Welcome to the Church of St John the Evangelist
Building the Church  
The Church of St John the Evangelist Waikouaiti, the oldest church building in Otago and Southland. You are welcome to look around, but please remember that it is a church and a building of historical significance. It has a Historic Places Trust "B" classification. The Church was designed by D. W. Mountfort, the contract was let to Messrs Hardy and Winchester and the carpenters were James Clark, James Scott, Adam Clark and David Forsyth. The native timber was taken from Hawkesbury Bush after being pit-sawn by John Palser and Charles Roebuck. It was originally designed to accommodate 75 people. The seats and furniture were supplied by the congregation. The Church was opened on Sunday 19th December 1858 and was consecrated on 20th March 1860.
The Church of St John is a product of one of the early European settlements in New Zealand. The major figure in the early settlement was John Jones, "the King of Waikouaiti", who bought the whaling station at the mouth of the Waikouaiti river in 1838. In 1840, he brought the Reverend James Watkin, a Methodist minister, to Karitane to be the first missionary to the South Island. In 1857, John Jones gave land on which to build an Anglican church, and subsequently he gave more land upon which were built Methodist, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian churches. As John Jones was himself an Anglican, he also provided the money for the building of St John's and arranged a generous endowment for its support. Part of the endowment is the glebe. By definition, this is the land which surrounds the church and is devoted to the maintenance of the incumbent (that is the Vicar of the Parish). At St John's the glebe extends as far as the lagoon.

Early Waikouaiti

The Church of St John was built to serve a community which already had its own history and was developing its own traditions. The early history of Waikouaiti was wild. The whaling days lasted from 1837-1848, and in 1840 pre­fabricated farm buildings were brought from Australia and erected at Matanaka. On one occasion, 120 tons of liquor were landed for the 40 European whalers. This liquid refreshment was dispensed by the bucket and cask as bottles and glasses were regarded as being superfluous. As well as whalers there were escaped convicts and run-away seamen at the settlement. Their conduct was so bad that the local Maori people complained to the government. One of John Jones' employees, Captain Cherry (Cherry Farm is named after him) was killed by a Porirua chief and eaten in 1840. It is little wonder that "Mr Jones saw the advantage of planting the wholesome leaven of religious principles amongst both his European and Maori employees." The Church of St John was built in 1858
After the discovery of gold in Dunstan in 1862 and in Nasby in 1863, Waikouaiti became a major staging point for these goldfields. Miners travelled by boat from Dunedin to the Spit and then proceeded overland to the goldfields. It is recorded that more than 600 people landed in one day. Beach Street was studded with hotels and general stores. Despite the rough reputation of gold miners, civilised ways were coming to Waikouaiti; which at that time had a population of thousands.  
The first burial in the Churchyard was in 1858, that of Elizabeth Sizemore aged 29 years. The second was of Elizabeth Bray who drowned in the same year aged 9 years. What appear to be vacant plots in the older part of the graveyard are not so, as the wooden boards and crosses which used to mark the graves have since been lost. If you wander around and read the grave stones it will give you an impression of the past. John Jones' son Alfred Sydney is buried near the North Wall of the Church. To the left of the path to the Church Hall is the grave of Joseph Crocome, a surgeon and member of the Vestry, who settled in Waikouaiti in 1838 at the invitation of John Jones. His South Seas adventures of ship wreck and survival were incredible. However, he is is also recorded as performing the first dental extraction in New Zealand, more than 40 years before dentistry was recognised as a profession. His second wife is buried with him.

What's in a name?

Waikouaiti was originally a name given to the river and to the country surrounding it, thus including Karitane. The European name given to the present town was Hawkesbury. Various derivations for the name have been suggested:

"the little wading, or swimming river"; "the water of the little kowhais"; "the broader and the lesser waters"; and "Koua's little water". The early spellings are even more Waikouaiti

 

The tradition of St John's Church

St John's must have been seen as a modern church when it was first built as it is made of wood rather than the traditional stone of English churches. When it was built it was regarded as being representative of its time and a building of quality. Today we see this building as a treasure of the past. The building of St John's represented the start of a tradition which is still relevant to the life of the Church in

Waikouaiti. Snippets from the more recent past of St John's and Hui to Rangiora are:‑
It is a church based on bi-cultural partnership. The first Maori Priest in this Diocese, the

Reverend Hoani Parata, came from this parish. The first woman synod Representative for this Diocese was elected from this parish in the 1960s and was Mrs A J H Lawson.

The most remarkable feature of St John's is its atmosphere. One can feel that people of all kinds through the ages: tough-minded or weak, saints or sinners, have looked for reconciliation with God in this place, and found it. Before you leave, take time to quietly absorb the atmosphere of this historical church because this is the greatest gift this building can give to anyone. You may like to use this prayer which comes from the 16th century and which has been adapted for today.

God, grant to the living, grace.
To the departed, rest.
To the Church, our nation, her peoples,
and all humankind, justice and peace.
And to us and all your servants, life everlasting. Amen.

 



In
order to help you to orientate yourself, you will see that the altar is at the East End, the Baptismal Font is at the West End and the main entrance is the North door. Over the years there have been several changes to the building. The original belfry on the West End of the roof has been removed, but the pulley for the bell can still be seen on the South Wall above the Vestry door. About 1881, the Choir at the East End was lengthened and a close examination of the roof and woodwork shows how this was done. The West End has been modified twice. The present addition was built originally to house an organ, but now it is the Baptistry. The Vestry was also enlarged
   
The Maori Church