Six years ago St Mark's Anglican Church in Nawton couldn't afford to pay a minister.
Now, two years after the Rev Joel Rowse arrived as full-time vicar, they're about to build a $1 million community centre alongside the church.
His focus has been on re-energising the church and the result is clear to see - a packed church every Sunday night.
The church, on the corner of Dominion Rd and Breckons Ave, has been shifted a few metres closer to its boundary to make room for the new building.
The vicarage is also being moved closer to the boundary and the hall will be removed.
"We want to make the most of the space that we have," said Mr Rowse, who is known to the kids in the area as Matua Joel.
On a Sunday evening the 35-year-old plays touch rugby with the community on Dominion Rd park.
"We want to make room for the community centre and admin block.
"We want people to be able to play sports in the community centre, the old hall is just not made for sport.
"The church hall is free to a good home."
The project is being overseen by the Te Rongopai Community Trust chaired by Mr Rowse's wife Susanne.
Stage one is to move the buildings and it began last month. Stage two, to begin construction of the centre and car park, should be done by May.
"This is a really exciting time for those of us that have been involved in running community programmes here for seven years but have had to use really dated facilities.
"Our Sunday evening meals and games programme, along with the after-school club for kids and youth work, can now expand. We plan to also be able to provide many other services such as budgeting, counselling and a homework club for the local children.
"A local gym for the teens of the area is a possibility too. Community groups currently using our old hall, which will either be relocated or demolished, will find the new facilities much easier to use, especially the kitchen which has been kindly donated to us by a local Hamilton businessman.
"This centre would not have happened though without the extremely generous giving from the local congregations of West Hamilton Anglican Parish, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, St Mark's Nawton and other people who supported us in our vision of what could be here for the local people. Also we must thank the WEL Energy Trust, Trust Waikato and the DV Bryant Trust for their generous contributions."
Despite all the changes at the St Mark's site, the church building will remain unchanged.
"It's a pretty humble building," Mr Rowse said as he showed me the wooden interior. "It's not very ornate, but it is very dignified through the prayers of its people over the years."
A simple gold and red banner hangs over the altar with the words "St Mark's Nawton" embroidered above the picture of a winged lion, a centuries-old symbol for Mark the Evangelist.
Another, more familiar, picture adorns another wall. It's a colour print of William Holman Hunt's 1853 painting The Light of the World. The original hangs in the Keble College Side-Chapel, Oxford, in Britain.
"The artist began the picture when he was a little over 21 years old, but it was not until he was 29 that he finished it," reads the chapel's website.
"When he was nearly 70 years old, he painted a replica which hangs in St Paul's Cathedral, London. The replica is very much larger than the original, but the colouring and details are not so perfect."
The church's pews can seat 72 people.
St Marks holds two services every Sunday - a traditional service at 9.30am and a more family friendly service at 5.30pm.
"The church is full of life every Sunday night," Mr Rowse said.
An old piano sits in front of the altar and an electric organ stands in front of it.
"Sometime we have a guitar, but we don't have many musicians in the church."
Mr Rowse thinks St Mark's, built in 1955, is the second oldest Anglican church building in Hamilton next to the Waikato Cathedral Church of St Peter.
"Most congregations built their halls first, they worshipped in there. and there was a lot of that going on in the 1960s. All the other churches were built then."
But last month's move was not the first time the wooden weatherboard church was relocated.
It was built on land donated by a local family on nearby Avalon Drive, Te Rapa, and shifted to its current location in the late 1980s.
"Before they had the church building they worshipped in the old Nawton Hall. It was under the pastorate of Holy Trinity Church at Forest Lake."
Mr Rowse came to the parish six years ago after completing ministerial training at St John the Evangelist Theological College in Meadowbank, Auckland. He grew up in the church in Mt Manganui and studied religious studies and strategic management at Waikato University.
He started as curate at neighbouring West Hamilton Anglican Parish but had special responsibility for St Mark's.
"There had not been a vicar at St Mark's for five or six year," he said.
When his curacy ended about two years ago, he became a full vicar and moved his office to St Marks' hall.
It was a make-do affair, complete with a child safety gate at his door.
"On Sunday night this office becomes a creche.
"The focus has been on re-energising the church, building on what's already there, there's some really good people here, it's going great," Mr Rowse said.
He also serves as chaplain to Crawshaw School.
Spirituality is not just a thing that happens for him on a Sunday.
"Good news is good news to every aspect of life," he said.
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- © Fairfax NZ News
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