A sketch of the history of Methodist witness in Rotorua and the story of the Bainbridge Memorial Church from its planning to its demolition in 1962.
The Bainbridge Church Story
3. Beginnings, to 1906
4. Building, 1906
5. Struggle, 1907 to 1935.
6. Advance, 1936 to 1938.
7. War and Peace, 1939 to 1949
8. Jubilee, 1950 to 1954
9. Expansion, 1955 to 1964.
10. Tidying up', 1965 to 1978.
11. On the Move, 1979 to 1982.
12. Resurrection. Postscript.
On 16 December 1906 a Methodist church was opened and dedicated in Hinemoa Street, Rotorua. It was named after a young man who died in the Tarawera eruption.
On 30 May 1982 the closing service of the church, now much enlarged, was held, over 300 people attending. The following day the demolition of the church, to make way for the erection of shops, was begun. Thus ended over 76 years of continual Methodist worship on this site.
During that period the original membership of the church had been increased eleven fold, while the value of church and site had increased over a hundred fold. Rotorua Methodist Circuit retained a large supermarket building with offices, including the Church Office, overhead and an adjoining car park. These had been acquired and added to the original site.
The following Sunday the congregation gathered for worship in borrowed school premises. Thus began its 'wilderness year' while the new Church Centre was being planned and erected on a site off Old Taupo Road. The value of this building will be twice that of the former one.
'Bainbridge' became over the years the central shrine of Methodist witness over a large area in the region. Other Methodist churches were erected at Mamaku, Ngongotaha and Clayton Road. Services were held also at Reporoa, Kaharoa, Rotoma and many other places. Bainbridge saw them come and go. None proved permanently viable for Methodist witness. The central plateau is not Methodist country. Only at Taupo was it possible for the circuit to establish a further Methodist church which grew into a circuit itself and became a partner in a strong Union Parish.
Through the years a vigorous cause was centred on Bainbridge, rich in its ministry to a growing town, city and district. It ministered also to a steady stream of visitors in war and peace times from all over the world.
This is an attempt to sketch the story of Bainbridge church. Only side glances will be made to other ventures in the life of the circuit.
Buildings of course are not the essence of the Church's life. This the Bainbridge folk are discovering afresh first hand in their homeless year.
It is comparatively easy to trace the history of church buildings and some of the activities that take place within and about their walls. The story of the church's deepest life and work cannot be recorded. It has to do with the impact of preaching, teaching and conversation and service touching countless people. It includes untold pastoral and community contacts made over the years.
The Church is what God does with people. The full story of Bainbridge Church would include the record of countless people who down the years have enriched its life. But space is limited and the record is uneven.
Ministers for obvious reasons get most mention. Their wives receive minimal remembrance. Both in the days when the church expected them to be unpaid curate-receptionists and in later years when they were rather more free to choose their service their work goes largely undocumented.
Rotorua Methodism has been richly blessed in the succession of gifted and devoted men and women. Often father was followed by son and daughter succeeded mother in service and leadership. Not to mention any by name would be to make the story utterly unreal. To mention all the most prominent would be to make it a catalogue. A few names have been included here and there to personalise the record. They must represent the others.
Many are still serving the church after long years of activity. There are younger folk willing to carry on in these days when the church is more affluent but less popular.
Yet it must not be forgotten that church buildings too are important tools of the Church. They help to make it visible and anchor it in a community. They provide a physical setting in which folk meet at every level of life from a bazaar to a funeral. Some church buildings survive the centuries. They witness, as do the great cathedrals, to the faith of past generations who built them and the changeless realities of the gospel that sustains them. Others, like Bainbridge, are fess enduring.
Its shape and size were varied over the years to meet changing needs. Now its people face a greater transition than ever before as they seek to replace church and half with a Church Centre embodying the best insights they can gather as to spiritual and social needs today and in the future years.
The seriousness with which this task is being faced is shown by the ten page 'brief(?) presented by the church trustees to the architect of the new Centre.