AWAKEN 2021 is coming to Wellington

The team from Diverse Church NZ is very excited to present this awesome opportunity for Aotearoa’s rainbow faith community to gather together, make new friends, be encouraged and connect with other queer people of faith.

26 – 28 March 2021

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PLEASE NOTE: Let us know if you need help with the costs getting to this event. We want you to be able to join us for Awaken 2021.


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Opening Celebration at Parliament

  • 5pm Registration Opens
  • 5.30pm Powhiri
  • Food & Refreshments*
  • Tour of the Rainbow Room
  • 7pm Flamingo Joes

Following the opening function we will head to an after function on Wellington’s waterfront and then enjoy some of the city’s nightlife.


St Peters Willis St

  • 8:30am Coffee on Us!! (Nikau Cafe)
  • 9:35am Hikoi at Frank Kitts Park (join the Wellington Pride Festival in the Hikoi event)
  • 11am Brunch at St Peters*
  • 1.00pm Session 2 with Peter Lineham
  • Workshop Sessions 1
  • Afternoon Tea*
  • Workshop Session 2
  • 4.30pm Session 3 – Dr Elizabeth Kerekere
  • 6.00pm Drinks & Nibbles*

Followed by more Wellington Pride Festival Evening Entertainment


St Peters Willis St

  • 8.30am Breakfast at The Hanger – The coffee is on us!
  • 9.45am Church Service wtih St Peters
  • 11.30am Morning Tea/Lunch*
  • 1.00pm Workshop 3
  • 2.00pm Session 4 with Andre Afamasaga
  • 4.00pm Farewell

For those sticking around Wellington, feel free to head to Blueprint Church at 5.30pm on Wakefield St.

*these meals are provided by us!

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  Music Room Conference Rm Undercroft
Session 1 Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening Looking Beyond Heteronormative Sexual Ethics QSA in Schools
Session 2 Honouring the Past Reading the Bible with a Queer Eye The Stillwaters Experience
Session 3 Inclusive Conversations: Bringing Others on the Journey A light for our whānau, a thorn in the side of our churches Our multi-gender God


Looking Beyond Heteronormative Sexual Ethics - Michael J. Toy

In this workshop we will challenge the boundaries of patriarchal, heteronormative Christian sexual ethics. What resources are available to us from Scripture, tradition, and reason to examine those things pushed outside the bounds of heteronormativity? We will be covering everything from Christian hedonism to polyamory to “dancing theology in fetish boots.”

Michael’s bio

Michael (he/him) identifies as a queer, Episcopalian thirst trap. He studied media studies at Wheaton College outside Chicago and graduated with a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2015. He and his partner currently reside in Te Whanganui-a-Tara and attend St Peter’s on Willis.




Reading the Bible with a Queer Eye - Gillian Townsley

The Bible has often been seen as a foe rather than a friend to those in the Queer community. So how can we read Scripture in affirmative ways that help us not only to discover the queer spaces that are in there but also to deal with the troublesome passages that get flung around to marginalise and condemn people who identify as queer? This workshop will explore these issues and provide resources to take you further in your own queer reading of the Bible.

Gillian’s Bio

Gillian is the Chaplain at St Hilda’s Collegiate School in Dunedin and a Teaching Fellow at Otago University. She is the author of The Straight Mind in Corinth: Queer Readings Across 1 Corinthians 11.2-16 (SBL, 2017).

Honouring the Past - Rev’d Graham-Michoel OSBC

Sharing stories of past milestones and how we arrived where we are – the invitation to share and explore personal development and active revolution within the Church.

Graham’s bio

Br Graham-Michoel is a solitary priest monk, of the independent sacramental movement, in the Benedictine Camaldolese tradition of religious orders. He has been a protester against anti-gay outrage within the Church and beyond for over fifty years, a supporter of many equality movements, and promoter of inclusive language within the Church.

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening - Vincent Wijeysingha

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10). Silence, the overlooked dimension of prayer.

“Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39). Throughout the ages, in many cultures and religions, silence has been promoted as a method of prayer. This presentation will offer some reflections on its usefulness from spiritual and neurological perspectives. You will have the opportunity to try out some silent techniques like the Jesus Prayer, mindfulness meditation, lectio divina, and journaling and share your insights with others.

Vincent’s bio

Vincent Wijeysingha is a social worker, teaching at Massey University. A cradle Catholic from a family of Sri Lankan, Irish, French, and Malay ancestry, he explored a variety of faith traditions in his native Singapore, while he worked in Europe, and travels in the Buddhist world. Two years ago, he joined the Religious Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers) which he now regards as his spiritual home.

The Stillwaters Experience - Stillwaters Community

This workshop is a window into our life & work. We’ll talk about what it’s like welcoming homophobes but not homophobia, and also how much ginger is good in sapa sui.

Stillwater’s bio

Stillwaters is a flat-leadership Christian community in inner-city Wellington. We aim to be a place of welcome to people who don’t experience welcome much. Mostly that involves a lot of kai, and a lot of kōrero. Stillwaters is not rainbow on purpose, but currently lots of us that live here are types of rainbow.

A light for our whānau, a thorn in the side of our churches - Fionnaigh McKenzie (she/her)

This workshop explore how we can continue to poke holes in the closed walls build by some denominations, to let the light in. We will develop ideas about how to share the light of our LGBTIQ faith experiences, in particular how we can reach those who may not be able to come to inclusive gatherings (e.g. people who are isolated, or young people in conservative families).

Fionnaigh’s bio

Fionnaigh realised she was bisexual in early adolescence, and became a Christian as a teenage rebellion phase shortly after (successfully shocking her atheist parents). She is a social worker, and completed a Master’s research project on the experiences of queer people in the Presbyterian Church. As a member of an inclusive community (St Andrew’s on The Terrace) within an exclusive denomination (Presbyterian) she is always looking for ways to draw the circle wider

Inclusive Conversations: Bringing Others on the Journey - Aaron Hendry (he/him)

This workshop will look at how to have meaningful conversations with those in different spaces along the journey towards an Inclusive Theology. It will explore the roadblocks that prevent people from accepting an Inclusive Theology and look at how we can hold onto the Way of Love, even when faced with hate and discrimination.

Aarons bio

Aaron Hendry has been involved in the Youth Development sector for over a decade and currently manages a service at Lifewise supporting young people who have experienced homelessness. Aaron completed a theology degree in 2016 and has continued to study various areas of theology independently, particularly around justice and marginalised people. Over two years ago he began curating and writing for the blog, When Lambs are Silent, giving a space for a variety of marginalised voices. Recently, he has started a podcast under the same name.

Our multi-gender God - understanding how gender diversity can enlarge our understanding of God - Blueprint Church & Friends

Panelists: Jay Nowitz (she/her) Rose Morris (she/her) Charlotte Dawson(they/them or she/her)

Facilitated by: Neill Ballantyne (he/him)


Workshop description: This panel discussion will explore key concepts of sex and gender diversity through story telling and explanation. The panelists will speak to their own understandings of gender and gender diversity and how this informs their spirituality and theology. This is a learning space and attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions of the panelists via text.

Queer Straight Alliances/Diversity Groups for Rainbow Youth - Gillian Townsley

Creating safe spaces in Christian contexts for youth who are rainbow/queer, are exploring their identities, or who are straight allies, is important and challenging. In this workshop we will share our experiences supporting rainbow groups in Christian schools, and explore ways to set up such spaces in schools, churches, or other organisations.

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Keynote Speakers




As an activist and researcher for almost 40 years, Dr Elizabeth Kerekere has advocated for kaupapa Māori and Te Tīriti issues. That includes 30 years on Rainbow issues, focusing on takatāpui and young people. As a leader and mentor within Rainbow, suicide prevention and youth development sectors, Elizabeth has represented human and indigenous rights issues overseas, including at the United Nations. She also works on national projects in health, mental health, violence prevention, youth leadership and research. Elizabeth’s takatāpui suicide prevention resources are used extensively in Rainbow communities, health settings and schools and her groundbreaking research on Māori sexuality and gender is recommended reading in every University here and several overseas. Her artwork has been exhibited at Te Papa and is on permanent display in Parliament and at the United Nations in New York. Check out for more information on her work and research. When she was elected to Parliament as a Green Party List MP last year, Elizabeth said “I will continue the work I have always done, but now with more power, influence and resources. I will create space for the voices who are not heard, in particular trans, intersex and non-binary people, young people, and people with disabilities.”



Andre Afamasaga was born in Lower Hutt and is of Samoan heritage (Afega, Fasito’otai). For more than two decades, he has worked in the community, youth, health and education sectors in Australia and New Zealand, including 11 years as a church pastor. While he has always been a passionate advocate for inclusion in ‘the church’, he ironically could not apply this principle to his own life, until at the end of 2019, he wrote a ‘coming out’ column in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, (also published in New Zealand and Samoa). These days, he is calling for a discussion of LGBTIQ+ issues within the church, that is evidence not fear-based, inclusive and ethically responsible. Rainbow people should be able to participate in religious and wider life – without fear of stigma, discrimination and exclusion. He now works as a senior advisor at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, in the area of race relations.



Peter Lineham is Professor Emeritus, meaning that he has retired from his role as  Professor of History at Massey University and Regional Director of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, but remains associated with the University in an honorary role. He is a respected scholar whose interests cover a range of subject areas that can loosely be categorised under history and religion. He was awarded Membership in the Order of New Zealand in the New Year Honours list in 2019. He has written articles on many aspects of English and New Zealand religious history and his books include There we found Brethren, No Ordinary Union and Bible and Society and he co-edited the standard text on New Zealand’s religious history, Transplanted Christianity. In 2013 his book on Brian Tamaki and the Destiny Church, Destiny was published by Penguin Books. His book on the way religion in New Zealand has influenced society and culture, entitled Sunday Best was published by Massey University Press in 2017. This year (2020) his history of Auckland City Mission will be published. His interpretations of trends in religion in New Zealand are also frequently reported by the media. His MA is from the University of Canterbury, his B.D. from the University of Otago and his D.Phil. from the University of Sussex.

Peter has long been active in a range of churches and Christian and charitable organisations. He is a deacon at Ponsonby Baptist Church and on the vestry and synod representative for All Saints Anglican Church and is deeply involved in the life of Auckland Rainbow Community Church and its work with prisoners and ex-prisoners. He has been deeply involved in various peace initiatives and gives lectures to a wide variety of bodies. He is the secretary of the Inter-church Tertiary Chaplaincy Council and the local Auckland Northland Regional Ecumenical Tertiary Chaplaincy Trust Board. He is also secretary of the Church Life Survey Committee and has a strong interest in current religious trends.

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St Peter’s Church is located on the corner of Willis St and Ghuznee St

Widely known in Wellington as an affirming church, St Peters fly a rainbow flag inside to proclaim it’s love and support for the LGBTQI+ community.



Our Opening event will be held inside the Parliament Buildings.

Our current government contains the highest number of rainbow MPs ever!! Making it the most Queerest Government in the World!! We think that pretty cool.

Inside you will find the Rainbow Room – this room is a special place and contains all the flags that represent our communtiy, copies of the laws that have been passed to protect our rights, and also all our rainbow MPs. You will get to see this room as part of this event.

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Flights and Accomodation



We want to make it possible for everyone to attend this gathering. We have been granted money by the Rule Foundation and generous donors cover your costs. Please email


Awaken has partnered with the Hotel Waterloo (Hotel Waterloo Accommodation) to offer specially priced accommodation for Awaken 2021 attendees.

Hotel Waterloo will offer their Single/Double rooms with a shared bathroom for $100.00 for 2 nights on 26th & 27th of March, and $150.00 for 2 nights for Single/Double Ensuite rooms.

The terms & condition for this special rate is:
Special rate only applies to the room types above. Reservation must be for both nights of 26th & 27th March 2021. Guests need to inform the hotel that they are attending the Awaken Conference when making the reservation. Special rate only applies to reservations that are made directly with the hotel (walk in, phone call, e-mail). Any reservation from the 3rd party website will be charged as the rate as per website at the time of booking.

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