of faith.

‘‘In one of my recent church services, for example, we showed a DVD clip. We have electronic presentation equipment for the congregation.

‘‘We also send emails of support and encouragement every week to tertiary students we know of around the world.''