By Elayne Wilson
Fifty years ago last November, a seed was planted as a tiny Sunday school in a dirt-floor garage. Very soon a young church emerged in Glen Eden, Auckland’s newest suburb. Fifty years of growth, building, blessing and service to the West Auckland community were joyously celebrated November 21-22 by past and present members of the Glen Eden Baptist Church.
Memories, laughter and thanksgiving flowed freely as friendships were renewed and reminiscences shared. Seven of the original 27 members were present, as were 9 of the 27 senior, associate and youth pastors who have ministered over the years. They were honoured and thanked for the roles they had played.
A comprehensive history of the church written by Elayne Wilson, Blessed to be a Blessing, was presented to all registered attendees. Drawing on archival material, personal and written recollections and anecdotes, weekly bulletins, annual reports and minutes, the book traced the story of God’s hand on His church through each decade and the phenomenal growth of the community ministries.
Preparation for the weekend began a year earlier by an awesome team under Nettie Burton’s leadership. The programme began with afternoon tea, photographs and other visual displays – a time to catch up on old friendships and family news. The church was beautifully decorated with flowers, drapes, banners and paintings. The large new hospitality deck opening off the Connection Café was a great hit. In the evening, guests gathered in the auditorium, transformed into a banquet hall. Waiters and waitresses from the youth group were attentive and charming, making everyone feel special.
Rev Ian Brown, pastor from 1979 to 1983, said that he rated the 50th Celebration at GEBC as the best church Jubilee he had ever attended
Rev Murray Cottle, the after-dinner speaker, hit the right note with a graceful mix of humour and challenge.
On Sunday morning, more than 480 people met to worship and celebrate. Guest speaker was Rev John Alpe and the current Senior Pastor, Neil Baker, led the service. Foundation members were introduced and presented with flowers and then they cut the celebration cake. Lunch began indoors with concerns about the showery weather, but the sun came out and the fabulous carnival that had been set up outdoors took off with a swing.
Many people joined walkabout groups taking guided tours around the 2.5 acre campus, visiting the eight premises that accommodate community ministries operated by Friendship Centre Trust and Genesis Training Trust. These include Baptist Home Care Waitakere, the G.E.B. Community Kindergarten, Focus Counselling Centre, and Genesis Training Centre with its three streams of education in horticulture and landscaping, literacy and numeracy and Secondary education for NCEA (all are NZQA approved). Kharece House provides emergency housing for five women and families, and the Supported Social Housing scheme offers beautiful homes at reduced rentals to 11 families, with another 13 houses in preparation. In addition to these are the food bank and op shop, budgeting service, Kingdom Fund, the services of community worker/chaplain and the Friendship Centre Trust’s administration block.
Rev Ian Kemp, a former member of GEBC, wrote his commendation as follows:
“The FCT logo shows a pebble dropped into the water, with its resulting ripple effect. Twenty years ago I first saw pebbles being cast into the community from Glen Eden Church. Now the ripples of God’s love go far out across West Auckland, reaching over 7000 people. Conversely, it reaches back into the church itself in the lives of many who are redeemed and transformed, making it all the stronger to put more pebbles in the water. These ripples also go out to the ends of the earth through the church’s missionary programme. Congratulations to the Baptists of Glen Eden. This is a wonderful way to do church!”Copies of “Blessed to be a Blessing” can be obtained from the church office, Glen Eden Baptist Church, 97 Glendale Rd, Glen Eden, Waitakere City, Phone (09) 818 0770, for a cost of $15 (posted).