Sunday, 5 August 2018

St John's Presbyterian Church, Rotorua.

Rotorua's 1st Presbyterian Church


From c.1892 Presbyterian services were held at the hall (Pukeroa) and various hotels and the school with visiting clergy until St John’s Church was built in 1896 on Pukuatua Street. 

Mrs Anne Robertson was a stalwart support for the faith in Rotorua from the time of her arrival along with Mrs Hall, Mrs Purcell, Mr F. Scott, Mr G. Thompson, H. McFadyen, H. Ross, Duncan Steele and J. Dalbeth.  

Ann Robertson laid the foundation stone on 31st October 1896, and the official opening took place on 7 February 1897 the Rev. R. Sommerville taking the morning service and Rev. D Ross the second service at 3pm followed by Rev. R. Sim in the evening at 7pm.

Published in New Zealand Herald 9th February 1923
With thanks to Papers Past


Rev. Donald Ross was the appointed minister for the first year but after that St John’s had no permanent minister for some time so the church was supplied with visiting ministers from the Auckland Presbytery. By 1901 the congregation and committee voted to offer a resident minister a stipend of £150 per annum and a manse.

However the first Manse was not built until 1904 and Rev. F. Stubbs and family arrived in October of that year. Sadly in March 1905 Mrs Stubbs died and the Rev. was left to carry on with his daughter as church organist. Finally in June 1906 Rev. Stubbs tendered his resignation and left Rotorua in March 1907.

After Rev. Stubbs left the Manse was rented out on a temporary basis, in April 1907. Unfortunately the Manse was burnt down in a suspicious fire on 13 July 1907, this did not deter the Committee and a new Manse was built by March 1908.

Published in Nelson Evening Mail 13th July 1907
With thanks to Papers Past.

Rev. Thomas Scott arrived to take up the ministry in early 1908. A tennis court was built behind the church in 1910 after a number of ladies had petitioned the committee to “combine the social with the spiritual, and to help keep our young people together”.

New responsibilities came when the Waikato Presbytery constituted the new “home mission district of Rotorua Outfields” with Mamaku as its centre. Mr Ernest Kedgley was appointed Home Mission Agent and he conducted services at Mamaku, Putaruru, Lichfield, Selwyn’s Mill, Te Pu, and Kaharoa.
St John’s Presbyterian Church continued in the same Pukuatua Street location with a number of different ministers.

Proud to be the church of choice for the reigning Monarch Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh along with members of the staff on 3 January 1954, the Rev. Mr A. Salmond presiding and HRH Prince Phillip participated in the service by reading from the Bible, from the book of Isaiah and from the book of Luke.  

All of the above information and much more can be read in the book “Step out in faith : a centennial history of St John’s Presbyterian Church, Rotorua 1896-1996/ by Phyllis Potter.