April / May 2017 - Vol. 91

 Holy Spirit and people
                  praising God
My Personal Encounter with Charismatic Renewal, Life in the Spirit Seminars, and Covenant Community in Auckland, New Zealand

by Maryanne Hall

The Holy Spirit changed my heart
In early 1973, my classmate at St Benedict’s Girl’s College in Auckland told me her mother was attending prayer meetings at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland and that at the next meeting her mother was going to speak in tongues. When I found out that anyone could attend these meetings, I went along to hear this hitherto unusual phenomenon. I was disappointed because all those attending the Life in the Spirit Seminars, went off to other venues for their sessions and newcomers remained in the Cathedral. I enjoyed the praise and worship. Afterwards, a Franciscan brother (Br Ray Parsons) came up to me and said that he was going to pray for me that week. I told him he didn’t need to as I wasn’t one of ‘them.’ He then said he’d look out for me the following Monday night, but I had decided I was not going back.

Well, the Holy Spirit moved in my heart during that week, and some nights I lay in bed crying, and I did not know why. It was like a hardness of heart was being removed from me as I had not shed a tear for many years over anything…And I went back to the Cathedral the following Monday night and enrolled in the seminar.

The presence of God was real and tangible
So many people had been coming to these meetings that there was a different venue for each week of the Life in the Spirit Seminar. Any room that could be found to squash people into was utilised. The Cathedral’s sacristy, anterooms, upstairs and down at Liston house, the presbytery and also nearby businesses such as the Air New Zealand building. And newcomers came to the main prayer meeting in the cathedral until they enrolled in a seminar. The presence of God was real and tangible. The excitement amongst the people gathered was evident on their happy faces and loving hearts. It was wonderful to know God in this new and remarkable way and to see the power manifested in so many spiritual gifts.

I was in awe of the music team, and I loved singing every new song I heard there. They learned charismatic songs from the St Paul’s (Anglican) Singers who later released LP’s of worship music. Zoe McCarthy and Mary Pound were two sopranos, in particular, I recall who sang like angels with the most beautiful harmonies.

My second encounter with Life in the Spirit seminars
In that first Life in the Spirit Seminar, I received a gift of genuine love for others. Then I enrolled to repeat the seminar again. There was a shortage of available small group leaders so from that second seminar; I was assigned a group to lead. I was amazed that adults didn’t baulk at that at all and accepted a school kid as leader of their group. I recall Jackie Abraham being in a small group I lead and at a later stage Sister Alice Hardiman being in my group for her first Life in the Spirit Seminar.

Then there was a shortage of teachers for these seminars, and I attended a few short training sessions led by Ernie Milne and started to teach on Forgiveness and Reconciliation. This was in the days Ernie lived in a ‘poncho’ (his signature garment) before he entered the Rosminians – first as a brother; then as a priest. Other Rosminians figured significantly in my life – Fr John Moss and Fr Bill Harwood. The latter praying over me for the gift of tongues at a charismatic retreat at St Paul’s College.

I eagerly attended the Charismatic Summer Schools in Palmerston North put on by Christian Advance Ministries. I still have my folder from the one in 1974. In 1975 I was married, and Greg and I attended the Pakuranga Prayer Group as by that time the renewal in Auckland had first split into regions and then into parishes. We met in the home of Mavis Skinner. I really missed the awesomeness of the enormous inner-city gatherings; the volume of the praise and worship taking the roof off the cathedral, the variety of gifts evident – prophecies in tongues (both sung and spoken) with interpretations of, prophetic utterances, wonderful revelations and healings.

Our first taste of Christian community
In 1976 there was a new move of the Holy Spirit in the form of building a sense of community in parishes. We joined the first group formed in St Mark’s Pakuranga. It heralded from Spain and was called the Better World Movement. It was our first taste of Christian Community.

From 1977 to 1979 Greg and I lived in Dargaville where I was posted for my country service teaching. There was no charismatic prayer group there, so we ran the local parish youth group instead. At the end of 1978, I was able to attend the Charismatic Summer School where Francis McNutt was the main speaker, taking with me a member of the local youth group – David Passell. That was a life-changing experience for him. On our return to Auckland for 1979, our first son Danjel was born, and we resumed our belonging to the Better World Group of which I was a member for eleven years while overlapping with our involvement in covenant community…

The fruitful formation of covenant community
In 1982 Roger Foley from the Lamb of God Community in Christchurch and John Carroll of the Brisbane Emmanuel covenant community came and gave a talk in the Hillsborough Parish Hall of St John Vianney. Our whole Better World Group attended this. It really struck a chord deeply with Greg and I. Here was another move of the Holy Spirit - a form of Christian Community that was a Way of Life. - A daily belonging with a Life Commitment. It was more of what we had wanted for the life of our family. We found that the Life in the Spirit Seminar was an initial introduction to a whole series of courses on Living the New Life in God’s Spirit. They were the lead-in to the formation of Covenant Communities.

At the end of 1983 a team from the Community in Brisbane, the Gamblings, and John and Penny Carroll, ran a live-in retreat and Greg and I attended this. We met people from Auckland who were forming these covenant communities. Early 1984, after the birth of our third son, we joined, and from then there’s been no looking back. Greg and I have had tremendous blessings over the past 33 years of living in committed relationships with our brothers and sisters in Covenant Community. We have had many joys shared and many sorrows supported. Covenant Community is not the only move of the Holy Spirit in the Charismatic Renewal, but for us, through service and commitment, it has borne the most fruit.

[This article is from the Lamb of God Chronicle, April 2017 Issue, a monthly newsletter of the Lamb of God national community in New Zealand.]

Return to Table of Contents or Archives  (c) copyright 2017 The Sword of the Spirit