serving together

New Zealand: Diakonia Aotearoa New Zealand Association (DANZA)

The Purpose of the Diaconate
To be a strong strand,
of a three strand
ministry in the Methodist Church,
and Co-operating and Union Ventures in New Zealand.
To continue to develop and clarify
Ordained DiaconalMinistry that is
complementary and parallel to
Lay and Presbyteral Ministry.

Deacon – is one who is ordained by the Methodist Church to a ministry shaped by the community whom they are appointed to serve. (Methodist Church of New Zealand, Te Haahi Weteriana O Aotearoa, Laws and Regulations Section 2, Ministry, 2.2)

This can be full or part-time ministry, and either fully, partially or non-stipended.(MCNZ Laws; Regulations Section 2:3.1)

Training for a Deacon will include biblical and theological studies, and such other studies as will prepare them for their particular serving ministry.(NZMC Section 2:4.7(b))

The Deacons: The Holy Stirrers, dancing on the edge of the Church, facing outwards, building bridges, taking church to the community, to people who don’t usually encounter it, and taking the community to the church, encouraging the baptized to carry out their ministry.

D – dedicated ministry role (Acts 6:2-4)

E – evangelism through service (Acts 6:6-7)

A – anchored in the faith (1 Tim 3:9)

C – Christ-Like (John 13:14)

O – Obedient to the Holy Spirit – (Acts 8:26)

N – noted for integrity (1 Tim 3:8-13)

S – sensitive in service (Acts 8:30)

Diaconal Doings
Diaconal Ministry began for Methodism, in New Zealand, in 1893. George I. Laurenson, in his book “Te Hahi Weteriana” wrote, “The need for some special religious and social ministry to Maori womenfolk and children especially, was frequentely discussed among the workers, but it was not until 1893 that the concern reached a more definite stage with the passing of this resolution at Conference: ‘That it is desirable to inaugurate a Mission of English–speaking women to Maori women, and that further consideration of the subject be remitted to the Home Mission Executive Committee with the power to act during the year if deemed practicable.’ Some time elapsed before the practical steps could be taken, but eventually this led to the establishment of the Methodist Deaconess Order with its special field of Maori work.” 

Back to the future
What does ‘back to the future’ mean? A journey in which time is spent getting to know the history, reflecting on what the history means in the ‘now’ and exploring what the future might look like. As Deacons in the Methodist Church we have been on that journey for probably the whole of the life of the ‘new Diaconate’ since around 1976. Twenty-six years have passed and almost a rotation has happened. Close in, caught up in the every day work of the ministry of a Deacon, outside the Church and facing the community, most would not have even noticed the rotation except when looking at the questions of Conference, and noticing the gaps of no Deacons accepted for training, no Deacons in Training, no Deacons to be made probationers, no deacons to be ordained this year.

Like the sea, the Diaconate ebbs and flows. Capturing this has been part of the research entered into in order to know our history. One example is that most attention is shown for Diaconal Ministry when time is taken to be in the Church and talk about this ministry. Each time there has been a ‘Warden’, Chaplain or Fieldworker with responsibility for the diaconate, numbers have increased, when there are none of these roles available, numbers have decreased. Another example. When asked a question in a survey “Who influenced you to become a Deacon”? both Deacons, Deaconesses and Diaconal Ministers from New Zealand and around the world clearly noted other Deacons as their point of interest and contact. So what does this all mean? Follow our journey as we share our reflections from the Gospel beginnings of diakonia and in the Methodist Church over the last 100 years in Aotearoa, and as we find out about  the  renewal and development of Diaconal Ministry here and overseas.

In 1990 the “Deacon Task Group” was set up to be available for consultation on matters concerning the Diaconate. The original membership was June Higham (Convenor), Valma Hallam, Diane Hight, Margaret Hames, Kay Wicks and Shirley-Joy Barrow. These Deacons involved themselves in 1990 the “Deacon Task Group” was set up to be available for consultation on matters concerning the Diaconate.
Over the next twelve years, June Higham retired, Margaret Hames (now Birtles) moved to the South Island and left the Task Group. Edna Webster (now Evans) came onto the Task Group, as did Richard Williams from Auckland, and Brenda Fawkner from New Plymouth.. Valma Hallam became Convenor in 19 and resigned in 2002. At the end of 2002 it was felt that the Task Group needed to represent more of New Zealand than the Waikato/Bay of Plenty and Auckland Synods.

The Diaconate Task Group, (noting the new name) has five Deacons, Rachel Tregurtha (Rangiora), Raewyn Cubin (Wellington), Convenor Brenda Fawkner (New Plymouth), Edna Evans (Tauranga), Richard Williams (Auckland) and the Deacon for Diaconal Development Shirley-Joy Barrow (Gisborne); Lay person John Thornley, and Presbyter, Sylvia Akau’ola Tongotongo and a Tauiwi Youth person , Rebecca Va’ai.

In 2002 when the Conference re-affirmed Diaconal Ministry…

The Diaconate Task Group made a decision to work with a process of having two Retreats during the year. The first was at the home of Edna and George Evans, in Tauranga, from 6th-9th of February 2003 and people in presbyteral and lay ministry were invited to discuss issues around recruitment, candidature, training, Probation, Ordination, Ministry and retirement of Deacons.

As a group of twelve we worked our way through the seven areas in the life of a Deacon looking at the history, the present situation and how it might be different if Diaconal Ministry was parallel and complimentary to lay ministry and presbyteral ministry. At times we worked in groups which included diaconal, lay and presbyteral ministers.

Outcomes were recorded and decisions were made as to how these outcomes would be dealt with between this Retreat, bringing information to August Synods. The second retreat was held in Rangiora, in the South Island, 29-31st August 2003 which was also the final preparation of the material for Conference. in the Methodist Church, Te Hahi Weteriana O Aotearoa.

Sister Rona Collins
When the family next door took her along to the Methodist Sunday School in Cuba Street, Palmerston North, this was, for Rona Collins, the start of her life’s work. The Church families, the ministers, the Bible Class leaders, the missionaries on deputation made a big impression, and, quite early, she felt a missionary call.

Her mission field was to be urban Christchurch where, from 1946 when she entered Deaconess House till 1985, she was known and loved for her work among young people and their families.

As a Deaconess, she was appointed to the Children’s Home at Papanui where she became Assistant matron and Social Worker. In her work with children, she was more than ever concerned for the needs of the whole family. Taking responsibility for Family Support Services Sister Rona moved to a house where she always had living with her a family of young people needing a base. She cared for them, ran a social work agency, helped with Sunday School, Bible Class and Woman’s Fellowship at Papanui and responded to many calls as a leader and speaker. For three years, she was President of the Deaconess Association and, in 1980-81, Vice-President of the Methodist Church of New Zealand. Her concern for the position of women in the parishes led her to involvement with the Community of Women and Men in Church and Society and to collating a survey on the needs of minister’s partners.

In 1983, Sister Rona addressed the area meeting of the World Federation of Methodist Women in Melbourne. When she retired from Deaconess work, it was not to give up, but to serve as Supply in the Manawatu, living at Marton. Her prolific letter writing has kept her in touch with many people. Her message whenever she preaches is about the grace of God. “What else is there for me to preach about?’ she asks.

A Parishioner’s Story – By Francis Lee

People of all ages loved Sister Rona. One of our Sunday School children said ” Sister Rona could stay for a hundred years”.

Have you heard this story Sister Rona arranged for Moses (Sam Su) to strike a rock in the desert and water gushed out. We saw it and heard it.

One social evening at Wesley Methodist Church, we had a mock wedding. Ima Pain married Eza Drip. Sister Rona was the bridegroom, Sam Su was the bride, and Basil Hilder with his hairy chest was the bridesmaid. What fun it was.

Methodist Mother Theresa laid to rest

Church leaders, parishioners and former residents of the Papanui Children’s Home gathered en masse at Papanui Methodist Church last month to farewell one of the Church’s most inspiring figures, Sister Rona Collins.

Sister Rona began training as a deaconess in 1946 and in 1948 she was appointed to the Papanui Children’s Home, which housed boys and girls from broken homes. She stayed at the Home for the next 37 years, providing children who had known tragic circumstances security, self esteem and the love of a mother.

Rev Marcia Baker wrote a book on the New Zealand order of Methodist deaconesses. Marcia says at times Sister Rona felt angry and even wept at the injustices she found in society. But she was basically a happy person and a born optimist, who often shared the healing power of laughter.

At one point Rona wrote “I believe in kids and teenagers and people and the Church and God’s power to change people’s lives. Unconditional love as shown in the life of Jesus is big enough to forgive anything, large enough to surround any person and family, and great enough to work a miracle of change.”

In 1980 Rona became vice president of the Methodist Church of NZ, the second deaconess to hold the office. Later she served as a supply minister in Marton, Te Awamutu, Gisborne, Invercargill and Oxford. Eventually she retired to Christchurch and a home of her own that she shared with her puppet Poppy and an endless stream of visitors.

Marcia says wherever Rona went people loved her but they also found that, when she asked you to do a job, it was virtually impossible to say no. “People discovered in the process they had hidden talents because she was a mentor, encourager and leader and did not stand by and do nothing herself.”

Methodist Church of NZ president Rev Brian Turner took part in Rona’s funeral service. He says she was New Zealand Methodism’s Mother Theresa.

I understand Sister Rona was initially reticent about doing pastoral work but she turned into an incredibly dynamic pocket rocket, who epitomised the servanthood we see so clearly in Jesus. She was selfless, totally focused and totally emptied of self ambition. Despite this she had her follies. As we learned in her funeral service, she was fond of the television show Dallas and liked the character JR in particular.

Rev Saikolone Taufa is presbyter at Papanui Methodist Church where Rona continued to worship. He began his tenure there as a probationer and was taken under Rona’s wing.

During her funeral service he conveyed the story of a trip across Christchurch with her to visit someone at Princess Margaret Hospital. A trip that could be made in 20 minutes lasted all day as Rona stopped to visit people, run errands, mail letters, and do favours for others.

Testament to Rona’s influence was the culmination of her funeral service when former residents of the Children’s Home were asked to form a guard of honour for her casket. Dozens of people rose from the congregation to see her off on her final journey.




An honour guard of those who once lived with Sister Rona Collins at Papanui Children’s Home bears witness as she sets off on her final journey.

In 1981 after returning from a stint of missionary work in Tonga with my husband John and family, (John was employed as a Principal of an agricultural college on the Island of ‘Eua in Tonga), I found the experience had changed my life. It proved to be a watershed experience which led to a deepening experience in my spiritual journey. I became a lay pastor in our local congregation of St Luke’s Church in New Plymouth. A few years later an ecumenical chaplaincy team was developed at the base hospital in New Plymouth and I became one of the first lay chaplains. As a member of that team I received very valuable training and experience. I did general visiting and later visited the psychiatric ward, where I also worked with the patients with art work, encouraging their creativity with pottery, mural drawing and painting. The mural ‘The Seven Days of Creation’, is on permanent display in the hospital chapel foyer.

It was during this period I heard of the Diaconate and candidated. The years of training in the Home Setting Programme were very exciting and stimulating, discovering the wider church and meeting with others in the programme. Probably the highlight of my training was the three months that I spent at Porirua Hospital doing a clinical pastoral education course. I stayed three months in the old nurses home, a reminder of my student teacher days. I was ordained in 1991 at Wanganui.

In 1995 after serving as a supply chaplain for three months at the hospital I was appointed ecumenical chaplain of a Tainui Village Rest Home. It is a charitable trust run by a board formed of members of the Methodist and Anglican Churches. Over 30 years since its conception it has grown to include 58 beds, 66 residents living in chalet and villas on three different sites, a day care programme which involves 60 elderly people each week and has about 60 staff. The ministry that I do includes each of these groups of people and I spend 20 hours a week at the village. I am involved in general pastoral care, including support of the staff, giving spiritual direction (after training with Spiritual Growth Ministries), taking services, including funeral services and room blessings and involving myself in the general activities of the home. Each year we have a pantomime. I paint scenery and sometimes help with the script. This year I was ‘Santa’ who had lost his Christmas spirit. I am also a member of the Village choir; we give concerts three times a year.

I am fortunate to have three of my four children and their families living in New Plymouth,; my grandma duties plus my oil painting and gardening, swimming and walking fill my days very happily.

I am involved in our local church taking team services from time to time. I have been a member of the Diaconate Task Group about three years and have taken on the role of Convenor of the Diaconate Task Group.

Century of deaconesses chance to ponder future church By Paul Titus

While their calling often puts them in touch with our most marginalised and damaged people, it cannot be said that deacons and deaconesses are grim.

When they gathered with friends and families in Christchurch last month to mark the 100th anniversary since the founding of the Methodist Deaconess Order of New Zealand, good humour and laughter were in abundance.

The four day event began on September 16th and coincided with the annual Diaconate Conference. It was a chance to look back at some of the accomplishments of the Deaconess Order but also to look ahead at where the Methodist Church is going.

Former deaconesses at the memorial in Rapaki to the prisoners from Parihaka who were transported to the South Island.

Things kicked off with a Sunday evening memorial service at Durham Street Methodist Church written by Rev Marcia Baker. The service was a light-hearted look at the serious work of the Deaconess Order, which ended in 1979 and was replaced by the Order of Deacons.

The service highlighted some of the personalities and events in the deaconess movement, and the stories were interspersed with hymns and ditties rewritten for the occasion.

It touched on the forerunners of the deaconesses in Aotearoa NZ. It was in 1907 that the Durham St Church bought a house on St Asaph Street to house and train deaconesses.

In 1923 a larger Deaconess House was established at 25 Latimer Square (the site of the Connexional offices today). A hostel for training college students was later added to ‘Deak House’ and one evening of the anniversary celebrations was given over to former residents to reminisce about their experiences.

The final dialogue of Marcia’s service sums up the deaconess movement well:

“What a band of women – dedicated and hard working. Some were serious, some fun-loving, some daring, some strait-laced. There were rebels and conformists, the studious and the down to earth. They’ve travelled our country and overseas, on horseback, trains, cars, pushbikes, motorbikes and canoes and tramped many miles on foot.

“They’ve worked in soup kitchens, orphanages, old people’s homes, overseas missions, city missions, Maori missions, Maori circuits – preaching, teaching, rescuing and pioneering, nursing the sick, cleaning up homes, influencing State policy, peddling books, selling old clothes, translating scripture, sleeping in prisons, appearing in courts, and writing many books.

“But always, no matter what the job, taking the love of Jesus Christ.”

Rev Diana Tana (left) and Sister Rona Collins cut the centenary birthday cake.

Marcia says when she began to prepare the service a year ago she uncovered so much material, she ended up writing a book. Entitled ‘For Others with Love’, it was available at the celebration.

A strong contingent from Te Taha Maori attended the event, including women from Northland, Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland), Waikato, and Taranaki. Tumuaki Rev Diana Tana gave a presentation on the theme ‘keeping pace with a changing world’.

In it she too looked backward and forward. She discussed some of the elements in a Maori response to the Gospel – knowledge of tradition, whakapapa, a sense of place, Te Triti o Waitangi, and a political history of land confiscations, protest, and legislation.

“We cannot afford to sit in our comfortable places and expect people to respond to what we think is right and good for them. We have to be the face of change for a better society even if that means being challenged in ways that make us feel uncomfortable,” Diana said.

She chalked out a way forward and described some ways Te Taha Maori adapts to the changing needs of people and understandings of God. They include listening to grassroots people, giving support to the marginalised, remembering the Church’s bi-cultural partnership, kotahitanga (being strong together), and being accountable.

MCNZ president Rev John Salmon also addressed the conference. Some of his remarks are included in his presidential column on page 5 of this publication.

In addition to the presentations, conference goers also enjoyed a bus tour that visited some of the churches where deaconesses did their training.

 Presbyterian Deaconesses – history (source: Archives Research Centre)
(the following provides examples of Deaconesses listed on the website)

Presbyterian Church of New Zealand Deaconess Badge

ABERLEY, Rev (Sr) Lorna Elizabeth Q.S.M., N.Z.R.N. b. Christchurch 18.9.1911
Educated at Seadown, Temuka, Mataroa, and at Taihape District High School.
Accepted for mission service April 1936. Presbyterian Women’s Training Institute Dunedin (PWTI) 1936-37. Took nursing training at Nelson Hospital 1938 and gained her Maternity Certificate at Stratford. Knox Church Dunedin – District nurse 1943-5. Ordained as Missionary for India 1 October 1944, sailed for India October 1944 . Jagadhri Hosital India 1944 to 1947. Took over from Sr Esther Elliott. Returned to NZ for health reasons Sept 1947. Gained her Post-Graduate Certificate while back in NZ. Re-appointed to Punjab Mission 1 Aug 1948.
“Sister Aberley’s work involves supervision of nursing in Jagadhri Hospital – part of the task of lecturing to and training male nurses who do their training there, supervision of child welfare work in Jagadhri town and the indigenous nurse dais who carry on this work, together with theatre and other duties connected with hospital routine.”  Resigned from Mission for family reasons 14 March 1961′ St Johns Hawera, Church Extension Sister 1961-66.  Was made Deaconess by resolution of the General Assembly & agreement of the Deaconess
Executive 1961. She was invited to return to India to take Desma Campbell`s place until a new sister found 1966. Jagadhri Hosp India – arrived 21 Sept 1966. Returned to NZ  2 Aug 1972. Ordained Associate Minister (Honorary) Hawera 4.2.1976. Retired 20.2.1978, but continued to be listed as Honorary Associate Minister Hawera till 1988. Died 6 March 2014 aged 102 years.

ALEXANDER, Margaret Jean  (Sr Jean) b 30.9.1912 at Christchurch
Presbyterian Women’s Training Institute 1938-40. Ordained Deaconess 1941. PSSA City Deaconess – Social Work Auckland  1.3.1941. Parish Deaconess – St David’s Auckland 1949 – resigned 1.1956. Matron Inverlochy Home for Aged Auckland  Oct 1956. Parish Deaconess – St Giles Papanui Christchurch ChP 1.9.1960 – res 30.9.1966. Outlook staff Christchurch 1.10.1966  – retired 3.5.1972
“[At St David’s Church Auckland….] she was faced with new challenges. Leading Bible Class and Girl’s Brigade, parish and hospital visiting. [At Papanui] she was encouraged to conduct public worship and to preach. She shared in the parish visiting and youth leadership. At this time the parish was growing rapidly and the parish of St Margaret’s was established.  In 1966 Jean accepted a new challenge when appointed Business Administrator of ‘The Outlook’ (the official paper of the Presbyterian Church). Sister jean served on the Assembly Women’s Work Committee and the Special Committee on the position of women in the Church. She (also) served on the  committee that set up the new Association of Presbyterian Women.  Jean was a wise, disciplined and strong woman with gifts and abilities in all spheres of the work she undertook. She served her church faithfully and well.” (From Obit.) Author of “Jam on my Bread” – her autobiography written in retirement. Died 2 Sept 2003 at St Winifred’s Rest Home.

ALLAN, Sr Anne Alexandrine [Mrs D.  Robertson] b 28.9.1902
Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Institute 1927-2. Ordained Deaconess 1930
Maori Mission for 6 months during 1930. Appointed Missionary to India;  sailed for India 9.9.1930. Resigned December 1934 to marry Dr Donald Robertson of the Church of Scotland Mission at Udaipur, Punjab India; married March1935. Noted as living in Edinburgh in 1955. Died 27.5.1988 in Edinburgh

ALLAN,  Sr Elizabeth  Agnes b 14.4.1908
Presbyterian Women’s Training Institute, Dunedin  1936. St Andrews New Plymouth 1935 for 4 months. Youth Dept PCNZ Christchurc 1.2.1936. Ordained Deaconess 12.5.1936 by Auckland Presbytery.
Congregational Deaconess Knox Lower Hutt WnP  1942-45; Cong Deaconess St Columba Naenae & Taita Union WnP  1945-51; Deaconess, St Ninians Christhcurhc ChP 7.1951-62; Deaconess, St Pauls Oamaru NOP 25.10.1962 – retired 31.1.1968
Childrens Home Appeal Christchurch 1969-74.
Elizabeth pioneered work in the burgeoning Naenae-Taita area & the establishment of St Columba parish during a time of phenomenal population explosion. She was well-informed and concerned for the quality of oversight of rural, suburban and city parishes. Few commissioners probably read their minutes & agenda more assiduously! Elizabeth was a warm, gracious, gentle lady, a true Churchwoman whose devotion to her Lord was uncalculated & expressed in a ministry of love & service which has touched unnumbered fellow journeyers.
Died 9.3.1989

b 9.5.1912. She was student at Home Science School Dunedin, was accepted for training as a Deaconess at the Presbyterian Women’s Training Institute to commence 1939. Presbyterian Womens Training Institute Dunedin 1939-41; Turakina Maori Girls College  25.10.1941; Ordained Deaconess 6.4.1943; Theological Hall 1948; Congregational Deaconess Musselburgh, Dunedin, Dunedin Presbytery,  1.6.1956 to 1953; PSSA Dunedin City Deaconess 1.9.1953. Died 25.8.1953 suddenly,  in office.

MACKIE, Sr Linda (Jessie ?) Ordained Deaconess 1907. First Church Deacon 1907-8. St Stephens Deacon  1908; St Davids, Te Aka Puaho Presbytery 1910-2; Milton, Clutha Presbytery 1920-5

MATHESON, Miss Barbara Jessie (Mrs Gray)
b. Auckland. Educated at Pukekohe High School and Papakura High School. Holds a Primary School Teachers “C” certificate. Undertook study at the Bible Training Institute. Attended Deaconess College 1963. Missionary Papua New Guinea appointed from 1.1.1964. Commissioning service by Presbytery of South Auckland at Waiau Pa Church 13.12.1963 and went to All Saints College Sydney for short training course 1964. Arrived Papua New Guinea early July 1964, to teach at Koaru High School. “Own Missionary” of South Auckland Presbytery and supported by South Auckland Presbyterial to Koke Church Extension, Port Moresby, evangelistic worker 1965. Resigned 1970 to be married to Mr Brian Gray.

(Abbott to Amosa; Mabon to Matheson)

Information to be collected includes (but is not limited to) the following questions.


A brief history (may include links to documents and websites) – how did it all get started? What are the key dates and events? Are there documents that are part of the history (please specify)?


Diaconal ministry agents: consecretrated/commissioned/ordained/other?

Title: Sister, Deaconess, Deacon, Rev, etc


Historical information and dates re formation/recognition of diaconal ministry agents in the denomination/church agency.


Does the diaconal ministry agent wear a distinctive uniform? Are diaconal ministry agents able to be married? Are they remunerated? Do they live in community (eg motherhouse) or independently? Etc.


What kind of training/formation do diaconal ministry agents receive before formal recognition in their church. Are there expectations of ongoing training, or professional development? If yes, what is expected and how often does it happen?


How many diaconal ministry agents are there currently in the denomination or church agency? Any comment on trends in numbers?


Are there key people (historical or current) in the organization who have provided significant leadership. Any weblinks to their story, or a short write up?


Who are the current leaders in the diaconal association? (photos, ‘blurb’).


Relationship of diaconal ministry agents to a denomination/church agency


An overview of main responsibilities for diaconal ministry agents (past and present). Are they located within a church, a particular facility or agency, or community based? Are diaconal ministry agents appointed to individual placements or work together on projects or in institutions?


Are diaconal ministry agents able to preside at sacraments (communion, baptism, weddings etc)?


Who makes the appointments for diaconal ministry agents eg they apply for positions, they are appointed (eg by a Bishop, by the conference office, or another body/committee).


Is there a length of time for appointments (eg usually less than 5 years, usually between 5 and 10 years, at the discretion of the diaconal ministry agent or at the discretion of the appointing body), appointed to and remain with a particular mother house, etc.


Do diaconal ministry agents organize conferences, seminars, gatherings for professional development, pastoral peer support etc? How often and what is the nature of these events?


Key issues and challenges in the contemporary ministry context


Do the diaconal ministry agents have ‘code of conduct’ or ‘code of ethics’ that inform ethical and behavioral expectations for ministry?


Key documents (historical, vision and mission etc) – links or PDF or Word files




Links to relevant articles, websites etc


Other areas of interest……


(information to Rev Sandy Boyce, President, DIAKONIA World Federation,, to upload to this website)