The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]
Auckland Baptist Tabernacle
Auckland Baptist Tabernacle. The first Baptist church in Auckland was formed in 1855. Of the fifteen who comprised its membership only two are now (January, 1901) alive; namely, Mr. R. B. Shalders, and Mr. W. Morgan. After many difficulties in the matter of the pastorate, the Rev. P. H. Cornford (now at Napier) took the oversight in 1862. A commodious chapel and school-room were erected in Wellesley Street, and the church flourished under the able ministry of its pastor. In 1876, Mr. Cornford resigned through failing health, leaving a prosperous cause which had more than doubled in numbers under his ministry. He was succeeded by the Rev. Allan W. Webb, from North Adelaide (now of Geelong, Victoria), who remained four years. Under his organising power and untiring energy, churches were formed at Ponsonby, Otahuhu, and Cambridge, and a new building erected for the branch church at Mt. Eden. Several agencies were formed, which did excellent outside work, such as the Young Christians' band, Bible classes, visiting, preaching, tract and other associations. Under his care the church added to its membership nearly 200 persons. On Mr. Webb's retirement, Rev. Thomas Spurgeon, who was visiting New Zealand, accepted the pastorate. The chapel at Wellesley Street being too small for the growing attendance, the Choral Hall was secured for evening services, and was crowded to overflowing. It was then decided to build a more commodious place of worship with school, bible-class, vestry, committee rooms, and other accommodation for the more successful carrying on of a church which had then risen to a membership of nearly 600. A splendid site of nearly an acre of ground was bought at the corner of Upper Queen Street and Karangahape Road. Owing to the donations of friends, the liberality of the members in continuous giving, a lecturing tour in Great Britain by the pastor, and the sale of the old church and premises, a magnificent building capable of seating 1,500 persons was erected, furnished, and opened free of debt at a cost of £14,000. During Rev. Thomas Spurgeon's pastorate the church and its agencies increased in members and influence and became the largest in the Australasian Colonies, having a membership of nearly 800. Owing to the ill-health of himself and wife, Mr. Spurgeon resigned the pastorate to the regret not only of his church but also the public of New Zealand. For a time he became travelling evangelist for the Baptist Union of this Colony. The change of work and travel secured to him a larger measure of good health and after supplying the Tabernacle at intervals, he left for England on the death of his father, the Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and succeeded to the pastorate of the Metropolitan Tabernacle of London. The rev. Wm. Birch, of Manchester, succeeded Mr. Spurgeon; but owing to differences with the church in doctrine and practice he occupied the position for less than two years. For a period of eighteen months the pulpit was supplied by ministers who willingly came on invitation from the church officers. In 1892, the Rev. James Blakle, of Victoria, succeeded to the pastorate and ably filled the position till 1896, when he resigned on account of ill-health. Rev. E. H. Soper, who came to the Colony to recruit his health supplied the pulpit for seven months. By this time on account of the many changes in the pastorate the membership was reduced to some 500 members and the congregation was similarly affected. At this juncture the church appealed to its late pastor the Rev. Thomas Spurgeon to secure a suitable minister. This appeal resulted in the acceptance of the pastorate by the Rev. Joseph Clark of Nottingham, England, who arrived in May, 1897. Since his advent, the church has increased in members and the congregation has been considerably augmented. Interest has increased, agencies have revived, and some of the vigour and activity of the years when Mr. Spurgeon was pastor are to be seen and realised. Mr. Clark is a man of many excellent gifts and under his ministry there is no doubt the church will regain its premier position and become a power for good in Auckland and the Colony.