2011 Scholars

 Vaughan Park Scholar in Residence

Rev Sylvia 'Akau'ola TongotongoThe Rev. Sylvia 'Akau'ola Tongotongo is an ordained minister of the Methodist Church of New Zealand.   She is currently the Chaplain at Wesley College, the only Methodist Church affiliated Secondary School in New Zealand.

Sylvia intends to use her time at Vaughan Park completing her research and writing on the topic: 'The Church Culture of Hospitality and its impact on the wellbeing of New Zealand born Tongans.'   Hearing an increasing societal concern about the negative impact of church practices on young people's educational achievement, health, basic life skills, behaviour and attitude, Sylvia believes it is worth exploring the validity of such claims as well as reclaiming the church culture of hospitality as a treasure for present and future generations.

Sylvia's research will be presented in the form of a Thesis as partial fulfilment of her Doctor of Ministry Studies Programme with Melbourne College of Divinity, Australia.

The Rev. Sylvia 'Akau'ola Tongotongo

It has been a great honour and privilege for me to be in residence for three months at the Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat and Conference Centre, Long Bay, North Shore City.   I am humbled by the whole experience and am grateful to the Director, The Rev. John Fairbrother, all the staff and the Vaughan Park Board of Governance for this opportunity through your scholarship ministry.   This is when I find 'thank you' is not enough, for your generosity for me is beyond words.

My being at Vaughan Park gave me not only the opportunity of focused study time, personal renewal and an experience of some form of monasticism, but also a chance to witness Vaughan Park's expression of Christian ministry offered through hospitality, worship, awesome food and inspirational conversations. The welcoming hospitality extended to me, the smiling and warm greetings from the staff and my being embraced as one of the community, made me feel at-home right from day one.   I thought I was an 'outsider within' this community – the first from the Methodist Church of New Zealand, and the first Pacific Islander Residential Scholar living in this Anglican community.   The reality was, I was accepted, respected and treated equally as one of them.

I often shared that this place was both my inspiration and distraction at the same time.   On one hand, I asked myself, how can I not work in a place that is so peaceful and spiritually uplifting?   On the other hand, I asked, how can I work when the backyard is the whole beach?   The truth is, every moment in this place is a blessing.

Sylvia 'Akau'ola Tongotongo, April 2011.

Vaughan Park Distinguished Academic Visitor

The Rev. Dr. Michael Trainor is senior lecturer in the department of theology at Flinders University, South Australia. He teaches in New Michael_Trainer_photo.jpgTestament, and specifically in the gospels and Pauline writings. Michael's particular research angle comes from his interest to intersect archaeology and cultural studies with an appreciation of the early households of Jesus discernible in the pages of the New Testament. This focus has enabled him to work with colleagues and researchers locally and in Turkey to begin a process that would eventually lead to the archaeological interpretation of the site of ancient Colossae, one of the few remaining unexcavated sites linked to the Pauline households and evident in the letter to the Colossians.

The other dimension to Michael's teaching , writing and research come out of his current pastoral involvement in the life of one of the larger Catholic communities in Adelaide. As a Catholic priest, he has been responsible for the pastoral care of the Catholic parish of Elizabeth where he worked with a pastoral team dovetailing NT scholarship, insights into early Christian households, and the contemporary need to renew parish life.

Both aspects of his teaching and pastoral ministry are evident in his writings which include: The Quest for Home: The Household in Mark's Gospel (2001), Journeying: A Beginner's Guide to the Bible (2005), Journeying with the Christ: An ecumenical resource from the Gospel of Mark (2005, co-authored by Merrill Kitchen), Epaphras: Paul's Educator at Colossae (2008), and About Angels: Companions in our Quest for God (2009). In 2007 Michael was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to education, theology and archaeology.

Study Project

Michael's focus has been to explore ways that enable the insights of New Testament communities address some of the pertinent pastoral, ministerial and theological issues that have surfaced in recent decades. This focus will shape the two aspects of the study project he will engage while at Vaughan Park.

The first concerns an exploration of the various forms of ministerial expressions evident amongst the first generations of Jesus followers. These expressions are especially evident in the Pauline and Gospel communities and are expressed in the activities associated with diakonia (ministry), leitourgia (worship), kerygma (proclamation), didache (teaching) and koinonia (communion).   Several scholars have explored these various ministerial expressions, but none has looked at these in the light of their implications for the growth and mission of NT communities/ households and their relevance for today's faith communities. Such a contemporary exploration is needed, given the recent emphasis in Roman Catholic circles of the pastoral leadership of the baptized in the light of the growing decline in numbers of ordained. This particular study project will buttress this recent emphasis and give NT support for what might appear a new stress. In fact this study remains firmly rooted with the Christian tradition from the earliest years, and has important implications for ecumenical ministerial theology.

The second area of interest surrounds the pastoral issues of sexual abuse that many Christian churches are addressing. Michael will focus on the four gospel passion narratives from the perspective of the abuse of Jesus, finding the possibility of hearing these narratives in terms of Jesus' abuse. The intended monograph that will flow out of this will show how these gospel stories can offer fresh insights into our own experience. Such a hermeneutical approach could also present a fresh theology and Christology pertinent to people concerned about this area in their churches.



Vaughan Park Resident Scholar


Donna J. Dinsmore has come from a career in choral music education in the United States to worship facilitation and education at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. In addition to earning a Masters of Christian Studies, she served as the worship coordinator for the College, responsible for over 700 different worship events.

Donna continues to lead unusually diverse communities, ranging from mainline to free churches in North America and New Zealand. She knows how to pass on the best of a culture's worship and music practices to future generations by giving them the experience and understanding to make the tradition their own. It is this richness of “enlightened cherishing” that Donna brings to Vaughan Park.  

Donna will be compiling various materials from the graduate courses she has taught in the areas of worship, music and spirituality and integrating them with data from her varied experiences of worship facilitation.   Her project, an interactive, multi-voiced book provisionally entitled “Exploring the Aliveness,” will utilize the insights of Canadian Jesuit Bernard Lonergan in exploring the dynamism between God and lovers of God.   In addition, Donna will weave together conversation with voices as diverse as Eugene Peterson, Mark Strom, former and present students, and the hundreds of fellow pilgrims who have participated in Worship Matters Conversations with her over the years.  

Because of her commitment to communal learning, Donna anticipates that connections with friends old and new in New Zealand will both inform this project and hopefully contribute to the continued development of Christian spirituality and worship in New Zealand and beyond.