Brent Costley passed away after a short illness in January 2017, aged 68.
Brent was a quirky man in many respects: his enthusiasm for knitting, his unbridled passion for the Royal Family, his encyclopedic knowledge of history and culture (not to mention Church law and the Bible), his love of vexillology (the study of flags), his pedantic focus on grammar, punctuation and process, his participation in both writing and competing in quizzes, and so on. He was nothing, if not an interesting man with an eclectic set of interests!
But of course that just scratches the surface of who Brent was and his contribution to our world. He was first and foremost a faithful and devoted family man – to his wife Dot, to his three children Matt, Tim and Anna and latterly to his two daughters-in-law, Kate and Emma, and his seven grandchildren.
He spent most of his working career at Palmerston North Boys High, influencing generations of young men, not just in topics such as History and English, but in how they should live worthwhile lives. Talking to some of them at the funeral a couple of weeks ago, they all spoke very highly of the positive influence of “Mr Costley.”
But for most of us at All Saints, it was through the Church that we came to know and love Brent and his family. Brent and Dot met at an Inter-Schools Christian Fellowship Conference, fell in love and were married in 1974. Due to job availability Brent moved to Palmerston North and they settled in Manawatu Street just a couple of years later. The two of them quickly became involved in youth ministry and Brent’s life of service at All Saints had begun. It continued unbroken for more than 40 years including:
- More than 27 years on Vestry in at least three separate stints
- More than a dozen years as either People’s or Vicar’s Warden, again on at least three different occasions (the first was when he was in his thirties – at the time a young age to be warden of such a large church)
- More than 20 years organizing the complexities of the Parish rosters (no small feat!)
- More than 20 years as a Synod Representative
- More than 20 years as a Parish nominator (including having a hand in the appointment of four vicars!)
- And on top of all these administrative tasks, Brent was a regular leader of services and preacher and participated in all the Parish activities from picnics to quizzes to home groups to welcoming. In fact Brent was the first person I met at All Saints when I came through the door exactly nineteen years ago. He made me feel welcome, just as he did to so many of us.
He was the ultimate All Sainter and was justly awarded a Bishop’s Medal in 2008 to recognise his sterling and faithful service to the church and God. I was honoured to speak at his funeral and I took as a text the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matt 7:24-29). It spoke to me about Brent in three ways:
- Brent was a man who built his house upon the rock of Jesus. Jesus tells us the wise builder is the one who hears the word and puts it into practice. That was Brent – he didn’t just read his Bible, he thought about it and tried to practice it. He did that in his faithfulness, his relationships and in his obedient service to all of us – his family, his pupils, his church and his community.
- When the storms come, the house stands firm. Like all of us, Brent had a few testing times through his life, but the health challenges of the past year were among the worst. But it was Brent’s faith that got him through those difficulties and in his last few weeks he and the family saw ample evidence of God’s strengthening hand on Brent.
- He spoke with authority. The passage is referring to Jesus speaking with authority, but so did Brent. Part of that was his persona as a teacher. Partly it was his encyclopedic knowledge of so many subjects. But mainly it was because he was a man of wisdom and integrity, walking with God – he could and did speak that wisdom into our lives.
That should not be a surprise. His favourite Bible verse, written in his Bible by his Mum when he was young and used in almost every sermon he preached, was Micah 6:8: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” And Brent did that every day – he acted justly, he loved mercy and he walked humbly with God. May he rest in peace. Our deepest sympathy goes to Dot, Tim and Emma, Lucy, Rebecca and Alice and the rest of the family.
Written by Alistair Davis