First Church re­opens af­ter two years

The Southland Times - - NEWS - TIM NEWMAN

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.

KAVINDA HERATH/STUFF 634837491

Rev­erend Nyalle Paris in the newly re­fur­bished First Pres­by­te­rian Church, which is set to re­open af­ter two years.

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