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Ann Cooper, 2002
History of the New Zealand Baptist Church
Baptist Churches were established in New Zealand in 1854 by missionaries of the English Baptist Missionary Society.

The Auckland Baptist Tabernacle began on Sunday 1st June 1855, when a small group of men and women met for worship in a school room in Chancery Street. Four months later in October 1855, the church was formally constituted as the Auckland Baptist Church. The population of Auckland at this time was about 6000.

With rapid growth the church soon needed a church building, and the first Baptist Chapel in Auckland was built on the corner of Federal and Wellesley Street West (now the site of the ASB tower). During those early years, the character of the church was being formed -overflowing love for Jesus, strong evangelistic preaching, respect for the word of God.

In 1881, Thomas Spurgeon (one of the twin sons of C. H. Spurgeon*) arrived from London to pastor the church. Great crowds came to hear his preaching and soon a larger building was needed. At first the Choral Hall on Symonds Street was used but proved unsuitable.

* Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892.) Was a fundamentalist Baptist and celebrated preacher whose sermons, which were often spiced with humour, were widely translated and extremely successful in sales. He was reared a Congregationalist but became a Baptist in 1850. In 1852 he became the Minister of Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire and in 1854 Minister of New Park Street chapel, Southwark in London. Within a year a larger structure was built to accommodate his followers, shortly afterwards an even larger building which held 6000. He drew large congregations.

September 26th 1883, Mr. and Mrs Joseph Bayes joined the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle, having been transferred from Rushden, Northamptonshire, England, by the immigration ship, The Famenoth, along with the Turley family who had been fellow travellers.

With faith and vision, the Church leaders secured a site on the corner of Queen Street and Karangahape Road, and proceeded to raise funds for a building to be modelled on the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. On Easter Monday 1884, the foundation stone was laid. At this ceremony, Pastor Spurgeon announced that the building should be opened free of debt. The Tabernacle was opened on 12th May 1885.

When the service began, 100 pounds was still required and this was raised. When the people heard that the building was opened debt free, they sang the doxology over and over again, giving praise to God.

Over the years the Tabernacle has been instrumental in the founding of the New Zealand Baptist Theological College and the Bible College of New Zealand under the direction of Joseph Kemp. Social concerns have also been important to the Tabernacle, which helped establish the Manurewa Children's home.

Today, the Tabernacle congregation is an international community and reflects the changing face of Auckland.

Settlement of New Zealand

The settlement of New Zealand came chiefly between 1837 and 1850, being somewhat organised by Edward Gibbon Wakefield. (1796-1862.)

Gibbon Wakefield was secretary to the British Minister in Turin in 1814 and in 1816 he married, but his wife died in 1820.

In 1826 whilst in Paris, he tricked an heiress to marry him, however he was tried and convicted of abduction, being sentenced to three years imprisonment, in Newgate prison. Here he saw first hand, the problems of the penal system, of the forcible

removal of convicts to British overseas possessions, where squalid and brutal conditions prevailed.

He conceived of the idea that British non convicts could settle in these possessions at a very low cost, thus relieving the poverty and crime of an overpopulated Britain.

During his spell in prison, he wrote a book, A Letter From Sydney (1829) in which he proposed the sale of crown lands in small units at a "sufficient price" (fixed and modest), rather than granting large tracts free. The proceeds would pay for sending emigrants of a cross section of society from Great Britain.

Through Wakefield's' influence, The New Zealand Association was formed in 1837, later to be amalgamated with other groups in 1838, to become The New Zealand Company, (1838-58) a British Joint Stock Company.

A party was sent to New Zealand to buy land from the native Maori Objections were raised by the Companies' activists, which hastened the annexation of New Zealand by the British and many transactions were deemed to be invalid.

Immigrants who had heeded the Companies' propaganda, found that there was actually little land to be had. The Company received a Royal Charter to continue its work (1841), by which time it was in financial difficulties. The massacre in 1843 of its officials and the 1844-47 Bay of Islands War exacerbated the Companies' plight and in 1858 it was dissolved.

Wakefield subsequently projected a Church of England settlement in Canterbury on the South Island of New Zealand and the bulk of "The Canterbury Pilgrims" arrived in February 1853. Wakefield also made the trip but lived in retirement.

Largely, by the propaganda of this man, who preached to his countrymen that emigration was the true relief of their economic miseries and that the colonies need not, in all cases, be mere points of call or places of trade, but might become new British Nations. To him is largely due the sytematised and aided emigration that founded modern Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It must also be mentioned that the pious efforts of Anglicans and Scottish Presbyterian committees also had a hand in this form of propaganda.

The economic growth of the North Island had been somewhat retarded by wars, however the South Island had grown increasingly prosperous.

In 1867 a depression struck, due in part to the reckless borrowing of overseas money, this practice was halted by the Government. The gold had been worked out and the economy needed revitalising.

By about 1869 farming had expanded steadily and the discovery of gold in Otago and then on the west coast led to a boom in production and trade. The population grew as the "diggers" poured in with hopes of getting rich quick.

In 1870, Julius Vogel, who was the colonial treasurer, was convinced of the great potential of the resources of New Zealand. (He later became Sir Julius Vogel and served two terms as Prime Minister, 1873-75 and 1876.) He realised that capital and labour was required to exploit this untapped wealth. He borrowed capital from overseas for public works and swelled the labour force with assisted immigration. Unfortunately he was a little too optimistic and things did not go to plan, he had too great a labour force and found difficulty in finding work for them. A scheme was set up which involved closer land settlement and it was proposed that the state should help men to become small farmers as state tenants, what was not realised at the time was that this was not the answer to instant prosperity. However it did come with the persistent hard work of some of the settlers.

The Briton of the Hanoverian and Early Victorian era was a villager, or was only one step removed from a villager, he was not wholly a product of the city, incapable of going back to the land, or of plying more trades than one. He was still able to adapt himself to the hardship of pioneer life, and to its variety of requirements and opportunities.

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