The essence of the Christmas story is the advent of a world-changing reality unfolding in secret. It is a pattern that’s been embodied and played out in the lives of Christ’s followers ever since, through their humility and service. Recently, we witnessed a vivid example of this from our own community of faith. In November, our organist Michael Jenkins received a national award in the Parliamentary buildings, presented by Simon O’Connor MP. This “Unsung Heroes Award” was in recognition of Michael’s “faithful and sacrificial service in demonstrating a heart for mission in the local church and for being an inspiration and example to all Christians around New Zealand.”

Michael grew up aware of his family’s heritage in Christian mission, especially among Maori. Coming to faith in his teens, he was actively involved in teaching at children’s church and worked with ‘at-risk’ young Maori in Ponsonby. St Paul’s is an historic church, founded in the same year as the city, but it’s rare to have someone whose ministry here also spans the decades. Over the last 25 years, Michael has taught and ministered to young people, and particularly international students, through St Paul’s. As a professional music teacher, he has given many hours of free music tuition to promising students, as well as providing open and free keyboard lessons every Saturday morning in the church. Michael has given countless hours of free English lessons to international students over the years, with this hospitality providing an invitation to explore the Christian faith through social events and bible studies.

For decades, Michael hosted Friday night “gospel services” at St Paul’s for mostly Asian international students and immigrant families. He and his team of helpers served those who came, providing home groups and pastoral care. Michael has a huge heart and has generously opened his home to those who are most in need over the years.

Finally, Michael is St Paul’s resident organist, playing with passion and faithfulness in and out of season. We hope that forthcoming repairs will enable him to further harness its beauty and power for the sake of the church’s worship for many years to come.

This morning we want to thank Michael for his radical hospitality towards people from many nations and cultures over the years on behalf of this church. As this award suggests, he is one of our Unsung Heroes, whose humility has kept his ministry hidden in plain sight. And yet, like the Advent story, it carries the world-changing power of the gospel. So, today we want to shout his praises from the rooftops!

Rev Jonny Grant