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The Vicarage at Raetihi

Update: 31 January 13

When the Vestry gave the tenant in the Vicarage notice to vacate the house in September 2012 little did we realise what God had planned for our Parish!

Almost as soon as the tenant had vacated the Vicarage, Archdeacon Elizabeth Body organised a building inspector to inspect the Vicarage and subsequently present a report for us. This was closely followed by a builder's inspection and recommendations of work that needed to be completed. 

We own an old draughty Vicarage set in a large wild (once beautiful) garden with enormous trees to cut down, a stream with a broken culvert to cross, a blocked drain which prevents rainwater and stream water from dispersing and a woodshed which leaks. The house needed a comprehensive insulation instalment and had needed a massive makeover for a long time. Our Vicarage has continued to throw at us as many diverse maintenance jobs as anyone can possibly think of. Lack of finances and people power meant these jobs were always put off until another time. That time never seemed to arrive!! Of course we looked at the project and gasped at the enormity of it all. By now, however restoring the Vicarage had become a reality and not something we could put off any longer!

So on 8 November 2012 we held our first major working bee. Members of the Parish were joined by Reverend Graham Body from Marton, John Rowan from Wanganui and Bishop Mwita Akiri of Tarime, Tanzania. The Ministry Support Team had earlier pulled the scrim off the bedroom walls so the working party ripped up the carpet, removed door frames, took down curtains and pelmets, and pulled nails out of the floor and skirting boards. We kept as much wood as possible to be used again. The old fireplace in the office was removed as was one of the kitchen benches. Everyone got behind the beginnings of this massive project; morning and afternoon tea was provided by Parishioners who were unable to attend the working bee. A yummy lunch was prepared and left by another Parishioner who had work commitments that day.  

Our builder Graham Bell was very patient, explaining how to remove nails properly and safely, demonstrating correct procedures when using tools and removing door frames to ensure as much wood as possible could be saved and used again. After the working bee Graham and his assistant Rick Joyce removed wall boards and inserted much needed insulation in the exterior walls. Many of the batts were donated and we were grateful to the people who made these donations.

Once inserting the insulation was completed Gib board was ordered and erected by Graham and Rick. At the same time Archdeacon Elizabeth announced to the Wellington Diocese what was happening in our Parish, and immediately we were given donations of money and offers of labour. Individuals and Parishes from around the Diocese gave monetary donations. This has been both an overwhelming and a humbling experience. As a result of Archdeacon Elizabeth's notice to the Diocese we were offered the help of the Diocesan Youth – a group which operates under the name 'Getting Dirty for God'. They indeed do not mind getting dirty while working on community projects. 

 Fireplace before   Next stage of the fireplace  
Initially Reverend Elizabeth Penny and the Wardens sent a letter to all Parishioners explaining the situation; that Reverend Sam Bate was coming to live and work in our Parish and we needed support from them all to prepare the Vicarage for Sam and his family. The response to this was overwhelming with promises of food and equipment from regular churchgoers. Even more humbling was the support from others who are on the periphery of the Parish such as those who receive the bi-monthly Parish Gazette but rarely attend a service.

The first decision for the project was who to manage it and Alison Seifert said she would. She had decided to resign from her teaching job because of the travel. As it turned out this was a Godsend as she would not have been able to manage this project and teach at the same time – the project was just too big.

The accommodation and feeding of such a large group became an ongoing theme in our conversations for weeks. To begin with they were going to sleep in the Vicarage and eat in the hall. We soon realised this was not a practical idea as we didn't want all their gear in the rooms we were to paint. We looked at the Police Lodge in Raetihi but that was too expensive, and then out of the blue the Dobson's offered their town flat and home flat for our use. This made it possible to accommodate the rest of the group in the hall and the overflow at the Seifert's and Penny's homes. It worked very well. 

  So Alison and Reverend Elizabeth combined their skills to organise work for the group of young people who were soon to descend on us. Reverend Elizabeth worked some extra hours at school to allow her as much time as possible to be at the Vicarage during the week of the working bee, and she also drew on her experience of wallpapering and painting her own home, and prepared long lists of work to be completed.   
Reverend Elizabeth also compiled lists of equipment that would be needed. These lists were presented to the Parish requesting their help for equipment.  

Alison, an ex Guide leader with masses of experience in organising Girl Guide camps, was able to hone up these skills again and plan the menus and food supplies for the troops. Food lists were compiled and food as well as paint, sandpaper, masks, rollers and paint brushes were purchased. Rags, buckets, drop sheets, rakes, wheel barrows, brooms and other tools were lent by Parish members. It would be fair to say that the Vicarage project completely dominated Alison and Reverend Elizabeth's lives. At night they even dreamt about the Vicarage!

The group of eight leaders and 18 young teenagers were joined by Bishop Justin, his friend Ray and the Bishop's father, and they all descended on us on 10 December and set to work cleaning out the woodshed, scrubbing ceilings, doorways, window trims and then sanding and painting them as well as stripping wallpaper.  

They also moved masses of debris from two enormous macrocarpa trees that we had to have felled as well as clearing large amounts of rubbish in and around the section. A Parish member used his tractor to move the macrocarpa logs and then lent his wood splitter for the massive task of splitting the two large trees into firewood. The young people also dug drains and laid water pipes, dug over garden areas and removed brick edging.

Ever since we were asked to prepare the Vicarage for Sam, Christina and Andrew we have been faced with hurdles – one thing after another has cropped up, but each problem has been dealt with so efficiently that we have almost gasped at how it has happened. 

At times we have felt ashamed at our lack of faith, when we worried about something only to find that it was provided for in a far more generous way than we 
ever thought was possible. 

Philippians verse 6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, prepare your requests to God. And the peace which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Our requests have been numerous and as each worrying need has been met we have experienced the peace that Philip talks of.

Lists and charts became the order of the day. Reverend Elizabeth pinned lists up in the Vicarage detailing jobs that were to be completed. The young people had to look at the list and then guided by the Diocesan Youth Co-ordinator, Chris Casey, they found a job to complete each day. The kitchen crew only needed to look at the charts on the kitchen walls to know what was planned for each meal and what ingredients needed to be prepared. Our neighbour across the road appeared one day to see if she could assist us and she gave enormous help. We were also able to use her fridge and stove.

This happened with more neighbours along the road, and we used their fridge and stove as they cooked the corned beef and vegetables for us. Alistair just happened to be there when four of the billets needed to go back to the house to shower and change. Alison was painting so Alistair ferried them out and back – coincidence or what??

Members of the community who are not Christians but felt moved to assist us offered their help. The local Baptist Minister also joined us. Members of other Parishes from around the Diocese came to Raetihi for a day to offer their services and to get dirty for God.

We needed new spouting and after looking at a plumber's quote wondered how we would cover the cost. Bishop Justin emailed, and said he and his builder friend would come and put up the spouting. They did this. We needed a new shower and toilet. Archdeacon Elizabeth went home to Marton and the next day rang to say someone had a shower and toilet, and would send them up.  

The house needs painting on the outside and a Parishioner has offered to pay for this and organise the painters. We were planning for the painters to begin in early February. This has now been brought forward and they will begin within the next week. We are keeping this as a surprise for Sam and his family so that when they arrive in late January the house will look bright and cheerful.

We needed baking and food for the troops. Everyone rallied and provided this. What wasn't sold at our stall at the Market Day, we used during the week. The young folk (and not so young) loved the home baking and wolfed it down. The hall kitchen was the engine room keeping everyone fuelled for the massive task ahead of them. Although everyone was here to work food was a central theme to the whole week!!

The young folk began each day with prayer and worship. Mid afternoon was spent in groups discussing problems and studying the Bible. After tea each night they returned to our church – in their words a "cool church" and sang, prayed and worshipped. They were usually joined by members of our Parish.

So where are we up to now? Painting has begun in the bedrooms, lounge and dining room. There are some areas that still need quite a bit of tidying up. The hall and toilet have been painted. We still have to remove the rest of the kitchen, the shower and the toilet. The kitchen area will need some more work done on the walls before a new kitchen can be installed. A group of older folk have promised to try and take a few days out of their busy lives in January and complete some of the tasks such as restringing the clothesline, gardening, painting and re-sewing curtains.

We are still exploring the kitchen options and are close to making a decision. The promised new toilet and shower will arrive on Saturday 5 January, the same day Sam, Christina and Andrew are calling in to observe the changes.

Our next big working bee is on 12 January. The local Baptist Church has promised to come along and help us. We welcome this support.

We are extremely grateful for all the support we have received, not only from locals but also from many people and Parishes throughout the Wellington Diocese.

Alison Seifert and Reverend Elizabeth Penny
3 January 2013

The Vicarge thus far - Jan 2013    

Page updated: 31 January 13

No reira waiho ko te aroha o Te Matua Kaha Rawa hei korowai mou.
May the love of Almighty God enfold you!