by MICHAEL OTTO
WELLINGTON — Having sold a parish church, Khandallah parishioners are set to move straight back into it.
St John’s Church in Ngaio has been sold to private owners, and the funds raised will be used to help redevelop St Benedict’s Church, Khandallah. The two buildings are in the same St Benedict’s Parish.
But while the refurbishments are being carried out in St Benedict’s, the parish will lease St John’s from its new owners and use it for Sunday Masses.
“So we are not actually moving out, we are moving in to St John’s,” parish priest Fr Tony Kearns told NZ Catholic.
Fr Kearns expects the temporary closure of St Benedicts to last some six months, starting this month. Although no plans have yet been made for a celebration to formally farewell St John’s and open the refurbished St Benedict’s, Fr Kearns said something will be done at that stage.
The parish had reflected on its future needs and decided having two churches relatively close together “was becoming something of an issue for us”, he said.
Advertising for the St John’s Church property mentioned it was on nearly a quarter acre, with an historic building, divided between church and hall.
Rateable value for the property was advertised at $700,000.
Fr Kearns, while not disclosing the sale price, said the parish was “happy with the price we sold it for”.
“You take the market as you find it,” he said.
Fr Kearns said he hasn’t asked the new owners what they intend to do with the St John’s building long term, as that is ultimately their business.
It is hoped something of St John’s can be incorporated into the refurbished St Benedict’s, he said. For instance, some of the wood from St John’s pews or building might be fashioned into a sanctuary cross for St Benedict’s.
“The idea was not to say we are leaving this building behind, but somehow we are incorporating and bringing with us a lot of the traditions, and something of the building that housed us for 100 years.”
Plans have been made to dispose of surplus liturgical furniture and items appropriately, for instance by giving them to other parishes and schools that request them.
The refurbishment at St Benedict’s will include earthquake strengthening, exterior ramp access, new fire doors, lighting, heating, carpets and toilets as well as a revamped sanctuary.
The back wall of the Church will be removed and replaced with folding doors, so a flexible space can be created, which could be used as a foyer or gathering space, or for a larger congregation.