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Baptist meetings were held infrequently in Kaiapoi’s early years, and it was not until the turn of the century that this congregation displayed any strength. Small groups had met in private homes or the Institute Hall.
The foundation stone for their first church was laid on 25 March 1899, and the first service was held the following May. The Rev. W Lamb was the resident pastor. The Rev. W H A Vickery, who had come to New Zealand in the early 1920s, was their most well known pastor. He had had local body experience in England and had not intended to do so again, but was persuaded in 1927 to stand for the Kaiapoi Borough Council and in 1930 stood for the Mayoralty and was elected. He remained Mayor until 1941 when he was defeated, but was re-elected in 1945-1947 when he retired. During his Mayoralty he was very concerned with the effects of the Depression years.
A new church and social centre was built in 1977 on the same site after the old church had been dismantled. Most of the work was done on a voluntary basis.
The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses is in Hills Street, off Carew Street. A new Kingdom Hall was built over a weekend in 2005. Members came from far and wide to assist in the construction.
James and Sarah Baker arrived in Kaiapoi in 1853. They built a sod house somewhere near Otaki Street. This house became the centre of religious worship for Kaiapoi and was used by other denominations for services until they were able to build their own churches.
The first Wesleyan Church was opened in Fuller Street, just west of the present church on Easter Day 1860. Kaiapoi was part of the Christchurch Circuit and preachers came out to Kaiapoi. Otherwise local lay preachers conducted the services. Unfortunately, the building rocked badly during nor’west gales and had to be stabilised by buttresses to counteract the steep and heavy roofing.
In 1868 Kaiapoi, and the area to the north as far as Leithfield and west out to West Eyreton, formed a circuit separate from Christchurch, with the Rev. J B Richardson the first resident minister. I
n 1871 a new church on the site of the present building at the corner of Fuller and Peraki Streets was opened. This building was extended in 1877. The old church survived another twelve years and was used as a Sunday school. In 1882 a new Sunday school was erected on this site. This building was considered 'the model of a modern Sunday School' and lasted until 1975 when it was demolished.
Also at this time in Kaiapoi were two other branches of Methodism. The Bible Christians worshipped at what was known as the North Kaiapoi Church. This building was sold to the Clarkville Wesleyans when the Bible Christians joined with the Kaiapoi Wesleyans in 1891.In 1882 the Primitive Methodists opened a church in Raven Street, but only for a short time.
In 1896 the Wesleyans, the United Free Methodists and the Bible Christians united to form the Methodist Church of New Zealand. The Primitive Methodists joined in 1913.
The present church was opened in 1935. The architect was Mr R Lovell-Smith and the builder, W C Tourell of Kaiapoi. The lounge at the rear of the church was opened in 1978, and the latest extension was added in 2002.
The Kaiapoi Methodist and Presbyterian congregations joined together in 1979 to form the Kaiapoi Co-operating Parish. At first both church sites were retained but since 1996 all activities have been based at the Wesley Centre, corner of Fuller and Peraki Streets.
The church and parsonage are Category II on the Historic Places Register.
The building was listed as Category II on the Historic Places Register, but was demolished in November 2011 because of damage sustained in the Canterbury earthquakes.
A new youth centre was built in Sewell Street to the west of Williams Street and opened in February 1968. In 1976, the church was demolished and the land sold and all activities and services were then held in the St Paul’s youth centre.
The Presbyterians and Methodists joined to form the Kaiapoi Co-operating Parish in 1979. Church services were held in the Methodist Church, with other activities held at the youth centre. It was decided to concentrate all parish activities at the Methodist church in 1996 and St Paul’s was sold to the Waimakariri District Council for continued use as a community facility. This is now the Kaiapoi Community Centre.
The Rev. John Raven was appointed the first vicar for the district, including Rangiora, from 1853 to 1858.
St Bartholomew’s is Category I on the Historic Places Trust Register.
A new complex was opened in Fuller Street in 1978 and a new Presbytery opened in 1982 replacing the much larger house in Peraki Street.
Kaiapoi Museum file.
Hodgson, C W D - The Parish of Kaiapoi 1853-1982. Kaiapoi : The Parish, 1982.
Woods, Pauline - Kaiapoi : a search for identity. Rangiora : Waimakariri District Council, c. 1993.
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