by PETER GRACE
Have you heard the one about the vicar, the priest, the minister and the pastor? No, it’s not a joke, it’s a book.
This is how God Knows Where They Come From — Four Faith Stories from Hokitika was introduced on November 25.
The authors, four churchmen, including the Bishop-Elect of Hamilton, Fr Stephen Lowe, grew up in Hokitika, and the book tells of their faith journeys.
The National Superintendent for the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Richard Waugh, told guests at the book launch at the Wesleyan Methodist church in east Auckland, that a few years ago he read Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster. That gave him the idea for God Knows.
The authors — Dr Allan Davidson, Fr Stephen Lowe, Pastor Ted Schroder and Rev. Richard Waugh — had their first meeting in July 2011.
The book was launched by Professor Peter Lineham of Massey University, an authority on religious life in New Zealand.
Professor Lineham said there is no reason why the book should have worked.
“If someone put the idea to you, you would say that this is the oddest book imaginable. Four authors who share a background in a little town in the heart of nowhere write a book which is really the
story of four disconnected lives.”
But the book does work. First, he said, the Coast is not just anywhere. Its character leaves a huge mark on anyone born there. Like the whole Coast, Hokitika was working class and poor.
In the midst of that was the church, and well-remembered preachers. Churches were communities. There was a sense of church and environment, faith and community and institutions.
The authors may be linked by childhood, Professor Lineham said. “But it is more than that. All of them ended up in Christian ministry. In a way, the stories of these people speak volumes for the story of what has happened to the shape of Christian existence in the years since the 1950s.
“These are real Coasters in origin, although, like so many Coasters, they moved away.”
Professor Lineham said little has been said to promote the authors. “These are people of significance, in national church, in church administration, in theology.
“Steve Lowe, new bishop of Hamilton. Allan, described by an Anglican bishop as a great treasure of the church. Richard, who in his role as chair of the Auckland church leaders forum and what is now
called the NZ Christian Network. As for Ted Schroder, the States is a big country.”
He thinks the deepest issues of the book are the paths from Hokitika. “These paths are geographical, scoiological and theological.”
Each author has risen through education, and it indicates how the Coast, with its fairly elementary level of education, still gave people opportunities.
“So it is my privilege to congratulate the authors. And to launch the book. I hope it is launched not into a wild West Coast river, but into the ocean,” he said.
by PETER GRACE