Mixed emo­tions at leader’s death

Sci­en­tists pre­dict im­pact of ma­jor Alpine Fault quake Daugh­ter of Glo­ri­avale reli­gious sect’s Neville Cooper says now is not an ap­pro­pri­ate time to judge him

The New Zealand Herald - - News - Kurt Bayer Her­ald Her­ald

Mem­bers of the Glo­ri­avale reli­gious sect are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing mixed emo­tions af­ter the fu­neral of their con­tro­ver­sial leader Neville Cooper. Cooper, who led the com­mu­nity for over 40 years, died at the West Coast Chris­tian com­mu­nity on Tues­day. The con­victed sex of­fender, who had prostate can­cer, was 91.

The Aus­tralian-born evan­gel­i­cal preacher’s health had been in de­cline for months and he had re­cently been hos­pi­talised af­ter a heart at­tack.

He was buried in pri­vate at the Haupiri com­mune in­land from Grey­mouth on Wed­nes­day. The com­mu­nity has its own chapel and grave­yard.

Glo­ri­avale mem­bers blocked en­trances dur­ing the fu­neral ser­vice and kept the pub­lic and me­dia out, but it was back to nor­mal yes­ter­day. Tractors moved over lush fields, puffs of smoke came from work build­ings and chil­dren and young peo­ple cleaned and ti­died.

Fer­vant St­ed­fast, a com­mune spokesman and se­nior leader who along with Howard Tem­ple, the “Over­see­ing Shep­herd’s Ap­pointed Suc­ces­sor”, is a favourite to be­come leader, was emo­tional when speak­ing to the yes­ter­day.

“Our leader has died, and gone . . . but we’re not in grief,” he said.

“There is great sor­row be­cause some­one has gone . . . he’s been here since 1969, he’s al­ways been here. He was the foun­da­tion in many ways — Je­sus Christ was the foun­da­tion — but here on earth, he was the one who God worked through. So it’s hard to talk with­out get­ting tight in the throat.

“But we know he’s in heaven and there’s great joy that he’s hav­ing no suf­fer­ing. He was nearly 92 . . . his work is over and it’s time for him to de­part. Things are in or­der, things are go­ing well. There’s a strength here so we are re­joic­ing, re­ally, even though we break into a lit­tle tear when we are talk­ing.”

A daugh­ter of Neville Cooper said his death was not a time to judge.

“We grieve what might have been. We re­flect on a time when we loved, the long­ing for things to change, and the feel­ing of melan­choly that things were not dif­fer­ent,” said the daugh­ter, who asked not to be named.

“We grieve that the re­la­tion­ship now has no chance of mend­ing. We grieve the loss of a part of our her­itage and even though the re­la­tion­ship was bro­ken, the pass­ing in­volves some­one who is a part of our lineage.”

HFor video with this story see nzher­ald.co.nz

The daugh­ter fled Glo­ri­avale nine years ago, along with her part­ner and chil­dren, but she said her fa­ther gave her life and a her­itage for which she was grate­ful.

“He now stands be­fore his maker. It is no longer our place to judge.”

A source told the Cooper nearly died from a heart at­tack af­ter be­ing ad­mit­ted to Grey Base Hos­pi­tal in Fe­bru­ary, but hung on for sev­eral months.

His son, Phil Cooper, who had not been in con­tact with the sect in over 20 years, said he had yet to process the news.

Neville Cooper had 16 chil­dren from his first mar­riage to Glo­ria. Four re­main in Glo­ri­avale, two have died and 10 fled the com­mu­nity.

Massey Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Peter Line­ham, a his­to­rian fo­cus­ing on re­li­gion and so­ci­ety, said a tight-knit group of el­ders would con­tinue to run Glo­ri­avale along the rules set up by Cooper.

A crew does seis­mic test­ing in the South­ern Alps (above). On aver­age, earth­quakes of mag­ni­tude 7.5 or larger hit along the Alpine Fault ev­ery 300 years.

Pho­tos / Sup­plied, Kurt Bayer

Above: Neville Cooper. Right: En­trances were blocked on the day Cooper was buried.

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