Shirley Methodist Church

Shirley Methodist Church had its origins in 1866. Since then the district has changed from a few scattered houses to a thriving suburban area. A service of worship was held in Mr Brice’s Lake Terrace Road home and this service was the first recorded Methodist activity in the Shirley district. (Lake Terrace Road was, then, the main road to New Brighton).

First church building

Well known Shirley resident Mrs Susannah Buxton requested on her death bed that her son Joseph should give a piece of land so that a church could be built. Joseph Buxton duly carried out this request and land on the corner of Quinns Road and St Albans Road (now known as Shirley Road) was given.

Mr Hamilton, a member of the church, drew up the plans, and Mr Allen was the contractor. As soon as the building of the church got underway, the question of its name arose. Mrs Susannah Buxton had been a Miss Shirley, and it was considered fitting that her dying request should be honoured by calling the church after her maiden name. The district took its name from the church at its centre.

The opening of the church took the form of a huge tea meeting held on Good Friday, 10 April 1868. It is recorded that in 1869 a Sunday School commenced with 10 members.

Site and name changes

During the 1860s and 1870s the district of Shirley was growing and by the 1880s the population in the vicinity of the church had increased to such an extent that the need was seen for a larger church. In 1884 it was felt that the church would better serve its purpose if it was a little further east and so it was decided to move to the northeast corner of Golf Links and New Brighton Roads. The old site was sold for £50 and the new one purchased for £100 from Mr McGill. At a meeting of the Church Trustees held on 25 April 1884, a resolution was adopted "agreeing to an alteration of name, and that for the future the church be called Windsor."

Present site and building

In 1915 the Church trustees obtained a valuable section on the southeast corner of New Brighton Road and North Parade. A new Church was proposed for the site as the old church had become too small and needed extensive renovations. In 1916 another Trust meeting resolved "that as the Church stood in the centre of the Shirley district, and was half a mile from the nearest point of Windsor, it should return to its former honourable name - Shirley." The foundation stone for the new church was laid on 14 December 1918. The opening of the church was held on 9 March 1919 and the church soon became the centre of much activity.

In March 1923 the trustees decided to raise funds to build a new Sunday School at the rear of the Church. In 1924 Mr Rowe, one of the oldest members of the church, died leaving a legacy for the building of a church tower. A Supreme Court decision permitted the building of a tower and a Sunday School. The Sunday School was opened on 3 June 1928 and was named the Rowe Memorial Hall.

The Saxon Club

The Shirley Saxon Club presented the church with a pipe organ in 1938. The Saxon Club consisted of a group of young men from the church who worked for 13 years to raise the money for the organ. In the process, these young men gained some notoriety because they indulged in dancing, which at that time was not countenanced by the Methodist Church. Rev J.B. Dawson was the first ordained minister in the Richmond-Shirley area and he arrived in 1946.

Recent history

In 2008 Shirley Methodist and St Columba Presbyterian parishes amalgated to form Crossway Community church. The Shirley Methodist church building was put up for sale and in 2009 it was sold to the World Mission Society Church of God. The building was badly damaged in the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence. Its tower, on New Brighton Road, collapsed completely and the rest of the building suffered extensive damage, requiring partial demolition. In 2012 and 2013 the building was repaired and a new tower has been constructed.

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