Over the last two decades we have seen a reduction in our rural population which has led to our communities being unable to sustain and support institutions established in earlier times. Dwindling congregations have meant that churches have been unable to support a full time minister.

The various churches have had to seek alternative ways to ensure that a service of worship is offered as regularly as possible. Often, with the support of their national bodies, this has seen the uniting of two congregations, thus easing the financial strain upon each separate congregation.

The amalgamation has meant the two churches contribute to the maintenance of only one residence, one church property and provide only one stipend. In other cases and with the the help of the wider church, local people have developed skills so that many paths to worship have been created.

The following is a brief history of how three churches have faced this problem and achieved a practical solution through amalgamation.

Knox Church, Cheviot

Knox Presbyterian Church in Cheviot has no been exempt from these problems. When a ministerial vacancy arises in the Presbyterian Church, an Interim Moderator is appointed with the task of guiding that church through the process of appointing a minister.

The Knox church has had periods from 1908 to 1946 when it has been unable to support a minister and during these periods became a Home Mission Station. In 1989 Knox again faced the problem of not being able to support a full time minister. They were, however, extremely fortunate to be offered the services of a Methodist minister, the Rev Ian Ramage who had retired and was living at Gore Bay. He served this Presbyterian congregation faithfully until 1991.

He developed of skills of the congregation knowing that the future of the church would depend upon these people as they assumed greater administrative and worship leading responsibilities.

During 1991 the Rev Irving Rutherford, the Interim Moderator for Knox, Cheviot, was in the United States where he met the Rev Bill Hayes who was about to retire and who offered his services to a congregation in another country for a period of two years. The Rev Irving Rutherford thought of Knox and so followed a very happy period when Bill and Betty Hayes were welcomed into a New Zealand parish in 1991 and introduced to the New Zealand way of life.

Eventually Bill and Betty Hayes had to return to the United States. It had been a dream of Bill's, whilst serving in Cheviot, to unite the congregations of St John's Anglican Church and the Knox church. Although it didn't happen, there was a strengthening of the ecumenical ties with an Ecumenical Worship Committee, which included St Anthony's Roman Catholic Church.

Worship continued weekly at Knox lead by John Grigor with the Rev Irving Rutherford once again assuming the role of Interim Moderator. It was during this period that the concept of sharing a minister with an urban church was born. Negotiations started with St James Presbyterian Church, Spreydon who were also seeking to call a minister yet unable at that time to fully support a full time minister.

Whilst it was comparatively easy to work out the logistics involved, it was becoming increasingly clear that the major difficulty would he in filling the vacancy. Finally, in June 1996, the Rev Irving Rutherford accepted the call becoming the minister for the urban parish of St James and the rural parish of Knox.

Although Knox Cheviot, were committed to sharing this ministry for a period of five years, there was an option to review after two years and the opportunity to withdraw at this time should either church wish to. There was, however, a feeling among some members of the congregation that the urban/rural link was not meeting the needs of the Parish. Thus it was that Cheviot initiated moves to link in with its rural neighbours. In 2011 the decision was made to merge the Cheviot and Kowai Parishes.

Kowai Parish

Like Cheviot, the Kowai Parish has had many changes in fortune throughout the years . Initially, the centre for the Presbyterian Church was at Sefton, which, in 1864, was part of the large Amuri Parish extending from Kaiapoi, in the south, to the Clarence River in the north.

It was under the pastoral care of the Rev Hogg. However in 1866 he transferred his headquarters from Kaiapoi to Sefton where a small cob house was built for him. Services were held regularly at Leithfield, Saltwater Creek, Ashley, Loburn and Mount Grey Downs as the Sefton area was then known.

In 1872 - 73, it was clear that the Amuri Parish was too large and the Sefton Charge was formed . This included Loburn, Ashley, Mount Grey Downs, Sefton, Saltwater Creek and Leithfield. The church at Ashley was completed and dedicated in 1872. In the same year , work was commenced on building a wooden church at Sefton. The church was dedicated on 11th June 1873 . The Sefton Charge was officially constituted and the Rev W.H. Homer was inducted. The present brick church at Sefton was built in 1905.

The church at Leithfield was built in 1872. The records show that the first marriage service in this church took place on 25th September 1873 . In 1951 the church was sold for removal.

In 1895, the Loburn area became part of the Rangiora Parish and the Sefton Charge extended to the Waipara River thereby including Amberley in the Sefton Charge. This is the first recorded mention of the church at Amberley.

In the Amberley Church there is a plaque "In Memory of Mr and Mrs Thomas McNaught founders of the church in 1883". Unfortunately there is no record of who administered the church or to which parish Amberley belonged . It is possible that it was only a preaching station. A retired minister, Rev W McGregor, was possibly engaged as a preacher only. Amberley therefore was able to function independently.

There followed an unsettled period for the church becoming a Home Mission Station in 1918. Regaining full status in 1921, but returning to a Home Mission Station in 1926. It was not until 18th December 1952 that the Parish once again was raised to full status.

In 1954 the Parish was renamed Kowai. This was during the ministry of the Rev Keenan. However, the woes of the Parish were by no means over. From 1974 till 1980, during the Rev MJ. Lewitt' s ministry, the Parish functioned only because of a grant from the Ministry Committee . In 1981, the Kowai Parish became part of the Rangiora Parish by amalgamation, and was known as the Rangiora Parish .

For most of this time there were two ministers serving the Parish. However, in 1993 Kowai was made a separate parish again with the minister based in Amberley. In July 1995 the Rev Verma Healy was appointed on a half time basis. She resigned in 1997 having accepted a call to serve as a full time minister in Kaikohe. After the Rev Verma Healy left the Rev Eric Mattock was appointed in 1999. The current Minister Nancy Jean Whitehead with appointed in 2008.

Waikari Parish

In 1879, Presbyterians living in the Waikari area approached the Christchurch Presbytery with the request that Presbyterian services be held in the area. The Rev C. Fraser conducted services in the Waikari School House.

The first church. St David 's, was built in Waikari in 1885 although the newly formed Parish was unable to support a resident minister. Thus for four years services were conducted by supply ministers until 1889, when the Rev J.McKellar was inducted. Unfortunately he had to resign two years later because there were insufficient funds to continue to pay his salary.

In 1897, however, the situation had improved and the Rev D.O. Rodger accepted the call. He not only increased the area under his charge but, within a year, was holding services at The Peaks, Masons Flat , Medbury, Hurunui and Waikari.

A new church was built at Horsley Downs in 1900, it was named St James. The Masons Flat congregation had previously met in the Masons Flat Schoolroom. As the village at Hawarden began to grow, it was proposed at a meeting in 1928 to move the church building to Hawarden. By February 1929, the move was completed and the St James Church. Hawarden was established on its present site.

In 1904, the Rev D.D.Rodger started services at Scargill. These were held in the waiting room of the Scargill Station thus establishing a link with the Presbyterians at Motunau. In 1911, a Home Mission Station was started in Motunau and it was approached by the Mission Station at Amberley for amalgamation. However, Motunau remained a part of the Waikari Parish.

The foundation stone of the church at Motunau was laid in 1929. When the Omihi Hall was built, services were held there. Later the Omihi and Waipara congregations joined together to be known as the Glenmark Parish. In 1946 permission was given to hold Presbyterian services in the Glenmark Church.

During the 1930s, the church at Waikari and Hawarden went through a period of financial difficulties. Presbytery urged amalgamation with Scargill-Motunau. Proposals went ahead and at a joint meeting early in 1939 an agreement was reached. Preaching places were arranged at Scargill-Motunau, Omihi, Waipara. Waikari, Hawarden and Medbury. The first minister of the new Parish was the Rev R. Dunn who was appointed in 1939.

During this period moves were made not only with regard to unifying the Parish but also to draw Hawarden and Waikari closer together. AI this stage it seemed that the parish was one in name only. The Annual Meeting was the only time that the Parish came together.

Under the leadership of the Rev K I Warren closer ties were developed within the Parish. He initiated more central meetings to consider the financial problems facing the Parish and was able to develop a stronger central Board of Managers.

The church at Hawarden was demolished and tenders for a new church were called in 1966 with the opening of the new church in 1967.

In 1972, the Methodist Church in Hawarden closed and its members agreed to join the Presbyterian Church. The last full time minister for the Waikari Parish was the Rev Euan Sutherland who left in 1985. The Rev Rodney Russ accepted the call working in the Parish on a two-third basis. He served until May 1989.

At this stage the Waikari Parish became involved with the Spreydon Baptist Church. The wife of the minister at that church was Marjorie Robertson who came from Hawarden. She learnt of the problems facing the Waikari Parish and realized that Spreydon Baptists could help as they had young couples who were available for lay supply. Mark and Barham Harrington served the Parish from May 1990 to December 1990. Ken and Alison Ford served from December 1990 until May 1992. There then followed a period when the Parish arranged its own services and was assisted with summer supply from Knox, Christchurch, for the next two years.

In February 1993, Bruce Hudson came as lay supply and served the Parish faithfully until January 1998. It was during his time in the Parish that Motunau Greta Valley Church was closed. St David's. Waikari held their last service on the 7th June, 1998.


Presbytery were concerned at the need to ensure that rural areas, unable to support a full time minister, should yet become viable parishes by linking together and sharing a minister. Presbytery intimated that Cheviot could possibly look to combining with Waiau.

This was, however, not seen as practicable by Cheviot and John Grigor had the vision to look south and explore the possibility of joining with the parishes of Kowai and Waikari-Hawarden.

It was agreed that members of the three congregations meet together to discuss the possibility of combining and sharing a full time minister. These meetings were held at the Greta Valley School under the chairmanship of the Rev Bob Reid from Rangiora. As members came to know each other more and to appreciate the different needs of the three parishes, so it became clear that this idea could work.

The Rev Don Wilson had retired to Leithfield and worshipped at St Andrews, Amberley. A smaller representative group working with Don Wilson and Bob Reid developed a proposal for discussion by the three congregations. The Rev Don Wilson agreed to accept the challenge of putting the proposal into operation to gauge its viability .

By May, 1998 it was clear that the organisation established by the Rev Don Wilson with support from the Lay Preachers within the parishes was viable not only with regard to worship and pastoral care but also the administrative details including finance would meet the needs of the three parishes. Therefore each parish appointed four representatives to meet as a Board of Nomination. These meetings were held at St Andrews, Amberley under the guidance of the Rev Bob Reid.

The Rev Bob Reid approached the Rev Eric Mattock who was the minister IfH the Kaeo Keri Keri Union Parish. On the 31st of January. 1999 Eric Mattock preached to the congregations of the three parishes worshipping together al St Paul's Glenmark. Following the normal procedures for calling a minister, the call tor Eric to become the minister for the three parishes was issued and accepted and the Rev Eric Mattock was inducted into service at the Glenmark Church on the 9th May 1999.