How We Started
We are thankful to and blessed by God to be able to look back over these last 50 years of the Reformed Churches of Hastings. On 24/9/60, 25 individuals consisting of 23 confessing and 2 baptised members signed the protocol of our church. These 25 people were young and from various different backgrounds, denominations and nationalities; English, Scottish, Dutch and in due time even a Maori minister. The word Reformed Church has grown on us as a Bible believing Church, and we are thankful that which is impossible with us, is possible with God. In God’s love we are saved by grace, through faith and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not as a result of works, so that NO ONE may boast, for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them. When I was a young boy, my Father told me that when he was young, the first radio came to his village. Fifty years ago, when I was young, black and white TV came to New Zealand and it was incredible that one man in Wellington via this media could enter homes and we could see him. God is present here with us tonight! Now 50 years later we have colour TV and computers cell phones, ipods, etc. There are not many more secrets eg. Facebook. Even young primary school children know about how to get in the internet explorer and Google their many questions e.g. Reformed Church of Hastings and then read about our history, even this 50th year jubilee, photo streams, memoirs, blast from past. We thank the committee and also the cooks who have worked very hard to organise this big celebration and the clever people who have set up our website. We are privileged to look back and see God’s miracles in this church and the Christian School: The spiritual growth among members, an enthusiastic committed youth group, lots and lots of young children and even a fifth generation. I received an email with a question: Which is the shortest chapter and which is the longest chapter in the Bible? In between these two is Psalm 118:8 which is the centre of God’s word. “It is better to take refugee in the Lord than to trust in man.”
Because of humanism, evolution theories, lack of trust in God’s word, of which we were made aware by; meetings with Rev. Arend de Graaf, the book “Will Presbyterianism Survive?” by Rev. Bill Deenick, contacts and meetings with the Rev. Alex Scarrow, who with his congregation in Bucklalnds Beach left the Presbyterian Church. A public meeting, “Why Reformed Churches”, and an open denial on black and white T.V. by Prof. Lloyd Geering, principal of Knox Presbyterian Theological College, a denial of the virgin birth of Christ, negative questions about God’s creation. This woke us up, that especially for future generations, we had to go back to the Bible as God’s infallible Word. Back to a Reformation. A small group of young believers listening to tape recorded sermons and services in people’s homes. After the protocol was signed, the Red Cross hall was hired for the Sunday. As a deacon together with my wonderful helpmate, it took at least half an hour to get things ready before the services, like hanging up sheets to cover the Red Cross posters, empty ashtrays, organise the chairs, put up the collapsible pulpit on hinges, (made by Br. J. Barendrecht,) connect the tape recorder in the hope that the service would be clear and God honouring. Once a month we had a visiting minister leading the service and that was great. Thanks to members Alex and May Cox we were put into connection with the Interdenominational Sunday School in Murdoch Road and that we could use this building in exchange with the promise that the Sunday School of approximately 60 children of the neighbourhood would be run by us. The parents in the neighbourhood were visited and we used World Home Bible League material for evangelism. During the years the Sunday School came to an end, and the building came up for sale and became our first Reformed Church. This is a short report of our early beginning, we were walking in the valley, but now tonight after 50 years we have the privilege of looking back from the mountain top on all God’s blessings, His goodness, faithfulness and tender love. To see the miracles of His work in our church and school, may we continue to walk by His Word and commandments to His honour, our Father, creator of heaven and earth. Thank you.
Our Time at Florence Street
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,
but only such a word as is good for edification according to
the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
When I was talked into speaking at this auspicious occasion by one of the Elders, it was qualified that I must talk about the Florence Street era of the Reformed Church of Hastings.
It’s true that I have experienced this era, but this in itself was a bit of a concern for me. You see – before you get to my age 20/20 vision somehow changes to become 20/20 memory. You remember 20% of what you have experienced and get about 20% of that right.
So I dredged through my memory banks, while keeping an eye on TV where the Christchurch earthquake reports were being shown and I suddenly remembered that the concrete driveway to the front door of Florence Street looked like the concrete drives in Christchurch. Perhaps it was leftover from the Napier earthquake, anyway it was a bit of a trip hazard and it was not long before something was done about that.
The big change from Murdoch Road to Florence Street was the size of the auditorium. It was mega size compared to what we had been used to, but there was no hall in those days. The kitchen was tiny and had a slide into the auditorium which needed to have some pews moved so we could use it. Also when the cadets & calvinettes had a meeting, all the pews needed to be moved to the back and restored again at the end of the evening. Obviously something needed to be done about that, and in due time the hall was built, the kitchen turned 180 degrees and increased in size.
As we all know it hardly ever rains in Hawke’s Bay – but occasionally it does and when it rained hard the car park became Lake Florence. Obviously there was a need for drainage – to the road would be good -but the car park was lower than the road – so eventually a large sump hole was dug and the car park leveled to drain into it.
The Cottage was quite derelict when we first moved to Florence Street and to make it functional it was given a makeover. It might not have been a TV production where a transformation takes place in no time flat, but it was significant with interior walls being removed and lots of paint applied. Much later a real artist got to work and we now have a masterpiece on one wall.
The whole site had apparently been a land fill in early times and this also was the reason why the foundations of the auditorium had seen better days. Some new piles and leveling was required to make the floor flat again and to stop the rocking movement that could be felt when someone walked down the aisle.
Rev Jack Sawyer came to NZ from the American deep South and he liked the summer. But his study, where Rev Waldron has his study now had no insulation in the walls or ceiling, no air conditioning and it was a sweatbox in mid summer. That too was attended to initially by installing batts in the ceiling and later when a new study was included in the building of the hall.
At the rear of the auditorium there was a small room where flowers could be potted up and cleaning materials were stored. When the congregation numbers increased, the wall was removed and this room was added to the auditorium with some functional & colorful windows added.
The original seating in the auditorium consisted of the pews that we brought with us from Murdoch Road. These were all wood in construction and had no padding on the seats. As the congregation grew in number some more wooden pews were commissioned to be made which later still was added to with steel framed pews which were had soft padded seats. It was not long before all of the pews were similarly upholstered.
As time progressed the stage area was given a makeover and a new pulpit installed, creating the stage area as it is today – although we now have pulpit mark III. Other enhancements included a new organ with extra speakers, a sound loop for the hard of hearing, improved recording facilities – both audio and visual, not forgetting measures to improve the acoustic in the hall. And I could go on – but I won’t.
I have focused a lot on the Florence Street property. But now I want to talk personalities. First and foremost, the Lord has been most gracious in providing us faithful Pastors in Rev’s Jack Sawyer, Bruce Hoyt and David Waldron. As church members we have been fed week after week with solid spiritual food which has been blessed by the Lord, resulting in the corporate growth of the congregation as evidenced around us today.
We have also been blessed by an abundance of gifted men who have been called to serve as Elders and Deacons and have given faithful service to the church and to their Lord. We give thanks to the Lord for their commitment and service.
Time does not permit to make mention of all those that have served in one way or other during our tenure in Florence Street, but suffice it to say that we have indeed worked together as members of a body, coming together more & more as a family under the guidance of God’s word and His spirit. We have shared the work load, highlighted perhaps with our involvement in sending Rev & Mrs Douma as missionaries to Papua New Guinea and the building of the Kiwihouse, the continued growth & development of the Hastings Christian School, the local witness at the prison, on radio Kidnappers and through involvement in CBI.
We have been able to share our joys – the births & baptisms of covenant children, the confessions of faith of our youth, witnessing marriages of young & sometimes not so young. Sharing too our disappointments, our heartaches, our losses and our grief.
Not that as a Congregation we were always in agreement on everything. I distinctly remember the debate over the integration of the Hastings Christian School where strong opinions were held on both sides of the argument. I remember it well because, to my shame, I completely overlooked the teaching of Ephesians 4:29 and instead of being edifying in my speech I spoke rashly and accusingly. But thanks be to God, that in spite of our limitations, both as individuals and as a congregation, the Lord has nevertheless mightily blessed us, which ought to encourage us all the more as we pass this milestone of 50 years as an established congregation.
May we go forward in the strength of the Lord, seeking to serve and glorify Him wherever we can and at every opportunity He gives us, so that we may indeed continue to be a salt in the community in which we live.
Where We Are At and The Future
The brief given to me for this speech was:
Where we have come.
Where to go now.
Where we want to be and the unknown.
In essence if you like – A vision on where we are going / the future.
When one speaks of a vision all sorts of thoughts & ideas spring to mind depending on who you talk too. Different people have differing ideas or visions.
One has to ask –”Who can know what lays ahead for the next 50 years?” Much has happened in the last 50 years. Changes have occurred in so many areas of our lives. All of us have experienced that in various ways.
With changes has come challenges. We can see challenges as a threat especially if it disrupts our comfort zone.
But our lives should not be lived in a comfort zone for if we are faithful to God’s calling their will be changes and challenges.
The future is unknown But we don’t face it alone.
In the book of Ezra we read that when Ezra and a group of returning exiles began their 1500 km (900miles) trek back to Jerusalem they all fasted and prayed for a safe journey. They prayed for God’s favour, protection and trusted “God’s gracious hand” would guide them.
God will guide and direct us if we are faithful. We have seen that over the last 50 years for the church in Hastings.
Psalm 37: vs 23-28 says the steps of a man are established by the Lord; and He delights in his way. When he falls, he shall not be hurled head-long; because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. I have been young, and now I am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or his descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends; and his descendants are a blessing. Depart from evil, and do good, so you will abide forever. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His godly ones; they are preserved forever; but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
We need to continue to step out in faith and follow where He leads us. To grow in our faith we need to walk closely with God – praying continually and reading his Word daily.
You will discover that faith will lead you where reason may not. Faith and Reason can be compared to two travelers. Think of faith as a man who can walk 20 or 30 kms at a time without flagging , while Reason is a child who can only muster the strength to go 2 or 3 kms. One day Reason said to Faith, “Oh Faith , let me walk with you.” But Faith replied, “Oh , Reason , you can never walk with me!” Nevertheless, they set out together. When they came to a deep river, Reason said, “I can never cross this.” But Faith , waded through it , singing.
When they reached a high mountain, Reason despaired. But Faith carried Reason on her back. The writer of this old tale said, “Oh how dependant upon faith is reason.”
Why has God made faith the indispensable ingredient in our journey of faith? Perhaps so that we will became totally dependant on Him.
Reason often tells us to stay put. Faith calls us to step out, reassuring us that “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
The future will bring challenges – yet we can be assured that God is faithful to all who seek to honour and serve Him.
Whilst the future is unknown the most important part of that which doesn’t change is God. He is the same Yesterday . Today and Tomorrow. All things are in His control.
So I come back to the question – Where we want to be ? – (the vision )
Maybe we should ask ourselves – Where does God want me to be ? Proverbs 16 verse 9 says – The mind of man plans his ways but the Lord directs his steps.
I would like to end on two key points:
First - We all need to remain faithful to God in all aspects of our lives and encouraging each other in this , especially in this difficult world with all its temptations. Hebrews 10: vs 24-25 says (and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds , not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Second - One thing is certain and that is – “ We have been blessed abundantly.” We have the message of hope, salvation and we need to share that with the lost. We need to have a heart for the lost in our Nation. We need to share that hope with those who are lost.