Te Awamutu’s heritage churches are beautiful, but expensive to maintain

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St Paul’s Anglican Church and Cemetery in Rangiaowhia – the second of the Grade 1 listed heritage buildings in the parish of St John’s. Photo / Dean Taylor

St John’s Anglican Parish of Te Awamutu – Te Pārihi Mihingare o Hoani Tapu – has the unique honor of having two New Zealand Heritage Category 1 listed buildings – but this also poses challenges, says the parish priest, the Reverend Julie Guest.

Old St John’s Church in Arawata St and St Paul’s Church in Rangiaowhia Rd are the only two Grade 1 listed buildings in the Te Awamutu area and among the oldest wooden buildings in New Zealand.

St John’s was opened on Easter Day 1854 and St Paul’s, of a similar design, was completed two years later. Both have undergone various modifications and restorations during their nearly 170-year life.

This year St John’s was painted, partly funded by a grant from the Waipā District Council Heritage Fund.

Julie says this is only part of the picture of the upkeep required for both churches, and says it is a big ask for her congregation to find the necessary funds.

St John’s Parish also has St John’s New Church, St Savior Church of Pirongia and St John’s Church Hall to maintain.

Everyone plays a vital role in the work and worship of the Anglican congregation.

Julie says the back of the hall houses the St John’s Opportunity Shop and the main hall is used for the church’s mainly musical programme, church and family functions, is regularly rented out for a studio dancing and occasionally for religious events.

The Hall also needs repainting, and being old wooden buildings, the Hall and St Paul need wood repairs and a specialist paint application.

Julie says this is not a job for volunteers.

Reverend Julie Guest in Old St John's.  Photo / Dean Taylor
Reverend Julie Guest in Old St John’s. Photo / Dean Taylor

She says Old St John’s is really the public face of the parish – the front, visual reminder of the heritage of Anglican mission in Te Awamutu.

This helps attract funding, but St Paul’s also plays a vital role, especially as the process of reconciliation following the atrocities suffered by Maori at Rangiaowhia in 1864.

Julie says St Paul’s also reflects very well the original purpose of Anglican missionaries, who encouraged multicultural worship in St John’s and St Paul’s – a rarity at the time.

St Paul’s has services at 9:00 a.m. every first and third Sunday, as well as Evensong in te reo with Pa Cruz at 5:00 p.m. every fourth Sunday.

Services are also held every Sunday at 8am and 10.30am at Te Awamutu, from 12 June alternating between Old St John’s and St John’s, and services at 9.30am are held at St Savior’s.

Eucharistic services are also held at Old St John’s at 11am on the first and third Thursdays and Evensong at 4.30pm on the fifth Sunday.

Old St John's Church - the iconic public face of the Anglican parish.  Photo / Dean Taylor
Old St John’s Church – the iconic public face of the Anglican parish. Photo / Dean Taylor

The St John’s Te Awamutu Trust Board, chaired by Alan Empson, assists the sacristy and church custodians in running the parish.

The council is responsible for owning and maintaining parish lands and buildings.

Alan says St Paul’s and the cemetery, along with the nearby Catholic cemetery, are hugely important as they are the only physical reminders of what happened over 150 years ago.

In recent months, work has been undertaken to embellish the entrance to the church and improve the park and the cemetery.

Parishioners John and Sue Storey sponsored a new fence and proper driveways, with physical help from the family.

The new church fence was provided by parishioners John and Sue Storey, with practical help from the family.  Photo / Dean Taylor
The new church fence was provided by parishioners John and Sue Storey, with practical help from the family. Photo / Dean Taylor

The decision was made to remove the sheep that were grazing the grounds, so the fences along the path to the church were removed, opening up the space to worshipers and visitors. Volunteers now mow the church grounds.

Alan says the church needs painting from the top of the spire to the ground, a specialist job requiring scaffolding and repair assessments. A quote has been received so far, the price of $35,000.

He hopes the repair needs will be minor.

Old St John's Church with a fresh coat of paint.  Photo / Dean Taylor
Old St John’s Church with a fresh coat of paint. Photo / Dean Taylor

Stained glass specialist Graham Stewart of Christchurch has also been engaged to assess the condition of the stained glass windows in both St John’s and St Paul’s and it is expected that there will be recommendations from these assessments.

The council and parish are committed to preserving the two historic churches as a testament to all who worshiped there for nearly 17 decades.

Anyone in a position to help financially or in any other way is asked to contact the parish office by telephoning 871 5568 weekday mornings or emailing [email protected]


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