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50 Years in 13th Avene

In 1959 Wesley shifted from its site in 1st Ave to its present location in 13th Ave. To celebrate the occasion a special service was held where Rev. Mervyn Dine preached the sermon and three different members of the congregation (David Kent, Peter Hardyment, & Terry Kehely) gave accounts of church growth over those 50 years.

These three accounts and the sermon now follow:

(The first is from David Kent)

The original Church in 1st Ave

Good morning, Everyone.

It is good to see so many familiar faces of former Wesley members here today.

Prior to 1959 the church was situated on the corner of Devonport Road and 1st Avenue – the south eastern corner opposite what is now the AA Centre. The church building was on the corner, with a hall behind on 1st Avenue and the parsonage next door, along Devonport Road.

In January 1950 my parents moved from Raglan to Tauranga as my father had been appointed Circuit Minister here. We lived in the Devonport Road house until 1955. Due to problems re-developing the down town site, the Church Trustees decided to move out into the suburbs. The first step in this move occurred in 1954 when Gordon and Beatrice Decke purchased a property called "The Oaks" in 13th Avenue (formerly Morris Street). This property involved the present church site, the house behind, now Oaklands Rest Home, and the site of the house over the driveway formerly used by Relationship Services. The Deckes bought the land so that the Church Trustees could purchase the front area. Incidentally, The Oaks had previously been owned by a Methodist family, Major Warbrick, 1830. He was a member of the Building Committee of the day.

Following the purchase of the land from the Deckes, the first building constructed was the parsonage at 112 13th Avenue. This was built using voluntary labour under the directions of our good friend Fred Parker. The house was completed in June 1955 and my family took up residence there. Then, at the 1955 Methodist Conference my father was appointed to the Whangarei Circuit, so we only 'lived' there for six months.

Rev Henry Woolford became the next superintendent and he directed a programme to relocate the 1st Avenue church. In 1956 a large old building in Spring Street, first known as Coronation Hall, became due for sale or demolition. Purchased "for a song" it was moved to 13th Avenue making an excellent temporary hall with classrooms and amenities. It was sited where the Spencer Pascoe Room and former Alzheimer office is now. The old hall in 1st Avenue was leased as a warehouse and then as the Police Station. The old church was dismantled and taken to a Boys Brigade site at LakeRotoma. Due to unusual lake level fluctuations and vandalism, it is no more.

Building the new church was begun in 1958. Gordon Decke was the building contractor ably assisted by skilled church members such as Stan Couch (electrical), Laurie Hennessy (carpenter) and Peter Handyment (painter and decorator).

The new church was completed early in 1959 and officially opened on Saturday 18 April 1959. This building faced north/south, rather the east/west layout. Where the sanctuary is there used to be a covered way, the choir seats were beside the pipe organ and the pews faced Oaklands.

In January 1962 Henry Woolford moved on and Rev Bob Allen took his place. The next stage of the building programme was in 1967. The old Coronation Hall went to the Greerton Scout Group having served a good purpose over 10 years. New facilities were constructed that year being classrooms, a kitchen, lounge and office, i.e. small hall and adjacent rooms, etc.

1968 saw another change in ministry when Rev Ivan Clucas was appointed presbyter. Five years later, in 1973, the main hall and Spencer Pascoe Wing were added to the complex. So the whole building programme was spread over a period of 19 years, 1954 to 1973, and was under the ministry of four presbyters.

The fire occurred on Wednesday 15 October 1980.

(The 2nd is from Peter Hardyment)

The aftermath of the fire

SHOCK !! HORROR !!! we did not believe it --------------

One lovely fine evening we heard that our church had been burnt out inside. Children had lit a fire in the pipes of the pipe organ.

One of our church families coming down the Kaimais saw a pillar of flame go up in the air, the intense heat had melted the aluminium roof and released the pressure inside the building.

After about two years of planning involving all the congregation, we decided under the leadership of Allan Maseman (who put our ideas into a plan) to rebuild using our own labour. The impressive organisation saw all the congregation and even neighbours not belonging to our church, giving their time in a labour of love. Elderly people sat on chairs with children, cleaning and recycling all the bricks, for the extended and changed church. Front behind choir – dark blue glass screen – dark and mystic – hard to see – that's why we have so many lights.

Our services in the meantime were held in the church hall, with a semi circle of chairs facing the brick wall. We loved this more informal seating, which we tried to copy in the new church with individual chairs, some people wanted set pews – so we made a few joined together chairs, which are at the back of the church. Lay light put in to bounce the sound back – hides kauri ceiling but does its job.

The church has many unexpected extras, hidden storage cupboards, a baptistery in the floor at the back of the church, the small chapel with fold out sliding doors, even a sandpit.

We decided that our church would no longer be exclusively for us on Sundays, but could be used by the community, so that our wonderful acoustics could be shared by others. We did not want to be an exclusive church, but an inclusive one. For some this becomes pretty exhausting, so there is a job for everyone. It is a very big complex to maintain.

One sad effect of the fire, our church was always open day and night; people came for a quiet time at any hour. Now it has to be locked for insurance purposes and security. However, if you wish to use it out of hours, please see the office staff.

We have had many wonderful occasions, weddings (our eldest daughter being the first before the rebuilding was finished), film evenings, Jazz and special services in this church and complex. The Allen Electronic organ was the nearest instrument we could get to a pipe organ. Unfortunately, a speaker has blown – but our organist is doing her best!

Every minister or presbyter has brought their own special gifts to our congregation, one of which was Rev Brian Sides, a former builder, he was minister at the time of the fire. He took time off to help with the building, we gave him a memory to keep of the occasion by dropping a pile of steel reinforcing on his foot, he limped for the rest of his life. We have been kinder to others.

Choosing the Japanese Laurel for the trim colour on the church was great fun with everyone having a say and a vote. Yes, some have said it looks like a BP petrol station – but what better place to fill up with Christian Spirits and fuel for life!!

The stained glass window of a family group was financed by the Christian Estate and the Gibson family and is designed to be added to – made by an American Glass Artist.

Each of you will have special memories of this place and friendly people you have met over the years. Some of you have returned for this occasion and we hope you will be able to retell your experiences over lunch. Perhaps the display of pictures in the hall will job your memory.

Thanks everyone for being, and having been part of the Wesley Family, people here have certainly influenced my life, and we give thanks for those in the past and their labours of love.

(The third is from Terry Keheley)

The Church complex as it is today

We can see today, the tremendous commitment that people of this church family have contributed from the past to the present; our property and buildings are here to be used on Sundays for congregation and worship and with careful management can be fully utilised during other times providing a solid foundation for future growth and financial security.

I commend and give thanks to those who designed and re-built Wesley with this foundational diversity in mind. Let's consider those who have access to the use of such a wonderful facility – the worship settings; concerts; music; jazz; recitals; meetings and gatherings for young and old.


v our property value increases, but, of course, is offset by

v rising costs of building maintenance

v lack of able bodied volunteers

v families so busy with commitments elsewhere

v declining congregational numbers and

v we now find ourselves considering these challenges:

Ø Where will our future growth come from?

Ø Will it be our youth?

Ø Social Services? or

Ø Community Services?

The foundation we now have will enable us to plan carefully and at the same time maintain the present buildings in good condition.

As you are hearing, the responsibility of this foundation of owning our buildings has become "a business" – maintaining them to make them financially viable and at the same time enabling them to become the Social Service Outreach of our church. We can do this by assisting agencies such as Alzheimers; Relationship Services: Easy Care Units for disabled tenants; Te Whanau Kotahi (Child Development). This can be achieved with reasonable rentals and good facilities.


At the completion of the "Strategic Plan" presently underway, here at Wesley and St Stephens with the combining of the church with offices for Relationship Services, along with a new lounge and chapel under construction for the congregation, the Parish Property Committee is once again considering the Church needs and the continuation of the excellent Foundation we are guardians of. Like all good businesses we are considering how to accommodate future growth and a vision of self-funding, self-supporting financially secure operation.

The Visionaries before us have created the support platform we have before us today and we salute them and give thanks for their foresight, managing with little funds to achieve this current vision. We now move forward with the same caution and faith, seeking wisdom from those before us and being open to the wonderful opportunities now available to us to support and encourage our congregational church growth and future security, to create an ongoing maintenance programme for the existing assets, ensuring their structural soundness and future; completing the current projects underway; and discussing proposals supporting our future.

(Rev. Mervyn Dine was our guest speaker and he has been kind enough to allow us to publish his sermon which now follows)


Thank you Motekiai and members of the Leaders' Meeting for inviting me to preach this morning. It's quite a nostalgic time for me. When this church was opened 50 years ago I was a new chum on the block having just been inducted into the Tauranga Circuit with special responsibility for Mt Maunganui and Greerton .... and single at the time. No causeway or bridge in those days but a long drive around the harbour. My colleagues in ministry in the Circuit were Noel Billinghurst at Te Puke and Henry Woolford at Tauranga. These two gentlemen are not here today to say how they felt about the Tauranga Circuit at that time but my recollection of it through the haze of 50 years was that the circuit was a collection of people who were travelling together in faith and compassion ably assisted by the two circuit stewards of the time, Fred Parker and Gordon Decke. I well remember, too, H.L. Blamires (and nothing inbetween, he used say) sitting near the front of the church and coming up to me and whispering "My boy, you've forgotten the collection" when I had placed the offering towards the end of the service instead of around the middle where it normally was .... no printed order of service in those days!. And of course that saint of a man, Arthur Bensley who supported me when I was having a little difficulty getting support for my ordination from the South Auckland District (as it then was). I recall conducting a service in January and someone said to me "What's it like preaching to the Methodist Conference?" I hadn't realised there were over 20 Methodist Ministers in the congregation that morning. Just as well I realised it AFTER the service and not BEFORE. I would have been extremely nervous! Since my departure from the Circuit in January 1962 I haven't been inside this church so my contacts with Tauranga have been few and far between except for individuals whom I have met in other MethodistChurch contexts. My conclusion is that the same spirit I found in the late fifties exists today.

When the Methodist Church elected me it be its president I chose as a theme "Travelling together in Faith and Compassion." I prepared the Presidential Address while on Study Leave during 1993. At that time there were various issues which were creating more than a little turbulence within the Methodist Church. David Bromell, a Baptist minister, had resigned from that denomination and was appointed by the superintendent of the Otago/Southland District as a supply minister at the Glen Avon and BroadBay churches in Dunedin. When David took the next step of applying to be received into Full Connexion with the MethodistChurch, the ripples became huge waves. Around the same time Ashley Sedon, a very gifted Methodist minister announced publicly that he was gay. It was an issue which I felt the president needed to address and I did so and it was at that Conference that the Church decided not to seek for any dispensation from the Human Rights Legislation as to employing people as clergy who were homosexual. The Gospel calls us to act compassionately towards all people, however difficult and costly that may be .... and Tauranga Methodism knows this well. We are called to put aside prejudice and antagonism remembering that we are all under the judgement of God.

1993 was the 10th anniversary of the Conference decision to embark on a bicultural journey. While some accepted this decision without any problem whatsoever there were those who fiercely fought it. They looked at the size of the Maori section of the church and saw no reason for partnership. "Why should we share equally with Te Taha Maori when there are so few members in it". Those critics conveniently forget that when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, a treaty of partnership between the Maori and Pakeha, there were about 2,000 Pakeha and between 150,000 and 200,000 Maori. An equal partnership? As time has passed I believe more and more Methodists have accepted the partnership and see the strengths that have come from it ... even more so with the announcement at Easter that Te Taha Maori have gifted the Connexional Budget $1,000,000 so that those sections of the church that rely on the Connection Budget for their funding will get what they ask for.

The Christian life is very much a journey – a journey of exploration and discovery. We mustn't stand still ... we cannot stand still. Christ calls us to follow. There is always more to learn, more growing to be done. Christianity is all about change. Repentance, conversion, sanctification ... all imply on-going change. Cardinal Newman wrote ... "To live is to change and to be perfect is to change often."

In the time of Paul the Apostle and for some time after, one of the big debates was over faith and works. Has it really ended? It's not a case of either/or but both/and .... travelling together in faith and compassion. When the church is expressing its faith through compassion then its continuance as the body of Christ is assured. This is a challenge to all of us who make up the body of Christ today. The faith-journey is not made alone. We need other people to help and encourage us. Some are out in front, leading the way. There are stragglers at the back not really sure they want to move at all. Others go off on detours of their own. Most people are somewhere in the main bunch, sometimes moving forward, sometimes coming to a stand-still. Let us remember to watch over each other in love. In spite of our differences we are all pilgrims together on the same journey, responding in our various ways to the same God who is always with us on the way.

When I was preparing my presidential address Joy said to me "Would you like me to write a hymn that is related to your theme?" I was quick with my reply and told her the theme was "Travelling together in faith and compassion." The result is the hymn we will sing in a moment. The address is forgotten but the hymn lives on as people find within its words a challenge to move forward in faith and compassion ...... Give us courage for the journey, Christ our goal and Christ our guide. Amen

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