Pon­sonby church wins bid to stay open

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

The prayers of St Stephen’s Pres­by­te­rian Church’s con­gre­ga­tion have been an­swered af­ter it was an­nounced their doors will re­main open.

A pres­bytery com­mis­sion tasked with re­view­ing the 134-year-old church’s vi­a­bil­ity re­vealed its de­ci­sion at a con­gre­ga­tion meet­ing on Sun­day.

The church

will not be dis­banded but the com­mis­sion has rec­om­mended that it looks at cre­at­ing a more ‘‘lively and ac­tive’’ con­gre­ga­tion, St Stephen’s ses­sion clerk Ross Prestidge says.

Parish­ioners feared the Pon­sonby land­mark would close af­ter they were told its dwin­dling num­bers and ex­pen­sive earth­quake strength­en­ing bills made its fu­ture un­cer­tain. ( Auck­land City Har­bour News, De­cem- ber 26, 2012). The pres­bytery coun­cil ex­ec­u­tive made the de­ci­sion to dis­solve St Stephen’s min­istry set­tle­ment board in De­cem­ber and es­tab­lish a pres­bytery com­mis­sion which would re­view the con­gre­ga­tion’s fu­ture.

The church will be given an in­terim leader in the com­ing weeks.

Con­gre­ga­tion mem­ber Arthur Lang­ton says they are very pleased with the de­ci­sion.

It was in­evitable things had to change, he says.

‘‘If you look back 25 years there would have been more than 500 peo­ple at­tend­ing the church but now these peo­ple have grown old or moved away and younger peo­ple aren’t re­plac­ing them.’’

The Herne Bay res­i­dent first be­gan at­tend­ing the church as a teenager in the 1960s and has been a reg­u­lar mem­ber of the con­gre­ga­tion for the past 20 years. Mr Lang­ton says con­gre­ga­tion num­bers have more than dou­bled since the Auck­land City Har­bour News first pub­li­cised the church’s plight and her­itage ad­vo­cates be­gan protest­ing out­side the church in Fe­bru­ary.

There are now up to 60 peo­ple who at­tend reg­u­lar ser­vices.

Con­gre­ga­tion mem­bers feel pos­i­tive about the church’s fu­ture, he says.

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