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obin Kingston’s journey starts in
Cape Town in 1942. His mother was
a New Zealander, his accountant
father from the United Kingdom.
Apart from one brother he had no
other living relatives within 2500km.
At age 15, he began teaching night classes to black
South Africans — until one day the government
decided that whites should not be teaching blacks.
“ We knew that trouble was brewing,” Robin says.
“At one stage we thought there was probably going
to be a civil war.”
He backed the Progressive Party, which endorsed
giving the vote to black South Africans with a
minimum Year 8 education.
The tensions of apartheid simmered on and became
part of his life, his existence. His parents, whom he
describes as ‘believers’, did not go to church often,
but Robin was sent to a church school and was
confirmed at age 13.
He would cycle to church, attired in his climbing
gear with a rope slung around his neck, and then
catch the train and bus to tackle part of Table
Then his mum got lung cancer. He prayed every
day for three months, and his faith carried him
through that terrible time. He was just 16 when she
Robin started full-time primary teaching and
became a boarding house master. Aged just 16, some
parents thought he was a student, so he prayed to
God to make him look older.
“God answered my prayer,” he laughs, eyes aloft
towards his balding head. “It took a little longer,
The young Robin was youthful and adventurous.
One day, 20m up a cliff while leading a rock climb
without safety pitons, he became stuck. He told his
friends below he thought he would fall, and willed
his shaking legs and hands to stop. He pushed
himself, found a hold, and sur vived. The near-death
experience was not enough to put him off rock
In 1959 and 1960 he hitch-hiked to Isandlwana
in Zululand to repair two churches there, sleeping
in railway stations. One night he asked to sleep in
a police cell; they refused, and gave him a table top
instead. The cockroaches were less than hospitable.
By now Robin’s father and brother had moved to
New Zealand. Then seven-eighths through a science
degree, Robin joined them in a country where they
actually paid him to study as a teacher. Fresh off the
boat, he read the newspaper for five days straight
and found not one mention of apartheid. He says a
pain and weight he did not even know he had been
carrying, lifted off his shoulders.
“It was incredible, a whole new world,” he says.
In time he became the head of science at
Hillmorton High School, in Christchurch. He
worked his way up the scouting ranks, becoming
a paid field commissioner for Canterbury and the
West Coast in 1969-70, and at one point he helped
organise the activity programme for 4000 scouts at a
jamboree in Kaiapoi.
By then he was already a lay preacher in the
Anglican Church. But in 1977 his life changed
“ Two years earlier on holiday in the North Island, I
went to a Christmas service in Whanganui. It lasted
much longer than usual and people put their hands
in the air.”
He had just experienced the Holy Spirit and
energy. He went home and read books with pictures
of people with their hands in the air as a starting
point. He realised he needed to be filled with the
“I had been solidly committed to Christ up until
that point,” he says.
But he was about to discover the power of God
inside himself. On the day itself, people prayed for
him. Robin had decided not to get up until he knew
he had been filled by the Spirit. “After one hour, one
tapped me and said ‘have a cup of tea’.” They told
him ‘you were filled as we prayed’.
Robin was uncertain, and told them he had visions
of old prophets lighting the way, and had smelled
lilies, but they explained to him there were no
flowers in the room.
After they asked, he realised he had never had
visions of prophets before, either. He drove home, a
route he normally sped on.
“But the car wouldn’t go any faster. It just wouldn’t.
I had changed, profoundly changed by the Spirit of
God in my actions.”
Almost immediately he made changes. He became
a part-time teacher, so he could do voluntary work
for the Anglican Church. A vicar told him to get
trained as a minister. He was turned down twice by
the Christchurch diocese, but the Nelson diocese
accepted him. D uring that training, he began the
transition from teacher to a leader of his peers. In
1985 he was appointed to the Greymouth Anglican
parish of Holy Trinity.
It is necessary to go back a little here. By this time
Robin had only visited the West Coast twice, each
time with the scouts.
“ We stayed at the Reefton Hotel. We went out
during the day, and when I came back in the evening
I found the door locked. I rang the bell and they
swore at me, and asked why I had not gone to the
back door like everyone else. It was the days of
6 o’clock closing, but the pub really stayed open until
10pm. The police, like me, rang once! As I came in,
people re-emerged from the corners,” he smiles.
What was his first impression of the Coast?
“Rugged terrain and rugged people, with a strong
In his 29 years here, he has seen the demise of
native logging, and the disasters of Cave Creek and
“But I have also seen the town bounce back from a
number of downturns and tragedies.”
The survival techniques of the people he has met,
and their rugged commitment, is faith building, he
says. In the midst of tragedies he has seen incredible
support and sacrificial giving.
God has given Robin two gifts — the gift of faith
and, he explains, the gift of predicting numbers.
He first noticed the gift of numbers on a trip to
During a prayer, the number 23 came to his mind.
At the end of the mission journey, they toted up how
many had committed themselves afresh to
Jesus — 23. He has other example. It is, he smiles,
most useful for funerals and catering purposes.
He speaks of Cave Creek, when 1500 people
crammed into the Greymouth Regent Theatre for a
memorial ser vice that he, and the church, organised
with just 28 hours’ notice.
Church people were able to do what others could
not in a time of great pain and disarray. After the
ser vice, a peace descended.
“In a crisis, there seems to be an anointing by God
to do things that seem impossible.”
After wards, God seemed to make the pain more
bearable, he says.
One day, a lady called Marge Tefft arrived as
part of a placement during church training. Robin
suggested she might come back, and she did, just 18
In 2008, Robin proposed to Marge in front of the
whole congregation at their main 10am Sunday
ser vice at Holy Trinity Chruch, and they married
He became an archdeacon of the church in 2002
and was vicar general from 2006 until 2011. In
2008 and 2009 he did interregna (acting vicar) in
Blenheim, Picton and Westport, and since 2010 has
been a full-time assistant priest.
“I am not retired,” he stresses.
So what of that adventurous young man, who
hitch-hiked and climbed mountains? He is still
there, but his adventures are different. He still has
that same faith and courage, he says.
But this adventure is spiritual.
“I pray for houses to be cleansed of spirits and
ghosts, stepping into the supernatural world. That
takes faith and courage. I pray for people to be
healed of bad memories, such as sex abuse, abortion,
“I have seen 30 or 40 people healed directly of the
effects of disaster in their past. It is as dramatic as
Robin agreed to do this inter view so he could share
his spiritual journey, one which started in a very
different era, in a very different land. The boy who
started teaching at just 16 has matured into a wise
At Hillmorton High School, the teacher on the
verge of his transforming event of 1977 became
frustrated by the paperwork, which took time away
from planning existing lessons.
Which brings us to now.
“I prefer to teach something that lasts forever,
teaching about Jesus.”
Greymouth Anglican Acrhdeacon Robin Kingston’s spiritual journey started in the shadow of Table Mountain, in apartheid
South Africa. It has had many unexpected turns, including a near death experience, loss of a loved one, and marriage later in life.
He walked away from school teaching to deliver a new message about the Gospel, a message that will “take us through to eternity”.
LAURA MILLS reports.
Archdeacon Robin Kingston at the Holy Trinity Church altar.
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