After a vacancy of four years, the Reformed Church of Dunedin (RCNZ) on the southern part of the South Island of New Zealand, has a minister.
Rev. Erik Stolte was ordained on October 13, 2012, in a special service at the Dunedin church. Rev. Robert van Wichen, pastor of Bishopdale Reformed Church in Christchurch (RCNZ) asked the questions and read the charge, while Rev. Bruce Hoyt conducted the bulk of the service.
“He is the pastor charged with the ‘Oamaru part’ of the congregation,” says Rev. Stolte. “He also happened to be my pastor when I was younger and he brought me through to my profession of faith. Hence it was rather special for him to be part of the service.”
The ‘Oamaru part’ of the Reformed Church of Dunedin is a separate congregation that began as Dunedin’s daughter church and meets in Oamaru, which is about an hour and a half north of Dunedin.
“In the past the minister stationed in Dunedin would also be over the Oamaru congregation,” explains Rev. Stolte. “Generally, every three weeks he would preach two Sundays in Dunedin and one in Oamaru. The Dunedin minister was also responsible for all the pastoral care and teaching classes. This has gone on for about 40 years. But about two years ago Bruce Hoyt was called to serve that church. This has brought a lot of stability to the congregation, and there has been great progress with both physical and spiritual growth.”
During the 1960s, Dr. Richard Venema was the first minister of the Reformed church in Dunedin. “He was responsible for laying the ground work for what we have in Dunedin today,” says Rev. Stolte. “Dr. Cornel Venema (Mid-America Reformed Seminary president) therefore spent a few years of his childhood here.”
There are about 60 souls in the Dunedin congregation and another 45 in the Oamaru group. Services in Dunedin are held at 10:00 am and 5:00 pm at the church located at 178 Forbury Road in St. Clair. Oamaru services are at 10:30 am and 5:00 pm at 4 Eden Street in Oamaru Central.
If you found these service times listed on the RCNZ website (http://www.rcnz.org.nz), you might wonder about the notation: “Creche available during morning service.”
“Creche is ‘nursery,’” Rev. Stolte clarifies. “We thought ‘nursery’ was a funny term when we were in the US. I suppose it goes both ways.”
Rev. Stolte successfully sustained his final presbytery exam on September 22. He is a 2011 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary and served a one year vicariate (internship) in the Reformed Church of Pukekohe (just south of Auckland) under Rev. John Haverland.
“This vicariate year is part of the requirement for ordination into the RCNZ,” explains Rev. Stolte. “All our students for the ministry study outside of New Zealand, so when we come back this year is a practical training year and a mentorship under an experienced minister, as well as an opportunity for the churches to get to know the student.”
The Reformed Church of Dunedin holds Sunday school classes for children ages 4 to 11 following the morning service, from 11:15 am until approximately noon. Two home groups meet for Bible study, fellowship and mutual support, one in Dunedin and one in Mosgiel, about ten minutes south of Dunedin. A Bible study for women is held at the church every fortnight (two week period), while a ladies fellowship is held monthly in a member’s home. Young people meet fortnightly on Sunday evenings, a pre-school play group meets at the church on every Wednesday morning during school term, and senior citizens meet on the first Thursday morning of each month.
Rev. Stolte relates that the church’s “experienced and dedicated” session is comprised of “elders that are very capable pastorally as well as in leading worship,” skills they honed during their pulpit’s four-year vacancy.
“The church is a very close knit community, which has been overwhelming in its welcome of my family and me into their midst,” says Rev. Stolte. “My first desire is to have a consistent steady ministry of the Word; that by God’s grace, through His Spirit, people will grow in their Christian lives through the preached Word. Then I would like to see the Word go out to the wider Dunedin community.”
“Dunedin is a small city (about 100,000 people with a 25,000 university student population),” he adds. “There is a huge mission field on our doorsteps. To see people come to Jesus, grow in him, and glorify him is my great goal.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on paged 13-14 of the November 14, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.