Every Sunday morning there are two events taking place at the church lounge at 288 Oxford Terrace:
9.30am CLASSICAL/TRADITIONAL CHURCH SERVICE
11.00am CONTEMPORARY/MODERN CHURCH SERVICE
There are Youth Group activities during the week, we have a Friday night drop-in, English classes on Thursday mornings for people new to New Zealand, mainly music for toddlers and their caregivers on Tuesday mornings, a yoga class for women on Friday mornings, all happening in our church lounge at 288 Oxford Terrace. There are some other worship and pray events that happen during the week or monthly, and weekly small groups that happen around the city in people's homes. From time to time we host a lecture series on certain topics or themes.
As a faith community we would define ourselves currently as evangelical Baptists with a growing focus on community, discipleship, and mission. We seek to be a place that embraces diversity as we serve and worship God in this city. There have been a number of staff changes and additions since 2008, along with some new members and visitors. We are excited about how God is guiding us at this time, especially since the 2010/2011 earthquakes in Canterbury.
In July 2011 our earthquake destroyed 1881 church building was cleared away and over summer sunflowers were planted on the site with the help of two classes of children from the Christchurch East School. Many other volunteers helped make this happen, as well as generous donations of seedlings and compost from the Greening Spaces project.
On the one-year anniversary of the 22 February 2011 earthquake which killed 185 people, local artist Peter Majendie of the Sidedoor Arts Trust, with the help of several volunteers created a temporary art installation called 185 Empty Chairs which reflected on the loss of lives, livelihood and living in our city following the earthquake on 22 February 2011. The 185 chairs were placed on 185 square meters of ready-lawn grass, exactly where the pews of the old church building were placed - except facing the opposite direction.
The concept of The Empty Chair depicts the absence or loss of someone and has been used repeatedly across time and culture. When artist (Samuel) Luke Fildes (1844-1927) learned of the death of Charles Dickens, for whom he was illustrating a book, he drew “The Empty Chair, Gad’s Hill – Ninth of June 1870″ showing Dickens’ empty desk and chair. It was inspiration to Vincent Van Gogh when, in November 1888, he portrayed the differences between his temperament, and approach to art and life, and that of fellow artist Gauguin in two separate paintings. More recently, public memorials have made use of empty chairs to embody loss of lives, as in Bryant Park, New York, where the lawn was lined with 2,753 empty chairs facing south toward the fallen towers ahead of the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks — one to honor each person who died in the attacks. Similarly, the victims of the 1995 Oklahoma bombing are remembered at an Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, with their names etched on chairs constructed of bronze and glass. In Krakow, Poland, a memorial to the Jews of the Jewish ghetto was inaugurated on 8 December 2005 and included 33 steel and cast iron chairs (1.4 m high) in the town square and 37 smaller chairs (1.2 m high) standing on the edge of the square and at tram stops.
Here, on the site of the fallen 1881 Oxford Terrace Baptist Church building, 185 chairs of all shapes and sizes symbolize those who lost their lives in the Canterbury earthquake on 22 February 2011. The individuality of each chair pays tribute to the uniqueness of each person represented.
This church was formed by nineteen English Baptists in 1863 – thirteen years after the founding of Christchurch. The first minister was Decimus Dolamore, who was one of the pioneers of Baptist work in New Zealand. The congregation initially met in the Town Hall in High Street, then built a church on land it had purchased in Lichfield Street (1864), now marked by a plaque on a building opposite the Bus Exchange. After an unfortunate division within the membership (1867), the people reunited in 1870 and worshipped in a church in Hereford Street, which was moved to the present site in Oxford Terrace in 1879. The church has had a long association with the life of the city, has been involved in setting up new congregations in Christchurch, and was a founding member of the Baptist Union of New Zealand and the New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society (now called TRANZSEND).
The church building pictured below was built in 1881 and was destroyed by earthquake and the site cleared in 2011. Its classical design was notable in a city dominated by Gothic architecture. It was listed as a Category 1 building under the New Zealand Historical Places Register.
The refurbishment of the interior of the church in the late 1980s provided a light, open space. The pipe organ, imported from England, was installed in 1915 and continued to play a part in the 10.30am Sunday worship of the church until the building was red stickered following the earthquake in September 2010. The pipe organ was successfully recovered from the building and is now stored in pieces at the South Island Organ Company in Timaru.
The building suffered serious damage from the 4 September 2010 earthquake and the front facade was propped up in anticipation of repair.
The building was totally destroyed by the 22 February 2011 earthquake which caused the side walls to fall outwards and the roof collaspe.
We also lost three residential properties next to the church site. All of our buildings were insured and we will eventually replace what was lost with things that suit our twenty-first century expressions and dreams of Christian-faith-community in our local context.