Focus on the Land
Church has to be demolished
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
RUATORIA’S St Francis Anglican church is the latest church listed as an earthquake risk and will be demolished.
The masonry and brick church is one of many in the district that have had to be addressed because of earthquake risk — some have been fixed and some sold out of church ownership.
East Coast Anglican parish missioner Reverend Stephen Donald said the Ruatoria church was “a crumbling 1950s building on a beautiful site above the township.”
Without a total rebuild of walls and floor, demolition was inevitable.
In its time it was a well-used parish hall and vicarage on the same land gifted by Hera Ngawati Edwards. Mr A.B. Williams of Puketiti Station was largely responsible for the construction of the church and hall.
From the 1960s it was obvious the reinforcing at St Francis Church was deteriorating, said Rev Donald.
“The cinder block walls were crumbling and the concrete slab floor was in trouble.”
The church has west-facing windows behind the altar, which once looked out on Mount Hikurangi, but trees have since obscured the view.
“The building is plain and utilitarian but probably quite innovative for its time,” says Rev Donald.
The cathedral ceiling is lined with Oregon pine recycled from the Tokomaru Bay freezing works.
“This gives great acoustics.”
Memorial plaques from Kariaka Church installed in St Francis church in 1954 will be relocated, as will pews and other furnishings.
One of the church’s unique features, a John Hovell painting of St Francis, fixed to the outside wall in the 1990s, will be relocated to the church hall.
Rev Donald said St Francis was built during a time of great optimism, when farming was booming.
“Re-afforestation, farm amalgamations, urban drift and increasing secularisation mean churches in rural areas struggle with falling numbers and rising costs.
“We’re faced with huge challenges across the whole parish, and especially at St Francis, with a crumbling building and no congregation.
“It’s always sad to see a church close.
“We’ve consulted with the Ruatoria community, who are obviously sad but realistic about our options.”
A thanksgiving service will be led by Bishop of Waiapu David Rice at St Francis at noon on Friday.
DUST TO DUST: Built in the 1950s, St Francis Church, Ruatoria, has not withstood the test of time and has to be demolished. A closing service will be held at the church at noon on Friday. Picture by Stephen Donald
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