A passion for holistic life-styles for young people is a hallmark of Pastor Dean Clarkson (pictured left), the pastor at Mangere Baptist youth.
Early on this parish Dean invited a group of young people who were renowned for ‘antisocial’ graffiti to come and paint the walls of the church (see below). They were amazed to be invited, and so have the public been ever since with the walls as a brilliant icon in the community.
The parish has swelled from six members at the beginning to about one hundred and fifty or so young people alone. Mangere Baptist is becoming a hub for rebuilding community neighbourhoods. Dean describes the ‘heartbeat’ of the parish as ‘loving people back to life’. He says it can be ‘raw, real and relational’.
Being involved with the community did not come from doing a ‘needs assessment’: it came from families who came to the door needing food and nappies. Examples of where this has taken the church team since the early days include a partnership with Housing New Zealand to support families into accommodation.
The parish has a special programme of supporting women into independent living to have their children returned after being taken into foster care. Dean and his wife used to work at a nearby social service agency and they continue their association through providing housing and support for these families as the next step after the hand-on social service live-in parenting programme. The parish support is organized through a ‘mercy team’ where three members take on particular roles alongside families and provide the stability to maintain goals of independence, responsibility and good care of children.
Mangere Baptist works with several social service agencies: they are linked to alcohol, drug and gambling rehabilitation agencies, support IHC members in their community, and link with CYF and Work and Income.The church networks with organizations in Mangere and Otara for co-ordinated responses to needs in the community; an example is the Mangere Youth Providers network.
The Mangere parish ministry team is switched on to ‘cultivating life’ with hospitality as a core for gathering and welcoming others, worship, and discipleship where dreams can be nurtured with teaching.
The treasure-house of this wide-reaching church has the solidity of planning for the long term. Dean said a lot of organizations set up to meet the needs in Mangere but many don’t last more than two years. The needs are endless and challenging and it might take five years to gain the trust of the community. One of the key safeguards in planning for the long term is to have measures for sustainability. These are built into the week for this demanding, heart-warming and bold community-facing and youth engaging church.
This breathtaking experience made me think ‘where would New Zealand be without such centres of inspirational, kind, open-hearted leadership, drawing young people into practical service, life-learning and futures which are committed and hopeful?’
Mangere Parish Pastor Dean Clarkson
Phone: 09 275 5769
For information on parish initiatives visited for the NZCCSS Manaaki Hapori project, contact:
Phone: 04 473 2627 / 021-388-337