29 March 2020
150 years of History revisited
This month we begin the year long marking of the founding of this parish. We will spend some time looking back both to the beginnings and to our own memories of the parish. Old friends will come, people who have been part of our lives will be remembered and those who have come more recently will learn something of those people who have gone before.
Among other things during the year, we hope to mark the Dingwall connections, those who have been married and baptised in St Johns and St Philip Parish will be invited to special events and we would hope that some may review and reclaim their faith in new ways.
The parish has always been part of the community. It was accepted and expected that the church would be there for the new settlers, that the gospel of Jesus Christ would be proclaimed and lived and worshipping God would sustain the pioneers so far from their homelands. The site of St Johns church [then known as the charge of Otahuhu] became the centre for planting the parishes around it. Expansion was the natural way to grow as the number of settlers from Christian backgrounds increased, with new parishes being formed as the population increased. In 1855, the Papakura parish formed., in 1874 the Mangere parish was created, in 1910,Tamaki/Howick parish was created, in 1922 the Manurewa parish is formed. In 1927, the Otahuhu parish was separated off. Later, the Church of the Good Shepherd parish was formed from St Johns in the new suburb of Otara as people were settled from the city and immigrants from the Pacific Islands moved into the new housing area. Fields became housing areas and farms disappeared. The cultural mix started to change rapidly as the people who were used to a monocultural society found new languages and customs in their midst.
As part of these changes, the eight year old Congregational church at St Philips merged with the Parish of St Johns when most of the congregational church joined the Presbyterian church in 1969 [40 new members joined the then very large St Johns congregation].
St Martins was formed as a separate parish to meet the needs of the growing areas toward Mangere. Change has always been part of the life of the parish.
But one area we forget in the days of State education is that this parish was active in the provision of education following the patterns of the church in Scotland and England.
[from The History of the Presbyterian church of New Zealand 1840 - 1940 Elder]
"The Presbyterian pioneers of the Auckland Province set themselves to make available to the children of all denominations facilities for education. No matter how isolated the parish, the erection of a primary school was accepted as a responsibility by the local church elders, and half a century before the University of New Zealand made attempts to foster adult education, many backblock churches had their libraries where books were usually exchanged after the weekly service. That this valuable social work was accomplished, during a period of twenty years over an area comprising some three thousand square miles, is one of the most outstanding achievements in the history of the Dominion." This covers the years 1846 - 1866.
When you look at the photographs in the lounge you will see the pictures of the old schoolhouse which was the first school in the area. It is interesting to reflect that our present Adult education programme offered in conjunction with Aorere College as part of the present work of our community centre is in continuity with the original social services from the parish.
Our area is once again changing. Many of the new immigrants have backgrounds of other faiths and many more languages are spoken in the streets of Manukau City and the future will bring changes we cannot imagine. This month we give thanks for those who went before us as we remember what God has done among us in the past and gain a new perspective on what we do in the present.
May the rich blessings of Christ be yours
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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