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Church of St Paul, Wellington, New Zealand
Church of St Paul, Wellington, New Zealand.
Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Diocese
Wellington has two cathedrals dedicated to St Paul. "Old
St Paul's" was constructed of native New Zealand timbers
in the Gothic Revival style, and was consecrated in 1866. Unsuitable
due to its size and its instability in high winds, it was abandoned
in 1964. Although Old St Paul's is no longer the seat of the
Bishop of Wellington, it remains consecrated and is a popular
venue for weddings and funerals. The cornerstone of "New
St Paul's" was laid in 1954 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth
II, then newly crowned, on her first visit to New Zealand. It
began functioning as a cathedral in 1964 but was not finished
until 2001. Outside it is monolithic, and pale pink. The interior
is enormous, both broad and high. Wooden choir stalls set widely
apart frame the high altar beyond, with a massive tapestry of
Christ in majesty behind it. The colour scheme overall is pastel
shades but with more strongly coloured stained glass windows.
It is the central church for the diocese of Wellington, which
covers the southern portion of New Zealand's North Island. They
sponsor a number of youth programs, including Tots'N'Tunes,
a weekly musical session for pre-schoolers and their parents/caregivers,
and a children's worship center based on the Montessori concept
of godly play.
Wellington, New Zealand's capital, lies on the southwestern
tip of North Island and is one of the island's major population
centres. The city prides itself on its arts scene, café
culture and nightlife, as well as an overall quality of life
that has consistently won awards. The cathedral is very much
a city centre church. One one side are the Parliament buildings;
on the opposite corner is the National Library of New Zealand.
The service was led by the Revd Jenny Wilkens, canon in residence
and acting dean. The Revd Dr Raymond Pelly, priest associate,
The date & time:
Conversion of St Paul and Feast of Title, 27 January 2013, 5.00pm.
We have received a comment
on this report.
What was the name of the
Choral Evensong (1928 Book of Common Prayer).
How full was the building?
About 40 people, so given the size of the building, a very small
number. It should be noted that January is summer holiday time
in New Zealand.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was warmly greeted by a welcomer in the foyer, and again immediately
inside the main doors, and again halfway down the church.
Was your pew comfortable?
A very comfortable chair. Shelves (in the back of the chair in front) held a kneeler, in case I wanted to use it, and space for books.
How would you describe the pre-service
Reverent but not quiet, as the choir were still rehearsing.
There were a few moments of silence after that.
What were the exact opening words of the
"We wait for thy loving-kindness" (the first words
of the introductory anthem, sung by the choir). The first spoken
words were of welcome to the congregation.
What books did the congregation use during the
A booklet introducing the outline of the service, and containing
all the words, plus the hymn book Common Praise.
What musical instruments
Organ. The choir made a generous contribution; they sang a short
piece at the beginning, responses during the service, choral
settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis
by Herbert Howells (originally written for St Paul’s Cathedral,
London), and toward the end a second anthem Give us the
Wings of Faith.
Did anything distract
Yes, just before the service some rather off "noises off"
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Traditional Anglican worship with lots of music.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
7 Erudite; the Revd Dr Raymond Pelly knows his Bible
well. He wanted to "bring Paul alive" for us but got
slightly carried away, and so I thought he went on a little
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The popular image of St Paul is as "a bit of a grump, against
women, and making Jesus hard to understand." But Paul was
a well-educated rabbi who, after a shattering encounter with
the risen Christ, became a keen missionary of the new faith.
God takes amazing initiatives to seek out the lost, and Paul
took an inclusive theology from this. The key to it is humility
and service, which are Christ-like things. We are all ambassadors
for Christ. We should never give up, but always aim for reconciliation
Which part of the service was like being in
The music. The choir had clearly returned refreshed from their
holidays. The building’s size makes it a challenge for singers
(its echo lasts around five seconds), especially performing
Howells’ rather elusive style of choral music, but they were
in full control. The organ voluntary at the end, also by Howells,
was electrifying too (and I noticed almost all the congregation
stayed to listen to it).
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Distant electronic noises before the service started, sounding
rather like remote tuneless jazz on a very tinny transistor
radio. Very distracting. Thankfully it stopped just before the
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Canon Wilkens and the Revd Pelly both waited at the back of
the cathedral to greet all those leaving the service. Other
worshippers spoke to me as we walked out.
How would you describe the after-service
No coffee. Wrong time of day!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 If the music is that good all the time it might even
be worth my while to emigrate!
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The music. Probably for a lot longer than seven days!
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