Closure sad for St Paul's congregation

JOANNE BENNETT
Last updated 14:45 18/04/2013
st paul's waimate
SUPPLIED
SAD DEPARTURE: St Paul's Methodist Church congregation has moved to the Waimate Community Centre after their beloved brick church was closed permanently due to earthquake damage.

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The congregation of St Paul's Methodist Church have held its first service in their new home after the old building was closed from earthquake damage.

The new headquarters is at the Waimate Community Centre, the room that was once used by the Salvation Army.

Parish steward Christine Bailey said the move had been difficult to accept, particularly for the older people.

"Some didn't want to go but they know they have to. They're feeling it the hardest. They can see the logic in it but it's still hard to accept."

The old church is about to celebrate its 125th anniversary.

Over those years, thousands of momentous occasions have been celebrated by generations of followers. The walls of the church have witnessed major life events of many - baptisms, weddings, and funerals - not only of present day members, but also their parents and their great-grandparents.

The generations are linked though sharing their lives in the church, its closure resulting in a deep feeling of loss for many.

Doreen McLay has attended church at St Pauls for most of her 88 years. Her mother and father took her as a child, and their parents - Mrs McLay's great-grandparents - were there when when it all began, being some of the first settlers in Waimate.

"I was baptised and married there. We attended every Christmas and Easter. They used to have a very good choir which I was in, and I was also a Sunday School teacher for quite a few years.

"My children were baptised there and as a family we took part in many church activities," Mrs McLay said.

"The new place isn't the same. It's a real shame it had to come to this."

Engineers surveyed the building in January and said the church was unsuitable for use, but Mrs McLay is not convinced that the building is unsafe.

"There's no obvious signs that it is unsafe. The council have changed their regulations since it was built, and I feel as if it is penalising the folk who have buildings that are over 100 years old.

"There may be the odd crack here and there, but nothing that my house doesn't have. I still feel very safe when I'm in that building. There's so many ‘ifs' and ‘buts' but with the problems that Christchurch has had the authorities aren't prepared to take any risks."

Although she will miss the old building, for Mrs McLay the true meaning of worship comes not from the house but from the heart.

"When we love the Lord we have to worship somewhere. No matter where you are, the meaning stays the same."

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- The Timaru Herald

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