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The Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo

Historic Churches (Part III)

by Kerry Meadows-Bonner

With stunning views of Lake Tekapo and the Southern Alps on its doorstep sits another of New Zealand’s most photographed churches. The small Anglican church in the south island named The Church of The Good Shepherd.

With intent to create a place of worship and as a memorial to the pioneers of Mackenzie Country, a successful appeal for funds was granted in October 1934 and was the church was consecrated August 1935. It was designed by Christchurch architect, R.S.D Harman and based off sketches by a local artist, Esther Hope with its stonework done by Canterbury stonemason, Jack Miller. The materials used were specific. Rocks that were naturally found on its wall line were not to be removed and the stone used to finish lining the walls had to be procured within a five mile radius of the church site, unchipped and in its natural state.

With the decision from the building committee for it to blend to its environment, the grounds were left untouched amongst the native vegetation with the exterior stone algae left intact to give a natural look. The roofing is one of two features that isn’t original and was replaced from oak shingles to slate shingles in 1957. The former did not survive the harsh climate of the Mackenzie Basin. The second feature was the cupboard in the Vestry originally made of wood from Tekapo bridge but was demolished in 1954.

Although its function was primarily a place of worship, it was and still is used for gatherings for wedding ceremonies, funerals and baptism. Since opening its doors in 1935, the church played a significant role in the Makenzie community and a few months after it opened, the first wedding ceremony was conducted there. The bride was Peggy Geraldine, daughter of Mr and Mrs F. Trott, (of Tekapo House) Mr Trott was one of the winning contractors of the church and the groom, John Rodman whom was one of the builders of the church.

Even in its early conception, the church was poised to become a tourist attraction with its centred plate glass window offering unobstructed, stunning views of Lake Tekapo and mountains. It had no shortage of community support and many additional items were donated from the community including its bell and altar, its bronze candlesticks, pews and prayer book (signed by the Duke of Gloucester whom helped lay the foundation stone)

In September 1985 the church was officially registered by Heritage New Zealand and while photography is no longer permitted inside the church unless permits are approved, it still is one of the most photographed historic sites in the country with upwards of 600,000 visitors a year.

The church is still used for wedding ceremonies and regular Sunday services, Catholic mass and Easter services but closed during the day to visitors however the grounds surrounding the church are open and visitors are encouraged to enjoy them. Permission to visit the inside of the church must be approved in writing first and 30 minute day time tours can be booked accommodating between 5-40 people.


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elocal Digital Edition – May 2021 (#242)

elocal Digital Edition
May 2021 (#242)

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