Roberta Smith sat down and spoke with Eddie and Ripeka Bijl about their big trip north at the beginning of next year to St John’s College. They will be undertaking theological study.

The Scary Call: Former Christchurch Cathedral chorister, Eddie Bijl, experienced the call to ministry when he was 18. He did not feel ready to answer but the seed was planted in his heart as well as something in his head. He admits he was scared.

Resulting Faith Journey: Over the next 10 years there were key moments when this call was strengthened. He said it was like a string – from one strand to a second until finally becoming a rope providing clarity and certainty to the call. While in the UK, forging a career-path in drama production, he felt constantly strengthened by those around him – whether non-Christian colleagues or the friends and soulmates at St Albans in Fulham. “It felt good to feel safe and secure and on a path.” Looking back allowed Eddie to see that journey more clearly.

A Helpmate Enters Stage Right: (to use the beautiful language of the St James Bible that Eddie loves so much). It was while working with Pop-up Globe back in NZ, that Eddie met Ripeka. However, it wasn’t until after they were engaged that he told her about his call to ministry. Eddie found her calm reaction a special blessing. Having a minister as a father and a koro (grandfather) who was an Archdeacon in Taranaki provided her strong faith background. A move to the UK as a toddler, her parent’s divorce some years later and her mother’s move to theatre work in Germany, granted the best of diverse worlds – back-stage theatre in Germany and being a minister’s daughter in the UK.

Time of Waiting: In 2018 Eddie felt ready to answer the call to ministry. As Rev Sarah Parks provided pastoral care at Pop-up, one day Eddie felt compelled to discuss this with her. Eddie had planned to put down roots at St Paul’s, Auckland, but a sudden trip to Perth to ‘do’ Shakespeare intervened. They left Perth at the time of the devasting fires in Australia. Then followed the COVID pandemic and resulting lockdown in Christchurch at Eddie’s parents, joining St Barnabas and buying a house. Truly a time full of waiting with patience and listening to God.

The Importance of Grapefruit:  Pamplemousse (‘grapefruit’ in French!) at 7 weeks was a tiny hand-reared ball of fluff as his mother had been run over. He has helped with lessons in patience. At 2am every evening he needs to be taken outside and this has allowed them to discover the beauty and calmness there. “God really takes care of us.” Pamplemousse now looks full-grown but is still a puppy – and Eddie realises this is true for faith-journeys as well. Calling the dog Pamplemousse is surely a touch of genius as it is a word with Dutch origins (like Eddie). It means swollen lemon. Also, you simply cannot say ‘Pamplemousse’ and be angry – just try it and see!

Theology and Shakespeare: Shakespeare, who was a secret catholic in protestant England, inserted hidden messages in his works and often a theological debate. Eddie and Ripeka are staging ‘As You Like It’ – with its message of redemption – at Mona Vale in December as a gift to Christchurch and a fitting conclusion to the year – Tickets available via Eventfinda.

Eddie and Ripeka know that being patient and willing to wait have been valuable lessons. They are also grateful for so much tangible support. We wish them well as they head up to St John’s next year.

Roberta Smith