Bishop holds key to Mt Peel church fate

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2013
church of the holy innocents
FAIRFAX NZ
RESTORED: Windows from the Church of the Holy Innocents at Mt Peel have been repaired after being smashed in the September 2010 earthquake.

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The windows are restored. Now all that is needed is a restored Church of the Holy Innocents for them to go back into.

The 140-year-old church at Mt Peel was significantly damaged in the September 2010 earthquake, but with the cash found for the $680,000 repair bill, all that is needed now is a change of heart by the Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews.

She has stated all Anglican churches in the diocese must be upgraded to 66 per cent of the strengthening requirements of new buildings.

Last month she agreed to Timaru's St Mary's only having to be strengthened to 33 per cent of the code, and the Geraldine vestry committee has asked her to apply the same standard to the Mt Peel church.

"St Mary's has led the charge," vestry member John Acland said, pointing out the Timaru District Council's rules only required such repairs to be to the 33 per cent standard.

"For a church, the risk to humans is minimal. Only two services are held there each year and a couple of thousand people go through," Mr Acland said, adding the building only held 100 people.

The $60,000 restoration of the stained glass windows has been completed and they are on display in the Canterbury Museum's Quake City exhibition.

The $680,000 to restore the church has been found. As well as the insurance payout, benefactors have promised a further $380,000 for the project.

Two large donations came from overseas benefactors. One person, who wished to remain anonymous, provided $100,000, while a $50,000 cheque arrived from Australia last week. It was from the family of the late Rob Sutherland, a professor at the University of Sydney.

The Ashburton-born man and his family visited the church annually. Professor Sutherland, who had been unwell, had made it clear to his family he wanted to see the church restored.

Mr Acland said the vestry committee knew exactly how the repairs and strengthening work would be carried out as prior to the earthquakes an engineer had come up with plans for strengthening the church.

St Mary's Church in Geraldine has also been closed for earthquake repairs. Mr Acland said the wider Acland family had begun fundraising for that work, with the descendants of Mt Peel Station's original settlers JB and Emily Acland, being asked to assist with fundraising.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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