Special Guest Writer- Rev. Brett Johnstone

I am looking forward to my time with Covenant Church in July. When your Minister Margaret placed an ad for a clergy exchange on my national church’s web site, I jumped at the chance. A summer in Palo Alto versus a winter in Auckland—what was there to argue about?  I did mention to Margaret that it rains a lot in Auckland in July, but she seemed ok with this. I hope she enjoys the warmth of the good people of Somervell.

I’m a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Aotearoa is the Maori (indigenous) name for our country, translation: long white cloud, while New Zealand is the name given to us by an early Dutch explorer. We are not sure what he saw in our mountainous island that reminded him of his home province of Zeeland in Holland.

Somervell congregation is over 100 years old and is named after the elderly Scottish lady who donated the land to the Presbytery of Auckland for them to build a church. Mrs. Somervell told the Presbytery that if nothing had been built after five years she would take it back. Our foundation stone was laid exactly five years after she made the gift. We are not a large congregation, but we take seriously the call of the gospel to lead lives inspired by faith.

Somervell is my fourth Congregation. Previously I have served in parishes in the Hawkes Bay and Wellington. I grew up in the south of New Zealand, just north of our southernmost city Invercargill.

I trained and worked as a secondary school teacher before answering the call to ministry in my late 20’s. After my ministry degree, called in New Zealand a Bachelor of Divinity, I started my ministry in Wellington. In my time in the church I have served on Presbytery and National committees, as Moderator of Presbytery, Chair of our General Assembly’s Business Committee, and for six years I was a part of the committee that re-wrote our Church’s Book of Order.

I’m married to Bonnie Robinson, and we have two children. Iona, our daughter, is in her final year of a BA at Auckland University, while our son Keir is in his final year at Selwyn College (High School).  Keir was going to be with us in Palo Alto, but our plans have changed because Keir has been selected to represent New Zealand at the world secondary schools debate championships in Bali in August. He is a part of a team of five, and is spending every weekend in debate preparation and practice. Bonnie is the CEO of Howick Baptist Health Care, a Baptist founded non-profit that provides nursing home care, low cost rental housing, and a Retirement Village for older people.

We are looking forward to our time with you all in July.