Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 20 February 2009 Contents 20 February, 2009 | Page 13
Ittook a while before Te Anau locals got a handle
on the bloke who arrived 10 years ago as minister of
their Presbyterian Church. He liked a beer, loved a
good joke and joined the Te Anau rugby team.
“The first bus trip was hilarious,” he recalled.
“Every one of them took turns sitting next to me.”
They had also tried hard to tone down their bad
language but that didn’t last long.
It didn’t worry Karl, he had always just been one of
the boys before doing his theological studies and
there seemed no reason why he couldn’t still enjoy
his hobbies in his new role.
One hobby in particular had set
him in good stead for his new
career. For the best part of 10 years
he had been a professional cowboy
a bull, bareback and saddle bronc
rider who had also spent a year on
the rodeo circuit in the United States
“I’ve got really good at taking risks –
and knocks,” he said. “Some of that I’ve
been able to carry into ministry.”
Rodeo riding was all the young Karl Lamb
ever wanted to do. His father, two uncles
and an aunty were all rodeo riders and
Karl’s own arena experience started as a
five-year-old when he won the sheep ride at
the Waikaia Rodeo. By the age of 13 he was
competing on bucking horses and bulls.
He left school with only two School
Certificate passes and an intention of being
a professional rodeo rider. He followed the circuit
around New Zealand and in 1989 headed to the US
where he worked on ranches and entered rodeos.
There was one thing that set Karl apart from other
cowboys. His cowboy kit of saddles and spurs
included a Bible and he took time to pray before
However, being a Christian cowboy in the States
was not quite so unusual. He was riding in the area
colloquially known as the “Bible belt” and was quickly
introduced to the cowboy chapter of the Fellowship
of Christian Athletes who gave him his own Cowboy’s
Bible – a treasured possession still today.
A highlight of his American sojourn was qualifying for
the Kansas State Finals in Dodge City – an event that
runs for three days. Another highlight, also in Kansas,
was riding a horse that had twice been to the world finals.
“I made the time and I got second place on it,” he said.
On returning home his grandfather needed someone to help run the
family farm at Waikaka so Karl and his new bride Lynley took on the
job. He continued to ride rodeos until he took a bad fall, breaking
his collarbone in three places.
“Needless to say there was a trip to hospital.”
The worst part was that he had to spend six weeks in a brace at the
time when shearing, hay and silage making all had to be done. A
decision had to be made about his long-term future so he rode one
more rodeo – just to prove he’d got back on the horse – and then
“I joke now that I grew a brain and decided it was
In the mid-1990s Karl and Lynley had to decide
whether to buy into their own farm or to do
something different. The rural economy wasn’t
flash and at the same time Karl was considering
his faith and role in the church. Karl and Lynley
thought they would like to do some missionary
work in South America so they moved to
Auckland to study.
Three years later Karl graduated from the Bible
School of New Zealand with a theology degree
and a desire, not to work overseas, but to be
a minister in a small rural parish. He took a
summer job in Te Anau and then successfully
applied to fill the role fulltime.
Originally a lay pastor, he was one of the first in
the country to complete his ordination studies by
distance learning. He’s now on the Presbyterian
Church’s national leadership sub-committee
working on an internship model and helping
oversee on-the-job ordination training for new
He is now the Presbyterian Church’s longest-
serving minister in Te Anau. Since his arrival in
Te Anau the parish has grown from about 24
members to around 60.
“My philosophy in ministry is... that churches
tend to be a lot healthier if they’ve had long-time,
He might not have ridden rodeos for quite some
time but there’s still a lot of cowboy in Karl – in
many ways. He confesses that his wardrobe
still contains three pairs of cowboy boots, five
hats, three trophy buckles and a couple of other
He’s the vice-president of the Te Anau Rodeo
Club and he still listens to country music. In
fact, he even sneaks it into his services – last
Sunday he played Garth Brooks’ “Thank God for
One or two in the congregation aren’t country
music fans and usually react: “Oh no, he’s got
his yeehah music out”.
He never wears a clergyman’s collar and, unless
it’s a special occasion, doesn’t wear a suit,
instead opting to lead services dressed in tidy
jeans or trousers and a shirt.
“That probably is a throwback to being a cowboy
I don’t do dressed up.”
He still loves a joke – a prized possession is
a green dog collar presented to him by his
congregation for his ordination when he made it
clear he had no intention of wearing the real thing.
“I’ve got a real sense of humour and a church with
a real sense of humour.”
And he still likes a beer with his rodeo mates after
working the arena all day as he did on Saturday.
“The first one on Saturday night didn’t even touch
the sides, all it did was wash the dust out of the
On Saturday he was a beast-taming,
boot-wearing, cowboy. On Sunday
he was back in church at the
front of the congregation. Te Anau
Presbyterian Minister Rev Karl
Lamb is proof that you can take the
cowboy out of the arena, but it’s a
lot harder to take the cowboy out of
the man of the cloth.
ABOVE LEFT: The Cowboy’s Bible that was part of his kit when on the rodeo
circuit in the United States. ABOVE RIGHT: Karl competing in a saddle bronc
ABOVE: The vice
president of the Te
Anau Rodeo Club
and former cowboy
Karl Lamb in action.
RIGHT: The Rev
Karl Lamb in
Cowboy suit cut for man of cloth
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