St Stephen’s Church turns 140

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - CA­TRIN OWEN

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.

CA­TRIN OWEN/ FAIRFAX NZ

St Stephen’s min­is­ter Don Hall hopes the church can be opened up more for the com­mu­nity.

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