Bigger is better as Brethren relocate
The secretive Exclusive Brethren have found a new home in Wellington's northern suburbs, after selling their present church compound to a supermarket operator for $6 million.
The windowless church in Churchill Dr, Crofton Downs, surrounded by security fences, was sold to Foodstuffs last year for more than twice the recommended value of the land.
The church bought about 1500 square metres of the 8000sqm site from Wellington City Council for $150,000 in 2002, though it was valued at the time at $370,000. They had owned the rest of the site since 1965.
The likely new site, in Grenada Village, will be almost twice as big, with parking for 235 cars.
Although the Wellington congregation has 325 members, the church auditorium will seat about 1700 people, so it can host national assemblies.
Church member Geoff Wallace confirmed the Brethren were negotiating for a property in Grenada Dr.
"We are certainly looking at a site [but] it's not unconditional yet. It could still fall over."
If the sale went through, the sect would build a church similar to the one in Crofton Downs. "It'll be very similar to the old one as far as the size goes. But with a more modern look to it."
The main difference would be the extra parking space on the 15,000sqm site.
The majority of the Exclusive Brethren congregation live in Wellington's northern corridor, and their children attend a Brethren school, Westmount School, in Johnsonville.
A move would bring the church nearer to them, Mr Wallace said. "Just like the typical northern drift of the whole population, that's the way the Brethren are moving too."
Foodstuffs would not specify what type of supermarket would take shape on the Crofton Downs site.
A Woolworths, owned by rival Progressive, is next door.
Exclusive Brethren shun the "conduits of evil communications", such as television, radio and the internet.
Social activities are restricted exclusively to interactions with other Brethren. They separate themselves as much as possible from others (including other Christians) because they believe the world is a place of wickedness.
Members follow a rigid code of conduct based strictly on the Bible, with a firm moral framework focused on the family unit.
Members who leave or are expelled from the group are avoided by other members because they are seen as having chosen the world and the devil against God. Until 2002, Brethren who left the church were completely ostracised and members would not speak, eat or live with those who had left.
Brethren must not own pets, take out life insurance, go to university, vote in elections, join a trade union or marry outside the Brethren.
Men must be clean-shaven, keep their hair short and cannot wear ties. Women must keep their hair uncut and wear scarves. They are instructed to marry early.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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