Kaeo- Kerikeri Union Church’s new church and community facility is appropriately named Cornerstone, and it is to be community space with a spiritual heart.
The full name of the new facility is Cornerstone, Whare Karakia o Manako and it was officially opened on 17th December. “Church means people, church is our heart, and we really wanted to warm this heart on opening day,” says the Parish’s minister Rev Robyn McPhail. Robyn describes the new building as home for the Kerikeri Union Church and open home for the Kerikeri community.
“Its kaitiaki sustain the vision and values sourced from Christian faith. Every week we will be here praying,” says Robyn. “We want to keep those home fires burning.
The congregation invited the whole community and friends beyond the district to the opening. It began with a dawn blessing at 5:00am by Nau Epiha and Sid Kingi. Sid had blessed the land before earthworks began in 2015. Matua Nau led a procession of people onto the ground with his karakia tawhito asking. “He aha te ingoa o te whare?” (”What is the name of the building?”).
After Robyn responded, the cover was removed from the name plaque and all the lights in the building came on. The procession then moved into the building and around every room before settling in the worship area.
After an opening mihi, ecumenical prayers of blessing were offered by members of Methodist Te Taha Maori. These were supported by Anglican, Catholic, and Presbyterian ministers and people of Baha’i faith.
When the call came for breakfast, everyone was eager to sample offerings from a new, state-of-the art kitchen which, Robyn says, is just one of the practical features in the well-designed building. Around 200 people attended the daytime event, which was planned with the whole community in mind. Highlights included Maori played traditional conch instruments at the start of the celebration service, and MCNZ president Rev Prince Devanandan read a text from Philippians about the peace of God. (4 4:9).
Weaver Toi TeRito Maihi spoke about her “unifying” design for the clear glass feature window. Its weaving theme, centring on the cross, reflects the desire to bring fragmented, and often divisive, strands of the Kerikeri community together.
However, Robyn says, “People can link as loosely or tightly into the weave of the cross as they choose.” Following Toi’s address, everyone joined with Malcolm Gordon singing ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’. Then Presbyterian Moderator Rt Rev Richard Dawson told the story of the cross from the old Kerikeri Church. Its boldly coloured blocks were there in pieces, and while Richard talked, a team of young people worked with Assembly executive secretary Rev Wayne Matheson to reconstruct it. Sharing links and talking about why they were there was an important part of the opening for many people.
Enthusiasm was such that Robyn says, “it took the ringing of the bell to quieten us down.”
Deputy Mayor Tania McInnis shared her prayers for the years ahead. And Winston Peters was there. Talking was mixed with songs and prayers for the community and its different faiths. There were also moments of quiet reflection. After official greetings, piper Grant Robertson led everyone outside for the tree planting ceremony and then the unveiling of the plaque for the new church. A shared lunch completed the celebration.
The congregation has been without a church home for six years, but during that time it has never stopped being a church. “So there will be all sorts of adjusting,” says Robyn. The congregation is mostly older people, but that has changed during her 12 years as minister. Now there are new faces and more people taking an interest. Some are nonchurch people. A Fijian group celebrated New Year’s Eve at the church, and other groups have booked for the coming months.
Prince says he felt very much a part of the opening. He was impressed with the welcoming design of the new building. “Most important, the opening knitted the community with the people inside. The hope is that it will continue to grow as the Kerikeri community expands,” Prince says. The church’s future direction depends on sorting the needs of the community, “but whatever happens, the Lord will guide us,” Robyn says. “And if we can provide a space where good things are happening, we are doing His work.”
Hilaire Campbell written in Touchstone – read it here