Keen to preserve the earliest original wooden church in Wainuiomata, a group of locals, many descendants of people buried in the graveyard, formed the Wainuiomata Pioneer Church Preservation Society in 2006 and started fundraising in earnest. The small church on Coast Road was built on land donated by settler Richard Prouse in 1860. He had heard of the Wesley faith shortly before departing England for New Zealand in 1839, and vowed that if he prospered in the new land, he would build a church as a token of thanksgiving. By 1863 a "plain, unlined church" built from native totara and matai timber pit sawn on the site was holding services. Our group of SLG friends enjoyed an afternoon trip to learn all about this lovely little church.
As the town's population increased, the congregation eventually outgrew the modest building and the last regular church services ceased in 1958, and was used by the Art Society for many years. The Preservation Society has done a wonderful job is a short space of time, bringing the painted interior back to the original warm native timber. Extra pews were purchased from a church damaged in the massive Christchurch earthquake, and funded by the generosity of a local business woman. The windows have been re-puttied, native timber was sourced to repair holes in the walls, carpet has been laid, and the church has been given a new lease of life.
We were then taken on a tour of the graveyard by one of the society members who was appropriately dressed in period costume. As she related stories of the early settlers the rain came down, and the brollies went up.
“Adopt a Grave” is an innovative way for the society to raise funds and create interest in the church, after the earlier success of “Adopt a Pew” . The society has achieved such a lot as it is only a year since the church has been reopened. Although no longer a consecrated church, it is available for hire for all kinds of ceremonies. Congratulations to this bunch of enthusiastic people for their dedication in preserving a piece of local history. Our visit concluded with afternoon tea in the church, including delicious home made pikelets.