Looking to the Future


Durham Street 150th chance to rekindle pioneer spirit

Organisers say the 150th anniversary of Durham Street Methodist Church is not only an occasion to celebrate but also a chance to recapture the confidence and enthusiasm of the congregation’s founders.


On the weekend of October 25th-26th Durham Street Methodists will mark the milestone. Events will include a bus tour of the Christchurch central business district, an anniversary dinner, a service of celebration, and a music concert.

Durham Street Methodist Church music director Wallace Woodley is one of the organisers of the event.  Wallace says the original Durham Street Church was the first stone church on the  Canterbury Plain and was completed just 14 years after European settlement of the region.

“The church was designed for 1200 people, which was about a quarter of the population of Christchurch at the time,” Wallace says.

“That indicates the early Methodists’ confidence and the vision they had for the future.  We need to have a similar vision as we set out to re-establish an inner-city presence.”

Among the major milestones in the life of the congregation were the wreck of the ship Tararua en route to the Melbourne Conference in 1881, the opening of the Aldersgate complex in 1967, and amalgamation with Methodist Central Mission in 1973.

Wallace says a bold vision of social justice has also been part of the Durham Street congregation’s legacy.  Major figures in Te Haahi Weteriana such as Rev Dr Raymond Dudley, Rev AshleighPetch and Rev Selwyn Dawson led the congregation during the middle of the 20th century.

Music has played a central role in the life of the parish.  The Durham Street Methodist Choir has made a number of recordings over the years, and the pipe organ installed in 1907 was the one that employees of the South Island Organ Company were salvaging when the church building collapsed in 2011, killing three of them.

The events to mark the anniversary begin Saturday Oct 25th.  At 2:00 p.m. people will gather at the site of the former church, where a commemorative plaque will be unveiled.

From there a bus tour around the city centre will show guests the effects of the quakes on inner city churches and major buildings. The tour will stop at St Marks Church in Christchurch South, where there will be a historical display.

That evening the anniversary dinner will be held in at the Lincoln Event Centre in Lincoln.

On Sunday St Marks is again the gathering place.  At 10:00 a.m. there will be a celebratory service led by Rev Dr Mary Caygill and Wallace Woodley.  A lunch will be held in the adjacent hall, and at 2:00 p.m. there will be a festive concert that includes instrumental, choral and vocal items.

A selection of CDs produced by the Durham Street Methodist Choir (including items transferred from vinyl) will be for sale.

Active and former choir members are invited to join the augmented choir for the Sunday morning and afternoon performances.

For information or to register contact Judith Prosser, 309 Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch 8013 / judith.prosser@gmail.com / 03 379 1828.

Registrations are due by September 25th.

From Touchstone, September 2014, p. 9


Durham Street congregation envisions return to inner city Christchurch

As they prepare to celebrate their 150th anniversary the congregation of Christchurch’s Durham Street Methodist Church is very much looking to the future.

After years of wrangling over insurance monies and discussions among themselves and with other congregations to create a vision for their high-profile central city site, the Durham Street Methodists have prepared a strategic plan and are beginning the process of getting consents for their buildings.

Rev Mary Caygill says the congregation intends to redevelop its former site destroyed in the February 2011 earthquake, not to restore the past but “to meet the changing needs for ministry in a re-energised city.”

“We see a place for a spirituality centre in the city, and we are prepared to work with other inner city parishes, ecumenical groups and other faith groups who are willing to embrace partnership to sustain a presence there.”

Mary says whereas previously the Durham Street Church was across the street from the city’s courthouse, under the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, it will be near the culture and performing arts precinct. Ngai Tahu‘s Te Puna Ahurea will be located across the street and the proposed convention centre and existing Town Hall are nearby.

This location provides the congregation opportunities to provide hospitality and spaces that can be used for public events.

“Durham Street is a gathered, questioning congregation. Our members seek to expand theological boundaries, and we want to be a place that welcomes people who have not found a place in the traditional church.

“Our plans now include a partnership with St Luke’s Anglican Church, which has a similar theology and approach to inner city ministry to ours. Prior to the earthquakes, St Luke’s had an active ministry relating to the needs of various people within the inner city.

“While our two congregations have very different styles of worship, we are compatible and affirming in our diversity, and our commitment to relate to the emerging inner city context,” Mary says.

Christchurch Central Parish’s Durham Street site was formerly home to the Durham Street Church, a. parsonage, and the offices of the Christchurch Methodist Mission. The Mission has relocated its offices to Christchurch North, and the parsonage will soon be demolished as the Parish has purchased a new church house.

The strategic plan currently calls for two worship centres on the site. St Luke’s would lease the smaller chapel while the Methodist Congregation would use the other worship space. It will have a flexible design so that it can suit small or large gatherings, and it will be available for other faith community groups.

Other spaces on the site could be used for music performances, seminars, meeting rooms, lectures or other public events. The new complex will include offices that could be used by the Synod or ecumenical groups, and it is possible that a part of it could be leased for commercial purposes.

“The Bishop has given her blessing for St Luke‘s to continue their conversation with us. We will not enter into a formal union but they will maintain a presence at our site and contribute financially,” Mary says.

“Our facility will not be used for big civic occasions, which is the role of the Anglican cathedral, but it could be used for events associated with the arts and performance precinct.

“We will also seek ways to address the bigger social justice and welfare issues facing our community. We expect to maintain a vital connection with the Methodist Mission, even if their main offices are elsewhere.”

Currently the Parish is doing a ‘bulk and location study’, which will determine the size and location of the buildings that can be built on the site. It will be completed before the end of the year and then architectural plans can be prepared.

From Touchstone, September 2014, p. 9


For an account of the 150th Anniversary celebrations, visit 150th Anniversary.



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