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Clocktower. Monday 16 June 2014 2:57pm

Linda Hope

Master of Ministry distance student Linda Hope

Auckland-based Presbyterian Minister Linda Hope has found the distance-taught Master of Ministry a huge bonus to her professional, personal and spiritual life.

Linda, a self-described Aotearoa-raised Tokelaun, is one of only two Tokelaun ministers within New Zealand's Presbyterian Church. For this reason, she says, she wanted to study further and also work with her ethnic group.

Already the holder of a Bachelor of Theology and a Bachelor of Arts degree, Linda completed six papers towards her Masters via distance learning while an Airforce Chaplain.

“I opted for the Master of Ministry because it allowed me to combine theoretical notions with reflection on my contexts and the practice of what I do. For example, we can study the scriptures and reflect on how these passages might be used more effectively in worship contexts, or I could look at the dynamics of conducting a funeral service for a thousand people with full military components within a hangar considering issues of space, the liturgy content and my part as the worship leader.”

In 2008, time spent working in an inner city parish helped distill in her a desire to complete her study and so realize her dream of working with her people. She decided to take a year out to study full-time and concentrate on her dissertation, entitled 'Community Body. Inati: A Tokelaun model of pastoral care'.

“By researching a secular Tokelaun ritual which distributes resources to the whole community, I've discovered that the ritual has its roots in Pre-Christian worship rites. My initial literature review revealed that the modern secular Inati ritual — still very much alive in Tokelau — resembles the Christian Communion. It's been a pretty humbling and awesome revelation. This and many other discoveries have been wonderful to uncover and share with the Tokelaun community nationally and back in Tokelau.”

Linda has enjoyed her distance-learning experience which, she explains, suits her needs.

“I've been able to discover the best libraries for my needs and work at a pace and time which suits my other demands.”

“Distance study can also be challenging because studies have to fit around everything else, so it can easily slip to the lowest place on the list. I'm glad I chose a combination of papers and dissertation, because I needed the interaction with students and staff either by telephone conference or block courses. It was great having a bunch of other students who could understand the impact of isolation, and the support from the Theology department has been wonderful.“

On completing her degree Linda plans to work with Tokelau and Tuvalu people within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa-NZ, but hasn't discounted further postgraduate study.

“I can say that I wholeheartedly love being a researcher. I love being able to consider issues like sources, methodology, data, analysis and come up with something that is both relevant and meaningful. Essentially, research gives content and depth to my opinion. And given that I tend to be quite an opinionated person, I can't help but think that my study is pretty cool!”

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