St Johns was birthed in strength, not weakness, in a real sense of obedience to God and with a vision for two churches (Anglican and Presbyterian) to become one. These were ultimately joined by the Methodists whose presence, while small, was extremely significant, acting rather like a bridge between the extremes of Anglicanism and Presbyterianism. This is illustrated by one member’s recollection of the first church fair. "We had the Anglican raffle on one end of the table, the Presbyterian "guess the weight of the cake" at the other end – and the Methodist contingent happily taking tickets in both!
The church building opened in 1975. Blending together three denominations with their different perspectives, traditions and habits (good and bad) was never going to be an easy task and it says a lot for those foundation members and the first minister, Grahame Drummond, that they were able to put aside the small differences and major on becoming one. Changing the practice of meeting in our own denominations at the parish AGM to elect our own representatives was possibly the first step in signalling that togetherness. In this process we learnt that what we gained though the privilege of co-operating was of far greater importance than anything any of us imagined that we might lose.
So what have been some of the highpoints of thirty plus years in this blended family of St Johns?
The people. The bonds of love, caring and friendship have been very visible throughout our history. John 13:35 says "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Our hope is that as a church we can be recognised by that quality in us.
Those who have exercised ordained ministry. We pay tribute to Bill Heald (A), Grahame Drummond (P), Max Scott (A), Jim Thornburrow (P), Don and Eleanor Battley (A), and our current minister Lorraine Francis (P); Ron Ayers, and Marilyn Welch who served as non stipendiary priests and a vocational deacon Ann McLean. Also serving, while members, were Adam MacFarlan (P), Andrew Wardlaw (P) and Bryan Drake (A). These men and women have left their stamp on the life and work of St Johns, and hold a special place in our hearts and memories.
The evolution of the "St Johns tradition" – in liturgy, worship style and customs. To meet the needs of all denominations we have evolved a pattern of celebrating communion on the first, third and fifth Sundays OF a month, with additional Presbyterian communion quarterly, on the third Sunday. We offer wine in the chalice and grape juice in small glasses to cater for denominational traditions, and also for our children.
An annual "Honouring Age" service that acknowledges the importance of older members in the life of St Johns. This is always followed by an elegant morning tea with lace tablecloths, fine china and party food the order of the day.
The "Blue Christmas" service. This gentle service acknowledges that Christmas is difficult for many, affords an opportunity for quiet contemplation and offers the message of hope that is in Christ. It is a small service but a special one.
A new initiative has been weekends dedicated to prayer. Members were encouraged to spend a one hour time slot in a prayer room in the church, focusing on God through prayer and meditation. This was a special time and we intend to repeat the exercise.
We have now hosted 4 concerts by Wellington based Marist priest Chris Skinner. The March 2009 was a fundraiser for the Australian Bushfire victims. A total of $3,500 was raised to be donated through the Uniting Churches in Australia appeal.
It would be wrong to give the impression that the road has been straight, clearly signposted and with no obstacles. We have been through difficult times, times that have challenged our certainty of who we are and what we are here for. But we have emerged from these wiser, stronger, closer to one another, and more dependent on our God.
And what of the future? At this time we have a very real sense of God challenging us to face outwards into our community, to re-focus our energies from church maintenance to bringing an experience of Jesus to the people of our community. And so our journey continues...