GOD KNOWS WHERE THEY COME FROM! — Four Faith Stories from Hokitika (Craigs Design & Print Limited, Invercargill, 2014; www.craigprint.co.nz); $29.90. Reviewed by Bishop PATRICK DUNN.
This is a fascinating account of the lives of four church leaders who all have their origins in the small West Coast town of Hokitika. Hokitika now has a population of about 3000 but, in 1865, at the peak of the gold rush, it was New Zealand’s largest town.
The four church leaders are Allan Davidson (Presbyterian), Ted Schroder (Anglican), Richard
Waugh (Wesleyan) and the new Catholic Bishop of Hamilton, Stephen Lowe.
Rev. Ted Schroder has worked mostly in the United States, has been a prolific author and is based in Florida.
Rev. Dr Allan Davidson is a church historian and in recent decades has taught on the Auckland
scene, at St John’s College and at Auckland University. Rev. Dr Richard Waugh is chairman
of the Auckland Church Leaders and pastor at East City Wesleyan Church at Botany. Bishop
Stephen Lowe is a Christchurch priest who most recently served as formation director at Holy
Cross Seminary in Auckland.
The lovely thing about this book is that it covers four different styles of religion. It starts in Hokitika and lets each of the stories develop independently. As each of the authors tells his story, we also gain a glimpse of smalltown New Zealand as it existed until perhaps the 1960s.
One common feature is that each of the authors came from churchgoing families.
It brought home to me the importance of such families in fostering and supporting church vocations.
None of the families was rabidly religious, but just good people who endeavoured to love God and neighbour through their involvement in their local church and in the wider community.
Interesting, too, is to notice how each of the authors in some way experienced a call from God to become more involved in the life of the church.
This sense of mission was encouraged both within their own families and by friends in their local church.
Stephen Lowe mentions that he always “felt better” as a young boy after serving daily Mass.
He mentions another key turning point many years later when attending Mass in Timaru North, when Fr Kevin Foote challenged the congregation to be more than simply “supermarket Catholics”. Those words prompted him to work with other young parishioners to form a young adult group in the parish.
In the Gospels, Nathaniel expresses surprise that anything good might come from Nazareth. This book demonstrates that good things certainly came from Hokitika.
Although all four writers have now moved from the West Coast, Stephen Lowe wryly observes that “you can take the Coaster out of the Coast, but you cannot take the Coast out of the Coaster!”
Patrick Dunn is the Bishop of Auckland diocese.