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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 30, September 1986

Many past members of Waihi's Presbyterian Church came back for the 80th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the Church which were held on the weekend of March 8 and 9 this year.

The celebrations commenced with a garden party on Saturday held at the home of Waihi's Mayor and Mayoress, Mr. and Mrs. Owen Morgan. Games and entertainment attracted a large number of visitors from as far away as Auckland and included two past Ministers, the Rev. Laurie and Mrs. More and the Rev. Jim Howat and Mrs. Howat. Also, several members of the Gordon family of Waitekauri who had taken an active interest in the Church from its earliest days to the present time. Other well-known families of the Church were also present.

The highlight was the re-enactment of the opening ceremony on Sunday morning followed by a luncheon in the Church Centre.

The re-enactment had a special historical significance for Mr. Owen Morgan. Mr. Morgan is the grandson through his mother (nee Maggie Gilmour), daughter of Thomas Gilmour who as mayor of Waihi in 1906 officially unlocked the main door for the first time.

Mr. Morgan used the same silver key symbolically before the members of the congregation and the visitors who had returned to Waihi to attend the celebration.

Speaking to the gathering, he looked back on the past 80 years and the work achieved by members over that period. He also recalled financial difficulties before the building was commenced when the timber for construction was stacked for some time on the site. The shadow marks resulting from this stacking are clearly visible on the wall panelling today.

Many of the families attending the service had similar links to Mr. Morgan's, going back to the foundation of St. James'. One of these was Mrs. Alison Boyd who read the New Testament lesson, who is the granddaughter of the Rev. J. B. McFarland who was officiating minister from 1925 until 1932.

The Old Testament lesson was read by the Rev. L. W. More who was the minister from 1959 until 1963. Mr. More now resided on Auckland's North Shore.

Mr. Albert Clark who has had a lifetime association with St. James', talked to the children during the service and recalled the days of gas lighting in the Church. He spoke of walking to Sunday School picnics to Hollis' Bush and on special occasions, the hiring of a whole steam train to go on picnics on a farm at Athenree.

Mr. Clark said that in his day there were over 100 children attending compared with 40 or 50 today.

The commemorative service attracted well over 100 persons and was conducted by the Rev. R. W. Kirkby BA, BD. Mr. Kirkby said in his sermon that the church had reached a crucial stage in its history.

Biblical history placed a special significance on the passing of a 40 year term and Mr. Kirkby related this to the two 40-year periods of St. James'. Mr. Kirkby dwelt on adversities and triumphs in the past and told the congregation they must still be prepared to meet both God's blessing and chastisements.

At the luncheon which followed the service, considerable interest was shown in a display of photographs, news items and records recalling the history of St. James'. Representatives of the various organisations within the Church spoke of past activities during the social hour which followed the luncheon.