• Carol Barron

Living up to the legacy of those who came before us

In 1950, Parliament was debating the Social Security Amendment Bill and one of the MPs quoted Rev Everil Orr saying that the proposed increases to benefits would barely cover the increased cost of living. The Methodist Alliance argued exactly the same thing in our recent media statement regarding the benefit increases on 1 April 2022.

The 1972 report to Conference from the Methodist social services started with a tribute to the late Rev A Everil Orr who had been the Convenor of the NZ Methodist Social Services Association for 14 years. The Everil Orr Training Fund for social workers was set up as a memorial to him.

Rev A Everil Orr, MBE – President of Conference 1959

At this time, the Missions were closely linked with the Parishes they grew out of and were providing a wide range of services including aged residential care, children homes, social work and counselling.

Here are some of the highlights from the individual reports given fifty years ago:

Methodist Central Mission Auckland renamed the complex of homes in Mt Albert consisting of Astley, Tyler & Leigh Haven Cottages, as Everil Orr Memorial Homes. The Mission ran the 25 bed aged care Wesley Hospital. They agreed to close Winstone Lodge which provided student accommodation. Campbells Bay Health Camp was used widely and the Mission was considering the future of Waiheke Island Holiday Centre. They had joint projects with the Presbyterians with Kamo House in Whangarei, Franklin House in Pukekohe, and Melrose House in Tauranga, and they were setting up another home with the Presbyterians in Papatoetoe. The James Liston Hostel was due to open in September 1972 serving people who experience homelessness.

Wesley Church (Wellington Central) Social Services Trust Board was operating aged care in Wesleyhaven. Epworth House provided accommodation for 35 young women at Claremont and Brougham.

Manawatu Social Service Centre was providing counselling, childcare in close liaison with Homeleigh Masterton Children’s Home. Community work included the establishment of a probation hostel, and work with young offenders. The mission was operating Highbury House, which financed the work of centre.

Christchurch Methodist Central Mission provided residential care and day care for seniors at Fairhaven and had just completed the construction of eight single residential units. Life Line received 4,000 calls for personal help and Youthline was expanding. Dixon house was being built in Greymouth and a Presbyterian-Methodist home and hospital for the aging was being built in Nelson. Rehua Māori Hostel was providing accommodation for 65 trade trainees.

Methodist Central Mission Dunedin had an Eventide home, ran a day care centre, and operated goodwill stores which provided 75% of the finance needed to meet the Methodist share of the Anglican Methodist Family Care Centre. The Kawarau Falls Holiday camp was improving its facilities and there was collaborative work with the Anglicans at the Anglican Methodist Family Care Centre.

There were separate reports from the Children’s homes in Auckland, Masterton, & the South Island. It was interesting to note that the report referenced assistance given to old boys and old girls of the Papanui Home which included counselling, accommodation, employment, prison visiting, legal work, financial and medical assistance and work in cooperation with the psychiatric clinic.

In 1972, the Mission Superintendents were Methodist Ministers.

Fifty years later…the Missions are independent charities reporting to Conference, and no Superintendent is a Methodist Minister.

The Everil Orr Training Fund continues to provide support for social workers to upskill.

Christchurch Methodist Mission is the only mission that still provides residential care for the elderly in a newly rebuilt facility, and Wesley Village has grown to 61 units, including a new service provides supportive living for kaumātua.

WesleyCare in Christchurch provides residential care to older people

Lifewise continues to be part of James Liston Hostel fifty years later as it continues to provide transitional accommodation for people experiencing homelessness.

Lifewise, Wesley Community Action and the Christchurch Methodist Mission are registered community housing providers and provide a wide range of housing, including youth housing, transitional housing, social housing, affordable and accessible housing.

Wesley Rātā Village in Naenae

Wesley Community Action continues to provide innovative services to their community including a vege coop, time bank, P-Pull etc.

Palmerston North Methodist Mission continues to provide counselling and have again taken over the operation of Highbury House.

Highbury House Goodwill in Palmerston North

Methodist City Action was established in the early 1980s delivering social services in Hamilton.

Christchurch Methodist Central Mission transferred the Māori social services to Rehua Marae Trust and later gifted the three land titles to Rehua Marae. By 2002, Lifeline was financially autonomous from the Mission. Dixon House Rest Home is fully autonomous and run by its own trust, and Green Gables in Nelson is run by Oceania.

Methodist Mission Southern continues to operate early childhood centres in Dunedin. This Mission also provides youth transition housing and skills programmes in prisons.

All the Methodist holiday homes and children’s homes have closed and significant work has been done in relation to claims of historic abuse in care.

Children at Methodist Mission Southern's ECE Little Citizens

As we look back, we also look to the future and imagine what our Missions will be doing fifty years from now. I hope that in fifty years’ time we can look back with confidence knowing we have done something tangible and practical in addressing the housing crisis, improved the life of tamariki and whanau, and have built strong resilient communities that are just and inclusive where everyone can flourish.

Carol Barron, National Coordinator

03 375 0512 | 027 561 9164 |

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