Last rites for tiny country church

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By Mick Jensen

Another Mid Canterbury rural church is shutting its door for good, with Lauriston’s Presbyterian Church set to hold a final service this Sunday.

The church was officially opened on May 26, 1904 and its 400 pounds cost was covered by the community.

Presbyterian church officials, including Methven Minister Rev BJ Westbrook and Rev G Inglis from St Andrew’s in Ashburton, travelled out to the dedication service.

The acre plot of land on which the church sits was donated by wealthy farmer James Johnston and those supporting the project included Lauriston farmer Andrew Letham.

The church sits between Lauriston’s hall and its school and has been an important meeting and worshipping point for families over many years.

Dwindling numbers over the years have forced the local church community’s hand and they have now elected to close it.

Churchgoer and amateur historian Laura Cairns (nee Scarth) attended church with her family as a child and later with her own family and has a number of fond memories.

“Our family pew was on the back row and my future husband’s family sat in front of us,” Mrs Cairns said.

She was later married in the church and both her children were christened there.

Closure was a sad moment in the history of the church, she said.

Mrs Cairns said there had been good community support for the church when it was being built over a 100 years ago.

It had helped that 1903/4 had been a good year for farmers and they had generously chipped in.

The church included a vestry at the back and also a roll of honour.

Plans to build a manse on another one acre block of land had never materialised, even though they had been mooted at earlier Presbyterian meetings, Mrs Cairns said.

Mrs Cairns said she remembered regular services when growing up and both a day and night service in summer.

Another fondly remembering the church, and with a 37 year association, is Lauriston local Annette Maw.

Her two children and both grandchildren have been christened there, and her husband’s sister was married there, she said.

Mrs Maw said there would be a big spruce up of the church ahead of Sunday’s final service.

Methven Minister Rev Arii Taimataora would take the 10.30am service and it was hoped for a good turn out.

Anyone with an association with the church and Lauriston in general was very welcome to a bring a plate for lunch afterwards in the hall. A photographic exhibition would be on show and any contributions to it were welcome on the day.