She has spent her life giving to others. Now, it's time for the Reverend Emily Tamepo to take a bit of time for herself.

And Emily took the first step towards doing that when she retired from her ministry last month with the Anglican Church.

Emily has been involved with Tūrangi's co-operating Church of the Cross, since 2006. She has held services, preached sermons, conducted funerals, weddings and baptisms, given comfort to those in sickness or distress and supported grieving families. She is a well-known and much-loved figure in the Tūrangi community and her connection continues.

Long before Emily went into ministry, she was a community volunteer, involved with Girl Guides in Tūrangi for 30 years and Lions. In 2011 she was made a life member of the Lloyd Morgan Lions Club Charitable Trust, and has a longstanding family connection with BMX. In later years Emily has been involved with Lake Taupō Hospice as a volunteer.

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Emily, who affiliates to Nga Puhi in the Hokianga and Tainui in Otorohanga, came to Tūrangi at 17 from boarding school. She grew up in Mangakino but her family moved to Tūrangi when construction began on the Tongariro Power Scheme.

She worked at the BNZ before marrying husband Norm, a tunneller on the power scheme and they had children Kevin and Marama. Emily had six or seven years off then went back to work at the New Zealand Road Service booking office and later at the Tūrangi Amcal pharmacy in Tūrangi Mall.

Emily says her Christian faith came from her parents, particularly her mother. Emily attended Sunday School and church, sang in the church choir and went to an Anglican boarding school.

She says that she was always very interested in different parts of faith, and often attended training and seminars that gave her the opportunities to explore different aspects.

Norm died young, at 45, and while she was still working at the Tūrangi Pharmacy Emily was ordained as a minister. She says she was interested in church ministry but wasn't sure whether to put herself forward or wait. Other ministers, Rev. Pat Old and Rev. Adrienne Bruce saw Emily's potential.

"Pat was the minister doing part time stipendiary with Raetihi and Tūrangi and she always used to get me to go with her and do things," Emily recalls. "And I think she had the idea [that I become a minister] because she knew she was going to retire, but I didn't realise that she was priming me up to do it.

"I knew that I had always had a calling but I had always wondered, do you put yourself forward or do you wait for someone else to see the potential in you?

"I think it was good that I did wait, because so much had happened and when I was called to ordination, it was the right time."

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Emily says she is thankful to her parents because she already knew about church processes, but learning to preach and do funerals required a lot of hard work.

She jokes that she has done things in the wrong order - now that she is no longer a minister she is just finishing off a three-year course in Christian Studies though St John's Theological College.

Rev Emily Tamepo blesses emergency services vehicles after the Church of the Cross's special emergency services thanksgiving church service in 2001. Photo / Maurice Costello
Rev Emily Tamepo blesses emergency services vehicles after the Church of the Cross's special emergency services thanksgiving church service in 2001. Photo / Maurice Costello

Being a minister was a voluntary role Emily did on her own time. When she was ordained there was Presbyterian minister Joe Beattie, Geoff Bell was the lay reader and parish council chairman, and Wendy Lester did the administration.

"They were all a big help and people within my church have been wonderful."

After Joe left Tūrangi in 2014, Emily was the Church of the Cross's sole minister and took services once a month, but says her ministry has been mostly out in the community.

"Having lived here for 50-odd years I know everybody and everybody knows me."

Emily took her last service a month ago but the church held a special service for her on March 17, a release from pastoral ministry run by Bishop of Waiapu, Andrew Hedge. Emily says she felt that she was truly done and ready for a new phase in her life.

One of the things she's looking forward to is being able to watch Kevin compete at the BMX Nationals at Easter - something she's often had to miss at an important time in the Christian calendar.

"I'll get to go and watch Kevin this year and won't feel like I'm letting anyone down."