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Church hitting road after 117 years

Priest-in-charge of Tinui’s Church of the Good Shepherd Steve Thomson, in front of the building ready for yesterday’s move. PHOTO/SAM TATTERSFIELD

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After 117 years, the historic Tinui church that held the first Anzac service, on the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, was on the move.

The Church of the Good Shepherd was yesterday transported about 300m to the centre of Tinui, away from its flood-prone location.

Priest-in-charge Steve Thomson said the time was right for the move.

“We’re an older group of parishioners now, you know what the churches are like today.

“We’ve got the resources to do something with this church now, but in five or 10 years’ time we might not, so we’ve decided we’ll do something now and leave it for our future generations,” he said.

While the move was to save the church, the new church location would be next to a World War I memorial, which could broaden the significance of the church, he said.

“People use it now as a place of reflection for the Anzacs, but we’d like to honour all those that have gone before.”

Thomson said while a few of the parishioners remained unsure about the move, to have remained in its location the building would have had to have rotten piles replaced, and been raised 1.5m, as was done to a neighbouring house after it was flooded.

In 1916, after a 7.30am service, the Rev Basil Ashcroft led the congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd up nearby Mt Maunsell and erected the first ANZAC monument, a Jarrah hardwood cross.

Its aluminium replacement is still standing.

Ashcroft’s sense of duty to those fighting, including about 10 from the Tinui area, didn’t stop on April 25, 1916, Thomson said.

“He handed in his resignation, and went away with the reinforcements as their chaplain – because he wasn’t prepared to see any more of his young guys die without him there.”

The regular congregation of the Church of the Good Shepherd may only be around 15, but people come from all over the world to see it, and “the whole community has a say on this church”, Thomson said.

The move has captured national interest, with a TV3 film crew at the site on Monday.

“This is one of New Zealand’s most historic churches,” reporter Patrick Gower said.

“If it’s going to move 300m, the rest of New Zealand needs to know about it, that’s why I’m here.”

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