First Church reopens after two years
Invercargill’s First Presbyterian Church is set to reopen this weekend, two years on from an electrical fire which put it out of action in 2015.
The congregation, who have been meeting in the church’s Stobo Hall since November 2015, will return to the main building in a combined service tomorrow.
Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt will do the reading at the service, on Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders from the gospel of Matthew.
The moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand Richard Dawson will also be one of the guests, and will preach the first sermon.
First Presbyterian Church reverend Nyalle Paris said he was still getting used to the new surroundings.
‘‘I felt humbled being here. It’s such a lovely venue. I realised recently that I’d had two years in the hall, and one year at St Andrews [hall], so it was a slightly weird feeling being back in a church.
‘‘They say you can have church in a forest under the open sky or in a shack, but there’s nothing quite like a church proper.’’
Elder and First Church Heritage Buildings Charitable Trust chairman Bill Watt said while the 2015 fire had been ‘‘a catastrophe’’, it had also opened up new opportunities for the church and the congregation.
With the refurbishments, the church now had a lot more flexibility to be used as a multi-purpose venue, Watt said. ‘‘We’ve ended up with a building which is of much more use to the city. It’s a city icon, but now it’s a city icon with a use, not just as a church but as a brilliant performing venue.’’
The 2015 fire was caused by an overheated light fitting, which was left on while the church had been undergoing renovations and repainting.
As well as repairing the fire damage, the building had to be decontaminated, with fears that the asbestos in the church’s roof and plaster work had been dispersed by the fire.
The church was built between 1912 and 1915, replacing an earlier building that dated from 1863. It is a Heritage New Zealand category one building.
Reverend Nyalle Paris in the newly refurbished First Presbyterian Church, which is set to reopen after two years.