A Brief History of St Albans

Sunday, June 29, 2014

St Albans became a separate parish of the Wanganui Presbytery on Sunday March 1st, 1959.  In February 1954, St David’s Presbyterian Church, in 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 (which was the worship centre until 2003) opened on December 11th, 1955.

Under the oversight of the St David’s minister, 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, Rev Earnie Johnston, became the first minister of St Albans, on March 17th, 1959, until 1966.  He and Evelyn lived in the manse in Ross Place.  The Anderson property and house at 337 Albert St, on the corner of St Albans Ave, was acquired and used for Sunday School.

The first Session (Church Council) included Claude Holyoake and Allan Smith.  Betty Crawford was a founding member of St Albans & later became an elder.

The second minister was Rev Rymall Roxburgh (1967-75) who with his wife Betty and family had just returned from missionary service in India.  The church continued to grow, requiring significant extensions.

Rev John Niven was the third minister, with his wife Ann, serving from 1976-86.  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 and 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 (to be located where we are now!) which did not eventuate.  The Nivens left for Tung Ling Bible School in Singapore in Dec. 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 new buildings were added, including a pre-fabricated building and Tremain Hall was added to the Brent-Smith house.  The Anderson house became the Cornerstone drop-in-centre and used clothing shop.

Rob Yule became Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in October 2000 and 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 Presbyterian 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.  This plan, submitted to the City Council in early 2000, was rejected but through an appeal to the Environment Court and further negotiations with Council and neighbours, a completely new plan for the current building was approved.  This 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.

St Albans has seen many people go on into ministry and mission service, both at home and overseas.  In its first 50 years, 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.  St Albans has a fine record of exporting gifted members all around the world!