Farewell to Balfour church

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End of an era...Lumsden Balour Presbyterian Church members gather outside the Balfour church at the end of a service to decommission the building on Sunday. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

An era came to an end in Balfour on Sunday, as the church doors were closed by congregation members for the last time.

A service to decommission the Balfour church building, which was part of the Balfour Lumsden Presbyterian Parish, was attended by about 100 past and present congregation members, Southern Presbytery moderator Anne Thomson and presided over by minister the Rev Mike Kirkby-Sing.

The building has been sold and possession date was September 29.

Mr Kirby-Sing said despite there being no church building in the town the work of the church would continue.

“While it’s sad to say goodbye to a place, we’re not saying goodbye to being a church family and to sharing our faith in the community.”

The church had already sold the building in Lumsden where the Northern Southland Community Resource Centre was located and had decided to sell other properties, including the church building in Lumsden and two sections beside the church.

The plan was to build a modern facility in Lumsden on the site of the present building.

Lumsden was the best location for congregation members to meet, he said.

The original building on the site was built in 1902.

The present building had been opened in 1973.

Church elder Jonny Elder said it made sense to consolidate the church’s assets to build a modern facility.

” We’re a small church and we aren’t utilising any [of the buildings] very well and none of them are that functional.”

Selling the church’s assets was not a “sad story.”

“It’s a story about progress and trying to keep moving forward before we get so far behind we can’t catch up again.”

It was hoped the new building could be used by other groups in the community.

“Lumsden is lacking a good modern facility”

It was unknown when the church would have enough money to build the new facility.

Mrs Thomson said it was always sad to close something down permanently but it was quite different in this situation because the congregation had something to look forward to.

“This is a moving forward case, not a coming to a dead end and that’s good.”

Former church members Bruce and Ngaire Heslip worshipped in Balfour from 1965 to 2000.

The first time they turned up for a service they had the time wrong.

“Everyone was in church and we were too scared to go in, so we went home,” Mrs Heslip said.