06 Jan 2013

 
Written by: Jess Lee
Photo by: Jess Lee
Published: Auckland Now – 16 January 2013

PRAYING FOR A MIRACLE: Congregation member Wayne MacDonald is hoping St Stephen's will remain open

PRAYING FOR A MIRACLE: Congregation member Wayne MacDonald is hoping St Stephen’s will remain open

It will take more than prayers to save the 130-year-old St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Ponsonby, a congregation member says.

Herne Bay resident Wayne MacDonald is willing to put up a fight against the closure of the category two historic building as the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa NZ makes a nationwide assessment of its earthquake-prone buildings.

Late last year the congregation learnt the church may be forced to close because of dwindling numbers and expensive earthquake-strengthening bills.

Paying to safeguard the building would cost in excess of $500,000, something the parish cannot feasibly afford with only about 40 members.

St Stephen’s is one of up to 30 Presbyterian churches in Auckland facing similar problems.

”It would be a shame for it to close without a fight,” MacDonald said.

”It’s part of the character of Jervois Rd. I could see them knocking it down and putting in high rise apartments like they’re doing now in other parts of town.”

The presbytery council executive made the decision to dissolve St Stephen’s ministry settlement board in December and establish a presbytery commission which would review the congregation’s future.

The church being on the Historic Places Trust register does not prevent it from being altered or sold.

Heritage campaigner Allan Matson said developers could buy the site and demolish the building.

”It’s a goner if someone wants to get rid of it. Under-assessed heritage, seismic upgrade requirements and intensification – everything is conspiring to allow things like this to get demolished.”


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