"My thoughts are travelling back over fifty-one years, and I am standing on the platform in the old church in Vivian Street addressing the first meeting in connection with the newly formed Union… It was the beginning of things - just a handful of corn - but an abundant harvest has been and is still being reaped." Reverend Charles Dallaston, 1934
Those words, from one of New Zealand’s first Baptist pastors, remind us that the Baptist Churches of New Zealand have always been, and still remain, a people for whom mission is central.
In 1841, the first notable Baptist, Henry Cooper Daniell, arrived in New Zealand and settled in Nelson. It was a decade later that the first Baptist minister, Decimus Dolamore from Yorkshire, arrived in Nelson in May 1851, and helped establish Nelson Baptist Church, the first Baptist Church in New Zealand.
By 1880, there were a number of Baptist churches around New Zealand prompting the Reverend Charles Dallaston to organise a conference in Christchurch to discuss the formation of a Baptist Union. The eight ministers and seven lay men who attended that meeting on September 23, 1880, decided it was desirable to form a Union among the Baptist churches in New Zealand. The Baptist Union’s purposes would be to hold meetings of ministers and delegates, to promote the formation of new churches, and to help weaker churches.
The Union’s formation was formalised at a conference held in Wellington in 1882 with Reverend William Spencer and Reverend Charles Carter elected as Secretary and President respectively. From those beginnings, there are now over 240 Baptist churches and fellowships throughout New Zealand with local programmes and mission initiatives transforming the lives of others. Over 33,000 adults, 7,000 children and almost 5,000 teens attend a New Zealand Baptist church.