Rev Heather Kennedy led a “leave-taking” service at the Ashburton Baring Square Methodist church hall.
The hall, and the nearby Ashburton County Council building, will be demolished to make way for the Ashburton council’s $51.6m civic centre and library.
The work is expected to take several months.
Rev Kennedy said the hall (and the adjoining church, which will be strengthened and modified) had seen many sad and happy moments.
Members of the Methodist congregation used the hall after the church was damaged in the 2010 Canterbury earthquake, but when the ground on which the hall sat was bought by the council, members moved services to Paterson’s funeral chapel.
Rev Kennedy said it was hoped work on the church would begin early next year and that the church could be in use again by 2021. The church will also have meeting rooms (and a kitchen) which can be used by the public.
The foundation for the hall was laid in 1960, and the demolition manager, Jeff Hingston, gave Rev Kennedy a time capsule which was unearthed from a wall in the hall office.
He used a reciprocating saw to cut off both ends of the aluminium tube – it held plans, and copies of The Press and The Methodist – and a parishioner’s ‘s walking stick was used to ease the documents out.
Rev Kennedy said prayers of thanks, and that the revamped church would also be a suitable a venue for small events. Mayor Donna Favel thanked members for the ease of their dealings with the council.