As New Zealand’s first racing industry chaplain he has been working with New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing on a Salvation Army pilot drug and alcohol programme for jockeys.
In January, McKerrow, 50, will take on a full-time ministry position with the Christchurch North Salvation Army in Belfast, where he will work alongside his wife Kim.
“The timing for this position is perfect; the current minister was looking for a new post, and I really like what Christchurch North Salvation Army has been working on lately and what they stand for.
“I’ll be able to concentrate on my hometown area and do that well. It’s a full circle really, as I am from Belfast originally and now I am excited to finally return and be able to give back to the community I grew up in. I can’t wait.
“I am a big believer in connection. Because of COVID, I find people are more reluctant to be out and about. I’d like to invite people to belong and feel as though they are not isolated, by creating a safe space for them,” said he.
In his current role, McKerrow has worked at racetracks around the country, offering support and guidance to drivers, trainers and jockeys
“If it wasn’t for the people, I’d never have thought I’d go into racing chaplaincy. I began on a jockey apprenticeship. I wasn’t very good and felt naturally connected with racing and the industry,” he said.
“I also was struggling with addictions in my earlier life and I thought during that, if I needed help, what help would I need?”
“The only thing that will change is that I won’t have the opportunity to complete wider national travel. I’ve been very lucky going around the country and I’ll miss the North Island racing people. But I still get my cake and eat it too, as I’ll continue to help where I can.
“I will still be attending all the local race meetings and will be available for pastoral care when needed. It’s business as usual.
“One of my fondest memories in the racing industry is the opportunity to be in sacred spaces.
“The industry, with the racers, encounters some very dark situations. It is a privilege and an honour to be able to share the space with them and just sit and be. It is why we are there.”
He will continue to take part in Racing New Zealand’s cross-code initiative, which aims to enhance the mental health and well-being of people in the industry.
“I love racing and I’m really glad to be in a position where I can continue to offer support for our participants while working alongside the codes.
“I’ll be concentrating on what the need is, where the need is and what preventative measures we can use so they don’t hit the wall.”
Help feed a family in need
Christmas is the season of giving. This means the Christchurch North Salvation Army in Belfast needs donations of nonperishable foods to go to struggling families.
The charity is looking for pasta, breakfast cereals, baked beans and spaghetti cans, dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent, and anything else that will not go off quickly.
All non-perishable gifts can be taken to the Community Ministries Food Bank at 808 Main North Rd, next to the Salvation Army Family Store.
Staff members or volunteers will be available to receive the donations from 9am to 3pm Monday to Thursday.