Rev Christine (Chris) Frazer is one of our newest deacons, ordained at Wellington Cathedral of St Paul this past Ascension Sunday. In her brief address to the congregation, Chris reminded us of a sermon she preached at the cathedral in 2007, in her role as a deacon of the Methodist Church.
At that service, Chris’s sermon was entitled “Dare to care, then dare to act.” She spoke of the challenges we all face to walk the talk, or as put in the Epistle of James, to complete our faith through action. Yet a cursory glance at Chris’s CV tells us that she has successfully stood as a voice for the last, the lost and the least, in social justice roles spanning the Methodist Church, Salvation Army and our own diocese; and is qualified to again encourage us to care, and act.
Beginning as a volunteer at the Lower Hutt foodbank, Chris was soon asked to spearhead the Laings Road Methodist Church’s inner-city ministry with a goal to connect church and community more thoroughly. “I was happy to pack food parcels but I ended up as manager. The church gave me a room with a typewriter and a dial-tone telephone and said ‘go for it!'” Chris developed the ministry to include benefit advocacy, cookery classes and a “time out” crèche for single parents. Alongside this was social justice advocacy, working with government and civil society to change and improve conditions for those most in need.
Chris’s last appointment with the Methodist Church was as convenor of Methodist Mission Aotearoa, before she undertook a variety of roles at the Salvation Army, including time in their Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit. Following an anti-trafficking conference in Kuala Lumpur, Chris spearheaded the Salvation Army’s approach to the topic. “I didn’t think it was an issue in New Zealand,” she says, “but the more I looked, the more I realised there is an issue here. It was small, but it has grown.”
By the time she left her employment at the Salvation Army, Chris was a parishioner at St James’ Anglican Church in Lower Hutt, and a regular preacher. She maintains the importance of bringing a faith perspective to the work of advocating for those suffering from injustice, and with Bishop Justin’s backing, became a founding member of the Government’s Consultative Group on Trafficking in Persons.
“It’s vitally important for the church to be in the room,” Chris says. “In many of the meetings I attend our church is the only church in the room. I’ve learned so much by being involved in the conversation.” Trafficking is a complicated topic, Chris says. “The Government has done a lot so far, but there is more work to be done, and it requires high quality information and teamwork.”
As our new diocesan Deacon for Social Justice, Chris will focus on her work in the field of human trafficking, but she says that this topic is integrally linked to the other diocesan social justice focuses such as climate change. “There is no single issue,” she says. Climate change drives migration and the creation of new refugees, which creates more opportunities for exploitation. Consumerism, she says, creates more demand for just-in-time products and the driving down of labour costs, which in turn increases the demand for trafficked workers.
The diocese is blessed to have someone of such calibre as part of our Household of Deacons, and to have the opportunity to speak hope into a topic filled with such darkness. For her part, Chris now feels a sense of mana as she represents us. “When I walk into meetings, I’ve been between churches. Now, the [Anglican] Church is going to be standing in the room, loud and clear.”