Photo (c) Anglican TaongaThis weekend past marked, for me, the ending of a task that I was privileged to perform. During last year, after David Moxon's departure from the Diocese of Waikato/Taranaki I held the role of Archbishop's Commissary to the Diocese. Although Waikato/Taranaki has a remaining bishop, Phillip Richardson, I was the reference point for those matters where it was deemed inappropriate to involve Phillip and I was charged with overseeing the process of selecting a replacement for David.
There were many trips back and forth to Hamilton, and phone calls at least weekly. In August I chaired the electoral college. Looking back with six months worth of hindsight, what strikes me about the process is predominantly how seriously and carefully the people of the Diocese took it, and how prayerful they were in their decision making. It is public knowledge that there were a large number of candidates and that some of them came from within the diocese. This is a situation that is potentially fraught, but the process was handled graciously by the synod members. For my own part I was enormously grateful to be advised by Waikato/Taranaki's superb registrar, Denise Ferguson, equally excellent chancellor, Chris Harding and a well chosen arrangements committee.
So, last Saturday I sat sweltering in Hamilton's St. Peter's Cathedral. An oscillating fan behind me delivered a refreshing burst of air every half minute or so: it was still lukewarm but at least it was moving. As the haunting tones of a karanga faded into the stonework, Helen-Anne and her family entered. I was immediately struck by two things: surprise at how young and small she looked, and a deep sense that the people of Taranaki/Waikato were inspired by the Holy Spirit when they chose her.
I have known Helen-Anne since she arrived to teach at St. John's College in Auckland. She is a person who grows on you, and by that I do NOT mean that she gives an unfavourable first impression; quite the contrary, in fact. I mean that the longer I know her the more I like her and the more I am impressed by her intelligence and her pastoral skills. The service moved steadily on through two and a half hours, the way these things do, and then we all tumbled out of the petite St. Peters onto the hillside beyond its doors. Helen-Anne moved amongst the crowd, smiling, talking, greeting, shaking hands. Several people spoke to me of pastoral encounters they had with her in the interregnum period between her election and her ordination. One of these encounters was a very significant and highly charged bereavement which she had handled with just the right mix of strength, tact and compassion. Gentle and self effacing she may be, but she draws on deep wells of spiritual strength and she knows what she is doing.
Following the service Clemency and I were amongst those hosted by Helen-Anne and her husband Myles at the newly acquired episcopal residence in North Hamilton. There was a houseful of people, mostly family and close friends of the Hartleys and one or two others, such as myself, who had travelled to be present at the ordination. I doubt that I would have had the energy, after such a demanding day, to host a large dinner party with as much finesse as did Myles and Helen-Anne. We drove back to our hotel through the warm Hamilton darkness pleased that our beloved old Diocese can justifiably look to the immediate future with a great deal of hope and confidence.