Church marks 140th

Time to celebrate. . . Cutting the St Andrews Presby terian Church’s140th an niversary cake at a high tea on Saturday are (from left) the church's oldest long-standing member Bill Christie, minister Robert Robati-Mani and Calvin Community Church representative Bruce Heslip. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

A fascination with a young woman’s hat collection is one memory Bill Christie has of attending church as a boy.

The 83-year-old was the oldest long-standing member of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church which held its 140th anniversary at the weekend.

About 100 people including Aotearoa New Zealand Presbyterian Church moderator the Rt Rev Hamish Galloway, Southern Presbytery moderator Anne Thomson and Otago Southland Synod moderator Debra Clark, former minister of the church Karima Fai’ai and his family, and Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks took part in the celebration.

The Gore Presbyterian Church was the first to open in East Gore in 1881.

In 1928 the congregation built a hall across the river at its present site in Devon St.

Once the hall was built summer services were held in East Gore and the winter services in the hall as it was warmer.

In 1958 the present day St Andrew’s Church was built alongside the hall and opened in 1959.

Later the East Gore church became its own parish but eventually was closed in 1998.

St Andrew’s members also recognised the need for a church in West Gore and put forward the money to build the Calvin Community Church which was opened in 1960.

Mr Christie said his connection to the church went back to his father Walter.

“Mt father would have been one of the first bunch of infants baptised in East Gore in 1881.”

His parents had seven children and many people had told him they remembered his father coming into church with his “tribe of kids”.

Church was formal in those days and the women wore hats.

The choir sat at the front of the church and one member who was probably a teenager at the time had a great selection of hats, he said.

“I was always fascinated by Vivienne Green’s hat.

“Every Sunday she seemed to have a different hat and some of them were enormous.

“It was worth going to church to see what hat she would wear.”

The 140th celebration had been delayed a year because of Covid-19.

The planting of a tree to replace one of the older ones that needed to be cut down and a high tea on Saturday afternoon were some of the activities attendees took part in.

Memorial …St Andrew’s Presbyterian minister Robert Robati-Mani (left) and Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks admire the tree planted to mark the church’s 140th anniversary. An Acer Rubrum Bowhall (red maple) was planted in the church grounds to replace an ash which had been removed because it died.

The anniversary cake for the church was made by Dorothy Affleck and decorated by Stephnie Evans.

The cake had a black and white stencil of the former East Gore church building on the icing and a St Andrew’s tartan ribbon tied around the side.

Mrs Evans said she searched many shops in New Zealand for the ribbon but ended up ordering it online from Dublin.

A posy of flowers was part of the cake display.

“I’ve got the Scotch thistle and the fern for New Zealand and a bit of England as well with the roses.”

St Andrew’s minister Robert Robati-Mani said he was the driving force behind the celebration.

“In all things we celebrate so I invited them to celebrate this 140th year.”

It was also an opportunity to prepare for the church’s 150th in nine years’ time, he said.

Mr Galloway said in about 1855 Presbyterian ministers from Dunedin visited Gore to take church services.

“It’s one of the oldest churches in Aotearoa New Zealand in terms of the Presbyterian movement and has a proud history and tradition.

“It’s to be able to represent the Presbyterian Church here today to think about the past but also in these challenging times to be church in a society that is increasingly moving away from religious faith.”