Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

31 July 2009

Country Churches of NZ 39. St. John's, Rangitukia, East Cape

I wrote and illustrated Country Churches of New Zealand. It was published in 2002 by New Holland, Publishers and is still on sale in bookshops. The publishers have kindly agreed to me re-publishing some of the book’s images and descriptions in this blog.


The angel points at St John's, Rangitukia, as if to say, 'Care for that church.'

I certainly found it in need of repair. A simple structure, built in 1900, the inside was lined with tired particle board but its ceiling is original white wood and rafters. The windows all have striking colour panels: vivid reds, duck egg blues, pale peach, orange, light blue, acid lemon-green and dark blue - Mondrian rectangles!

A local couple told me that the community was about to have a meeting to decide whether to keep it and do it up or demolish and replace it - I hope they have saved it.

I was intrigued by an eroded tombstone that lies half hidden in bushes beside the sanctuary. It honours a ‘missionary’ who started his New Zealand ministry in Nelson Province but who was sent to the East Coast in 1847 only to die in harness a year later.

The stone was commissioned by his widow and sent from England to the colony where it disappeared, only to turn up in an Auckland garden 50 years later. Thereafter it found its way to Rangitukia.
'Here lies all that could die of
The Reverend Charles Lucas Reay
Formerly of Queen's College, Oxford, B.A.
and Vicar of Swanbourne Bucks
in England
He was an Israelite indeed in whom
there was no guile
Learned and brave yet mild as a child
a fond husband and tender parent
A faithful friend.
In obedience to the commands of
His great master
To go forth and preach the Gospel among all nations
He left
A Christian home and Christian friends
And here borne down by the weight of his labour
In the Lord's Vineyard,
He sunk to rest March 31st 1848. Aged 38.
In the hope and faith of a joyful resurrection.
A volume would not tell his many virtues,
But this stone
Is erected to his memory
By his widow.'


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By Don Donovan