Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Nelson launches new social history

Nelson Diocese marks 150 years of mission with a new social history, "Harvest of Grace."

Tracy Neal in the Nelson Mail  |  23 Jan 2011

The latest tome in a comprehensive collection of Nelson's social history is contained in the pages of the history of the Anglican Diocese of Nelson.

The recently launched book Harvest of Grace: Essays in Celebration of 150 years of Mission in the Anglican Diocese of Nelson, is the result of a long labour of love, project overseer Brandon Sparrow said.

The former Nelson Mail journalist and chair of the book project committee, who is also on the standing committee of the Diocese of Nelson, has also written the book's first chapter.

Harvest of Grace is a collaboration of various writers, including award-winning Maori historians John and Hilary Mitchell, and was edited by Nelson researcher and historian Rene Bester.

The former Garin College dux who in 2009 started up a business helping businesses, organisations and people record their history, is now studying African history at Oxford University.

The book's foreword was written by the current Bishop of Nelson, the Rt Rev Richard Ellena.

Mr Sparrow said one of the book's strengths was the committee approach to producing it, which had resulted in different styles to emphasise different aspects of the diocese history. The use of the series of essays to tell the story also meant a departure from a single comprehensive history.

"All the writers, including the Mitchells, did the work for nothing," he said.

The book tells the story of the diocese from its beginnings in the early 19th century through to the present day.

It reveals the impact of successive bishops, the influence of Bishopdale Theological College on the diocese; the challenges presented by World War II; the debate over church union and biblical orthodoxy, and the engagement of the church with contemporary social issues like the 1981 Springbok Tour.

Harvest of Grace also tells the stories of the first women to be ordained; the days of youth groups in the 1950s and the mixed reception from Anglicans to the 1996 visit to Nelson of the Dalai Lama.

Mr Sparrow said the book aimed to explain why the character of the Anglican Diocese of Nelson has remained persistently evangelical, or Gospel-centred, over 150 years.

"It's wider than the church – while it's a church history it will interest general readers of history in Nelson and Tasman," Mr Sparrow said.

The book also contains more than 160 photos, many of which were found in the Anglican archives and have not been published before.

Copies are available from the Anglican Centre in Nelson or by visiting