Revving it up with the Rev

Spanky Moore

Pioneering Ministry Enabler

Joshua 'Spanky' Moore oversees the equipping and encouraging of leaders who feel called to 'gather the ungathered' or want to start something new.

Revving it up with the Rev

Spanky Moore

Pioneering Ministry Enabler

Joshua 'Spanky' Moore oversees the equipping and encouraging of leaders who feel called to 'gather the ungathered' or want to start something new.

Revving it up with the Rev

a commentator smiles in front of a speedway

A few months back I took my family for a nostalgic trip into my own childhood, and we headed to the Nelson Speedway for the Demolition Derby. It's the kind of event my 6-year-old boy dreams of: 20 beat up old cars, racing around a muddy track, crashing into each other amidst smoke, fire and sparks, until only a single winning car is able to move.

As we were enjoying our hotdogs and the carnage, I noticed that the voice of the race commentator echoing around the track sounded strangely familiar... until I finally realised, "Hey! That's Zane!" 

Reverend Zane Elliot is the Vicar at Holy Trinity Richmond, and most weekends he also commentates the races that happen at the Top of the South Speedway. I caught up with him to find out about the Spirit of the Speedway.

There can’t be many Vicars in New Zealand who have a side hustle as a Speedway announcer! How did you get started?

Zane: When I was growing up in Blenheim my dad would take me out to Eastern States Speedway from time to time, and I loved it. As a teenager I was often at the speedway watching the racing if I wasn’t involved in local theatre productions.

After being away from Blenheim for a while I was back there in 2006, and I was at the speedway almost every week as a spectator. One week they needed an announcer, and a friend who worked in radio knew I had some stage experience and would be there anyway, so she teed it up, and it all started from there. I was a permanent fixture after that.

This season Milestone Homes Top of the South Speedway in Richmond put out an advert looking for someone else to join the commentary crew here. They gave me a microphone, and liked what they heard, so they have asked me to stick around. It was a long time between stints, but its been great getting back behind the mic again.

What do you love most about it? The noise? The crashes? The hotdogs? 

Zane: The beef burritos from Lil Mexican are right up there with all of the action and excitement which comes from the contact classes, where drivers are allowed - or sometimes required - to hit other cars. You can’t beat a good demolition derby either, but the thing I love the most is seeing racers develop and improve. 

When you see someone who has been having a rough season, or who hasn’t got an endless supply of cash to pour into a vehicle pick up a win, or make their way up through the pack to a placing near the front, that’s really exciting. As commentators we are usually focussed on watching and calling the top five or so cars in a race, but often there is some really skilled driving taking place back through the middle of the pack, and seeing that happen is exhilarating.

What parts of being a vicar have you found have overlapped well with your time at the speedway?

Zane: I’m used to talking a lot, and have a bit of an understanding about how to engage people through the use of voice. Often in sports commentary the announcer talks a million miles an hour, and maintains an endlessly high tempo. The spectators need a rest from that, just like parishioners need a rest from that kind of pace in a sermon. I think understanding that’s been helpful, especially now that races are being live-streamed, and the spectators might not have the same visceral experience of roaring engines, and dirt flying around them.

Anyone engaged in a Christian church should be used to starting conversations with people we’ve never met before. As a vocational minister you get to practice that sort of thing when you pitch up for wedding receptions, or wakes, where you might not know many people. That skill set has been helpful in terms of getting around the pits and starting conversations with drivers and their crews, as well as the rest of the gang in the control tower.

It must be somewhat of a different crowd at the track on a Saturday night, compared with those who attend Holy Trinity on a Sunday morning. What has your time at the speedway taught you about mission and ministry to people whom the Anglican Church doesn’t as easily connect with?

Zane: I’ve been reminded that the good news of Jesus is good news to everyday ordinary people - it was (and is) good news to me! Some of the people I’m hanging out with at the speedway are starting to open up and ask questions, or share about their own experience of faith, or where they are at with God. In a denomination in decline, especially one which has lost confidence in the Bible as God’s power to change hearts and lives (Rom 1:16-17), it’s been a huge encouragement to be walking slowly with people who are interested in faith, and who do have questions about Jesus, and to be able to gently start to answer some of those questions from the Bible. If I can do that in a petrolhead environment, I reckon the rest of us can do that in our areas of interest too.

Tell us about one of the most memorable races you’ve called.

Zane: I think for the sheer insanity one of the most memorable races I’ve called was a caravan-ramp demolition derby in Blenheim. I’m not sure it would fit within the Speedway New Zealand guidelines for safe racing anymore... Each vehicle had to tow a caravan of some description, and every lap had to drive over a big ramp and get air. Eastern States in Blenheim has the longest straights in the country, so even clapped out old derby cars can get along at a fair clip. Seeing the drivers battling it out to be the last vehicle still running while caravans disintegrated and collapsed across the track was hilarious, and lots of fun to commentate.

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We have invited these writers to share their experiences, ideas and opinions in the hope that these will provoke thought, challenge you to go deeper and inspire you to put your faith into action. These articles should not be taken as the official view of the Nelson Diocese on any particular matter.