Russell Baptist Church, in the Bay of Islands, has finally got its own home.
In April the Russell Methodist Church celebrated its centenary. And then closed its doors. Russell Baptist was keen to tender for the building, but were told there could be as many as 12 other tenders.
"In the end we were the only tender. I really believe God had set this building aside for us," says Russell Baptist pastor Miles Frankum.
"I feel that through the whole thing God has been saying, 'trust me, I am your provider'. There's been wonderful unity in the church right through the whole process. It was more money than we had but we were trusting in God and feeling our way."
Thanks to generous financial gifts from other Baptist churches, and financial assistance from the Auckland Baptist Association and Baptist Savings, Russell Baptist is now the proud owner of a 1913 vintage weatherboard single room church with kitchen that seats 70 to 80.
It's the culmination of a 30 year journey for the church which started in 1983 as a branch of Bay of Islands Baptist. It became independent the following year but has never had a permanent home ñ meeting in private homes, the St John Hall and in recent years Russell School.
With a congregation of 15 to 20 adults and a similar number of children, Miles says the old Methodist church building is big enough to accommodate its new congregation along with some hoped for growth.
"We have a good rapport with the local community which is very pleased we have got the building and that it is staying as a church," says Miles, and particularly the Methodists who are delighted to see their old building receive a new lease on life.
On August 18 the Russell Baptist congregation moved into their new building during a day of celebration. Proceedings began with a karanga to welcome guests into the church. Miles Frankum then spoke about God 'The Provider' and how the opportunity to purchase the church was an example of His provision.
Lindsay Jones and Peter Browning from the Auckland Baptist Association, dedicated the building while the church's only original member from 30 years ago, Erica Shedlock, unveiled the sign. The sign incorporates the church's new logo—a large anchor replacing the middle "t" in the word Baptist. The anchor represents the aspirations of the Russell Baptist Church: "A faithful people, anchored in Christ, active in service".
Those attending then enjoyed spit roasted pig and lamb, courtesy of spit roasters Leo and Shane Leonard, who had been preparing the meal since 3am.
Russell may be one of the country's best-known tourists centres, but the Russell Baptist congregation is a settled one, comprising both retired residents and young children—the only Russell church that has children in significant numbers.
The transient worshippers tend to go to services at the Anglican Church—the countryís oldest—which is a well known tourist attraction.
Youth is a big focus for the church with activities such as The Bigga Day Out—a summer fun day based on water sports and activities; games nights, the Amazing Race, a Cake Bake Off and much more.
"I'm amazed at what we do for the size of our church. We do a youth activity at least 10 times a year. Weíre now doing 'The Pod'—outdoor pursuits using activities already working in the North and doing a five day, four night adventure for youth which will eventually be sustainable and hopefully provide jobs for people," says Miles.
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