Spanky's cooler than your average chaplain

BECK ELEVEN
Last updated 05:00 02/08/2014
Spanky Moore
Joseph Johnson/Fairfax NZ
APPROACHABLE: Spanky Moore, the new senior ecumenical chaplain at the University of Canterbury

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Spanky Moore is the new chaplain at the University of Canterbury. Beck Eleven meets the punk rocking, radio hosting man behind the dog collar.

It's true. Spanky is an unusual name for a reverend but it's a lot better than Idiot Pants. Meet Anglican minister Spanky Moore. The only time he goes by his real name, Joshua, is when he is ''asking for money''.

Moore, 33, is the new senior ecumenical chaplain at the University of Canterbury, bringing his approachable personality and bearded hipster look to the role. It was not a degree in theology that brought him from his rural Nelson home to Christchurch but his punk band, Clown Dog.

The hope of fame and fortune lured Clown Dog to the big smoke of Christchurch and since one of his favourite bands, Green Day, had members with nicknames, Moore decreed Clown Dog's members ought to have nicknames too. He was Spanky, there was a Sherbet and an Idiot Pants.

''I definitely got off lightly,'' he says.

The rockers' signature tune was The Sausage Song during which the band threw meat into the audience.

''It sort of progressed,'' he says. ''At first we threw sausages then it was other kinds of smallgoods. Once I threw a half-defrosted No. 8 chicken. I underestimated the time it would take to thaw. It was still pretty hard and someone threw it back and it knocked off the guitar amp.

''Another time, I oozed sausage meat out of a packet but it got stuck in the microphone grill. The microphone wasn't ours but I put a sock over it and never told anyone. Not my holiest moment.''

Moving to Christchurch also introduced him to the Anglican faith (he had grown up Church of Christ in Nelson). He found he enjoyed the community, its traditions and sense of history.

''I like to talk. A lot,'' he says.

At gigs, he was the frontman. This led to him being an MC at events and to radio where he was a morning host on the university station, RDU. He was hired to be ''wildly controversial'' and came through with segments such as dating advice with Don Brash. However, such antics started to feel a little ''ethically uncomfortable''. He still dips in to radio work, more often producing.

It was during his stint as a presenter that he was ordained as an Anglican minister in 2010. It was the last ordination in Christ Church Cathedral.

The theology degree sent him through a ''massive stage of wrestling''.

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''People think kids swallow religion and what their parents believe like custard, but I didn't. People don't. I was this punk kid living in the Hi Para apartments, near drug dealers and partying. In the middle of all that, I was wrestling with my beliefs. I discovered with deeper conviction, right down to my bones, that there was something with this Jesus guy.''

The job as chaplain has a ''dream wide open job description'' and he will be supporting people at any stage of their faith, performing blessings, weddings and funerals.

Tertiary institutes are ideal for investigating faith, he says.

''How do you have a bold intelligent faith? At university, people are learning, getting masters and PhDs but they might still have a Sunday School level of faith. They want to question and to know more. The deeper you get into it, the more there is to learn. Non-Christians think of us as brainwashed idiots but we have a thirst for knowledge.''

He also works at the Anglican Diocese with young adults.

As to why congregation numbers are dropping, he says it is a worldwide problem, not just a question for the church.

''It's the same with bookstores, the media industry. A lot of other industries are asking how they understand the future, how they adapt. Everyone's wrestling with the same question and the church is no different.

''It's complicated, the world is changing fast. It's as though we're not allowed to ask the big questions any more. How do we find deep happiness and what does it look like? These are the questions me and my friends discuss regularly and at length.''

He says Pentecostal churches do a good job drawing in young people because their ''music and tastes are in line with regular people'' but older denominations have struggled to reinvent themselves.

This is the face of a man who is keen to do just that.

- The Press

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