One event distinguishes Glenaven from all the other Methodist congregations in New Zealand, the arrival of Revd David Bromell in 1986. David has many skills as a minister, but these alone did not make Glenaven the special place it has become. What gave his ministry its extra dimension was that David Bromell was New Zealand's first openly gay minister.
It was his application in 1990 to be "accepted into full connexion in the Methodist Church of Aotearoa New Zealand" which polarised the Church and brought Glenaven back under the media spotlight.
We had been there briefly, a year earlier, when the Government was making plans to purchase two new warships from Australia at the then staggering cost of more than 2 billion dollars each. This was at a time of the closure of factories and record unemployment not experienced since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In an ironic gesture the congregation of Glenaven baked for a cake stall and the proceeds were sent to the Prime Minister as a contribution towards payment for the two frigates. It was headline news.
Glenaven is a small church in suburban North Dunedin. There has been a Methodist presence in the area since 1850, only two years after the settlement began. Regular preaching started in 1885 and the church opened in 1906. By the time David Bromell arrived the numbers had dwindled to barely a dozen, and only five were there to hear his first sermon, the Gospel message of "the all-inclusive love of God."
It's still a small congregation of about 30 regulars. Some of those originals are there now only in spirit. Others have taken their places, attracted by the liberal theology and a church which welcomes and affirms all people, especially gays and lesbians. Now, guided and inspired by our minister Revd Ken Russell, we seek new ways to share our conviction that all are welcome in The House of God.
Broad Bay, Glenaven, and Mornington were the first churches in New Zealand to declare themselves "Reconciling Congregations", committed to including lesbian and gay people in all aspects of their congregational life. For the past three years we have taken on the task of publishing the magazine MATIKE.
Glenaven Church in Chambers St, just north of Dunedin's Botanical Gardens, is sited at the northern corner of the campus of the University of Otago. Currently we have with us at worship students from Samoa, Fiji, The Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Ghana.
Our services are comfortably informal, with a familiar order of worship and an inclusive liturgy. Features are the use of modern hymns, and a time for congregational response after the sermon.