When Presbyterian minister Ian Guy retired last month, Queenstown lost one of its most respected community leaders. The day before flying off for a three-month overseas holiday, he talked to PHILIP CHANDLER about some of the highlights of his 12-year ministry in the district

Church ministers come and go, but without doubt one of Queenstown’s most influential has been the Wakatipu Presbyterian Church’s Reverend Ian Guy.

Guy, who oversaw five congregations, was farewelled last month at a packed St Margaret’s Church in Frankton after ‘‘a great 12 years’’ and
shortly before his 65th birthday.

‘‘It was tremendous, emotional, I cried like a baby at times,’’ he says.

‘‘You form deep connections, deep friendships.’’

At a time when church attendances in the Western world have been declining, Guy’s church numbers grew.

Crucially, he forged links with Queenstown’s Brazilian and wider South American community, to the extent there’s a ‘global’ church within the church with its own minister, Clay Peterson.

But he’s also welcomed other migrant communities including Koreans and Indonesians.

‘‘I think one of the highlights is seeing the church becoming more multinational.

‘‘It’s quite delightful to go into worship at times and you hear these very mixed accents, lots of broken English.

‘‘One of the keys about Queenstown is that multinational flavour, and so the church these days reflects that.

‘‘The Frankton congregation would be our most global, whereas 12 years ago it was largely made up of Southland retirees who were very monocultural.’’

Guy credits his wife Amanda as being a key driver to also encouraging more children to go to church.

‘‘Twelve years ago, there were virtually no kids in any of our congregations, nowadays, if you go to St Andrew’s [in Queenstown] at nighttime and St John’s in Arrowtown, you’ll see a tribe of kids.’’

With so many migrants, however, Covid took a toll on the congregation as many returned to their home countries.

‘‘It hit the church hard.

“The numbers are only getting back to the same levels now.

‘‘So it was a hard time, but actually, in some ways, it was a really good time because as a church we could offer a lot of practical help to people, not just church members.

‘‘We were working with the council and other agencies to try and support people.’’

Taking his leave: Ian Guy, left, with his ‘global’ minister Clay Peterson and wife Graziela and Guy’s wife Amanda

But Guy’s also been influential in his congregations supporting overseas causes.

On a visit to Nepal, he met a young woman who’d been trafficked to an Indian brothel when she was only 11, and who believed education was the only way to stop other kids being caught up.

‘‘A group of us here in Queenstown latched on to the dream,’’ Guy says, and raised money to help the woman buy land and build a school in her home village.

‘‘I’m proud of what happened because we raised a lot of money and it was enough to get them going.’’

In fact he’s just been to Nepal for a fourth time and visited Hasta Memorial School during a post-retirement holiday.

Under his stewardship, local Presbyterians have also supported a mission school in Vanuatu.

‘‘We talk about the gospel being good news — it’s got to be good news for all aspects of life,’’ Guy says.

‘‘There’s spiritual health and wellness which we promote, obviously, as a church, but there’s also that physical wellbeing, that mental wellbeing, that social wellbeing.’’

He’s also proud the church has fostered the local Baskets of Blessing charity, which prepares meals for the needy at St John’s.

Before it was registered as a charity, the church employed people on its behalf, he says.

He’s also played a role in bringing Queenstown’s various ministers together — ‘‘we have coffee, we encourage each other, we pray, we gossip’’.

Guy’s also delighted his church’s Pasta Cafe, which provides free weekly meals over winter, has continued to run.

‘‘There’s been some amazing connections.

‘‘There was a group from Barcelona who arrived on the same day there had been a bombing in Barcelona, and I had just purchased the Catalan flag during the week and had it hanging.

‘‘They saw the flag, tears began to flow and they just said, ‘Pastor, can you pray for Barcelona?’

‘‘And we just stood there and prayed.’’

Guy says when he returns to New Zealand he’ll pack up in Queenstown then move to Whakatāne where he’ll be a part-time minister to three small congregations.

‘‘Having grown up in Tauranga and spent many happy holidays in Whakatāne and Ōhope, it’s an area of New Zealand close to my heart.’’

Though you can be sure the Queenstown area will also remain close to his heart.

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