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Illustrated Guide to Christchurch and Neighbourhood

Church of England in New Zealand

Church of England in New Zealand.

The foundation of "The Church of England in New Zealand" in Canterbury is coeval with the foundation of the settlement. To plant it here in all the completeness of arrangement and detail that existed at home was one of the aims of the first settlers, most of whom were enrolled under its banner. Each of the first ships brought out amongst its passengers clergymen of the Church, who may be said to have commenced their duties to their new flock immediately on leaving London.

Early on Sunday, the 22nd December, 1850, six days after the first of the pioneer ships entered Lyttelton harbour, the first ordinance or the Church was held in the new settlement, Early Communion being celebrated in a store used temporarily then and for a few months afterwards as a church. Morning and evening services were also held on the same day, the Rev. H. Jacobs (now the Ven. the Dean of Christchurch) preaching sermons to a crowded and attentive congregation, which included several Maories. The services were choral, several of the new arrivals being well accustomed to church music.

In a very few months the settlers in Christchurch had arranged for Divine worship on the plains, and first a V hut, then a building, still standing near St. Michael's Church, were erected in July, 1851. "St. Michael and All Angels" was subsequently consecrated on September 29th, 1859.

In the mean time the foundation stone of Lyttelton Church had been laid in April, 1852, and in January, 1853, the building was opened for Divine service. It was originally intended that this should have been the Cathedral, but the subsequent growth of Christchurch led to a change of plans. This church, after it had been up a short time had to be pulled down, the timbers having warped and shrunk to such an extent that it was unsafe. It was rebuilt, and the new one, the present "Holy Trinity," was opened in April, 1860.

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In December 1854, the settlement haying considerably grown, it was divided into five parishes, viz:—Lyttelton, Governor's Bay, Akaroa, Kaiapoi and Christchurch, each with its church, parsonage, and school-house.

In November, 1855, the Endowment Fund haring grown sufficiently large, it was decided at a meeting held in Lyttelton to memorialise Her Majesty, beseeching her to nominate a bishop for the settlement. The Rev. Mr. Jackson had some time previously been looked upon as the bishop-designate, and he actually visited the colony, but whether he declined the office, the endowment at the time being small, or whether those here declined to have him to reign over them we cannot say. Certainly he never was appointed. The result of the memorial was that the Rev. H. J. C. Harper, D.D., was consecrated Bishop of Christchurch. He arrived here on the 23rd December, 1856, and was installed on the 25th of the same month.

Christchurch grew so rapidly that the want of increased church accommodation was soon felt. St. Luke's was built in 1859, and was for some time a "Chapel of Ease" to St. Michael's, it not being till 1867 that the separate parish of St. Luke's was formed. St. John the Baptist's was consecrated on the 27th December, 1865 (St. John the Evangelist's day), the first stone having been laid with due masonic rites. The parish was formed towards the end of the year 1865.

In the meantime population in the suburbs had been increasing, and Opawa, Riccarton, Papanui, and Avonside each had their neat little church, capable of seating from 200 to 400 persons. The land for the Avonside Church was presented to the parish by the Rev A. Bradley, and the glebe of six acres adjoining was the gift of the Rev A. Mackie, the first incumbent.

The second great event in the history of the Church in Canterbury was the laying the foundation stone of the Cathedral on the 16th December, 1864, by the Bishop of Christchurch. The day was observed as a public holiday, and the full strength of the clergy, with representatives of all political, friendly, and other bodies, in and about Christchurch, attended, the ceremony. Under the foundation stone, besides the usual papers and coins, were placed two parchments, one containing an English and one a Latin inscription; the Latin one, composed by the Ven. the Dean of Christchurch, is as beautiful a specimen of composition as could be written, and was highly spoken of as a piece of most elegant writing by professors at the University of Oxford when it was seen by them. They were as follows:— page 44

+ In honorem sanctæ trinitatis +
Patris, Filii, Spibittus Sancti.
Hunc Lapidem Angularem
Ecclesiæ Cathedralis Ædis-christI, in urbe Æde-Christi,
Posuit Vir admodum Reverendus
Henricus J. C. Harper, S.T.P.
Primus Ædis-Christi Episcopus;
Civitatis Cantuariensis Natali Die Quatuordecimo,
Die Decembris XVImo
Anno Victoriæ Reginæ XXVIIIVo
Redemptionis nostrœ
Circumstante Clero Populoque
Et grato animo recordante
Quot et quanta beneficia Deus O:M:
Omnium bonorum Auctor,
Britanniæ filiis, hanc novam patriam colentibus, largitus sit,
Et summâ vi nitentium
Alteram ut Angliam matre non indignam condant,
Spes et consilia
Quam prospero usque adhuc eventu secundaverit;
Necnon et precante,
Sicut universa Christi Ecclesia immota manet in Saxo fundata
Et usque ad mundi finem est mansura,
Ita Ædes Christi hoc Lapide Angulari innixa
Invictæ in Christum fidei inconcussæque
In omnes futuros annos
Testis exstet firma, pulchra, nobilis, conspicua.
Ab initio usque ad exitum hujus Operis
Adsit Deus,
Laborique nostro faveat propitius
Laus Deo.

+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

+ To the honour and glory of Almighty God, and in the name and for the advancement of Christ's Holy Catholick and Apostolick Church, on the XVIth day of December, in the year of our Lord Jesus mdccclxiv, this chief corner stone of the Cathedral Church, of the Diocese of Christchurch, is laid by

The Right ReverendHenry J. C. Harper, D.D.

(First Bishop of Christchurch),

assisted by the following persons, appointed by the Synod of the Diocese to serve as a Cathedral Commission, namely, the Venerable Henry Jacobs, M.A., Archdeacon of Christchurch; the Rev. James Wilson, M.A.; His Honor Mr. Justice Gresson; the Honourable Henry John Tancred, M.L.C.; Alfred Charles Barker, Esquire; Charles Robert Blakiston, Esquire; Cyrus Davie, Esquire; Richard James Strachan Harman. Esquire; James George Hawkes, Esquire, M.P.C.; George Holmes, Esquire; Grosvenor Miles, Esquire; George Arthur Æmelius Ross, Esquire, M.P.C.

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This Cathedral Church is to be erected from the Designs and. Drawings of

George Gilbert Scott, Esquire, R.A.,

Architect, London, England,


Robert Speechly, Esquire, M.R.I.B.A.,

Resident Architect, Christchurch.

+ Glory to God in the Highest, On Earth Peace, Good will Towards Men.

From one cause or another the erection of the Cathedral was delayed for several years, when a portion was commenced, which was opened with special services, at which the assistance of a choir of seventy voices was obtained, in November, 1881.

Gradually, with the growth of the settlement, the Church has extended the circle of its duties, till it has now in the Diocese (exclusive of Westland) 76 churches, 31 parsonages, 45 Sunday-schools, and about 14,000 Sunday scholars.