There are some stories in the Bible that really spark our imaginations and one of those is the account of Bezalel in Exodus, whose name means “in the shadow of God.” He was the artisan commissioned by Moses to build the Tabernacle as God’s dwelling place and the Ark of the Covenant. Exodus describes how Bezalel became filled with the Spirit of God, giving him the skill and creativity to make and furnish the house of God. God’s instructions to Moses were extremely detailed and they paint a vivid picture of how beautiful the sanctuary would have been. Like the ancient churches and cathedrals that took their inspiration from it, these places of worship were intended to reflect something of the beauty and majesty of God.
St Paul’s was built in the year Auckland was founded and any painting from that time reflects its prominence as the church on the hill—it became known as “the mother church of Auckland.” At the laying of its original foundation stone 176 years ago this week, the city gathered to celebrate, including 300 from the local iwi led by Ngāti Whātua chiefs. The cutting away of Britomart Point in the 1880’s to create the foreshore undermined St Paul’s foundations, and our church on Symonds Street was built as its final resting place.
But, like all of us, St Paul’s remains an unfinished project! There have been several attempts to complete it in the 1930’s and late 1960’s. In the years since, parts of the church have fallen into serious disrepair, and over the last 10 months we recommenced the restoration work, completing major repairs to the failed drains under the crypt floor.
Over the last month St Paul’s Vestry, Heritage NZ and Auckland Council Heritage have given permission for us to go ahead with the restoration of our frontage on Symonds Street. This will involve extensive repairs to the stonework, the replacement of two sections of roof, and the repair of many broken windows. We will also submit plans for some key internal reconfigurations and upgrades that will significantly improve access between the two main floors.
We’re excited that, just like with Moses, God is making the way ahead clear and we pray that, just like with Bezalel, God’s Spirit will be on all whose skill and creativity will help to restore the beauty of this place of worship that continues to be “the church on the hill” in this city. The original foundation stone now resides within our Eastern wall, and it symbolises the privilege we have of continuing the story of God’s unbroken faithfulness through our beloved church. As we thank God for the good of the past, we can say with great assurance that the best is still to come!
Blessings, Jonny & Esther