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As church custom dictates new deans cannot go into the building until their installation, Dr Trevor James (61) was content to admire the building from his position on Writers Walk in the Octagon.
"This is an incredible place. This is holy ground to have a cathedral and Writers Walk near each other."
Passionate about theology and literature, Dr James said it would be an honour to be installed as the 12th dean of St Paul's at a special service tomorrow, in a city he regards as a "cultural hub".
With a doctorate from Kings College, London, on the work of James K. Baxter, Dr James said it was an honour to live and work in a university city which had fostered many talented people such as Baxter.
"This is the town that shaped him."
After teaching at universities in Australia and Hong Kong, Dr James returned to New Zealand in 1993 to work as the dean of theology at the University of Auckland, and for the Auckland Consortium of Theological Education.
In 1999 he joined the Diocese of Waikato, living in the South Taranaki town of Hawera.
On discovering the former dean, the Very Rev David Rice, had left last May to become the Bishop of Waiapu, Dr James said he had no hesitation in applying.
St Paul's had been described to him as the "soul in the heart of the city", and that was a motto he planned to continue during his tenure, he said.
Dr James is joined in Dunedin by his wife, Christine.
Tomorrow's service, at which Dr James will be installed as the Very Rev Dr Trevor James, 12th Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, begins at 4pm, and is open to the public.