Strong links between Church and community are the central theme of Light on the Hill (2002), a history of the Opoho Presbyterian Parish compiled by Rev. Norman Sheat.
A small community hall, built by voluntary labour, was built about 1892 on land given by a resident who wanted the ‘boys of the village’ to have a meeting place and recreational centre. A Baptist congregation was permitted to use the hall, which they soon bought. The Baptists sold the building to the North East Valley Presbyterian Church in 1909, but many members of the existing congregation remained. Regular Sunday services were then conducted by laymen and students for the Ministry for a period of 21 years until, in 1930, Opoho became an ‘aided charge’ and the first minister was appointed.
In 1936, Opoho became a fully-sanctioned charge, and the following year the original building was moved to the back of the section and the existing church built on the site. The old building served as the church hall until 1957, when a new hall was constructed. Major alterations were carried out in 1961, and in 1964 the Morrison Lounge was built, connecting the church and hall. This central meeting room was named for George and Elsie Morrison. George served as Session Clerk for more than 30 years, and was described as ‘the heart and soul of the community'.
Worship has centred around Sunday morning services. It has also included evening Wednesday Worship, Café Church, Soulspace (contemplative worship), and seasonal family services.
Study and other small groups have included Fellowship Group (formerly APW), Movie Group, Bible Book of the Month Group, and Psalm Writing Group. A pioneering Adult Study Group was led by Rev. Dr Albert Moore from 1967 to 2006.
Other aspects of parish life have included Sunday School, Opoho Youth, a wide variety of vocal and instrumental music, fairs, art exhibitions, a Haiku Project, political candidate meetings, shared meals, and other social events. Various community organisations have made use of the hall, including Opoho School and the Opoho Indoor Bowling Club. The garden is open for community use.
Centenary celebrations were held in October 2009, with about 120 registrants attending. Events included a church service, dinner, displays, tours, and the unveiling of a set of double doors opening into the garden – a memorial to Nancy Geering. More about the weekend can be read in the special insert that was published in the Opoho Signal.
Ministers since 1930 have been:
John Gilman Dunn
We have appreciated informal and personal links with the Knox Theological Hall (now the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership). Those associated with the Opoho Parish have included students for the ministry and their families, staff of the Theological Hall, Masters of Knox College, and retired ministers.
The ceremony for laying the foundation stone of the present church building in 1937. Our thanks to Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries for the use of this image (ref: AWNS-19371006-45-4).
Centenary celebrations in 2009.