Right Reverend Jim White officiates at the commissioning of Rev Ellen Bernstein.
Rev Bernstein receives a silver pitcher representing the water of baptism.
The new vicar of Warkworth is looking forward to ministering in a parish where most of those attending the Anglican Church are elderly.
Rev Ellen Bernstein, who was commissioned last month, says mature Christians are the “bees knees.”
“They are brilliant. The longer we live and the more immersed we are in prayer and scripture, the more useful we are to others,” she says.
“I think churches full of old people are wonderful.”
In this respect, Warkworth will present a sharp contrast to her previous parish based at St Stephens, in Tamahere, which had more young families, new immigrants and a high proportion of medical professionals.
Ellen says when there is a smaller proportion of older people, it’s very difficult to get things done because everyone is working 60 hours a week, and people are lucky if they can get to church once a month.
“But an older congregation has a pattern and routine to their lives that prioritises church quite highly,” she says.
At the same time, she says young people should not be put off from attending a church full of older people because they can benefit from their spiritual maturity.
Ellen was ordained as an Anglican priest five years ago.
She became interested in the vocation after working as a personal assistant to the Bishop of Waikato.
She found herself regularly talking to people about God, the meaning of life and difficulties people were experiencing in relationships.
She decided she needed to know what the Bible really said on such subjects and be able to communicate its message to others.
Ellen embarked on theological training to find out more.
When Archbishop Sir David Moxon learned that Ellen was thinking of becoming a priest, he got in touch to give her his enthusiastic support.
Ellen says she is passionate about building a church in Warkworth that makes room for every kind of believer.
“We particularly dislike prejudice and discrimination. A place of safety and welcome for all people is paramount,” she says.
She concedes it will be a challenge to serve five churches in the parish rather than just one, as she did in Tamahere.
The Warkworth parish includes Christ Church (Warkworth), St Leonard’s (Matakana), St. Michael’s and
All Angels (Leigh), St Alban’s (Kaipara Flats) and Snells Beach Community Church.
Fortunately, she says the church has a rich “taonga” of retired and associate clergy to assist her.
“I could not do it without them,” she says.