A place and a community where stories of faith are heard

Post date: Feb 23, 2015 4:8:7 AM

Yesterday (22 Feb) was the 4th anniversary of the Chch earthquake and also the 175th anniversary of the day the first Presbyterian service was held on Pito-one (now Petone) beach. Settlers from Scotland came on a ship called the Bengal Merchant. They left Glasgow in October 1841 and dropped anchor in Wellington harbour on the night of 21 February 1842. The next morning the group came on shore and as a group had a service of worship. History tells us there were 30 married couples, 23 single men, 6 single women, 16 children under nine, 4 between nine and fifteen, and 13 under one year. One birth and one death occurred on the voyage.

The departure of this ship was viewed in Scotland as an historical occasion with the Lord Provost of Glasgow going on board and addressed the passengers just before the departure. One of the important passengers was Rev. John Macfarlane the minister who lead the the passengers and crew in worship each Sunday.

I've said before I am in awe at the courage of the early NZ pioneers. After 16 weeks at sea would having (another) church service be my first priority?

Anyway these hardy souls formed the first Presbyterian community in New Zealand (years before Otago) and the Rev John Macfarlane is named as the first Minister of St Andrews. The community that worships as St Andrews on The Terrace traces directly back to those settlers on Petone Beach.

So yesterday was a special celebration for the community - marking the start of a commemorative year. Leading the service was a trio of academic ministers joined by me to serve communion.

One of the important things for me about being part of a church is about having a sense of those who have gone before and hoping to create a community that might be welcoming for those coming after me. In the service yesterday this was described as a place and a community where stories of faith are heard. Services like yesterday are a very tangible reminder of the strong links we have to the past. The responsibility for creating a community for the future feels a bit more challenging.