Memories of Birkenhead Methodist parish 1880-2005
For the 125th anniversary of the Birkenhead Methodist Parish we have chosen the theme, Being the People Of God In This Place. We celebrate, not the length of our presence as Methodist people in Birkenhead, but the presence of God among us, encouraging us to be God's people. The story began in 1854 when William Creamer wrote to Rev John Whitely of Kawhia Methodist Mission, indicating that he was wanted to set aside a parcel of land in Birkenhead for a Methodist Church. The land was given in 1866 to the Auckland Methodist Circuit, but no church built until 1880. By then the Birkenhead Methodists felt strong enough to commit themselves to a far reaching development, the results of which we have inherited, and we now celebrate. This resolve went hand in hand with the establishment of Chelsea sugar works, where many of the early Methodists were employed. The small octagonal chapel which they built - now incorporated in the eastern end of the hall - soon proved too small.
A larger Church was built, opening on March29 1885. It is this date that has determined the timing of our celebrations.
From this beginning the Parish grew to include Birkdale, Beach Haven, Glenfield, Northcote, Albany and Greenhithe. In their time these people sought to be the people of God. In our time we too seek to be God's people in this place.
Birkenhead today is a very different place. From scattered farms and orchards it became first a rural village, then a borough, and now part of a conurbation stretching from Bombay to Orewa.
Today it is a suburb of North Shore City. With each step of growth in the community have come similar steps of growth as those inspired by God have sought to be God's people in this place. Through new ways of living worshipping and witnessing to God's glory.
Remembering all this growth we celebrate 125 years of God's leading us to be the people of God.
But that is not all. Remembering our beginnings and celebrating our history gives us a unique opportunity to open our vision to the next steps that need to be taken, so that we may continue to be the people of God. An anniversary looks at the past, but is also a time to seek inspiration and direction for the future. There is no doubt that the challenge of living in a secular techno world is changing the church once again. The next generation of those who lead the church need to be aware that it is not the God of the past who guides us but the God of the present. And they need to be committed to the presence of the present God who draws them into the future. For God is never still, never silent, always growing into future, towards opportunity, offering insight, and developing life.
We celebrate the past that has become the present and will allow us to become God's future people in this place.
-Rev David Pratt,
Presbyter 2000 - 2005