Peace happens piece by piece

August 22, 2015

A theologian and priest who has studied conflict and reconciliation came to Taranaki this year, interested in the region’s experience of the universal issues.

Karen Kemp, Dean of Tikanga Pakeha students at St John’s College in Auckland, visited to share in the cathedral’s joining of the worldwide Community of Cross of Nails.

Appointed to the role at St John’s a year ago, she said her area of research and teaching was around conflict, reconciliation and peace so “it’s very, very resonant for me to be here on lots of levels.”

She had known Coventry Cathedral Dean John Whitcombe and his wife from her previous role as curate at Gloucester Cathedral.  That UK connection brought her south, where she joined a pilgrimage to Parihaka settlement in February 2015.

 “It’s a privilege to be here for one of the staging posts on what I’m sure will be a journey that will be taking place for a long time to come,” she said.

 “What stood out, is even though the big canvas is around the historical conflict that played out a long time ago…the journey is made up of individual stories.”

She said this particular story was “dripping with individual connections.”

The death of Carrie Allen in 2012, had lead the church on a path that included a developing relationship with Parihaka.  Carrie was the daughter of cathedral Dean, Jamie Allen and his wife Suzy.  She died at age 12 of a rare form of cancer.

 “It’s highlighted for me that ultimately reconciliation plays out in individual lives.

“ I think that is a big lesson for us as a church in Aotearoa New Zealand but also as a nation.  It’s about how we relate to each other every day.”

* Karen shares the Dean’s role alongside the Deans of Tikanga Maori and Polynesian students.

She was born in South America where her Kiwi parents had gone to serve as missionaries.

In later years she worked in Chile as a nurse amongst indigenous people before studying theology in New Zealand.  That was followed by three years in Mongolia.

She and her family returned to NZ, settling for 12 years in Palmerston North, where she was a university chaplain and lecturer at Laidlaw College (formerly the Bible College of NZ) as well as a youth minister at All Saints church.

Latterly Karen taught theology in the UK before joining St John’s College in Auckland last year where she teaches ethics and biblical studies.

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