Earthquake fear 'final straw' for Ngaio church

TOO RISKY: Brian and Lee Sheppard outside All Saints' Anglican church in Ngaio. "It's a nice feeling when you walk in there.''
KENT BLECHYNDEN/ The Dominion Post
TOO RISKY: Brian and Lee Sheppard outside All Saints' Anglican church in Ngaio. "It's a nice feeling when you walk in there.''

Fear of a brick bell tower crushing worshippers if an earthquake should strike has ended services at a Wellington church.

The latest Christchurch earthquake was the "final straw" in deciding to close All Saints Church in Ngaio, Onslow Anglican parish vicar Archdeacon Monty Black said.

"People were looking at ways of how to get out of the building in the event of the earthquake, which was rather distracting them from worship."

Engineers deemed the 1928 brick building, in particular the tower, a serious earthquake risk. The final Eucharist was celebrated on March 20.

All Saints has amalgamated with St Barnabas Church in Khandallah, where combined services for both congregations have been held since 2006.

"Of course it will be sad for us to have to worship elsewhere, but I know that the church is more than a building and, in fact, the church is really about people," Archdeacon Black said.

The parish is deciding what to do with the land and buildings; the church is registered on Wellington City Council's heritage building list, though not listed by the Historic Places Trust.

It was designed by renowned church architect Sir Frederick de Jersey Clere, who also designed St Mary of the Angels in Boulcott St, as well as two harbour board buildings on Queens Wharf.

A resource consent would be needed to demolish the church, council spokesman Richard MacLean said.

Former churchwarden and vestry member Lee Sheppard had attended many baptisms and weddings at the church since moving from England in 1980.

"It's a nice feeling when you walk in there. It's a lively building and I always feel very calm and warm when I walk in," she said.

Though sad about the closure, Mrs Sheppard said it was necessary.

"Even though you're only in there for an hour each week you just can't risk it."

Archdeacon Black said the original wooden church and lounge on the Abbott St site would remain open as they did not pose an earthquake risk.

The Dominion Post