A service was held on March 17 to honour the life of Rodney McInnes, Baptist minister at Ponsonby (1966-69), Mosgiel (1970-75), Mt Albert (1975-77), Darfield (1983-90) and Padre for the New Zealand Army at Linton and Burnham (1978-82).
Rod was remembered as a humble servant, though this wasn’t always the case. Rod, as a young man, was the leader of a South Dunedin gang.
A move to Christchurch and the influence of Christians who lived their faith and openly read the Bible lead to change. Then he read a story in the Star newspaper about the Bishop of Canterbury in England. The Bishop said that if you want to know if there is a God, then ask God.
In his room, Rod knelt down and said, “If you are there God, speak to me.” He waited about an hour and heard nothing, so gave up. At 6 the next morning he was polishing a floor when he heard someone speak to him. Assuming it was one of the kitchen girls, he looked around but saw no one.
As he went to investigate, a picture came into his mind and he saw things that he knew no one else knew anything about. When he saw this he said, “Is that you God?” He rushed up to his room to confess his sins to God, and his life was changed.
A young nurse, Esther Beck, also got his attention. As part of the Child Evangelism Fellowship together they ran programmes around Christchurch. They married in 1957.
Rod was encouraged to do some preaching in Christchurch, and the Presbyterian church invited Rod to preach in several of their country parishes. This continued regularly for Methodists and Presbyterians.
Esther and Rod and, by then, Catherine moved to Willowby near Ashburton. Rod worked as a farm hand during the week, but then the call to full time ministry arrived. They went off to Baptist College in Auckland with the blessing of one local Presbyterian church, which gave them £25 to help them on their way.
Rod became more than a “Sunday Minister.” People remember him as someone who was willing to help in the garden, split firewood, journey with people, and listen.
The biggest challenge that Rod and Esther faced was their time within the armed forces when Rod was a chaplain. Essentially they were missionaries within their own nation. Few soldiers and their families had had experience with church life and God. Rod’s understanding of the soldiers and the challenges that they faced as young men was sincere, and appreciated.
He was known as the Padre with the Tattoos, and liked to visit them in their workplace rather than expecting them to turn up to the somewhat alien world of Sunday chapel. Rod and Esther believed that the chaplain needed to have an active role in the welfare of the soldiers and their families, and they both worked to achieve this.
Rod is survived by his daughters Cathy (in Melbourne), Rowena and Judith (both in Christchurch).
– Martin Baldwin