Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

The role of a minister in a parish is quite challenging and complex we are called to be pastoral carer, compassionate, intellectual, inclusive, contextually relevant, open minded and to love thy neighbour as oneself amongst other things. Some ministers accomplish all the above and others most of it and others some of it. We are not all perfect human beings.

I came to St. Andrew’s on the Terrace over a year ago because I love its tradition as a progressive, inclusive theologically thinking church. I knew that I fell short intellectually when compared to the likes of the great Sir Lloyd Geering, Rev Dr Margaret Mayman and others. What I have that they don’t have is that I am Samoan, born in Aotearoa NZ and grew up under the constraints of a conservative, evangelical church. I became a progressive thinker in the 1980’s when I attended Knox Theological Hall. Even though I didn’t know what feminism was as a young 25 year old. However, I was labelled a feminist because I was training to become an ordained minister in a culture that did not approve or accept women ministers. So just going against the system categorised me as a feminist. At the time it felt easier for me to become “one of the boys” than be put in with “minister’s wives” even though I didn’t feel comfortable in either camp. Right throughout my 32 years of ministry I have fought for the recognition of Pacific women in ministry. I wear my clerical collar all the time because in Pacific circles it hurts the eyes of a lot of people to see an ordained woman of the cloth, many don’t like it and the clerical collar reminds people that we do exist.

I admit that I have ministered in a variety of contexts and would like to think that I was always true to myself and my belief as a progressive thinking person. St. Andrew’s on the Terrace is the first progressive parish context that I have been called to serve in, and so trying to articulate my understanding of progressive theology may not match your understanding of what progressive theology means for you. In the words of Sir Lloyd Geering, in this context I am having to “Reimagine God” to cater for the wide and differing understandings and beliefs that exist at SAOTT. Wholly mystery, Jesus without the Christ, God by any other name, removing the atonement theology in the celebration of communion. It is very easy to offend without being intentional.

I may not have read widely of the authors and theologians that many of you love and follow, but you also may have not read of many of the Black womanist and Black and Pacific theologians that I have read, and over time I would love to share some of them with you when the context calls.

It may be and in my time here I may not have met the expectations of some you. I have appreciated the affirming feedback and comments I have received over this time and I like to think that every Sunday, everyone goes home with a little taonga in their kite of something that was significant for you. You can’t please all the people all the time. But please be assured, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, I am not out to fool any of you any of the time, and if this is what you might think, then you can’t be more wrong. My being minister of SAOTT is a new journey of exploration for me and even after a year I still feel like the new kid on the block. You are all diverse in your own ways, spiritually, theologically and even though you are all predominantly palagi, your histories and lived experiences and contexts are very different to mine and I would not expect you all to understand my particular context and history.

I love being the minister at St. Andrew’s on the Terrace together with its challenges and it is celebrations. I appreciate you all and I ask that you be patient and bear with me as I continue to navigate the terrain of a wonderful inclusive progressive church. If you feel that your needs or theological perspective or pastoral care needs are not being catered for or even challenged, please know that I am always available in my office from Tuesdays to Fridays and welcome you popping in to have a cup of coffee. I am also happy to come and visit you in your homes. I’m off to Christchurch for . weekend for the UCANZ Forum. Enjoy Fiona and Anna’s worship service on Sunday. Blessings, Fei.

You can read the full E-news here: https://mailchi.mp/1cc6d878dd3d/this-weeks-newsletter-from-st-andrews-on-the-terrace-9341579

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