Wakatipu churches celebrate 150 years
More than 250 past and present Wakatipu Presbyterians from around the South Island will pack into St Margaret’s Church in Frankton on January 8 to celebrate 150 years since the church arrived in the Wakatipu.
The Presbyterian Church followed other denominations arriving in the region during the gold rush in 1862. One minister was responsible for a vast region stretching from Kingston to Lake Hawea, Clutha and Glenorchy, all covered on horseback.
Wakatipu Community Presbyterian Church minister Reverend Ian Guy said the Wakatipu’s population then was about 20,000, similar to its present one. It was ‘‘all hands on deck’’ with the different clergy taking turns on the circuit, which took them into Macetown and Skippers.
‘‘They would ride into mining camps to take worship services, baptise children, and officiate at weddings and funerals,’’ he said. The clergy were highly respected so miners always made room for them.
Services were held in huts, school halls, courthouses and outdoors. Cross cultural services became the norm, with 29 ethnicities represented in the region during the gold rush.
On January 10, 1867, the Southland Presbytery declared the Wakatipu a Presbyterian Parish, instead of a mission field.
‘‘In those days Frankton was central Queenstown, and the first building the church owned in the area was the old courthouse beside the Kawarau Falls in 1863.’’
The Presbyterians soon moved into central Queenstown, building the first St Andrews Church in 1870 at the top of Queenstown Mall, where Starbucks is now, for 360 pounds. It was dedicated by Reverend Ronald Ross, a Scotsman who was called to New Zealand to pioneer the Presbyterian Church in the Wakatipu in 1869. Prior to that Queenstown parishioners worshiped in the Methodist Hall.
The present day St Andrews Church in Stanley Street opened in 1968. Arrowtown fell under the Cromwell parish for many years, and was only brought back into the Wakatipu in 1997.
The January 8 service will be followed by a picnic at Lake Hayes. More than 200 people will attend an anniversary dinner on the 150th birthday – January 10 - at Rydges Hotel, where Gibbston Valley winegrowing pioneer Alan Brady will speak.
Reverend Ian Guy checks out an album scrapbook of the early days of the Presbyterian Church in the Wakatipu.