The Church's new, dreadlocked bishop

  • 30/06/2012

By Dan Parker

The Anglican Church has ordained a bishop like no other in its history.

Justin Duckworth has dreadlocks, bare feet and his own commune and looks like he'd be more at home at a music festival than in church.

On a freezing cold Wellington afternoon, Justin Duckworth and his trademark bare feet are ascending to one of Anglican Church's most revered roles.

And inside Wellington's Saint Paul's Cathedral, 1600 faithful gather to see him ordained as a bishop.

Mr Duckworth is a man who has spent much of his life working to help the needy and those who live in the margins of society.

“I've got to be honest, I probably felt more comfortable there yesterday at Rimutaka Jail than I do here. I confess that now that you have made me a bishop, because it's too late for you to pull out,” he jokes.

Prior to his election to one of the country's seven Pakeha Anglican diocese, Mr Duckworth founded Ngatiawa, a place for those in need of help, those sometimes rejected by society and even by the Church.

All of the commune's residents made the trip to Wellington for the ceremony. 

“He says he is going to be the same guy and he is still connected to us,” says Ngatiawa resident Andrew Jones. “I think we will see less of him because he'll have more duties obviously, but I think he's pretty committed to living his life in the simplicity of the margins, giving his best for the least.”

He also has the blessing of the country's other Anglican bishops.

“He has been an inspiration particularly to the younger members of Christchurch's diocese,” says Bishop Victoria Matthews. “I count him a friend and I give thanks to God for today.”

The Church says it hopes a departure from the familiar and comfortable will have wide appeal.

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