Church History

A brief history of St Albans

Compiled by Rev Steve Jourdain

St Albans became a separate parish of the Wanganui Presbytery on Sunday March 1st, 1959. In February 1954, St David’s Presbyterian Parish, centred on Main Street, Terrace End, began an outreach into the new suburb of Hokowhitu. Bible Study groups and Sunday School classes met in private homes and garages until a new Hall was opened on December 11th, 1955.

Under the oversight of the St David’s minister, the Rev Ian Purdie, two deaconesses Sisters Valerie Brooker and Reita Wilson ministered among the new congregation. When the new parish was established, the assistant minister of St David’s, the Rev Earnie Johnston, became the first minister of St Albans, on March 17th, 1959. He married Evelyn Tarrant in Eltham in 1961 and they lived in the manse in Ross Place. The parish grew significantly under Earnie’s leadership and the active home visitation by elders. The Anderson property and house on the corner of St Albans Avenue was acquired and used for Sunday School. Earnie served St Albans until 1966, moving on to Cambridge and later died in 1992. We are delighted that Evelyn is with us this weekend.

The first Session (Council of Elders) included Colin Reid as Session Clerk, Claude Holyoake, Donald Malcolm, Allan Smith, Bruce Wornall-Smith and Lloyd Walker. Betty Crawford was a founding member of the parish. We are delighted to have Colin, his wife Jean, Allan and Betty with us this weekend.

The second minister was the Rev Rymall Roxburgh, who with his wife Betty and family had just returned from missionary service in India. The church continued to grow, requiring significant extensions and two morning services for a time. Youth work was strong, and J. Oswald Sanders led a mission. Rymall served from February 1967 until 1975 and later died in 2004.

Rev John Niven was the third minister, arriving with his wife Ann and family in February 1976. John introduced the ‘Life in the Spirit’ seminars and encouraged the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The congregation grew, the worship area was expanded, three Sunday services were held, the Brent-Smith property and house at 339 Albert Street was acquired for office space, the St Albans Ave manse was purchased and plans were drawn up for a new worship centre which did not eventuate. During this time, Tim Williams, Murray Pashby and Chris Ryburn served on the ministry staff and Mrs Trudy de Jonge was elected as St Alban’s first woman elder. John and Ann left for Tung Ling Bible School in Singapore in December 1986.

The fourth minister, Rev Rob Yule, and his wife Christene and family arrived in September 1987. The Manawatu Branch of the Bible College of NZ had commenced in our buildings in that February and blossomed under Rob’s encouragement. New buildings were added, including a pre-fabricated building and Tremain Hall being added to the Brent-Smith house. The Anderson house was taken over as the Cornerstone drop-in-centre and used clothing shop. Rob made teaching trips to the Czech Republic, ministry teams made weekend visits to other churches around NZ, the attendance of university students grew, and in 1990 two morning services were established and continued until 2004. About 1995, St Albans established one of the first church websites in NZ. The number of people moving into overseas mission continued to grow. Rev Marg Schrader, Craig Young, Chris Reddell, Murray Brown, Cherie Stevenson, Jolanda Hanly, Brendan O’Hagan and Michael Krausse served as ministry staff during this time. Rev Marg Schrader served as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church for the year 1995-96.

Rob Yule became Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in October 2000 and the Rev Steve Jourdain, with his wife Shirley and family, came to serve as Associate Minister during Rob’s two year term. Rob moved to Greyfriars Church, Auckland, in December 2002, and Steve was inducted as minister in February 2003.

In 1994 a ‘Year 2000 Building Fund’ was established to build a new auditorium and offices in such a way as to link with the existing buildings. The plan submitted to the City Council in 2000 was rejected but through an appeal to the Environment Court, a completely new plan for the current building was approved. This fine new building was opened in July 2004 and has been used extensively by community groups and to host major conferences and seminars. The new building has enhanced St Alban’s role as a regional church.

Steve has been extensively involved in city-wide, presbytery and national church roles, including Co-Chair of Presbyterian Affirm, and during his ministry has seen established a conversational English class for new migrants, an expansion of children’s ministries including a children’s ministry worker’s position sponsored by a member’s business, a Government-funded school holiday programme and the current development of a 24/7 youth worker programme in our city’s schools. Brendan O’Hagan, Brian Holt, Russell Seagar and Graeme Roff served as ministry staff during this time.

Office and Financial Administrators who have served St Albans include: Prue Drake, Teri Eaton, Rosanne Eustace, Lyn Galloway, Andrew Gore, Nancy Hazeleger, Alessia James, Gaynor Landmark, Carolin Moore, Gwenda Olson, Juliet Redmond and Christine Ruhigira.

St Albans has seen many people go on into ministry and mission service, both at home and overseas. In its 50 years history, 20 have become ordained ministers and 41 have served as overseas mission workers for more than a year. This does not recognise the many that have gone on to serve God’s Kingdom through the church and mission agencies in other capacities. Currently we support 10 overseas mission partners. St Albans has a fine record of exporting gifted members all around the world!