Written by Sadie Beckman and published in Horowhenua Chronicle 24 th February 2017
LEVIN Hope Centre’s pastor Tony Collis in the historic St John’s church building, which the group has just purchased and will restore.
An historic Levin church building is set for a new lease of life after sitting empty and neglected for almost a decade.
St John’s Methodist Church first opened its doors in November 1936, and is the oldest church building in the town, with many local people having been christened, married or farewelled beneath its magnificent vaulted timber ceiling.
Now it has been purchased by another church group keen to restore it to its former glory and use it for its original purpose — as a place of worship, and a space for the community.
St John’s housed a large and active congregation for many years until an amalgamation with the local Presbyterian organisation resulted in Levin Uniting Church, rendering it surplus to requirements — its majestic pipe organ silenced seemingly for ever.
It was put on the market but building issues, including earthquake strengthening requirements, saw interested buyers with commercial ideas for the building put off.
However, the Hope Centre, a Levinbased Pentecostal and Evangelical organisation, saw the potential in St John’s, and recognised how special it had always been to the local community.
The group’s pastor, Tony Collis, said they had been in negotiations for a year before an agreement had been reached for a “very reasonable price”, and they would be going ahead with strengthening and restoration work on the building.
He was pleased the church wouldn’t be turned into a restaurant or private residence, which were two of the ideas mooted for it in recent years.
Currently the Hope Centre meets in the buildings behind St John’s, so expanding into it would be able to happen easily, Mr Collis said.
“Services [in St John’s] will be good for people with an interest in the building, and if it means something to them,” he said. “Everybody is welcome.” As many original features as possible will be kept, including the prized pipe organ, meaning music will once again fill the church.
The Hope Centre had already been hard at work cleaning, repairing and revitalising the disused church, ready to bring it back to life. A special rededication service will be held at St John’s which is to be rebranded “St John’s On Kent”, on Wednesday March 1 at 7pm, and is open to anyone who wants to attend, even if they just have memories, or personal interest in the building, Mr Collis said.