Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

25 July 2009

Country Churches of NZ 7. Methodist Church, Omanaia, Northland

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.


Modesty characterises the 1884 Methodist Church at Omanaia. Sharing a hill with a school, which is superbly maintained for just thirty pupils, the church is sadly neglected: paint flaking, timbers distressed. But it is obviously well used, especially so in December 2000 when I visited. The lobby and nave were full of floral tributes, posters, texts, and wreaths for a local person who had recently died. In the cemetery one grave stood out: that of a boy of 14. It was a love-adorned toy land of mementos, bordered by the cut-out shapes of red Ferraris.

Quite a few Methodist churches were built around the Hokianga at the end of the nineteenth century. At this one a spiritual dimension was apparently added which took it beyond Methodism. The whys and wherefores of that defeat me but I am sure they would have had little effect upon the simple charm of the church itself, comfortably shabby in its golden summer grasses.

Doing a bit of research, after I had visited, I learned that the church and burial ground were ‘out of bounds for visitors’. I was brought up to believe that churches are open to all and may even be sanctuaries for souls of any denomination; to me that makes more sense than exclusion!



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By Don Donovan