Community role satisfying for minister
A real-life river baptism in the Urenui River will always be one of Alan Upson's fondest memories of Taranaki.
The retiring minister of the Whiteley Methodist Church will take his last service in New Plymouth on January 6 after 10 years on the job.
Mr Upson has been in various jobs within the church around the country for 34 years and is leaving Taranaki for Whangarei with his wife, Kerry.
He was president of the Methodist Church of New Zealand in 2010 and has sat on the Bishop's Action Foundation.
For the past decade he has been minister in New Plymouth, Waitara and Urenui, while also doing pastoral work, overseeing management of the church buildings and sitting on the board of the Tainui Village rest home.
He said it was little things such as seeing Mt Taranaki bathed in moonlight as he drove home that he would remember from his time here.
"And I did my first baptism in a river," he said with a grin.
Two significant events he was involved in during his tenure were the controversial decision to demolish Pukearuhe's Whiteley Memorial, and the Whiteley leases issue.
He spoke warmly of the New Plymouth community and the features that characterised the region.
"From the first time I came, I was welcomed. There's a down-to-earth, friendly nature. I love the music, the art, I love the way valleys and streams come down into the city and you can always look up and see the mountain."
He said the people at the Whiteley Methodist Church were good at keeping things running smoothly so he was able to focus on what he enjoyed most - working with the community.
"People matter. And it's the issues that let people be themselves and grow. Those will always be important to me."
He said one fault of the modern church was its focus on money and buildings rather than people.
He has enjoyed discovering his family ties in Taranaki.
"My grandparents were married here in 1923. Upson Stream, that was Uncle Arthur. He was a guide on the mountain. I didn't know that until I got here."
His wife Kerry, currently associate principal at Central School, will continue working, while he would do the occasional funeral service and fill the rest of his time with his hobbies: model trains, kayaking, music and fishing.
Manoah Havea will take over the position of minister at Whiteley Methodist Church.
Taranaki Daily News