Rev Lynley Webster is one of our new deacons, ordained at the Vocational Deacons’ Ordination service in the cathedral this past Ascension Sunday. Lynley’s path to ordination was a long one, and one that she struggled to accept for some time. “I had a desire to study, but I was unwell and wasn’t able to. I wondered if that desire was from God, so I asked Him what I should study and I heard an audible voice say ‘ministry,'” she tells us. “One day I was walking along and I suddenly felt compelled to sit on a park bench. I saw a vision of me in rags, with a white robe being placed on me. I was at God’s feet, and He told me all these beautiful things about me, and told me to minister to his children. I thought ‘who’s ever going to listen to me?’ But He said ‘I know what they need, just pass them to me.'”
A number of other confirmations followed, and she was eventually discerned for ordination to the diaconate, but she pulled out and focussed on ministering to those in the inner-city apartment building where they lived. As they moved their life into the city, they also changed to a city church, and began attending Blueprint Church, getting involved in The Freestore.
The Freestore is a central Wellington non-profit birthed in Blueprint Church, which daily redistributes quality surplus food from inner-city eateries to those in need. For some, she says, the cost of living is so prohibitive that the offer of free food is the lifeline they need. “The difference it makes might be small, but it is vital when they can’t afford other important things like prescriptions,” Lynley says. For others, being able to clear debt with the money they save from not having to buy as much food means that they can get themselves on a more even footing, and have a hope of flourishing.
Lynley has done everything at The Freestore, from collecting the food from eateries all over town and supervising to pastoral and social care,and she says that the real benefit of the initiative is the wrap-around, pastoral care and friendship it can provide to people who are isolated and are struggling. Over time, Lynley felt God calling her to be ordained. “Every sermon, every podcast I listened to was confirming the same message: be obedient to God,” she said. So eventually, with support from her pastor, Rev Scottie Reeve, she entered the discernment process once more.
Now as the deacon for Blueprint Church, she shows up most evenings to provide pastoral care with the friends of The Freestore. “It’s more about being part of a community, and less about the food,” she says. For one man who was unemployed, coming to The Freestore helped him regain a sense of his self-worth. He eventually gained employment with one of The Freestore’s suppliers, and then moved to Auckland for full-time employment. Some who come to The Freestore as recipients of the service soon end up becoming volunteers. Though they may not be able to find paid employment, the daily work at The Freestore offers them a sense of belonging and bolsters their self-worth. “It offers them a new crowd, and the support they need to make healthy choices,” Lynley says.
Lynley also serves as associate chaplain at Massey University in Wellington, where they have replicated the concept of a koha café from the Anglican chaplaincy at Victoria University of Wellington. The café offers them a chance to provide support to students experiencing stress or anxiety, and Lynley believes this generation of tertiary students is facing more of it than ever before. “The koha café is not really about the coffee and tea – it’s about the hospitality we can offer to students in times of stress or trauma. We’re like mums on campus, and we sometimes get called upon to pray with students.” Lynley says the need for better support is evidenced in student polls that repeatedly ask for more wellbeing services on campus.
Lynley’s ordination has been a further step in her ongoing ministry in multiple facets of city life. Although her heart for God’s people hasn’t changed, she says that she feels different. “My husband and I are the older ones in a predominantly young adult church, where I have the opportunity to role model the ministry of a deacon out in the community. I feel like I have more authority now, to call my Blueprint whānau out in service.”