A black belt in karate and an international chess champion have taken a leap of faith.
Both now own historic North Shore churches and by coincidence the long sale process for both buildings has just concluded.
Radio host Danny Watson is moving Seido Karate Devonport and a ceramics school into 140-year-old St Michael and All Angels in Bayswater.
And chess grand master Murray Chandler is creating a national chess centre in Devonport's St Paul's Presbyterian Church, built in 1916.
Black belt Watson tunes into karate
Sport and religion do mix for the new owners of St Michael and All Angels.
Danny Watson says the former place of worship will continue to play a key role in the community.
But people will meet there to expand their karate skills, learn pottery and enjoy other activities instead of Sunday services.
The 1872 church started life as a Sunday school at Holy Trinity Church in Devonport and was moved to Bayswater Ave in 1910 after the original St Michael's burnt down.
People worshipped in the church for more than 100 years before it closed in October 2011. The closure deeply saddening those who battled to save it and was prompted by falling church numbers and the need for expensive repairs.
Mr Watson says he and his family have "gone out on a limb" to buy the church.
He formed the Takamatua Kaitiaki Trust, named after a Maori ancestor, to buy it and will seek funding to assist with major repair works including repiling.
Mr Watson is grateful for the assistance through the sale process from the Takapuna parish church.
He says the Bayswater church has come full circle and will return to its
original role as a place of learning.
His wife Teresa, who has taught pottery for more than 30 years, plans to run a ceramic college in the church.
Seido Karate Devonport, which Mr Watson runs with a team of instructors, has already started classes in the old church hall . Other community groups will be offered space with yoga and martial arts groups among those showing interest.
Mr Watson says it's a daunting but exciting project to restore the historic buildings.
The neighbourhood has already embraced them as new owners with people offering to use weedeaters when they started mowing lawns.
"The general consensus is that it's so cool the church is going to be used."
Grand master makes a move
International chess champion Murray Chandler says he bought historic St Paul's Church on an impulse.
Chess players have a clinical, robotic reputation but they're really just a cross section of the community, Mr Chandler says.
"I'm very impulsive."
That was the case when he spotted the 1916 church up for sale, just a week before tenders closed, and he never even considered engaging a building surveyor before he bid on it.
"I knew they would all tell me not to do it."
Mr Chandler is prepared for the fact there's a lot of work to do and says the Northern Presbytery was very open with buyers. Buyers were warned the church needs $300,000 worth of earthquake strengthening alone.
Mr Chandler says this work is major and he's not rushing into it. He is keen to learn more about the new techniques being investigated in Christchurch.
Buying the church is more about indulging a passion for chess rather than money making, he says.
He plans to run a national chess centre from a church hall and help introduce chess as part of the national curriculum.
Chess is great for teaching discipline, logic and being responsible for your actions, he says.
"There are no dice or referees. Your decisions have consequences."
He plans to teach chess to children and adults at the centre with help from New Zealand's No 1 female player Helen Milligan who lives in Devonport.
Mr Chandler hopes to move to Devonport in November and open the national chess centre in January.
The church will be available for weddings, funerals and potentially concerts because of its good acoustics.
One hall will be used for the national chess centre and the other can be a reception venue and will be open for community group bookings.
Northern Presbytery representative Stewart Milne says the church ideally wanted St Paul's to remain as a place of worship but didn't receive any tenders of this nature.
Mr Chandler bought the church and hall on one title after confirmation there were no graves on that land.
A second lot is a closed burial ground and ownership will be transferred to Auckland Council. The church and Mr Chandler agreed to a number of measures sought by residents and descendants of those buried in the graveyard.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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