Frank | Hamilton

“I guess the mix of what I do in life would surprise others. As someone who wears a collar, most people would assume that I’d probably spend most of my time in church, which I don’t.

I actually spend most of time sitting down with people who work in the news media, to help them do life. We sit down and we drink a lot of coffee, and we process life, and I do that with people from a range of world views. For those who aren’t in the church, who don’t have the opportunity to step into our sanctuary, so to speak, I see those opportunities of coffee as a way to help people to slow down and evaluate life a little bit. So my day to day involves a lot of coffee and a lot of conversations. I don’t expect everybody to think like me.

I think I have a lot of room in my world for people who are different from me. I grew up mostly in the Waikato, small town Waikato, small town New Zealand, and I come from a broken family. My father was an alcoholic. He took off when I was a few months old. My mother was mentally ill and on the DPB my whole life.

I grew up around Church and encountered a worldview that had room for a lot of people, and it had room for people like me, and it put people like me in the centre of the story, where often our society would push people like me to the margins. I found a place in that story; it became something where I wanted to be able to invite other people into the middle of that story as well. So the Christian faith for me is really significant, in that it gives room for everybody and it gives everybody the opportunity to feel like they have a place, where the best of the Christian faith is expressed.

With the clerical collar, there are a lot of assumptions, depending on what people have encountered when it comes to church or the Christian faith previously. For some people that will be a really positive thing. For some people that will be a really negative thing. So when I put on the collar, I encounter all of that, and then hopefully bring something else to the table as well. It will either affirm the positive stuff that people have experienced, or maybe challenge some of the negative stuff that people have experienced, by giving them something a little bit different.

When people encounter the collar they know that there’s a certain type of conversation on the table, often involving spirituality, and some of the deeper things of life, some of the experiences that we have. I consider it a privilege to wear what I wear, and to encounter all of those aspects of who people are, the positive and the negative.

I lead a small church in Hamilton, just a really small congregation. It’s focussed on the contemplative. It’s focussed on slowing down. It’s focussed on silence and help, helping people find a sanctuary from the busyness of life, in a time where a lot of people are anxious, over-worked, and feeling like their lives are fractured and isolated. I think the church especially has an opportunity to provide space where people get to engage with some of the deeper things of life, and just slow down and take an opportunity to breathe.

I think Christianity in New Zealand has gone from being probably the dominant world view, where you just assume that everybody believes the same basic things, to now we live in a secular pluralist society, where Christianity is just one voice at the table. I think there’s been a really good opportunity, embraced by some, not so much by others, to really stop and think, what does it look like to be a minority voice?  What does it look like to bring the best of who we are to the table?  And the best of who we are, if you look at the story of Jesus, is sacrifice. It’s love. It’s giving up our lives for other people.

So, rather than trying to control society and bend society to our will, I think Christianity and the Church have a real opportunity to sit there and go, okay what does it look like to be at the table with those values?  What does it look like to be at the table with people who are very different from us, and loving, serving, sacrificing, and giving of ourselves to, to help others?”

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