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of Christ on the Lake, St Arnaud, New Zealand
Chapel of Christ on the Lake (aka Lake Rotoiti Christian Fellowship),
St Arnaud, New Zealand.
A small unassuming building, nestled in native bush. From
the outside it doesn't really look like much, and from the
inside it looks somewhat dated. But the view! The view is
This is a country church, not burdened by formality or liturgy,
but just a fellowship of believers. Their newsheet tells
me: "Lake Rotoiti Chapel is a non denominational church which
meets each week, led by locals, with visiting speakers from
around the region."
St Arnaud, which some residents refer to by its older name,
Rotoiti, is a picturesque village in the Nelson Lakes
region of the South Island of New Zealand. The area is famous
for its rugged alpine peaks, forests and glacial lakes. The church conducts a special ministry to visitors, who can
sometimes outnumber the parishioners.
"Peter" led worship with "Joan" accompanying
on keys (they don't worry too much about surnames). Allan
Smellie was the preacher.
The date & time:
Pentecost Sunday, 31 May 2009, 10.30am.
What was the name of
How full was the building?
Did anyone welcome you
A church member passed out hymnbooks with a friendly greeting.
After I sat down, I recognised the fellow sitting in front
of me as the officiant at a wedding I had attended the day
before. After the service got underway, visitors were invited
to stand and say where they came from.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pews are relatively comfortable.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Friendly, jovial. It felt like everyone knew everyone else,
and it was a big family.
What were the exact
opening words of the service?
"Righty-oh! Like to welcome everyone here on this cold, brisk,
What books did the congregation
use during the service?
The Holy Bible, New International Version; the Scripture
in Song series of books (Songs of Praise, Songs
of the Nations and Songs of the Kingdom); and
What musical instruments
A Technics keyboard.
Did anything distract
The view was the biggest distraction. Through the window behind
the altar could be seen the beauty of Lake Rotoiti and the
glorious mountain range beyond, dusted with a lightly drifting
snow. The window was fogged up by the breathing of the congregation
by the end.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
It was good, plain worship. Some of the words were in songbooks,
some on an overhead projector (some of the transparencies
handwritten). The music was all accompanied by a single keyboard
playing handy accompaniment styles as electric keyboards can.
It was far from perfect or polished, but the voices of the
people were loud, clear and vigorous.
Exactly how long was
On a scale of 1-10,
how good was the preacher?
7 Alan Smellie started his children's talk by inviting
us to laugh at his name. He seemed to take his time covering
the ground of his sermon (my companion thinks he dozed off
once or twice) but he got there in the end.
In a nutshell, what
was the sermon about?
He spoke on Ephesians 5:18-20 (be filled with the Spirit and
sing to the Lord). This being Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was
the topic. His main point was that being filled with the Spirit
is not an event, but an ongoing process of surrender.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The children of the congregation were each invited to read
a couple of verses of scripture from Samuel, and they did
this well, with a little clarification of difficult concepts
by the worship leader after some of the readings. In the row
in front of us sat Ethan, a young man with a winning smile
and manner. I suspect Ethan may be slightly disabled, but
he joined in with gusto, and when, after a hymn, he told the
congregation, "That was really nice, wasn't it?" it fit.
He also commented at the end, nice and loud, "What a
good service this was." Ethan was a real part of the
place there, a family member, as were all.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
This was a tiny church, not much larger than my lounge at
home. The heating was provided by bar heaters on the walls.
It was as if the place were screaming, "I was built in
the 60s and still have all my original fixtures!"
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
I was approached by someone who recognised me from the previous
day's wedding. We had an interesting conversation about the
wedding and how the catering raises money for the chapel and
the respite cottages next door.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Bog standard instant coffee, as fitted the place. Hot, drinkable.
There were chocolate chip biscuits handed around, too.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 =
9 This is a beautiful place. If it were practical to
live there, I would certainly consider it. The earthy fellowship
here complements the rustic beauty of St Arnaud.
Did the service make
you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will
you remember about all this in seven days' time?
A service which began with the words "Righty-oh." That, and
Ethan's declarations about the niceness of the service and
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