The new Waiareka-Weston Presbyterian Church minister is enjoying getting to know the “amazing community” he has moved into. The Rev John Schoneveld recently arrived from Opotiki to replace the Rev Nancy Parker, who led the parish for 15 years before retiring at the end of last year.
Mr Schoneveld said Mrs Parker and her husband, Ron, had been “really caring” in their time at Weston, creating a thriving, diverse community where he and his wife, Jan, and daughters Johanna and Catriona were warmly welcomed. The parishioners had even put in “lots of TLC” in redecorating the manse across the road from the church. Johanna is at Weston school and Catriona is at kindergarten. Mrs Schoneveld, a primary school teacher, is “passionate about working with kids”, her husband said.
He, too, was a primary school teacher before entering the ministry. He completed his training at the end of last year and his Opotiki posting was his first full-time role with the church after 20 years in Tuakau, south of Auckland. Mr Schoneveld’s father, a retired Presbyterian minister, was his “main inspiration”.
“Mum and Dad were caring for a community of people and I saw how beautifully they did that.”
Mr Schoneveld spent four and a-half years as a Scripture Union youth worker, developing leadership skills in secondary pupils. The activities included sea kayaking adventure camps, cycle tours and caving, in which participants learned teamwork and formed strong bonds.
Being a minister was similar, he said. He was impressed by the efforts put in by Weston youth leaders Nicki and Paul Botting, which included setting up the school holiday programme that his own daughters were joining on Wednesday. During his ministry training, Mr Schoneveld met fellow student Jill McDonald, who is now leading the Eveline Presbyterian parish in Oamaru’s North End. And he formerly flatted with Dr Andrea McDougall, who has become the vicar at St Luke’s Anglican Church in Oamaru.
Mr Schoneveld said he and the other two Oamaru Presbyterian ministers tried to meet up with their two Anglican counterparts every Tuesday to pray together. He believes old boundaries between denominations, and between Protestant and Catholic churches, have largely disappeared for his generation. He likes the fact Waiareka-Weston calls itself a “community church”.
With Presbyterian ministers usually free to choose how long to stay at a parish, Mr Schoneveld was looking forward to a lengthy tenure.