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'The church should not be confined to four walls'

By Judith Lacy

'C' is a popular word for words associated with Christianity – church, cross and chapel spring to mind. For the new minister of Wesley Broadway in Palmerston North, Rev Philomeno Kinera 'c' should stand for community, candour, and compassion too.

Rev Philomeno Kinera
Wesley Broadway is Philomeno's first appointment following two years at Trinity Methodist Theological College in Auckland studying for a diploma of practical theology. Her responsibilities now include Methodist congregations in Ashhurst, Pohangina, Bunnythorpe, Feilding and Marton.

Wesley Broadway also has services in Tongan and Korean, taken by a layperson and a Methodist minister respectively, with whom Philomeno works in partnership.

She says the church should be in visible in the community.

"That's where the real people are. I am passionate about it. That is where I want to be and it makes me feel alive being with people."

Philomeno's current focus is exploring how the church can offer itself to serve the community, in particular give hospitality to immigrants, and she has approached the Ethnic Centre. She also wants to work with the city's tertiary institutions and has already met with International Pacific College to explore how the church can extend a welcome to new students.

"That's just the start because I'm only beginning here."

Wesley Broadway has been without a minister for two years and that has required adjustment on both her part and that of parishioners, she says. The key has been to acknowledge people's different abilities and allow them to flourish.

Philomeno says she accepted the appointment on the basis that lay people continue to do what they're doing and release her to areas she has gifts for.

She has been told she is a people person. She is compassionate and picks up new languages easily, handy for a church with parishioners from many cultural backgrounds.

Every new parish is scary, Philomeno believes, especially so for an Asian woman. But in the midst of that is the excitement and love of what she is doing.

Born and raised in Singapore, she comes from a long line of Methodist missionaries and ministers. She was a deacon in Singapore for about nine years, working in school ministry with a period of missionary work in Indonesia and Thailand.

While it might have seemed natural she would end up as a minister, Philomeno says she struggled for seven years with the prospect, thinking what she had done in Singapore was the end of full-time ministry. Instead she worked for CCS in Taranaki integrating children with disabilities into the school system. She did keep her hand in the church through a voluntary school chaplain position and following encouragement from ministers applied to Trinity College.

She recalls being the only woman on a live-in retreat to assess potential ministry candidates and believes it's still a case of women breaking into a men's world.

Passionate about the environment and creation, Philomeno believes when the Church talks about liberation and salvation, it's not just for humanity but all creation. As part of her theology diploma, she spent six months working with Greenpeace, which she loved.

Article and photo courtesy of the Manawatu Standard.