Hero photograph
Ben Nowland-Foreman with a copy of his book, The Magic Starfish. 
Photo by Garth Nowland-Foreman

Talented Storyteller, Author & Illustrator

Garth Nowland-Foreman —

Garth Nowland-Foreman, parish steward at Durham Street Methodist Church and his son Ben are highly valued members of the church community. Garth shares the background to a special Christmas story written and published by Ben and shared with the congregation.

Once or twice a year at Durham Street Methodist in Ōtautahi/Christchurch, the sermon is replaced by a children's story. Last Christmas, the story shared with the congregation was written by my son. The Magic Starfish is a story of ecological havoc, natural wonders, powerful machines and communities working together for change, with a hint of Covid. Most of all it is a story of the sheer magic of bravery and hope from the smallest and weakest – even in the face of unbending power.

When many people meet the author and illustrator, Ben, they see a young man with multiple intellectual, developmental, psychiatric and physical disabilities. However, despite being unable to read or write, Ben is a passionate lover of stories and of story-telling. His stories are always very moving and based on remarkably sound theology. Ben clearly knows God is love, God is with us wherever we are, whatever is happening (and a few tough things have happened to him over the years), and everyone is loved by God. He also has a strong sense of justice and fairness. All of these concepts come through powerfully in his stories which are inevitably action-packed fantasies.

The Magic Starfish was a sell-out success, and Ben donated all the proceeds from sales of his book to the church’s work in the Aldersgate Centre and the wider community.

From my perspective as a proud father, Ben’s success is not just a personal story. It’s the story of a truly inclusive faith community, which is way beyond “accepting” him and his differences. Durham Street over many years has been wise enough to make room for Ben to comfortably exercise his leadership in his own way - in lighting the candles, bounding in to present the collection plate, boldly proclaiming ex tempore blessings, in telling stories, and in graciously receiving the many gifts Ben has to bring.

Ben is currently working on his latest story, The Easter Penguin, about a misfit young penguin, called Curious, who is jealous of the starring role given to bunnies at Easter, and ends up having to face her nemesis, Evil Terror, the farmer’s pit bull. You’ll have to ask Ben for a copy to find out how the story ends …