Full of Surprises - the remarkable first 20 years of St. Elizabeth's Anglican Church, Clendon

Howard Webb, Love Your Neighbour Network

8 September 2008

Mark Beale, Vicar of St. Elizabeth’s Anglican Church in Clendon, South Auckland, hasmark_beale_200x300.jpg trusted God for remarkable things as he serves the community that he loves and knows God loves too. The recent record-breaking 'Manukau Big Soup' is just one more of the many innovative ideas Mark has made a reality in his community. You can read about that story here.

Mark and his family left a thriving congregation in Te Atatu to plant the church 20 years ago, and he determined from the outset that this church was going to be a community church, not just a gathered congregation. He notes that “those that come here from outside of Clendon understand they are here to serve Clendon”. He would never claim that he has the perfect church; but because of St Elizabeth’s outward focus he believes that if his church closed its doors tomorrow it would be sorely missed, not just by those that congregate there for worship but by the wider community. 

He has written a book to mark the 20th anniversary of the church, entitled “Full of Surprises”. It is both an entertaining and a thought-provoking read. What stands out for me is what a mixture of faith, optimism, clear-eyed practicality and plain hard work can achieve by God’s grace. It is little wonder that Mark was appointed Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 for ‘services to the community’. 

Mark has built up an exceptional men’s ministry in Manukau known as ‘Manukau Men United’, he is the chairman of Promisekeepers and chaplain to the Promisekeepers choir. 

He and his church pioneered new ways and means of tackling the problem of graffiti in Manukau, which grew into the Manukau Beautification Trust which Mark chairs. This Trust now employs around 30 people and has an annual budget of $1.5m. 

The Manurewa Family Christmas in the Park, a joint venture with the local council, has become a highlight of the community calendar and Mark was a key figure in getting it off the ground.

The church’s ‘Friends of the Family’ programme runs a highly successful playgroup now affiliated with the Ministry of Education, and a small employment scheme that provides services to Housing New Zealand. 

A Selwyn Centre for the elderly as well as a Pacific Island Selwyn Centre has been established at St. Elizabeth’s. 

There are Women’s Breakfasts for which the men cook and Men’s Breakfasts where the women return the favour! 

Family Film Nights have become a long-standing tradition at the church. Many Clendon families can little afford to go to the movies, and this is a way of encouraging families to do something together. 

The St. Elizabeth’s housing project saw 6 houses built that gave their occupants the opportunity of breaking out of the poverty rental trap and being able to own their own home. This inspiring story is a ‘must-read’ in the book! 

Food banks, an Op Shop, youth ministry, highly successful Alpha Courses and ministry to a women’s prison are other community-focused activities that get a mention. 

full-of-surprises_1.jpgAs the Rev Dr Don Battley, Archdeacon of Manukau says in the preface to the book, ‘This is the story of an Anglican church that defied the odds and won; …of a low-decile community that has created a dynamic multiracial servant community; of a diocese that risked putting funding into a new mission; and of a priest and his family who stood to their calling and now celebrate its fulfillment. There are many learnings for new church planting and for all local churches in this important story. May they be taken to heart.’

'Full of Surprises' is a warm, often humorous and intensely practical book that will prove a tonic to those who share Mark's dream for a church that really makes a difference to its neighbours.

Copies of the book cost $30 and are available directly from Mark Beale. Contact him at markbeale@clear.net.nz