A historic church comes to an end…

Memorial to Taranaki Troopers who fell in the South African War located at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Fortunately, we heard about the closing of the Taranaki Cathedral Church of St. Mary from our new friend June whom we met at Pak n Save last Wednesday. If we hadn’t heard about it, we would have missed an opportunity to see inside the church when Sunday was its last day open to the public. It was safari luck! Tomorrow, we’ll be visiting June’s registered historical home in New Plymouth with many photos to share soon.

The edge of the cemetery at the church.

Sunday was the last day the historic church’s doors would be open for public viewing. See detail below on the reasons for closing the beloved church:

The church’s paths and walkways are beautiful.

“Taranaki Daily News

NZ’s oldest stone church shutting its doors to the public                           

New Plymouth’s St Mary’s Cathedral is an earthquake-prone building and will be closing its doors to the public from Monday From left, St Mary’s Dean Jamie Allen and Bishop of Taranaki Archbishop Philip Richardson. New Zealand’s oldest standing stone church will be closed for earthquake strengthening from early next year.  

Sculptures on the grounds.

Following a decision from the Taranaki Anglican Trust Board this week, the Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary will be gradually closed by January 2016.  The church would be closed to the public and parishioners for several years. However, Trustees could not yet determine quite how many years it would be shut. St Mary’s Cathedral was first opened in September 1846 and is now the oldest standing stone church in New Zealand. The church meets only 15 percent of the current New Building Standard (NBS). A building is considered earthquake-prone if it does not meet 34 percent of the NBS.  Archbishop Philip Richardson, Bishop of Taranaki, said the news was expected, but it still brought a sense of sadness. 

Many residents and tourists visited the church on its last day.

Richardson presided of the Anglican Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki and said while the repair process would be lengthy and expensive, it was a better outcome than some parishes which have had to be closed completely. There are 15 buildings within the Diocese that have to be looked for seismic strengthening, he said.  Engineering reports were still being completed and until that information was available the Trustees could not work out the total cost or time it would take until the church doors could be opened again, Richardson said. 

The church had ample room for many parishioners.

The Trustees have agreed to a gradual closure, with the cathedral being closed to the general public from next Monday, and specified services being phased out by the end of January 2016.  Church dean Jamie Allen said it was hoped a final farewell service would be organized to allow the church community to give the space a proper send-off. 

The church was appointed with many artifacts.

Only the cathedral would be closed, so the church’s foyer and upstairs area would still be in use, he said. The church’s work in the community would continue but they would have to be more creative about how and where it would get done, he said.   There are 39 Anglican communities in Taranaki and other denominations in the region had also been forthcoming with offers for St Mary’s parishioners to use their space for larger events, like weddings and funerals, Allen said.”

It appears that each country we visit has a particular style of churches.

After our visit to the Farmers Market Taranaki, we headed to the church, hoping we’d be able to enter and take photos on its final day. As it turned out, the first of two final services were ending with another service commencing shortly afterward. 

A side alter.

Luckily, we were able to enter the church between the two services to see the interior and take a few photos.  As the oldest stone church in all of New Zealand, we were thrilled it worked out the way it did enable us to see the beautiful interior.

The priests/pastors were preparing for the second service.

The church was packed with sad parishioners many of whose families had worshipped in this historic building for generations. Mainly, senior citizens, we could easily detect the sorrow in their faces for the end of an era. 

Unique organ pipes.

Another building across the street will provide services for the displaced parishioners while multiple churches have offered to provide their facilities for funerals and weddings.

We always pay special attention to stained glass windows.

As we wandered the grounds, it was easy to sense the presence of its rich history, especially as we wandered about the cemetery. Although the church wasn’t of our faith, we didn’t stay for the next service but had ample time between services to see everything we wanted to see.

Massive oak tree on the church’s grounds.

A variety of interesting and unusual trees caught our attention inspiring us to share photos. Curious as to the variety of trees, with our pricey wifi at the moment, we can’t spend time searching for their names.

Support posts used to hold up the branches of the protected tree.

After we left the church, we drove to a new area of the countryside for a while, knowing we had to return home with the fresh fish in our insulated bag. New Zealand never disappoints. By following any road, we discover breathtaking scenery and treasures abundant in this land of plenty.

A giant knothole in the trunk of the protected tree.

Interesting tidbit for those in the northern hemisphere: Yesterday, kids went back to school after their summer break.

Street view of Taranaki Cathedral Church of St. Mary’s.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 2, 2015:

Even in beautiful known-for-sunny-days Hawaii, we experienced plenty of cloudy days, especially living on the Garden Island of Kauai, known for its almost daily rain. This didn’t keep us from continuing to explore the beaches.  For more details, please click here.