St Stephen’s Church turns 140
A historic church in Ponsonby is celebrating its 140th birthday.
St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church is a well-known site to passers by at the intersection of Jervois Rd and Shelly Beach Rd.
The heritage listed church was formed in 1876 with the first minister William Runciman inducted in 1878.
It officially opened its doors on December 28 and was designed by architect Edward Mahoney costing £1190.
‘‘The building was extended in the early 1900s so the building when they completed it was at a capacity of 500 but it’s a little less than that now,’’ Minister Don Hall says.
Joy Blomfield has been a part of the church all her 92 years and is the oldest living member.
She was born a couple of streets down from the church and continues to live in the area.
‘‘It was our life, we had every sports you could imagine when we were young. There were drama clubs, cricket clubs, badminton clubs and so on,’’ Blomfield says.
Blomfield was married there, as was her daughter. Her son is now the organist at the church.
She has fond memories of attending services where there was a choir. The Sunday School had 30 teachers and a full roll.
Blomfield has continued attending the church despite its dwindling congregation.
‘‘I’m here as long as I can think, things might change but all being well this is my home,’’ she says.
The church faced closure in 2012 when the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand made a nationwide assessment of its earthquake-prone buildings.
Because of its dwindling numbers and expensive earthquake-strengthening bills it nearly closed down.
However, prayers were answered and the church remained open after a Presbytery Commission review. The review recommended the church create a more lively and active congregation.
Hall hopes the future is promising for the church.
‘‘We are wanting to use the buildings as a focal; most of our congregation work throughout the day so it goes unused,’’ he says.
‘‘We want to use the place as a venue for cultural and community type activities.’’
A special heritage service will be held on October 9 at 10am.
St Stephen’s minister Don Hall hopes the church can be opened up more for the community.