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Moving on . . . The Rev Jill McDonald, of the Waitaki Presbyterian Parish, has taken up a position at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Hastings. Her last service in Oamaru will be on May 28. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

After more than six years of service, The Rev Jill McDonald, of the Waitaki Presbyterian Parish, is leaving the district.

She has taken up a position at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Hastings and will start her new role on July 30, after overseeing her final service in Oamaru on May 28.

Ms McDonald will join her husband, Chris Lambourne, in Hawke’s Bay, where he works for an electrical industry training company.

It spells the end of a six and a-half year stint in North Otago, during which time she led the Waitaki Presbyterian Parish for four and a-half years after she was an intern for two years.

While sombre about the fact she will be leaving the town, Ms McDonald looks forward to what awaits her at her new post in the North Island.

“It’s really sad. It’s really hard to be leaving the people that I love and that I’ve formed such a strong attachment with both inside and outside the church.”

They included the group of people associated with North Otago Tonga Engagement (Note), a group Rev McDonald helped establish with the aim of building closer relationships between Oamaru’s Tongan and palagi (European) communities.

In late July, the group travelled to Tonga to install water tanks in the Ha’atafu, Kanukupolu and Ahau villages.

She would also miss people she had worked with to prepare farewells for loved ones, and those she had helped through other difficult times.

Ms McDonald said the calling she felt to continue her work elsewhere was the driving factor in her decision.

“I certainly felt like it’s been God’s call that’s taken me there. The church has Cook Island and English services, so I love that it’s got so much for Pacific people. I’m looking forward to working with Maori up there, too, and learning te reo.

“There’s huge social problems up there and I’m looking forward to seeing how the church can engage with the community up there, because that’s my passion – the church should be out there in the community, sharing God’s love.”

She encouraged people in Oamaru to embrace diversity, which she described as a “blessing”.

Ms McDonald said her replacement would be announced after a selection board convened and discussed options.