By Mick Jensen
id Canterbury’s oldest operating church still holding regular weekly services is 140 years old and a special service is planned for March 17.
The 10am service at St Andrew’s, Tinwald, will be officiated by the new Bishop of Christchurch Diocese, the Rt. Rev’d Dr Peter Carrell, and is expected to be well attended.
The building of a church in Tinwald was approved in October 1878 and a tender of 430 pounds accepted by the Anglican church.
The following year, and on St Patrick’s Day, the church was dedicated in the name of St Andrew and began hosting services.
The church’s first vicar was the Rev. R F Garbett and a bell and font were sourced in 1882.
St Andrew’s Tinwald has a regular congregation today of between 22 and 30.
Dozens of vicars have come and gone over the years and in more recent times community backed volunteers have stepped forward for on the job training and to perform the role of total ministry priests.
One of those is Lois Ranson, who takes regular services alongside 92-year-old Surrey Lamont.
Mrs Ranson said her association with the “darling wee church” went back to 1951.
She was married in it, services for her late parents had been held there and her children christened there.
Last year she officiated at her son’s wedding in the church, she said.
“I have a lot of fond memories over many years and the church has been a big part of my life,” she said.
Vicars had come and gone over the years and some “have had more impact than others”.
Most had been men in the past, but more recently they were mainly women.
Mrs Ranson said the congregation had diminished over the years, but in its heyday the church had been full to the rafters with over 100 worshippers.
She said the centenary celebration at the church had been a very big affair and there had also been a celebration at 125 years.
As well as the church, the Anglican Church owns the nearby church hall and also eight flats over the road.
Regular church goer Kevin Stewart said income from the flats had provided useful funds to support church operating costs over the years.
The church itself was in good condition, he said.
Its original wooden structure had been plastered over a number of years ago and apart from a few plaster cracks, the church had escaped relatively unscathed from the Christchurch earthquakes.
Mr Stewart said he had a life-long association with the church, having been christened there.
He remembered busy harvest festivals, nativity plays, Easter services and good numbers at the Sunday School.
Today’s congregation was a mix of long time worshippers and some newcomers.
He said the social climate was different these days, but the church was still there for the community and still hosted its share of weddings, funerals and christenings.
St Andrew’s, Tinwald merged with St Stephen’s, Ashburton around three years ago. Both are overseen by priest in charge Joan Clark.
The service to mark 140 years of St Andrew’s will be followed by a lunch in the nearby church hall. For catering purposes, people are asked to confirm attendance to the (St Stephen’s) church office by calling 308 5438.