The South Island’s oldest church, and the woman who calls it her second home
From the Bishop’s Office
What have our Parishioners been up to during the lockdown?
A Sermon Preached by Bishop Ross Bay on Sunday 17 October 2021
Covid presents many different challenges for us, not least in our attempts to keep going to Church. Strett has made it easy for some, by holding a church service each week via Zoom. He would be the first to admit that’s fine provided you have access to a computer and Zoom peripherals. Several of those who attend these weekly services have responded by writing elsewhere in this messenger about their other activities, to while away the time during the covid lockdown (P10 to 13).
For my part, I have an interest in houses. During my lifetime, I have personally built two of them, and have done major remodelling of two others. Details of all of the houses available for sale in NZ may be viewed on the internet by typing “real estate NZ” into Google (or “real estate” followed by the name of a particular town if you want to limit your choice). I find it both interesting and relaxing to discover, for example, that today I could buy a very liveable house in Murupara, for less than $300,000 (depending a little on your definition of “liveable”); similarly, there is one for about the same price in Murchison.
I have a slight lingering fondness for Murchison, having been born in Murchison Hospital more than 80 years ago (I’ll leave you to work out where it is!); and living on a back-blocks farm 16 km from Murchison for the first 10 years or so of my life. My first Church experience was in the St Paul’s Church in Murchison, from which I still have my original baptismal certificate. St Paul’s Church was a wooden church, still well preserved and in weekly use today. I found a picture of it, while looking at the $300,000 house a little further down the main street. It’s probably pure whimsy on my part, brought about no doubt by the Covid lockdown, but that picture (for want of anything else) now graces the cover of this Messenger.
This issue also contains the story of what is claimed to be the oldest Church in the South Island, reprinted I think from Stuff, possibly via the Anglican. It is slightly abridged and the order of pictures changed due to space constraints.
Due to the lockdown, it is unclear when I will be able to get this Messenger printed by our usual printers, Stationery Warehouse. About half of the parish has given vestry their email addresses, and because of the uncertainty over printing, and also the large number of colour photos, I will send this issue to those I can as an attachment to an email. Don’t print it out, just enjoy it on screen; you will eventually get a black and white copy in the usual way, as will the rest of the congregation.
The South Island’s oldest church, and the woman who calls it her second home
By Amy Ridout,
St John’s Church in Wakefield, near Nelson, is the oldest continuously run church in New Zealand and celebrate its 175th anniversary in October.
On Friday evenings when her children were small, Caroline Gibbs would leave her husband in charge and head to St John’s. With no piano at home, she relished the chance to play the organ in the empty church, working through her favourite hymns and choosing the order for the upcoming Sunday service.
In those days, she had to feel her way through the dark interior to the main switch. People would ask her if she was spooked by the dark building.
“But I wasn’t, it’s my second home,” Gibbs said.
Perched on the brow of the hill on Wakefield’s Edward St, St John’s Anglican Church is considered New Zealand’s oldest parish church in continuous use, and the oldest church in the South Island.
On October 9 – a few days before Gibbs’ 75th birthday – the congregation turned out to celebrate St John’s 175th anniversary.
The small, pretty church was built in 1846, its £111 bill footed by the
Anglican church. Sawmill magnate Edward Baigent – whose wife Mary Ann had founded Wakefield School three years earlier – donated five pounds worth of timber and oversaw construction.
Baigent’s invoice contained a note that “Mrs Reay drew a design for the church which was approved”.
Today, the short sentence holds significance: while it took years for her contribution to be recognised, Baigent’s note has cemented reverend’s wife Marianne Reay’s place in history as New Zealand’s first female architect.
“Women didn’t get credit for things in those days, did they?” Gibbs says.
A hundred years and a day after Reverend Charles Reay conducted the first service on October 11 1846, Gibbs was born. She attended her first service at six weeks old, and was baptised at the font a few weeks later. Over the decades, Gibbs has attended countless services at St John’s. She was confirmed and married in the church, and baptised her sons there. She’s held numerous positions – most recently, people’s warden – has occasionally rung the bell (a job her father used to do), and has played the organ for services since she was 17.
And they’ve shared their significant birthdays: at the church’s 150th anniversary celebration, Gibbs was presented with a cake to mark her 50th year.
For Gibbs, the building’s kauri panels, lead light windows and worn pews are as familiar as her own living room. As a child, she remembers “losing herself” in the stained-glass windows depicting St John.
The delicately rendered windows were paid for by Elizabeth and Sarah Bullard, “two spinster sisters” who lived in Arrow St, Gibbs says. Although they donated the funds in 1947, it took five years to get approval from the diocese.
“They said it was too much money to spend on an old church,” Gibbs says.
Gibbs remembers another anecdote about the Bullard sisters, a story related to her by her grandmother. “They had a big old square car, but they couldn’t reverse, so they had a garage with doors at each end, so they could go right through.”
Another story Gibbs likes to tell visitors is that of Reverend Francis Tripp, who stayed in the parish between 1863 and 1868. During that time, he performed 17 marriages, but registered just four.
“When the bishop found out, Tripp got the push, and they had to have an act of parliament to legalise the marriages,” Gibbs says.
“As you can imagine it was not the done-thing, back then to not be married.”
The disgraced reverend “dashed off to Australia”, leaving his horse behind.
Records show Tripp died at 44 in Queensland, where it seems he was better received: the Cooktown Courier reporting after his death that the reverend was “followed to the grave by nearly all the most influential residents of the town”.
Not all the church’s stories are written by a human hand: on the chancel ceiling you can make out muddy paw prints, made by a cat picking its way across the timber when it sat in Baigent’s sawmill. The prints, faded now, never fail to amuse visitors, Gibbs said.
A few years ago, a vicar suggested they wipe the ceiling clean. “We nearly lynched him,” Gibbs says. “It’s peculiar to us, and we felt it was important to leave”.
“On the chancel ceiling you can make out muddy paw prints, made by a cat picking its way across the timber when it sat in Baigent’s sawmill.”
In the steeply-sloping churchyard overlooking Edward St, Gibbs points out her parents’ graves, and the plot that will one day mark her final resting place.
She is pleased her mother’s plot looks down on the school, where she taught for 21 years. “It’s the best view in Wakefield.”
Gibbs has always lived in or around the town. “My roots are down so deep I wouldn’t want to leave now.” Each Sunday at 9am, about 20 people attend services at the old church. For the loyal congregation, it’s a way of keeping heritage alive alongside their faith.
“People are proud of the church. It’s the oldest church in New Zealand that has regular use, and we would like to keep it that way,” Gibbs says.
“Even people who don’t have anything to do with the church, there’s a sense of ownership: it’s there looking over Wakefield.”
Gibbs chuckles at a question about whether any ghosts have been spotted at the historic site. “I’m not aware of any. But when I go, there will be because it will probably be me, I have been here so long. But it will be a friendly one.”
On Saturday 9 October, St John’s celebrated its 175th anniversary with a re-enactment walk, led by Nelson Bishop Steve Maina. The congregation will leave the Spring Grove Drill Hall at about 11am, and will walk along the cycle trail to Edward St. On arrival, walkers will be greeted by Reverend Harvey Ruru, and there will be exhibitions, music and a hangi during the afternoon. You can check the Wakefield Facebook Page for more information.
|“Faith”, supplied by Joan Osborne Faith means living by the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and obeying what we believe is his will, without proof that we are right, and in spite of doubts. Only then does God confirm our faith with outward evidence and inward certainty that we are on the right path. And this assurance depends on prayer.|
From the Bishop’s Office
Wednesday, 6 October 2021 2:20 PM
Kia ora koutou katoa
After some 13 years of service to the Diocese of Auckland as Chancellor, Bruce Gray QC will step down from that role at this year’s Session of Synod. He does so in order to give focus to his role as Legal Advisor to the Primates for which he was commissioned earlier this year.
Bruce’s commitment to the role of Chancellor has been outstanding. He is a wise and faithful servant of the Church, and has been generous in the offering of his time and skills to us. The Diocese owes him a great debt of gratitude, as do I personally for his incredible support and advice. We will express our thanks to Bruce when Synod gathers in November.
It gives me great pleasure to announce that Amanda Mark has accepted my invitation to be the next Chancellor of the Diocese.
Amanda has been a lawyer for over 30 years, working first in commercial litigation in leading law firms, including Bell Gully and Chapman Tripp. For the last twenty-five years, Amanda has been an in-house lawyer in the public health sector and is currently General Counsel for Waitemata District Health Board. There she advises on a broad range of strategic and operational issues affecting the funding and provision of health and disability services.
Amanda is a parishioner at St Matthew-in-the-City and a member of the Synod. She has served on the Legal Business Committee since 2019. Amanda will be ordained to the diaconate in November and will offer ministry at St Matthew’s in a non-stipendiary capacity.
Amanda brings a great care for the Church to the work of Chancellor and understands this as a call of God on her life to offer her gifts and skills to God and the Church in this way. I have known Amanda for some 30 years and have found her always to be a person of wisdom and compassion and so look forward to working with her in this way.
I will commission Amanda for this work when the Synod gathers in November. Please hold both Bruce and Amanda in your prayers in thew work which they do for us.
Bishop Ross Bay
What have our Parishioners been up to during the lockdown?
Vicar Strett Nicholson suggested to the people who “gather” for Zoom services each Sunday that they might like to send details of what they are doing and/or their interests during the Covid lockdown. Here are some of their contributions:
From Leith Hamilton, People’s Warden
My passion is tennis. I began in my teens and now I play three or four times a week. I have played at 10,000 feet, at Addis Ababa, and at sea level, in the Philippines and New Zealand. In the Philippines, I had with the luxury of ball boys. I have attended Open tournaments in Flushing Meadows and in Melbourne. And tournaments in Munich and in Istanbul. And there was also a visit to the museum at Wimbledon. I have attended two Davis Cups in Auckland and worked at the ASB Tournament for ten years.
I did reach A grade at Kohimarama Tennis Club, but just for one inter club season. Now I only play doubles for fun.
From Joan Osborne
What have I been doing during lockdown? Apart from eating liquorice all sorts and perhaps too many biscuits.
Well, for one, I’ve become addicted to code-crackers, starting with the daily one in the Herald. I have one or two ‘puzzles’ Code Crackers books that I found while back in the supermarket. I’m also doing the other word games (apart from the crosswords) in the Herald. I’ve also been knitting bunnies. I have finished 2 pink ones, one of which is for my coming great grand-daughter – the first girl among the Osborne great grandies. I’ve also knitted a blue bunny but can’t finish him because I’ve run out of stuffing.
And I’ve been looking at some of the embroideries I’ve put away unfinished – plenty to do if I put my mind and old fingers to it.
Otherwise, I am A-OK, apart from a bit of a gash on my leg – done on a bit of furniture.
We are well locked-down here at the Gardens. On two or three very fine days the management have put out tables and chairs and we have played 2 or 3 rounds of Bingo. Yours truly has had 2 wins, of a bottle of sparkling grape juice and a box of Cadbury Favourites.
I also have watched “Praise Be” on Sunday morning and on Sunday evening I turn over to ‘Shine’, for the English “Songs of Praise”. I don’t usually watch day-time TV, but come 5.00 pm I turn on TV1 for “The Chase”, the News and “Seven Sharp”, and on Fridays continue with “The Repair Shop”. Then I usually spend the evening on the computer playing “Solitaire”, something I would not do with a pack of cards.
I’ve also been able to print off Strett’s services & sermons, and do a copy for my friend Joye Clapp who does not have a computer.
And that is enough about me for now!
From Barbara Connell
Here is the miracle account I promised you.
I was told it at the first NZCMS Spring School I attended. The leading speaker was the Rev. Moses Tay who later became the Bishop of Singapore. He was speaking to us about Tithing and told us the following true story.
This Norwegian fisherman lived on a remote island in a Fjord and had promised The Lord that each year he would tithe his income. This particular year the fishing had been very bad and when it came time to send off his tithe, he realised that if he did so he would have insufficient money to educate his children. This worried him terribly and he wrestled over it for some time. Finally, he decided that he could not break his promise to the Lord and sent off his money.
Then feeling absolutely wretched he walked to a remote part of the island to grieve. No fish were ever caught at this location but to try and take his mind off his worries he threw in a net. Immediately the net was full of the biggest and best fish that he had ever caught. Miraculous.
Regarding talents I do not really have any. I have done many sorts of different things, many of them well but not all. These have included lecturing and demonstrating for The Heart Foundation and St. John, speaking at functions and organising some of them, writing poetry, prayers, hymns, psalms for farewells and such like. I taught myself to sew and made most of the children’s clothes. My piece de resistance was a two colour reversable waist coat for Barrie. At one stage I also made chocolates and greeting cards. But no real talent.
From Jocelyn Whyte
For many years my main interests have been Scottish Country Dancing and Tramping, nothing too unusual. About three years ago I came across a group doing Body Percussion as a form of mental stimulation. It is hard to describe – we call it Slap and Clap – but a great performance version can be seen at https://www.classicfm.com/composers/beethoven/fifth-symphony-body-percussion/. Our group is not into polished performance but instead challenged to follow the instructor in a series of moves until we collapse, our brains stimulated by the unsuccessful effort and our mood lifted with general hilarity at our muddles.
From Lizzie Samuel
I like Writing, Reading and Singing.
I have been a Journalist in Sri Lanka and was also a Sub-Editor in one of the leading English Newspapers; and also contributed feature articles for the Women’s page. I was the Schools Choir Leader and that is my love for singing.
Now I spend my time reading and sometimes writing in my Journal for my own satisfaction. Thank you for taking the time. All good wishes.
A Sermon Preached by Bishop Ross Bay on Sunday 17 October 2021
The gospel passage is Mark 10:35-45.
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā hau e whā, tēnā koutou katoa.
Greetings to you all in ministry units around the Diocese as most of us continue to gather in virtual ways for corporate worship. I am glad to join you to offer this sermon today, conscious of the long haul that this lockdown is creating for us. Thank you for persevering and for continuing to support one another in all sorts of ways, including by being together in worship.
We are reading from Hebrews on Sunday mornings at present and I am mindful of a verse in chapter 10 which in the face of hardship reminds believers not to neglect gathering together and encouragement of one another.
I extend special thanks to clergy and leaders in your worshipping communities who are working hard to make that possible, so please encourage them and support their efforts for you. In all things, we
seek to continue to glorify God in our lives.
Vaccination is the issue on everyone’s lips. As I write this sermon, the country is preparing for a Super Saturday of vaccinations and even holding a “Vax-a-thon” to go alongside it which is a throw-back to my childhood. Recording ahead means that, unlike normal preaching, I won’t be able to see how that has gone and add in any quick comments.
There is no question that the vaccination programme is now the major strategy for moving our nation to a point where we can adjust to living with Covid-19 as part of our ongoing reality. At the moment, for Aucklanders especially, there is a big incentive to cooperate with that because it gives us some hope of light ahead that our lives can regain some normality, and that more people can go back to work on full pay, and that the businesses that employ them will still be there.
It’s not as simple as it sounds, because across the country we have vaccine-averse and vaccine-hesitant people, along with those who for a variety of reasons are struggling to access a vaccination or are experiencing exclusion from the programme.
The best advice we are being given to help reach this final group is to work personally with them. It’s a little bit like the best approach to sharing our faith. It is not to stand on a platform and preach to strangers, nor to constantly convey messages designed to scare people, but to sit down quietly with another and explain why this is important to me and answer the questions the other may have in a spirit of trust and care.
Times like these do bring out the best and worst in people. The journey Jesus made to Jerusalem in the final weeks of his life did that. There is a whole series of moments where disciples don’t quite get what Jesus is trying to tell them, but they realise it is a critical time, and the stress of it means they don’t always do the right thing. We read today of the request of James and John, the other disciples’ response to it, and Jesus’ advice to them about a different way to approach it all.
James and John wanted places of honour and importance, and the other disciples became jealous and angry as a result. This in spite of the fact that Jesus has been telling them things like the first being last, those who act with the trust of small children being greatest, and his own willingness to die for the good of others.
Jostling for position, jealousy, anger, misunderstanding. They are all things we have to strive to overcome as we build community life. It can be very hard to perceive when those things are present, when the stakes are high and people are convinced by their own position and driven by the
outcomes they believe are so critical. Sometimes the line is easy to cross and so become the rulers who lord it over others or the great ones who are tyrants over them.
Oh, and before people begin to speculate, I am not making a comment here on the government or any person leading in covid response. I would not want their job for all the communion wafers in Christendom. It’s not about judging others, but about looking at ourselves and where our responsibility rests in being part of a community response to this or to any challenge we face together.
So yes, I have been vaccinated, and I did so for a number of reasons. Some of them are self-interest, like for the sake of my own health and well-being if I did catch the virus and so that when the time comes, I am not excluded from activities in the community. But I also did it because I believe that a wider community good is served by being part of the percentage we need to reach. For me that is about a community ethic of which I believe Jesus speaks when he tells of the great being servants,
and the first being a slave to all, and when he speaks of his own destiny being about life-giving service. Jesus gives his life for the salvation of us all, and so sets a path for the kind of spirituality that should mark out the life of the Christian Church and each person in it.
So whether it be vaccinations, or the number of refugees we welcome, or ensuring the homeless have a safe and warm place to sleep, or protecting our planet for the sake of the generations who come after us, as followers of Jesus Christ, the one who came not to be served but to serve, we are
people who have a commitment to seek the good of others, the common good of the community as a whole.
This approach by James and John shows us that a desire to seek whatever we want and what we think is good for us, is the wrong starting place. The references Jesus makes to cup and baptism were probably about the suffering that lay ahead of him. For us they can also be about the
sacraments by which we are united with Christ and sustained in our life in Christ. We do well to ponder what it means to stand with Christ in the midst of the suffering and the need of others, and act for their good before our own.
I imagine those disciples were afraid of a future that Jesus spoke of and which they could not understand. Fear of the unknown can drive us to self-interest and to jealousy and anger. Let us not be afraid. Let us seek to allay the fears of those who are. We carry the peace and hope of Christ
within us, gifts of God to us, and through us to others. Let us be as Christ, alongside others, building a healthy community, finding our way together.