It was the end of an era for South Wairarapa Anglican parishioners on Sunday, with May Croft leading her last service after 12 years of ministry with them.
More than 200 people turned out to St John's Anglican Church in Featherston to hear the vicar's last sermon.
For more than a decade, Rev Croft, who is also the Archdeacon for Wairarapa, has serviced the four Anglican churches in the Parish of South Wairarapa.
These include St John's in Featherston, St Andrew's in Martinborough, St Francis' in Kahutara and All Saints' at Waiorongomai Station on Western Lake Rd.
Rev Croft said stepping down from her role was a way of "retiring really".
"I decided to go while I still had something to give, to be honest," she said.
"As you get older you get to a point where you have done enough and you don't desire to go on any longer and I wanted to leave while I was still positive and still enjoying the job -- still seeing the positives rather than seeing the negatives."
Rev Croft, born and raised in Southland, has been a priest for 23 years.
"I do think the timing is right to go. Twelve years is a long time to be there and the parish needs someone who's a bit younger, who can relate to people with younger children."
She said that since raising her own children, it was "a whole different world".
Working with children and families has been a highlight for Rev Croft in the job.
"The most lifegiving have been the things to do with the community and working alongside children where there has been a need."
In 2010, Rev Croft founded a breakfast club in Martinborough for children to fill up before attending school.
She also helped in starting up a homework club in Martinborough, her home town, and introduced a youth worker, Alan Maxwell, to Featherston, which has had a "tremendous" effect on the town's youths.
Her final service saw a "fantastic" turnout, with a full church with standing room only.
"It was amazing really. It was community people as well as church people and that pleased me a great deal because I have been heavily involved in the community. It was lovely."
Rev Croft's parting message to the parishioners was "for people to love one another".
"It sounds like the easiest thing to do but it's not because it's more than just caring for people that care for you. It's about having your eyes and ears open for the needs of the community and genuinely caring for other people."
Rev Croft said she would also be stepping down from her role as Archdeacon for Wairarapa but not until the end of the year.
A new vicar has not yet been appointed to take over the South Wairarapa parish. Reverend Pat Olds will stand in until the role has been filled.
"It has been a very rewarding time working within this community," Rev Croft said. "I'm going to take a break, look after my friendships which I haven't managed to do well in the business of everything, catch up with family and do some travel.
"One place I would like to go is Israel -- the Holy Land. I have never been there and that would be an appropriate thing for me to do."
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