Upper South Baptist Association

An update from Regional Leader Chris Chamberlain for 2023.

The Upper South Baptist Association was formed early in 2023, being an amalgamation of the former Canterbury-Westland and Top of the South Associations. The new association consists of over 30 churches and enjoys several strategic Baptist partnerships, including the Delta Community Trust, the Glenroy Baptist Camp, and the Archer Group of rest home villages. There are numerous opportunities to give thanks for gospel renewal among people and places in our association. The new association spans the area from Timaru to Nelson. There are four churches in South Canterbury, six provincial churches near Christchurch, one in Greymouth, two in Marlborough, seven in Tasman, and the rest are in Christchurch. We have recently blessed the Oamaru Church as they again formalise their connections with the Otago- Southland Association after many years of associating with the north.

We held the annual regional Hui at Glenroy in early June with a strong turnout, including a higher proportion of non-pastors! Great!! The tone of the Hui was positive, with many appreciating the visionary leadership of Charles Hewlett, who has helped our movement gain a stronger sense of gospel renewal in recent years. Thank you, Charles, for serving our movement as the Baptist National Leader at this time.

In June, I was appointed Regional Leader three days a week, remaining part-time at Oxford Terrace Baptist Church. It is a privilege to continue the good work of Kim Peters, who retired at the end of 2022. Kim enjoys his new- found freedom as an artist, hunter, farmer, fencer, brewer, fisherman, and disciple! Thank you Kim.

The first act as Regional Leader was a road trip, and the first stop was Greymouth. We did a circle-up north, over the top(!), and back home down the East Coast. It was great to connect with some of our far-flung churches and to notice together the good work of God. Andrew Meek(Leadership Pathway), Hannah Cossey (Young Adults) and Mike Dodge (Youth) joined me on the trip. They each contribute part-time to our association and are a real blessing as they bring their particular gifts to the mix.

It is a joy to welcome an eighth church from the Tasman region into our Association and Union, as the Chin Immanuel Baptist Church is formally welcomed as a constituted fellowship at the 2023 Annual Hui of our churches. We witness together the vital contribution to our movement that the Chin people make as we associate together. We anticipate being mutually enriched by the addition of another member church. God is good.

Several appointments were made in 2023. Sean Pawson commenced as Pastor at Ilam Baptist Church early in the year. Martin Sutherland commenced as Pastor at Avonhead Baptist Church in August. Hannah McKee commenced as youth pastor at Parklands Baptist Church in April. Sarah Rattray commenced as Associate Pastor at Rangiora Baptist Church in March. Chip Morgan concluded at Lincoln Baptist Church mid-year. We give thanks for all of these moves. At the time of writing, Nelson, Linwood, Darfield, Lincoln, St Albans, and Ashburton Baptist Churches are all still seeking a permanent pastoral appointment. We join them in praying for God’s direction to be made clear as they discern the mind of Christ.

The current board of the association has been a pleasure to work with. Thanks to David Baines (Parklands Baptist Church, Chair), Rod Robson(Opawa Baptist Church), Paul Cossey (Motueka Baptist Church), Sue Avery (Connect Blenheim), Julie Chamberlain (Oxford Terrace Baptist Church) and Tiaki Leathers (Riccarton Baptist Church).

The board have been thinking about three big ideas together:


Andrew Meek, as our Leadership Development Facilitator, is an example of this. So, too, is the establishment of a charitable company to steward the Association resources and offer business-like support to our churches around finance, property, admin and health and safety.


We are a movement that places high value on the meaning of the word ‘associate’. So we are trying to do a bit more of that. October included a three-day visit to the region from Charles Hewlett. He met with Pastors, Leaders, Elders, and Retirees and held several one-on-one meetings. Our AGM on 30 Nov will include a BBQ with Arotahi’s Alan Jamieson as an after-dinner speaker. A combined Baptist Christmas Celebration for early December is being planned, and our mid-year Hui in 2024 will include a Sunday night celebration in a Christchurch church.


This is the audacious bit...It includes church planting, house building, expansion of the staff team, the reconciliation of all things, and making space for crazy ideas that normal people would not usually do! Baptist DNA is radical... and so must we be...

May God lead and guide our association of churches into 2024.

Photo: Supplied by Chris Chamberlain

This update is from the 2023 Annual Report of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, which you can view here.

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