St Matthew Lutheran Church History

REFLECTIONS ON THE EARLY DAYS AT

ST MATTHEW, HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND

Early Days of St Matthew’s, Hamilton, N.Z.

By Pastor Noel C Schultz

[Edited form, full version also available]

Early Plans to Build

Late in June [1955] a meeting of interested parishioners was held at the manse to consider how 27 Abbotsford Street could be utilised for a church building. There was interest but no great enthusiasm at this stage. The members had no previous experience of a church building of their own, and they were aware of how few they were to take on board such a challenge. So the matter was put on the back-burner for some months.

Building Begins

To alert the community to the presence of a group of people meeting for Lutheran services in Hamilton, a notice board was erected on the site of the proposed chapel. It had been made by Mr. H. Stichnote and the sign-writing was done by Mrs Marie Candy. Though a decision had been made by the Mission Board of the NZ Lutheran Church and the local members to build a church at 27 Abbotsford Street there were many delays. Lengthy discussions involving the Missions Board over the plans and the financing of the project caused local frustration. To this was added the slowness with which the local council and the building inspector dealt with the proposal.

It had been decided that in order to keep the costs as low as possible, much of the actual construction would be undertaken on a voluntary basis by members of the congregation. This was a very courageous step to take as, at that time, there were only ten able-bodied men in the congregation , all of whom were busy farmers or employed five or six days a week. There was no qualified builder among them, though one senior member, M. Hubner, had been a tradesman and Trevor Rumney was an apprenticed plumber. In order to speed up the project and to handle the more difficult part of the construction, it was decided to employ a carpenter/neighbour (Bob Buchanan) to cut and erect the timber frame, roof trusses, rafters and roof. Noel Shultz and other volunteers worked with the builder for the 2.5 weeks that he was employed. Because they did not have a qualified bricklayer, a contractor (Oliver Brothers) was engaged at 20.5 pounds per 1000 bricks laid. When the 7500 bricks had been laid, the brickies replaced the badly cracked manse chimney. By the time of the laying of the foundation stone (April 7th , 1957) the walls were up, the roof on, the floor laid, and windows installed.

Church Dedication

It was a brilliant sunny day for the dedication and thanksgiving and 130 persons attended. In Pr. Noel Shultz’s thanksgiving address he commented “A most significant feature of the erection of this church is that it has been built largely by the members themselves. They have donated their time and their energy. Thus the church is part of ourselves, for our sweat and labour have gone into it. Over 2000 hours have been donated to do this. Some have made real sacrifices. But those who have worked the hardest and the longest do not look for praise, for I have this confidence that they worked the way they did because they considered it a way in which they could serve their God, their families and their community”. In conclusion Noel asked ‘What shall we say of the future? We know that just as God has blessed us in the past we can rely on his help for the future. With the passing of the years do not overlook how in times past we have been enabled to build this house of worship. May we never become so ungrateful that we forget the self-sacrificing consecrated service of those who worked on this building. We can show our gratitude to God by treasuring this humble building as His temple where He is present in a special way to enrich us as we worship together”.

The names of those who worked on the chapel’s construction and painting (according to the records kept at the time) include: E. Axelrad, C. Burne, B. Candy, A. Garnett, P. Garnett, M. Hubner, Mrs Mason, J. May, L.Meyer, E.Meyer, R. Pannach, T. Rumney, L. Rumney, W.Reid, L. Reid, I. Reid, N. Schultz , L. Taylor, E. Wishnowsky and M. Wishnowsky.

Early Days of St Matthew’s, Hamilton, N.Z.

By Lance Reid

Before the church was built we met 6 monthly at Freda Ross’s home and later at Walter and Meta Reid’s home at Cambridge. Pastor Te Punga from Halcombe was the first pastor to visit us, followed by Pastor Clem Koch. Pastor Koch travelled widely and started congregations in other areas including Auckland.

Eventually the Hamilton congregation decided they needed a church. With the help of other congregations around the Waikato and the Lutheran Laymen’s League of N.Z. the section in Abbotsford Street was purchased. It had an old house on the section which was used as the Manse. Pastor Noel Schultz was with us to build the church. There was Mr. Hubner who was the permanent builder, there most of the time; helped by Bunty Meyer’s father Lou, Bunty, his cousin Colin Burne, Ashley Garnett, Ern Wishnowsky, Walter Reid and myself Lance Reid. Uncle Ern contributed personally with financial help in buying the section. On all occasions the hardworking ladies were there supporting us with much appreciated meals. I can’t quite remember how long it took us, but it was for weeks , getting up to milk, go to build the church and back home to milk in the afternoons. There was finally a satisfying day when we celebrated the opening of St.Matthew’s Lutheran Church, here in Hamilton.

Early Days of St Matthew’s, Hamilton, N.Z.

By Bunty Meyer

My first introduction to St Matts. would have to have been in the February of 1954. What there was of a congregation met in the Y.M.C.A. which was situated in Barton Street on the corner of Bryce Street. I think the Pastor would have been Clem Koch who at the time was responsible for all of the North Island north of Marton. He stayed at C.C.W. (Bill) Meyers granny flat on Kihikihi Road in Te Awamutu.

Early members, well I’ll try. Walter (Pop) and Meta Reid, Ashley and Ngarie Garnett, Ern and Alice Wishnowsky, Hubners, the Rumneys and Mr. Stickhnote.

The first resident pastor was Noel Schultz. I am not sure of the process which saw the acquisition of the property at 27 Abbotsford St, but my first impression was that it was bit of a dump. There was an old villa type house dating back to the early 1900s and looking like it needed work. The decision to buy that particular section was no doubt influenced by the fact that the house was not slap bang in the middle of the section allowing for the development of the first church plant.

Money being of the essence absolutely everything possible was done by the members who were largely responsible, Louis Meyer and Bunty, Pop and Lance Reid, Ern Wishnowsky and Ashley Garnett being the main stays. Other folk helped but as my memory recalls those were the mainstays.

One fact sticks out is when getting the roof trusses into place, Lou (my Dad) and Walter Reid were up a ladder either side of the building lifting the trusses by rope. It’s one thing to get them up onto the top plate but to get them right way up is another. Where were O.S.H. or Fosters cranes when you need them? Once the building was watertight the floor went down. That was Louis’s job. The flooring came kiln dried from Cambridge and was O/B Matai. We had a pair of floor cramps that pinched the tongue and groove up real tight. If you look to-day at the original floor there is not the slightest crack between each board. Dad would be pleased.

After the floor was down but before the linings were up the dedication was held. The original front door is where the lectern now stands and Noel used the steps as his pulpit for the ceremony. He described the building as being like a watch with the back off, and not to miss an opportunity there was even a collection. Of the few tradesmen employed were the bricklayers who came to the dedication. I don’t know if they tossed in a donation or not!!

Winter was now approaching and putting up the linings in the shortening days coupled with farm work saw progress fairly slow but it got done. For myself I was glad to see the back of building the church so for my sins I was marched off to do my C.M.T. army training.

The original plan had the altar where the folding doors now stand with a tiny vestry and back door to the east, with an equally tiny storage room opposite. The front door opened onto a reasonable sized entry lobby with toilets about where we now stand the Christmas tree. If you looked carefully at the floor you can see where the aforementioned rooms stood by the joins laid up against my Dad’s originals.

After Noel Schultz came, Lance Steicke and then Clarrie Janetzki and the idea of a new manse. The section was too small for what was envisioned, so about 10ft (3 metres) was purchased along what is now the back fence. About this time, or somewhat before, the block of land west of us where the block of flats now stands was on the market, and a certain individual who shall remain nameless wasn’t in agreement to buy it and failed to obey instructions about putting in an offer so we missed out. Bit of a skeleton rattling in the cupboard.

John King was operating the printing press from the garage but said garage was in the way of the new house so garage had to be moved. Along came Bunty with big Nuffield tractor, no problem. The garage floor had been reinforced with extra concrete to take the press, so where the present kitchen is the concrete there is about 500ml thick. Don’t drop a cup.

The new manse was built by contract by Mr. Fred Short who in turn was Garry Thomas’ mentor to the building trade.

An idea has surfaced that we may have encased a time capsule during the building or dedication of the original church. I personally have no recollection of this, but it would make interesting reading.

Early Days of St Matthew’s, Hamilton, N.Z.

Shirley Gall remembers

…The weekly services held in her sister Freda Ross’ home and at her parents in Cambridge

…The enthusiasm with which Te Punga and Clem Koch were welcomed on their itinerant        though infrequent visits.

…The work the men put into the building, and the women who worked for and looked after the fittings inside. They formed a fellowship and worked at fundraising.

…The dedication of the pastors, not only in their spiritual work but in working physically side by side with the congregation members.

…Leaving the district to live in Whakatane and later in Auckland, but always feeling ‘at home’ in St Matthew’s.

…Congregational activities have always been an integral part of her life, and no doubt her parents’ (Pop and Nana Reid as everyone seemed to call them) participation in the building of the first church was her encouragement.

Early Days of St Matthew’s, Hamilton, N.Z.

By Jean King

My memories date back only as far as 1965 when John and I first came to live in Hamilton to work with Pastor Clarry Janetzki in the printing business. It was a big career switch as John’s work had been as a construction engineer. Printing presses weren’t a part of that. Buying another property himself and then having a large building erected to house the printing business finally convinced the LCNZ that his offers of working voluntarily were serious. Unfortunately as printing work increased, more labour became necessary and the church had no money to pay workers. Eventually the actual printing was closed down.

The first St Matthew was well and truly established, but as the membership grew, the building was becoming more and more inadequate. So John’s expertise with building could once again be exercised when the new church was planned in 1975-6.

I remember many people who were part of our church family, the only one we had as we had come from Australia.

- Mr and Mrs Oppert – Mrs Oppert crocheted the edging on the first white altar cloth and we still have it, though not used on the altar which is much larger.

- Mr and Mrs Schnitzer who had come to us via USA to be nearer their daughter in their retirement. They were Czechoslovakian, Allan of Jewish heritage, imprisoned during Hitler’s regime, and forever grateful for freedom and friendship amongst us.

- the Ravn family, Danish in origin.

- the Sterne family who, with their sons were stalwarts in all activities in the congregation, particularly with the youth.

- the Jurgen’s family who could be relied on to take an interest in and work for St Matthew at any time because the church was important to them.

- Mrs Milner, German born, who pedalled away each Sunday on the little pedal organ so we could sing the hymns in some kind of time and tune.

- People who organised choirs and made the most of the amateur talent available.: Ulli Nieschmidt, Kim Kuchler, Ruthanne Maber, not forgetting Judy Czepanski who always seemed to be roped in as accompanist.

We praise God for his goodness to us over the years, and pray for his blessings in whatever the future holds for St Matthew, Hamilton.

Excerpt from Waikato Times -

On the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone

April 7 1957

“The practice of having a foundation stone incorporated in a church or any public building is a fine custom if, on such occasions, we seek to glorify God and not man. That is why on this stone you will see the words ‘To the glory of God’. This church was planned, is being built and will be used to the glory of God,” said Pastor Noel C Schultz, in his address at the laying of the foundation stone of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Abbotsford Street, yesterday.

The ceremony was performed in warm sunshine and was well attended, visitors coming from Tauranga, Auckland and Marton. Welcoming the visitors, Mr Schultz satd it was most gratifying to see the interest members of the church were taking in the erection of the new buildings. He said that to date at least 400 pounds worth of voluntary labour had been given.

Referring to the large cross of glass bricks which is a feature of the church, Mr Schultz said it was there not just to add dignity and beauty to the building “but it calls out more eloquently than words to all who pass by that their salvation and their only hope for a happy eternity lies in a glad acceptance of Christ’s death on the cross of Calvary as payment for their sin.

“Just as Jesus Christ is the solid foundation of the Christian church, so he must be the sure foundation on which our hopes for eternity are grounded. The God of the Bible, the God of our historic Christian faith, is alone able to overcome death with life, time with eternity, sin with salvation and hell with heaven,” he said.

PASTORS SERVING AT ST MATTHEW

  1. Noel Schultz
  2. Lance Steicke
  3. Clarrie Janetzki (d)
  4. Byron Klein
  5. Rodney Beh (d)
  6. Allan Heppner (d)
  7. Phillip Joppich
  8. Paul Lohe
  9. Dan Weise (d)
  10. Warren Paltridge
  11.  John Davison