Rural chaplaincy one of Southland’s new ways of ‘doing church’

rural chaplaincy

Starting a rural chaplaincy is one way to take church to the people. It’s a case of needs must: churches have to adapt to meet their congregation’s needs.

When Reverend Barb Walker first heard about this new way of “doing church” and saw an opportunity to set up a rural chaplaincy in Southland, she knew it was the job for her.

Originally from Riverton, Walker felt called home after a lifetime of service elsewhere.

The new rural chaplaincy

With the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin’s support, she and Rev. Richard Johnson are setting up Southland’s first rural chaplaincy.

“There’s a huge need for support for rural communities,” says Walker, who’s the Anglican Archdeacon of the Rural South.

“It’s a tough environment for everyone in New Zealand at the moment.”

To date, 26 people from Southland and Otago have signed up to join the Southland Ecumenical Rural Chaplaincy (SERC).

”They want to get alongside people and just say, ‘Hey, we’re here’,” Walker says.

The rural chaplaincy is about offering support where it is convenient for people – in this case often on farms – rather than expecting them to come to the church, Walker explained.

“The role of a chaplain is first and foremost to listen,” she says.

SERC is building relationships with organisations like the Southland Rural Support Trust, so chaplains can guide people to where they can find help, she says.

In addition, a SERC Trust is being set up to make sure rural chaplains are trained, police-checked and supervised.

Walker says Southlanders interested in finding out more about the rural chaplaincy should email her at

Serving others

Although originally from Southland, Walker (71) has spent her life elsewhere serving others. She’s been a missionary, nurse and midwife in war zones and during refugee crises. Later she became an Anglican priest.

She was awarded the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) for her work overseas and in Hokianga in 2000. For the 12 years before her recent move back to Southland, she was the lead hospital chaplain at Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

These experiences will help her in her new role for the Rural South, she says.


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