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Weaving, Networking & Taking Flight: Engaged Ministry in Avondale Union and Manurewa Methodist parishes 2006-2014

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By ‘Alifeleti Vaitu’ulala Ngahe

About the book and the author

Tongan Methodist minister ‘Alifeleti Vaitu’ulala Ngahe has been in full-time, ordained ministry for almost 10 years. This book reflects on those years in Avondale Union and Manurewa Methodist parishes in Auckland, New Zealand.

Rev Ngahe’s approach is to create strategies for change by engaging in deep theological thinking, in networking with key local people and organisations, and in careful reflection on learnings from his ministry. He believes all people in a community have a contribution to make and hopes this book will encourage church and other local leaders to work effectively in their communities.

Church life and ministry is changing. Alongside this, our communities are changing and are often stressed. How does the Church engage effectively with the communities in which they are set?

Rev Ngahe says, “Over my years in ministry it has become clear that people are excited and enthusiastic about engaging in God-talk and living out the Gospels. …communities come together when a vision and the possibility of achieving positive change are offered.”

Using the metaphors of weaving a mat, creating a network the way a spider spins a web and a bird taking flight, he explains how he has given new life to his parishes.
The mat represents the history of the church. Leaving the edges of the mat unfinished allows new stories and experiences to be woven in.

The web represents the network that needs to be deliberately built up between people in the church and the leaders and organisations that form the surrounding local community.


The bird reminds us that it takes a lot of energy to take flight. But when the community is working together and heading in the same direction, we can relax and enjoy the ride, soaring through the air.


Two key projects demonstrate the power of church and community working together. The run-down
Rosebank Penninsula Church building has been restored and transformed into a busy community centre. The outdoor mural at Manurewa Methodist church was painted by people of all ages from within the church and the wider local community. It remains a vibrant symbol of that church’s role as the Corner of Hope.

Rev Ngahe’s enthusiastic and yet deeply thoughtful, methodical approach will provide inspiration for all who are engaged in multicultural Christian ministry.

Praise for Weaving, Networking & Taking Flight


“Church leaders and lay alike will find humble but passionate vision and wisdom here.” Review by Rosemary Dewerse in the December 2015 issue of the Australian Journal of Mission Studies.

“…extremely well written, thoughtful and engaging.” Johanna Warren - Review published on Tui Motu Facebook August 2015

“…ministry is intrinsically linked to human need.” Daniel Newman of Weaving, Networking and Taking Flight Review by Daniel Newman – former chairman, Manurewa Local Board

“…rich with stories, metaphors and invitations for ministering across cultures…” Jione Havea

Review of print edition by Brian Turner in Touchstone March 2015

“Rev Vai Ngahe has done what many clergy intend but few actually do – that is, to reflect on past ministries in order to traverse better the pathways ahead.

Vai has done this for the first nine years of his Auckland ministries in Avondale and Manurewa and he has shared his reflections with us by publishing them…Brave man! Vai utilizes compelling images from his Tongan background as well as a presbyter/minister in Aotearoa-NZ. Drawing on his experience in relating to the community in Avondale and Manurewa, he makes a strong case for congregations and parishes to relate more closely to the communities where they are located.

This raises a number of interesting questions. In what ways should the church relate to the community?
Should it offer programmes and initiatives that the wider community can join (for example, rebuilding the Rosebank church building as a community centre or painting a public mural at Manurewa) or should a parish/congregation relate to the good it sees being done by others in the community and offer its support without seeking to take over or dominate?

And who in the church should initiate community facing or joining activities? Historically, the NZ Methodist Church has said this is more the responsibility of the laity and diaconate (deacons) rather than presbyters. However, many presbyters have (like Vai) exercised strong community-facing priorities as well as in-church word and sacrament ministries.

More significantly, is Vai suggesting that the Kingdom of God is in fact the establishment of healthy communities in which the church is an integral contributor rather than a distant outsider? He seems close to this position when under the heading of a “Theology of Transformation” (page 50) he writes:
“We are no longer focussed within the church on the inside/us only. Our focus shifts the position to facing outside, to the community. The wider community also becomes us.”

That left me wondering if the oneness of church and community is more achievable in multi-ethnic communities than predominantly mono-ethnic ones. Vai himself advocates the importance of weaving together a multi-cultural community to support members within the church and people in the community. This pre-supposes that many multi-ethnic communities, and presumably those in which Vai has worked, are more open to the place of the church than communities elsewhere. In predominantly Pakeha Christchurch, for instance, when a congregation canvassed door to door and asked what people expected of the church, the response was invariably ‘Nothing…piss off!”

This suggests that in many communities there is a widening gap between church and community. Vai Ngahe is to be commended for developing ways to help bridge this gap. It remains to be seen whether such methods will work in all communities.” Touchstone March 2015
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