Christchurch’s largest multicultural Presbyterian church will benefit from a Christchurch City Council heritage grant of $638,000 for maintenance and strengthening work over the next four years.
St Paul’s Trinity Pacific Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Cashel and Madras streets, is seen as both an historic gem and a cultural safety net for the Pacific Island community. It has been a place of worship in Christchurch for more than 130 years.
It is listed in the Christchurch City Plan as a Group 1 protected heritage item and is also registered by the Historic Places Trust as a Category I Historic Place.
The grant, approved at today’s Council meeting, will fund 50 per cent of the estimated cost of the upgrade. An extensive scope of works is proposed, including seismic upgrades, all of which are considered to be essential for the future protection and continuing use of the building.
The allocation of the first quarter of this grant means the Council’s total heritage incentive grant fund for 08-09 has been allocated, part of an overall heritage spend for the year of $5.5 million.
The first St Paul’s Church, a timber structure designed by architect Samuel Farr, was built on a site fronting Madras and Lichfield Streets. In 1871 the Presbyterian Church Trustees bought the neighbouring section fronting Cashel Street, and in 1873, the present site of the church on Madras and Cashel streets.
The timber church was considered too small for the growing congregation and
Farr designed a new St Paul’s which opened on 28 October 1877. It was designed to accommodate up to 1200 people, but was so well attended that people had to sit on the pulpits during the morning and evening services.
St Paul’s functioned as a congregational Presbyterian Church for 92 years until it merged with the Trinity-Pacific Church in 1969. It is now the largest multicultural Presbyterian Church in Christchurch
Rev Lapana Faletolu, of St Paul's , says that today 5% of church members are European, 5% are Niuean, 5% are Cook Island, and 85% Samoan. Most of the congregation is under 45 years old.
“They come from all over Christchurch to worship together in English in the morning then in their own languages at different services in the afternoon.
“The grant ensures not only the safety of all those who use the building or work and recreate near the church, but also it helps bolster the future of some 300 families from a unique Pacific blend who have been a part of Christchurch for many years and have only now asked for help.
“This church is our children's and grandchildren's safety net and one of this city's historic gems so we believe the grant benefits everyone, ” he said
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the Council was delighted to support the protection of an historic building of such religious significance to the city, and to the Pacific Island community.
“The building is of considerable architectural significance to the heritage fabric of the city, but the special multi-cultural nature of the St Paul’s congregation makes it a precious place of worship and support for Pacific Island families and young people.”
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Samuel Charles Farr (1827-1918) migrated to Canterbury in 1850. He was also commissioned to design all the Presbyterian churches in Akaroa, Lyttelton, Kaiapoi, Leeston as well as three in Christchurch. Farr also designed many commercial buildings and hotels within central Christchurch, as well as George Moore’s homestead at Glenmark, North Canterbury.
St Paul’s has contextual significance in relation to other heritage listed places along Cashel Street and also the proximity to Latimer Square. It is also within the proximity of Christchurch’s most famous classical-designed church, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on Barbadoes Street.