St John’s has been around for over 160 years in a number of incarnations. Below is a brief history of St John’s, but if you would like more information on us, please check out some of our historical resources available. If these don’t provide the information you are searching for, we would be pleased to try to help.
Soon after the arrival of the first settlers in Wellington in 1840, a group of Presbyterians built a church, St Andrews, located on what is now Lambton Quay. In the early 1850s, the Reverend John Moir arrived from the Free Church of Scotland, to minister to a group of Presbyterians at a new church on the corner of Willis and Dixon Streets. This became known as the Willis St Church. It was soon too small to accommodate the congregation, and after a number of changes it was finally demolished in 1874. Its replacement was completed in 1875 and was called St John’s.
Unfortunately the new church was destroyed by fire in 1884 along with the adjoining Sunday School. A larger church and schoolroom were then planned, incorporating the section occupied by William Spinks, shopkeeper.
The present St John’s was designed by well-known architect Thomas Turnbull. He also designed the nearby St Peter’s Anglican Church, Wesley Methodist Church in Taranaki St, and later the General Assembly Library in Parliament grounds. The new Church was opened in 1885, with seating for 800, in a parish with 360 communicant members. By 1911 the parish had 700 communicant members, with attendance of 1000 on most Sundays.
When it was established, the Church was very much on the edge of the colonial town, surrounded by predominantly residential dwellings. As the city has expanded over the decades, residential dwellings have been replaced by commercial buildings. The church now is very much in the commercial part of city,although with the advent of apartment living, and the movement of people back into the city, this is changing once again.
Today many of those who worship at St John’s in the City come from outside the city centre. Closure of the Roseneath Church on Mt Victoria in the 1980s, and uniting with Kelburn Parish in 1993 both added a new dimension to St John’s in the City. The completion of the site redevelopment in 1994, including the replacement of Troup House, the building of the Conference Centre, and the addition of the MacKay Chapel to the Church, together with the increasing ethnic diversity within the parish, has seen St John’s move ahead in many different ways.
Over the last few decades, the Church complex has remained the same but the outreach of the Church has changed dramatically. St John’s has developed a closer relationship with BGI for outreach to young people; has supported a lectureship in Christian Theology at Victoria University; committed to be a “Kids Friendly” church; is supporting the expansion of the wider Church, especially in the parish of Knox-Waitara; has introduced a contemporary evenng service; and continues to proclaim the gospel in the heart of Wellington.