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St James celebrations mark 150 years

BY DAVID TAURANGA
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2009
St James Church
Photo: NEIL DUDDY

ROCK OF MANGERE: This Saturday Reverend Les Dixon and parishioners of St James Church in Mangere Bridge will celebrate the stone church’s 150th anniversary. Mr Dixon says the celebration will recognise the partnership between Maori and Pakeha settlers who worked together to build the church in 1859.

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Two days of celebrations will mark the 150th anniversary of the construction of St James Church in Mangere Bridge this weekend.

St James is the country’s oldest surviving Selwyn church, a style advocated by the first Anglican bishop of New Zealand George Selwyn.

The church was built in a joint effort by local iwi Ngati Mahuta and Pakeha settlers in 1859 using volcanic rock quarried from Te Maunga o Mangere.

Reverend Les Dixon says because of confusion about the exact date the church was opened they’ve chosen St James Day to officially recognise the milestone.

"We found letters giving the public opening as somewhere between June and December.

"So seeing there is some doubt we chose the church’s patron saint’s day which we normally celebrate each year."

Parishioners will begin setting up tomorrow and hope to have the hall open in the evening so locals can view photos and memorabilia.

St James seats around 100 but more than 200 guests and dignitaries are expected on Saturday, including descendants of the original church builders.

Anglican bishops representing the three tikanga or cultural streams of the Anglican church – Maori, Pakeha and Pasefika – will also attend.

To cater for the overflow a video and audio feed from the church will be sent to the hall next door, Mr Dixon says.

The church also runs its own radio station with a range of around 3km and will broadcast the service on 106.7FM and 88.1FM.

Celebrations start at 8am with a service of remembrance on the urupa to commemorate Bishop Selwyn and Tamiti Nga-pora, the founders of the church.

The main service begins at 9.30am and will be "high church" with all three bishops conducting parts of the service. It is expected to last around two hours.

Afterwards invited guests will be taken to Te Puea marae in Mangere for mihimihi and kai, he says.

Anyone who can’t make it on Saturday can attend the service on Sunday.

"It won’t be as complex but still more elevated than our usual Sunday service.

"We will have south Auckland Maori missioners Reverend Morris Rangiwai and Reverend Rob McKay preaching at that service."

Through the 150th celebration the St James’ parishioners hope to bring all the different strands of the church’s history and weave them together.

Mr Dixon says the church had an interesting and turbulent beginning and there have been some issues through the years.

"We want to recognise and celebrate the original partnership between local Pakeha and Maori that saw the church built.

"St James has been here as a witness to God for the past 150 years and had it not been for either of those peoples it would never have been built," he says.

St James Church is at 29 Church St in Mangere Bridge.

For more information call Mr Dixon on 634-3009.

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- Manukau Courier

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