Young people are probably more spiritual than my generation (the baby boomers) were at the same age, but are not drawn to institutionalised religion. This is an exciting challenge - particularly for a church like ours that is clearly institutional! - Nelson Anglican Bishop Richard Ellena --------------------
It is almost seven years since Richard Ellena moved from Blenheim to Nelson to become Anglican Bishop of Nelson. Fairfax NZ caught up with him recently.
We're told life stages follow seven-year cycles. What are three noteworthy things in your life since moving here in the new year of 2007?
1. Making the decision in 2009 to walk the boundaries of the diocese - 1000 kilometres in 40 days. At the time someone in the diocesan office asked, quite properly I guess, whether this was a good use of the bishop's time. In retrospect I can't think of a better use of my time during the past seven years.
2. Walking the breast cancer journey with my wife during 2012.
3. Making the decision to live communally this year with our son and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.
Do you have any special plans for the next seven years?
We have developed a long-term strategic plan for the church but personally my plans are to take every opportunity to grow deeper in my faith, simpler in my life, more loving with others, more honest with myself.
What do you like most about living in Nelson? And if you had the power to make one change, what would it be?
Nelson is a stunning city and I think we take it for granted. Every single time I fly back into the city (even after a day away) and drive around Rocks Rd, I am so aware of the privilege of living here and wonder what I have done to deserve such a privilege.
If I could change one thing it would be to have less division and more unity when it comes to a vision for the city. I get so disappointed when great ideas come to nothing because of the "knockers."
We're told that nationally church numbers are in decline. What is the state of the church you lead in Nelson?
We're holding our own - certainly over the last two or three years.
Within Nelson City itself we have four Anglican parishes that are being led by a new generation of leaders and we are seeing families coming, asking questions about faith.
Young people are probably more spiritual than my generation (the baby boomers) were at the same age, but are not drawn to institutionalised religion. This is an exciting challenge - particularly for a church like ours that is clearly institutional!
What is one thing about you that few people would know?
That my name is really Victor Richard Ellena - a family name that has been handed down. Would have originally been Vittorio (my Italian roots).
I can't think of anything really - I try and live my life totally transparently.
My wife would say I'm an open book . . .
What is the single most important message you would like to communicate, regardless of where people stand on matters of faith?
That acceptance and forgiveness are foundational to the creation of a healthy society. Nelson Mandela certainly lived this axiom - paramount in the teaching of Jesus.
What would be the most common thing people ask when meeting you for the first time?
What does a bishop do? Still trying to find a good answer to that.
The Marlborough Express