Vicar Mark Beale and Barbara Beales’ style is to immerse themselves in community and to be tightly bound into activities and relationships and let parish responses grow from there.

‘To me one of most important things is to be authentic in community and that means living with the reality of Clendon. Clendon, as a decile one area, is asset poor’.

When Mark and Barbara (pictured left) went there twenty years ago it had no library, and schools had no facilities then.

‘Living in Clendon means being involved in housing, schools, and being part of the lifestyle here’. ‘We as family have attempted to do that’. Our principle is if you want to have an investment into community you need to have long term life in it’.

When Mark and Barbara came to Clendon it was a remote suburb and there was no church site. In the early days of building St Elizabeth’s they created the parish by being immersed in the community. One ‘immersion’ activity was to fight for a public library. The council wouldn’t have a library because it was said ‘people there don’t read’. Mark said ‘it is symptomatic to categorize people when they are poor’. The new library is always a hive of activity.

The big issue of the 1990’s was the shift to charging market rentals for state houses. That caused a collapse which left a huge gap in their community in terms of accommodation. We set out on a housing project. This meant setting up a trust and Mark did a deal with Fletchers to buy land at a low price. He negotiated with big companies to get materials at low cost and they built brick and tile houses for low maintenance. Over the years seventeen families have moved into home ownership.

By building houses for a lot less than they were worth there was an increase in equity in the house to begin with. This became paper equity which was partly written off each year to give equity in the house. This also protected the trust from speculation. In keeping with the multicultural community they have ensured that the houses have different ethnic families.

The parish hosts groups for older people, as a partnership with the Selwyn Foundation, and has food banks, an employment scheme, they work with Corrections and take on people doing community service, they have an ‘op’ shop and clothes bank, and a furniture bank. The emphasis is to encourage people to take responsibility for their own lives.

With the work scheme payment might be in food vouchers or through payment of a car registration. For the work scheme Mark has a contract with Housing NZ so people can be employed through that. Providing work keeps people’s dignity while being supported and helped.

Barbara Beale is a teacher – she added more dimensions to the conversation saying that she and Mark have never done a survey – by running playgroups in the parish, by teaching at the school, being linked to Plunket, knowing the district health nurse, running a food bank and being closely knit with their neighbours, on top of all the other projects, they have their ears close to the ground. Mark is chair of the school Board of Trustees.

Mark does fund raising. This bring us to issues of accountability and records in running programmes and to talk of the two Selwyn Centre groups for older people running at St Elizabeth’s – one Palagi and a Pacific. They started off together but the Pacific women’s interests were different.

The Pacific women asked to have their own group where they could speak their own languages and bring their grandchildren. Many have their grandchildren in their care and they want to pass on hand work skills of their home countries.

The women are mainly from Niue and it is run by Ala Mokole, wife of the Niuean Deacon Iga Mokole. Iga was recently ordained from the parish. Ala mentioned that often these women are not in such good health so there is an emphasis on care for diabetes and nutrition. The Selwyn centre nurse who is trained in gerontology visits for health checks.

Mark elaborated on some of the challenges of doing anything that needs resourcing, like working with Selwyn foundation, which works with DHB’s.

This means funding accountability and the need to be savvy about reporting. Mark (pictured below in the parish “engine room”) said ‘ For PI’s, recording is not seen as so important, so this makes it difficult to get funds’.

Iconz is a programme for 8-11 yr olds which is very needed in that community, and costs quite a bit to run. ‘If I’m going to get sponsorship we need the accountabilities working and the info to satisfy the funders it is authentic.

When I came here to start a parish I had to think entrepreneurial. I had to think what are the resources in the world around us, what is community and draw it together so that something could happen. The challenge is to think outside the square. Groups have to rethink about what they’re doing and be prepared to be flexible and shift to respond to what is happening.

A final pertinent note at Christmas time: through Mark’s relationship with the mayor he was asked to run the Manurewa Christmas parade in the park. We are the host and all other churches and schools are involved. Last year 10,000 people came to that! We support each other as churches. To spread the on super-dynamic community engagement Mark wrote … it is just being reprinted.

Resources

Revd. Mark Beale (2008) Full of Surprises. The Story of St Elizabeth’s Anglican Church, Clendon, Aotearoa. Pic Quick Print, Manakau.

Contacts

Mark Beale
09 266 3032
markbeale@clear.net.nz