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The Shepherd’s Call – Te Karanga o te Hēpara: Prayers and liturgies for rural Aotearoa New Zealand

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By Bill Bennett

Foreword by The Reverend Dr Jenny Dawson

“For decades a tireless advocate for the uniqueness and significance of rural ministry, Bill Bennett is a neighbour and friend. Since I came to Napier, as he lives just along the road (by rural standards) from me, the hospitality of Bill and Wendy has enriched my life-as it has many others. Yet as long as I have known him, he has been a neighbour in the broader sense.

I come from rural Canterbury and worked for many years as a ministry educator, first nationally and then in the South Island. Wherever I met Bill, we have talked about what’s going on in the countryside. He helped establish the Hawkes Bay Rural Ministry Unit in the 1980s, providing impetus for others around the country to reflect theologically on the rural scene. He has the ability to build friendships and make connections, living out the principle that rural life is shaped by communities of neighbours.

Bill was brought up in a farming family in Dannevirke, and apart from a short time in the UK he has ministered as a priest in Waiapu since his ordination in 1964, serving in many of the parishes in this largely rural diocese. He has a strong ecumenical commitment and a deep confidence in rural churches to adapt creatively to social and economic change.

A musician and composer of many hymns, he understands the complexity of rural life with its overlapping communities and its deep dependence on seasonal life. This understanding shines through the resources in this new book.

Following Listen to the Shepherd 1997, Seasons of the Land 2001 and God of the Whenua: Rural Ministry in Aotearoa New Zealand 2005, this book comes to us at a time when rural life seems to be less relevant to most New Zealanders, including church decision-makers. Yet these liturgical resources will touch everyone who is interested in seasonal joy and struggle, planting and harvest, whitebaiting and hospitality.

A theology of land and missional ministry that is shaped by both local life and God’s call, with a deep understanding of tikanga Maori, mean that these prayers and reflections are uniquely and wonderfully New Zealand. I commend them to you and hope they are widely used across the country. They are for us all.”
The Reverend Dr Jenny Dawson


Discover a prayer for every aspect of rural life.
A musician and composer of many hymns, Anglican priest Bill Bennett understands the complexity of rural life with its overlapping communities and its deep dependence on seasonal life. This understanding shines through this book.

117 prayers are arranged into broad themes: the seasons, environment, community, mission and ministry, work, crisis and loss. 

There are also six sets of Eucharist liturgies and another five liturgies focused on the bush, harvest community life and adverse events.

This book will be a valued resource for both clergy and lay worship leaders.


“These liturgical resources will touch everyone who is interested in seasonal joy and struggle, planting and harvest, whitebaiting and hospitality.

A theology of land and missional ministry that is shaped by both local life and God’s call, with a deep understanding of tikanga Maori, mean that these prayers and reflections are uniquely and wonderfully.

New Zealand. I commend them to you and hope they are widely used across the country. They are for us all.” From the Foreword by  Rev Dr Jenny Dawson.


Sample Prayers

8. Care of our Livestock
Creator God,
you sent Jesus to us
to show us how to care for and love all you have made,
and to be of service to others.
You ask us to be shepherds,
so that we may bring that same guardianship,
te kaitiakitanga,
to the animals of which we are stewards –
sheep, cattle, deer, goats,
and the dogs and horses that assist us in this work.
Help us ensure that tiredness or selfishness
will not let us neglect the animals under our care.

25. The Woolshed Christ
The shearers are sleeping,
the night pens are filled.
Wrapped and lying on a bed
of newly shorn wool
lies the Saviour.
Mary and Joseph relax
with tea from the thermos flask.
Soon the dogs bark
and the tui and song thrush
sing their morning chorus.
The station shepherds rise
for an early muster,
and come to adore the new-born child.
O God of all hope,
may the cries of Jesus
blend with the bleating of sheep
in an anthem of praise
to your glory and love.

106. Rural Hardship
God of the present and future,
bring hope to those facing hardship and loss
in the rural community of …………..
Restore those whose land
has been severely affected by flood/snow/rain/cold/fire/drought.
Encourage those facing big changes
in farm management and lifestyle,
or who face the prospect of having to move off the land
and the challenge of finding new employment.
Have compassion on those
whose marriages or relationships
are under enormous strain
through interpersonal or financial stress.
Resource communities which have lost amenities,
commercial services and farm labour.
Enable people to welcome new settlers and life-stylers,
particularly those unfamiliar
with rural ways of doing things,
and the customs of the local community.
We pray in faith that we shall discover
grace sufficient for each day’s challenges,
in and through the strength of the Holy Spirit.


About the author

Bill Bennett comes from a Southern Hawke’s Bay farming background. He has served much of his ministry as an Anglican priest in rural parishes in the Diocese of Waiapu as well as in the Norwich and Lichfield Dioceses in England. He worked as Ministry Enabler and twice as Regional Dean in Hawke’s Bay between 1994 and 2015.

His interest in rural communities is reflected in his publications: God of the Whenua (an overview of rural ministry in New Zealand), Seasons of the Land and The Shepherd’s Call (both being prayers and liturgies for rural communities). He continues to write hymns and songs (words and music).

He is on the Editorial Board of the international periodical, Rural Theology. Till its demise recently he was tutor in Rural Ministry Studies for the Ecumenical Institute for Distance Theological Studies (EIDTS). He and his wife Wendy live in retirement in Napier, New Zealand.
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