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The Ven Neville Selwood (88) led a service at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Dunedin yesterday, a service which marked his ordination as a deacon 50 years ago.
Before that ordination he was working as an accountant at an Invercargill-based firm where he was studying theology by correspondence, and was involved in youth programmes and Sunday schools.
"I was only ordained at 38, so I am a bit long in the tooth to have just got to 50 years," Deacon Selwood said.
The catalyst for that move occurred some years before when he was serving with the No 75 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and a wing commander and his bomber crew were killed over France.
"Morale had dropped pretty low. But at a briefing, the acting wing commander said: 'Good luck boys, hope to see you at breakfast, and by the way, the padre is going to be up there with you tonight'."
"Sure enough there he was with his parachute harness on, and it made me realise here is a fellow who hated what we were required to do, but he put his life on the line to show that he cared for us."
Deacon Selwood said it took him years to relate that selfless act with those of Jesus, so he decided to become a deacon.
"Looking back it was a big change for my family, as we were used to a sort of lifestyle.""But if you dream to do something, press on with it."
His first parish was in Balclutha, before he moved with his family and served Northeast Valley and Mornington before his semi-retirement in 1988.
He was involved with parishes in Central Otago before returning to Dunedin 12 years ago, where he has assisted at the Holy Cross parish and at Montecillo Veterans Home "I just take things one day at a time," he said.