Alumni interview: Eleanor Calder

Eleanor Calder attended the Venn Summer Conference in 2016 and 2019. She has recently completed a Master of Creative Practice, focussing on filmmaking and script-writing, and is currently working as Intermediate Youth Pastor and Digital Content Creator at her church, St Paul’s Symonds Street. Eleanor lives with her family in Auckland.

As we approach the end of the calendar year, what have been your reflections on the past 12 months? 

Over the last month or so, I have begun to see the fruit of 2020, through both personal and spiritual growth. I’ve noticed God speaking to me in ways that can only be him, ways that I can’t deny or ignore. For example, I’ve felt a nudge to start a new small group at church for most of this year, but have put it off for different reasons. A month or two ago, I had a sleepless night where God spoke very clearly to me about starting the group and that I couldn’t put it off anymore. That group met for the second-time last week in my living room!

This growth has been very encouraging after such a frustrating year, one that I was ready to write off completely. It really caught me off guard, actually–I wasn’t expecting anything good to come of this year, to be honest. But God is good at surprising me, and I am grateful for his continued faithfulness.

What are some opportunities that have emerged from this year, and what are some of the challenges?

I finished my postgraduate studies in January but was unable to find work in New Zealand’s film and television industry this year due to the lockdowns. However, I ended up taking on a role at St Paul’s Symonds Street, creating online church content full-time. This was an incredible experience, and it was awesome to be able to serve the church in such a bizarre time. It was challenging and exhausting, but I also laughed so much. We intentionally made joy and laughter an important part of our online offering, which helped keep us all sane. I’m really grateful for that.

What are you hopeful for in your work, home, and church life as we prepare to begin this new year?

While I can see the growth from the 2020 “pause,” I am ready to get moving again. I have loved the flexibility, craziness, and, at times, slowness, that my schedule has afforded me this year, but now I am so ready for the next phase of my career, with more stability, routine, new environments, and people.

I am hopeful for change, but I am also hopeful that the work that God has begun in my life will continue. I want to keep growing personally and in my relationship with him, continuing along the trajectory I’m already on. Plus, a little more work-life balance would be nice!

What does Christ’s coming–in the flesh, in our hearts daily, and in his future return–mean for you?  

This is an incredible hope. It is the hope of the Israelites in exile and for us today living in this weird, painful tension between Jesus’s arrival two thousand years ago and his coming again. It is the hope that one day we will be fully reunited in Christ, but also that God is moving in our lives now. 

How are you praying as the year comes to an end?

I’m praying for rest: for myself, but also for my family, friends, colleagues, church leaders, and the world. Everywhere I look, I see exhaustion. I’m praying that we can all take a massive collective breath as we begin 2021. 

What passages of Scripture have you found helpful and encouraging, and why?

Psalm 27.

This Psalm feels like a rollercoaster of emotions, much like this year has been. David speaks about his trust in God, wavers, and then returns to what he knew of God and what God had already done for him. It sounds like an incredible snapshot of humanity to me. The Psalm ends with a call to “take heart,” which is also the name of a beautiful new album released by Hillsong a few months ago. Both the Psalm and the album have felt very fitting for this year.

What’s your favourite podcast, movie, and book?


The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Nothing has been able to top The Lord of the Rings since I saw it for the first time when I was 6 years old. It’s a grand, beautiful, sweeping adventure with a strong emotional heart and soul. Plus, they are masterpieces of filmmaking. I fell in love with film while watching them and will always be sad that I never got to be a part of bringing them to life. Plus, the films still hold up more than 20 years later!


Ask N.T. Wright Anything

During my lockdown walks I caught up on the Ask N.T. Wright Anything podcast, which has been such a wonderful resource for a year like 2020.


A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness

My favourite book is probably A Monster Calls, which I still think about often, years after reading it for the first time. It’s a genuine and real study of anger, grief, and suffering. It doesn’t rationalise or provide answers or explanations for the human experience, it simply tells it how it is and lets you cry as much as you need to.

(Image: Supplied)