The Reverend Dr Helen Jacobi, the former Dean of Waiapu Cathedral, and the first woman to take the role which she had for nine years, has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and hopes it may act as a signal.
She left Hawke's Bay for Auckland in 2014 and took up the role of Vicar at St Matthew-in-the-City there, and said she had had the opportunity to "speak out" for positive change in the church and society — and in recent times that had often been about marriage equality, or the full inclusion of members of the LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex) community "in the life and leadership of the church".
"I hope that those who would instead seek to exclude LGBTQI+ people would see this honour as a signal from the wider New Zealand society that inclusion — no ifs, buts or maybes — is what is expected from churches today."
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In her work at Waiapu Cathedral and now in Auckland she said she had always seen her role as being one of service to the community, offering the church traditions and creating moments of importance in the lives of individuals and the community as a whole.
During this time she managed the cathedral's assets and addressed the Church's changing needs with the planning of new development, including a tourism strategy and historical exhibition.
While in Napier Reverend Jacobi widened sponsorship and support for the cathedral through special events and helped establish the choristers programme.
She was a member from 2013 and chairwoman of the Touch Compass Dance Trust Board from 2015 to 2019, one of New Zealand's leading inclusive arts organisations for performers with and without disabilities, and was a trustee of Woodford House from 2005 to 2012.
She enjoyed aligning with Art Deco events as well as anniversaries of the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake, and enjoyed working with schools and the council.
"Hawke's Bay will always have a special place in my heart — one day we'll be back."
When she was told of her honour she said she felt "astonished and humbled" as she felt people who were given such honours "have done so much more than me".