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Saturday, January 11, 2014 - 7
Faith of our Fathers:
Old West Coast churches
The little old St Andrew 's
Anglican Church sits quietly
in Ahaura nowadays, idle on
the corner of Ahaura-Kopara
Road and Grey Street. After
closing in 2009 it was sold to
a Nelson concern and is now believed to be
owned by a Christchurch resident.
Ahaura's first St Andrews Church was
opened on January 25, 1876, with the first
vicar Reverend omas Flavell. e current
church was built in 1926, and the pulpit
replaced about 1980.
Former parishioners Jack and Barbara Becker
used to live next door to the church. Jack, a
former treasurer, still mows the lawns there
today, even though he has moved around the
corner and it is no longer a place of worship.
Barbara was the organist there for 25 years.
" e original parish for the church here was
Ahaura-Brunnerton and that came about
because it was part of Brunnerton," Mrs
e Beckers believe the current church is
the third to be built, the first on the existing
site, although it did not move very far --- the
original was just up the road.
With the doors firmly closed these days,
Ahaura Anglicans now have to head up to
Reefton to do their duty to God.
However, the shut up church of today is a
shadow of the importance it once held in the
" e parish was huge to begin with, it went
to Rotomanu, Haupiri, Dobson, Blackball,
Ngahere and Ahaura."
at meant big travels for the vicars, who
would spend most of their Sundays conducting
ser vices around the district. e last resident
vicar was Warren Hodge and after him,
Ahaura had visiting ministers.
e Sunday School was also well frequented,
with about 25 children attending at its peak.
In time, though, the church, like Ahaura
township itself, was victim to a moving
"In those days it was a regular congregation
because most people lived here and stayed
here," Mrs Becker said.
While it was a shame to see it close, she said
the signs had been clear in recent years with
only the stalwarts left.
"It had got down to just three of us going
at was from a congregation of 20-30
people at its high point, the Beckers recalled.
Mr Becker said: "It was sad to see it close,
but it was a sign of the times, mills closed and
people moved on."
He recalled the 1950s and 1960s, when the
church was holding its own.
"It was pretty active when I was on the
Rev Douglas Hay recalled life at Ahaura
in the booklet Glimpses of the Grey Valley.
In 1923 he found the vicarage covered in
blackberry vines. He set about clearing the
bush and replacing rotten boards. In January
1925, he documented the church burning
down in a blackberry fire.
"We lost everything. All that remained was
the old chimney, sticking up dauntless from a
jumble of burnt and twisted iron."
Rev Barry Loveridge recalled a few memories
from his time as vicar of Ahaura Brunnerton
"In Ahaura, in 1963, the decision was made
to renovate the vicarage and enlarge the
building, adding a bedroom and a study.
"...After considerable effort and many
welcome donations of time and labour,
the extended house was completed and
officially dedicated by Bishop Hulme-Moir,
whose words on seeing the extensions and
improvements were: 'What a transformation'."
At the church centennial in 1976, Rev
Loveridge had high hopes for the future.
" e future is not ours to know, but with
increasing farming in Ahaura and other parts
of the (Grey) Valley, and the planting of
exotic forests to replace milled-over beech and
rimu forests, there will be work and industry
for many, and where there are people, there
God will be honoured and worshipped, and
ministry will be needed."
St Andrew's Church, Ahaura
Now closed, the Ahaura Anglican church has seen plenty of people pass through its
doors over the past 100 years or so. NICHOLAS McBRIDE spoke to two long-time
parishoners who remember the glory days.
Centennial celebrations in 1976.
e former St Andrew 's Anglican Church in Ahaura today. It is now closed and in private ownership.
e Ahaura church in the 1960s.
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