“The extensive use of glass makes us transparent to the world and we’ve made a proclamation that we welcome everybody”
When St Mary’s Church in Merivale and St Matthew’s Church in St Albans were damaged beyond repair in Christchurch’s earthquake events, their respective parishes decided to join together as one; building a new Church known as All Souls’ Church — signifying a new beginning.
The chosen site was that of St Mary’s on Church Lane in Merivale. Cherished and holy grounds, it has been the site of a Church since 1866 when the first wooden structure was built.
Designed by Warren and Mahoney, the beautiful new All Souls 21st Century Church was built by Higgs Construction and opened its doors to parishioners August 2018.
Providing a worship space for up to 250 people, a large foyer links a hall, the church and a chapel.
The first space you walk into when entering the church, the foyer has become very much a hospitality space, accommodating up to sixty people.
Above the entrance door a sign declares ‘All Human Kind Around One Table’, setting the tone to share a cuppa, some food and what has been happening in your day.
The Reverend Megan Herles-Mooar has been part of All Souls’ journey from the beginning, and an integral member of the design team. Megan says the use of the foyer has exceeded all expectations.
“When we were designing the foyer we didn’t realise what a beautiful space it would be; how it would shape us and our theology. If a building can shape the way we worship then our foyer has helped shape how we care and be open with our hospitality.
“The extensive use of glass makes us transparent to the world and we’ve made a proclamation that we welcome everybody.
“There’s the ability for the world to look in and see us and for us to look out at the world.”
The foyer’s sense of welcoming is enhanced by a huge glass wall at the rear with large doors opening out into a beautiful deck area surrounded by native bush with church bells that fell in the earthquakes taking pride of place.
“With the historic bells sharing space with the native plantings, there’s a continual marker of where we’ve been and a beacon to where we’re going.
“On a Sunday at the end of the 11.30 morning service we open the foyer up and put the BBQ out. “
The people at the 11.30 service bring food to share. Sometime street people turn up, people from out of town and more recently we’ve had overseas people who have been stuck in New Zealand because of Covid. We feed anyone that comes and there’s always enough food for more.”
Rather than just a through-space to other areas of the church the foyer has become a place of first welcome and hospitality.
Throughout the week the foyer is used for a diverse range of community and church activities. It has become a small group meeting space, a ‘get your cup of tea space’, a ‘sit down and have lunch space’.
“I think the use of the foyer will develop further as a hospitality space beyond Sundays. Already we’re seeing small wedding receptions here.
“Every time someone does something there it’s likes the building absorbs that love and energy and it helps shape us. I think for non-church people nervous about going into a church, having a space where they can easily get out of it, makes it a little easier to visit.”
Reflecting on the successful integration between St Mary’s Church and St Matthew’s Church, Megan says she was once told, ‘you need to know the ghosts in your corridors’.
“And it’s so true. What are the things that will jump out and bite you? — but also what are the precious things of each community and what are the gifts that they bring that need to find a place to rest in this new creation? Everyone went in with a spirit of ‘we are going to make this work and want to make this work’. And so even though there were times when it was painful, there was a commitment. ‘We have lost our buildings, we want to survive, what do we do?’”
There is now a blended culture and about a third of the congregation are new who only know the ‘All Souls’ way.
© Waterford Press Ltd 2021