Some may envision New Zealand as a paradise of scenic landscapes and simple living on sheep ranches. But while the suburb of Avondale is only 30 minutes from the black sand and surf of the Tasman Sea to the west and only 20 minutes from the white sand of the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Reformed Church of Avondale sits within the highly populated Auckland City metropolitan area.
“Not a ranch in sight!” writes Rev. Peter Moelker. “As a reformed church holding unashamedly to the final authority of the Bible in all of life, our congregation has been providentially placed by the Lord in a city which is unashamedly opposed to the authority of the Bible in all of life. New Zealand culture seems to be increasingly turning a deaf ear to the church or to any counter-cultural call for us to recognize a standard or authority other than that of our own making. A perfect place for the gospel!”
“The world is literally at our door in Avondale,” he adds, “with a Buddhist Temple, Sikh Temple, and Islamic Center all just around the corner. The opportunities for proclaiming Christ and being a light in the midst of great darkness are truly plentiful.”
The congregation meets for Sunday worship at 10:30 am and 6:00 pm, with a Discipleship Hour (Sunday school and catechism) for ages 3-17 from 9:15-10:15 am. A special worship service in the Niuean language is held each Sunday at 1:30 pm.
“The ‘Niuean’ service has been held here at Avondale for about 30 years and includes a small group of immigrants from the Island of Niue, who worship in their native language,” explains Rev. Moelker. “Though this gathering of believers used to have a pastor who was also from the island, they are currently led by one of the older men of the congregation. Our elders assist this fellowship by leading worship once a month (in English!).”
According to Rev. Moelker, the 220 congregational members represent a variety of ethnic heritages reflecting the diversity of Auckland’s people groups. “We have members who trace their roots to Holland, Canada, Korea, Bangladesh, Scotland, South Africa, Singapore, England, Australia, Samoa, Niue, and Kiwi!”
The congregation is a mix of most age groups, although the 50-70 year old age bracket is under-represented. The youth group is active, the Discipleship Hour has 40 children, and six families are expecting new babies. Members work in information technology, education, accounting, construction, administration, the electrical field, the home, or are retired.
The congregation was originally part of the Reformed Church of Auckland, which existed from 1953 through 1963, when it divided into two congregations: the Reformed Church Mangere in South Auckland (which no longer exists) and the Reformed Church of Avondale in West Auckland. The Avondale church was officially instituted on January 1, 1964, and will observe its 50th anniversary, the Lord willing, in 2014.
“Interestingly enough,” says Rev. Moelker, “my wife’s uncle (Rev. Dick van der Vecht), who is no longer living, served as the pastor of the very same congregation from 1983-1989. We are currently living in the manse of the church in which our uncle and aunt lived 30 years ago.”
A son of Dutch immigrants to Canada, Peter Moelker grew up in the Christian Reformed Church. He and his wife, Lisa, met at RedeemerCollege, from which he graduated in 1996. After briefly attending Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, Peter transferred to Mid-America Reformed Seminary for two years before completing his education at Calvin Theological Seminary and being ordained in the CRCNA in 2000.
In the fall of 2003, Rev. Moelker began the process of being received into the OPC and served an OPC congregation in New York from 2004-2008. Permanent visa complications led him to return to Canada, where he served as pulpit supply for an OPC mission work in St. Catharines.
“Having become aware of opportunities for service in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand,” he says, “I took up correspondence with the Reformed Church in Avondale in 2009, visited the country with my wife in February of 2010, and accepted the call to come and serve Christ in this congregation later that year.” He was installed on July 25, 1010. He and Lisa have four sons and three daughters: Nathan (15), Benjamin (13), David (10), Hannah (8), Josiah (5), Abigail (3), and Lydia (1).
“It was a joy to attend my first Synod of the RCNZ in 2011, which served as a good introduction to experiencing both the unity and diversity among the various congregations,” Rev. Moelker states. “One of the joys of serving in the RCNZ is being able to appreciate and apply our reformed confessional understanding of God’s truth from the heritage of both the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Three Forms of Unity.”
While Rev. Moelker recalls his initials days in the RCNZ with joy, he also looks forward with his congregation to proclaiming freedom in Christ to their diverse community.
“Our goal is to faithfully proclaim the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, so that those in our community, who do not yet know Christ and are in slavery and bondage to false religions with false hopes, may be set free and be united with us in our worship of the one true God.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 15 & 17 of the December 26, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.