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Mission makes moves but church stays in Tinui

Established more than 120 years ago, the Tinui Mission Unit, also known as Tinui Parish, has officially been absorbed by St Matthew’s Masterton Mission Unit.

However, the Church of the Good Shepherd will remain in the community for the humble price of $1.

The decision to merge the Tinui Mission Unit with Masterton was finalised at the recent 2023 Diocesan Synod held in Masterton.

The Parish was first established in 1902, and Reverend Steve Thomson said its closure was a historical shift for Wairarapa.

“Since 2015, with declining numbers and even before covid, we’ve been in discussions within the parish, the vestry and the community as to what the future of the parish is.”

Citing lower numbers of “regularly worshipping people”, Thomson said that many churches, no matter what denomination, had been struggling since covid.

In a letter sent to the Diocesan Council in July, Thomson and Wairarapa Archdeacon Pete Watson wrote that the Tinui Mission Unit is “no longer viable, and cannot meet the requirements” used to determine a parish.

The letter suggested that the parish merge with St Matthew’s Masterton Mission Unit, and also pitched that assets tied up in the parish should be redirected to various funding pools committed to the Tinui area.

These decisions were officiated at last weekend’ synod.

A new trust is to be set up called the Eastern Wairarapa Rural Chaplaincy Trust for money put towards developing a rural chaplaincy in the Tinui area.

“Finances will be available to keep someone like me operating part-time in the area when needed, as a priest, under the chaplaincy,” Thomson said.

Addressing the Church of the Good Shepherd, of which the projected refurbishment has been a topic of vested community intrigue, Thomson said the Diocese had successfully fundraised all the money required for the works.

It has taken four years to come up with the money needed for the work, because the lottery and heritage grants where funds were sought from operate in six month funding rounds.

Thomson said when completed, the church would be sold to the Tinui and Castlepoint Community Trust for one dollar.

“We’ve been in discussions with the trust for probably 12 months,” Thomson said.

“We said we’re happy to restore the church back to how it was, provided you take ownership once we’ve done it because the parish is no longer there to look after it.”

Leftover money from the refurbishment will go to the trust for the upkeep and maintenance of the church going forward.

Editor of online news outlet Tinui Times, Caryl Forrest was less than impressed with the consultation process leading to this point.

“There has been a complete lack of information and contact with anyone out here.”

Even though the numbers of those attending service over the years had depleted, Forrest said she found the decision to cease parish operations baffling.

“People come here and they stay, the links are very strong in ways you wouldn’t find in the city,” Forrest said.

“So even though not many people go to church out here, they are very committed to the parish.

“As it is, those of us who are left face a 100km round trip to Masterton to attend church, or virtually join a congregation by livestream elsewhere.”

However, Thomson maintained that the process had been open and transparent with community interests.

Wairarapa Archdeacon Pete Watson agreed and said the transition has been in the works for years.

“We’ve worked with the local community. You’ve got the trust saying ‘this is brilliant’.”

The Vestry of the Tinui Mission Unit is entitled to 9 per cent of the income from Masterton Church Acre, an area of land in Masterton owned by the Anglican Diocese of Wellington.

Watson said this income would also be redirected to the new chaplaincy trust under
St Matthews. He said this would ensure its security in the years to come.

“What you end up with is a win, win, win,” Watson said.

“The church will be restored, it’s owned by the local community and the church will oversee this pot of money where we can dream for the future and how to support rural communities.”

Member of the Tinui Parish Vestry Dick Tredwell said twenty years ago, there would be no more than five or six people in church on any given Sunday, and that it has declined further since.

“It’s gone down over the years as a lot of churches have, so was the writing on the wall?” Tredwell asked.

“I don’t know.”

Tredwell said keeping the church with local ownership was a positive move.

“The congregation of the parish has got older, and it will still be a meeting place as it was,” Tredwell said.

“It can be used for weddings funerals and christenings. But it could potentially be used for other things, concerts and the like too.”

The church refurbishment is estimated to cost $560 thousand, and those facilitating the project hope that it will be completed in time for ANZAC day next year.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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