22 January 2021
Moving On and Looking Back
As we pass the buildings of St Philips to their new owners at the end of March 2005, we give thanks for the ministry of the parish done from the St Philips site. We also acknowledge the previous Congregational Parish, which brought St Philips buildings with their parish, into the St Johns Parish .
The St Philips Church started out as a Congregational church. People in the newly developing area gathered together as a small group for worship, one of the first places was in the lounge of the Tabor family. The visiting and hospitality of Betty Tabor was important in encouraging people to come. The little group from Papatoetoe sought assistance with church services and from World Communion Sunday 1958, the ministers of Beresford Street and Mt Eden Congregational Churches [parishes which merged with the Presbyterian church] led services twice a month. By 1960, the services were transferred to a hall. The Rev G. Jackson and Rev Leslie Brame, were among .those who helped the formation of the new congregation.
In 1961 the Congregational Union purchased a property on the Great South Road, Auckland, which included a house [the present Buckingham Crescent manse ]. A fellowship was formed and thanks to the generosity of people such as Gladys Hopkins, progress was made toward a church building. The foundation stone was laid in February 1964 and the opening Ceremony took place on 12th September 1964..
Ross Durham was called as the new parish?s first minister in 1963. A church hall was completed in 1965. Mr Durham left in 1967 to serve as stated supply to a Presbyterian Church in Invercargill.
At this time an oil-belching bus, called Dorcas [because she was full of good works], went around the new Otara area picking up people who needed transport to go to church [before the Ferguson Road PIC church was built]. Ted Tabor and Ken Guptill being among the drivers.
The Papatoetoe Playcentre started at St Philips and the crying room got well used in worship services.. The saying was that the ?only way you could avoid teaching Sunday school was to get pregnant again?.
Alan Bycroft followed Ross as Congregational minister in 1968. In 1969, the St Philips congregation had voted to enter the Presbyterian church as part of the merger between the Congregational Union and the Presbyterian church, and to be amalgamated with St Johns Presbyterian parish . The Presbytery of South Auckland expressed doubts about receiving a parish which was struggling and had a mortgage with it and voted by a very narrow margin to allow St Johns and St Philips to combine. The properties were transferred to the St Johns parish, under the care of the Church Property Trustees as part of the agreement. .
The New Zealand wide merger of the Congregational Union and the Presbyterian church involved the majority of Congregational churches and most of the congregational ministers became Presbyterian ministers including Ross Durham, Alan Bycroft and Ian Gordon [a later minister of St Johns and St Philips]]
Twenty one members [about 40 with their families] from St Philips were amalgamated into the roll of the 400 + strong Presbyterian Parish of St Johns, [data from our Session minutes] with Rev Alan Bycroft remaining on as a minister working with Rev David Bourne as they became the Presbyterian parish of St Johns and St Philips. Four elders from the St Philips parish, Ian Kendall, Derek Coe, Bruce Shearer and Ken Guptill, were elected to the new combined Session of the St Johns and St Philips parish as part of the agreement to accept congregational deacons as elders and they and their successors provided gifts and leadership for the new stage of the combined parish which were greatly appreciated over the years.. Ted Tabor, in particular served as a manger and an elder in the Presbyterian parish and spent many hours maintaining property, and working with PD workers at both the St Philips and St Johns sites and faithfully preparing the church for Sunday worship services at St Philips. . [Space does not allow, in this newsletter to mention the service many other people have contributed to the work from St Philips as a Congregational or as a Presbyterian church over the years..]
In 1983 Ross Durham, who had become a Presbyterian minister in the joining of Congregational and Presbyterian churches, and who had been well known and loved by the St Philips people, was called as a Presbyterian minister back to the combined parish. He remained minister of St Johns and St Philips until his retirement in 1995.
The buildings at St Philips have been used by many fledgling congregations over the years. . But since a recommendation made by a Session committee in 1989, there have been moves to consolidate the parish into one place. Worship services were held on Sundays at the St Philips church site, as well as St Johns church until September 2003 when the two parts of the parish joined to worship together at St Johns Church.
When the congregation made the decision in September 2004, that the plant at St Philips was surplus to needs, it was eagerly sought by about 50+ groups who met in the area of which 22 were various Christian groups. The rest of the inquiries were for community groups, developers, and other faith groups.
The original vision of St Philips people was to reach the new immigrants in the area . We see this being continued as we pass the buildings over to their new owner the Roman Catholic Bishop of Auckland for the Iraqi Chaldean church.
They have paid us a fair price of $1,300,000 for the properties of church, halls and manse.. This money is kept by the Presbyterian Church Property Trustees on behalf of our parish and is not for general use for parish running costs, only for capital works. .
We are very happy that this small [and at risk in the days of hostilities in Iraq] immigrant group is able to make their home as a Christian church and community in South Auckland at 505 Great South Road. They will be renaming the church with the name one of their own saints, as the St Philips name belongs to us.
Their origin is from the same area as Abraham, who travelled from Ur of the Chaldees [in today?s Southern Iraq]. They follow the Chaldean rite in Aramaic and are part of the Eastern part of the Roman Catholic church, but are Orthodox in practice.
We pray that God will use them and us to bring to our community the love of Christ which changes people and builds relationships of trust and love as we both make our journeys following Jesus into God?s work in Papatoetoe and Manukau City
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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