wta040117gfrev01 The Reverend Peter Brown of the Anglican Church of the Epiphany, Masterton, retired on Sunday after five years as the vicar. PHOTO/GERALD FORD

By Gerald Ford

The departing vicar of Masterton’s Epiphany Church credits education for bringing him from the back streets of Manchester to a happy rural retirement on the other side of the world.

Rev Peter Brown has served the Anglican Church of the Epiphany, located on High Street in Masterton south, for five years.

While there, he was also responsible for installing a chaplain, Rev Liz Snowsill, at Wairarapa Hospital.

Mr Brown described himself as “a raggedy arsed kid from the slums of Manchester”.

“Where I come from makes Coronation Street look like Beverley Hills.”

However, Mr Brown said he had to opportunity for a “superb education … through the Christian church” – which he credits for bringing him to the “world’s best-kept secret” of New Zealand.

“All of that is because of education.”

Mr Brown has been in education “for 34 years” and this is the first time he has been vicar of a parish.

He came to Masterton from a position as a chaplain and religious instruction teacher at Nga Tawa Diocesan School in Marton (an Anglican girls’ college).

“I was running a Catholic School in the UK and there was a Kiwi staff rep on the board,” Mr Brown said.

That New Zealander, who was from Marton and returned there after his OE, remembered Mr Brown when Nga Tawa was looking for a chaplain and someone who “could teach religious studies to an intellectually rigorous level”.

When he was told of the call from New Zealand, Mr Brown thought someone was joking with him.

“I only knew New Zealand as an idea”.

However while at Nga Tawa bought some land in Marton on which he has built a house and to which he will retire, having become a New Zealand citizen.

When he was hired to lead the parish of the Epiphany Church in Masterton, part of Mr Brown’s brief from Bishop Tom Brown was to restore the parish’s historic links with Hadlow School – where he would also be chaplain.

“At Hadlow, Mr Brown coached the soccer team.

“We haven’t lost for two years,” he said.

“They just presume because you’re English you’ll be able to do soccer.”

At his retirement from the chaplaincy last year the Hadlow principal told parents: “I converted the vicar to pinot noir, and he converted me to Anglicanism”.

Mr Brown describes the Epiphany Church style as “not traditional but authentic – authentic prayerbook Anglican worship”.

“It’s the first time in my life leading adults,” he said.

“It’s a completely new thing. Once they decide you’re right, they just do it. With kids you have to go back the next day and say, ‘Did you do that?’

“They are driven and they’re proud of what you’re doing and they say what do you want to do? They’re up for it. My wife (Trish) has absolutely adored it, and probably works harder than me.”

Mr Brown finished his tenure as he began it, with an Epiphany Sunday service at the Church of the Epiphany.

The Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated on a Sunday near January 6, marks the visit of the magi or wise men to the infant Jesus. It marks his appearance to the Gentiles (non-Jews) and is the event for which the Masterton church takes its name.