The Rev Rose Luxford, of Oamaru, has been chosen as the next leader of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
The minister of St Paul’s Maheno-Otepopo Presbyterian Church has been elected moderator designate, and will take up her new role as moderator in 2023.
To be the fifth female leader in 120 years of the church in New Zealand was both “daunting” and “an honour”, Mrs Luxford said.
“It’s an honour anyway, to be moderator for the national church and it feels a real honour to be in that position.”
The moderator is the elected spiritual head of the Presbyterian Church.
Names of potential moderators were put forward by their parishes, then an in-depth process of voting on a regional and national scale took place.
The announcement was made at the church’s general assembly, held online for the first time, last month.
“I quite like the idea that you have to be asked. There’s a lot of people who would be quite gifted, but they may not see it in themselves,” she said.
Every two years the ministers and elders from the church gathered together “to do the business of the church”.
that meeting, as well as represent the church nationally.
“And often visit a lot of churches, see how they’re going, being involved in special celebrations that they have.
“The moderator also speaks on behalf of the church, if there’s anything to be done in that way.”
The job was for two years, with a one-year lead-in time and a year “sort of going out the other side”, to provide continuity, she said.
Mrs Luxford grew up in Milton, and had several jobs before completing her training for the ministry in 1997.
She was ordained and inducted at Iona Presbyterian Church, at Blockhouse Bay in Auckland in 1998, and she served there for 12 years before moving to Oamaru in 2010.
“I really love being with people in all the different seasons of their lives,” she said.
“You get to be with people in the good times and the difficult times.
“You know, seeing the young people grow up. Being part of our church community, I really love it … I find it very fulfilling. It’s challenging at times too. I enjoy it.”
With almost 24 years in the ministry, Rev Luxford said the church had adapted as society changed.
There were not as many churches and people “do church differently now”.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, the minister put video clips on the church’s social media, sent out a sermon each week and posted “little messages” each day.
“Some churches did a whole service, because they had the technology. And the national moderator, he did a little devotion every Sunday, so that everybody could tune in.
“So it sort of showed what you could do in those times.”
She said people in the congregation were happy to have a way of connecting, and people were paired up, so those living on their own had support systems.
Each moderator could choose a theme to focus on during their two-year term. The current moderator’s focus was empowering generations – being mindful of younger people, Mrs Luxford said.
She was in the early stage of considering hers, but one possibility was “appreciative inquiry”.
“It talks about how we can often see all the things that are wrong, and you know, yes, we have to be realistic about that, but we also need to look at what is flourishing and concentrate on that, grow that.”
Authenticity in ministry was also a topic which struck a chord with her.
“I guess it’s like in any job, perhaps. Sometimes as a minister you compare yourself to other ministries and what other congregations are doing, whereas really you need to just be authentic where you are, in your context, because they are all different, we are all different, and not try and be a clone of somebody else.
“When I started off, I think for a little while I modelled myself on one of the ministers I’d had, then I became more comfortable in my own skin, thinking well, this is who I am, and this is what I bring. So I want to do some thinking about that.”
A spokesman for the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand said Mrs Luxford would bring sensitivity, wisdom, openness and good humour to the role.
At present, she was convener of the Ministry Work Group and a member/director of the Beneficiary Fund Trust Company. She had also served as a moderator for Auckland Presbytery and Southern Presbytery.