Earthquake fears shut down New Zealand’s oldest stone church

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Photo credit: Taranaki Cathedral

[Anglican Taonga by Jayson Rhodes] St Mary’s Cathedral in New Plymouth will close temporarily to reinforce the earthquake.

The Taranaki Anglican Trust Board decided this for security reasons. This follows an engineering report and extensive parish consultation.

Archbishop Philip Richardson, Bishop of Taranaki, said the news, although expected, brings a feeling of sadness.

“The Trustees took enormous care in this decision and considered all the options, but the magnificent building is in serious jeopardy and we should not be using it or allowing others to use it. “

The cathedral opened in 1846, making it the oldest stone church in New Zealand.

“The cathedral is important to Taranaki and the history of Aotearoa in New Zealand,” Archbishop Philip said.

“It is a national treasure with elements of Taranaki history and national history. It sits at the interface of Maori and Pakeha relations and has been a place to reconcile this history and so it speaks of our past and our future.

The building has a national construction standard of just 15 percent, and the diocesan policy is that all of these buildings be closed for safety reasons.

Administrators expect the cathedral to be closed for years. Timing depends on additional engineering reports, options for the future, and fundraising.

The dean of the cathedral, Jamie Allen, said the ministry of the cathedral will continue as much as possible and that it will have to be creative.

“I am sure the people of Taranaki will be able to meet the challenge with a temporary worship space. We are also determined that the support that the Cathedral is privileged to provide to our community – for example, community counseling and coffee, is not affected.

“We have all experienced deep sadness as well as anger and denial and we are working together and to find a sense of resurrection in this.

“This taonga was given to us; we didn’t build it. However, it is our responsibility to do all we can to make this building stronger for generations to come. “

The trustees have decided a gradual closure which begins without general access to the cathedral from this Monday, October 5. The specified services will continue until the end of January next year.

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