Topic: Little Bethel Church, Rangiora

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Little Bethel Church, Rangiora

Little Bethel

After holding services in private homes under the leadership of T.S. Mannering and William Emms Ivory, Calvanistic Baptists used the Church of England assembly and school room.

The Baptists were the first non-Anglican group of immigrants to settle in Rangiora in the 1850s. Most of them were connections of Ivory, a son of a Baptist pastor at Costessy, Norwich, England, who arrived at Rangiora in 1855. His home became a focal point for Baptist worship.

The Baptists congregation was formally established on October 20, 1862. In the next year they built a small chapel on the Direct Road, opposite the present Queen Street. Known as Little Bethel, it was the first Baptist church in Canterbury.

William Ivory was the congregation leader until 1874. The enthusiastic eloquence of Ivory's preaching created difficulties for his congregation in arranging their Sunday dinners and other activities. Anxious to have Ivory shorten his sermons, the church deacons hung a bold faced clock in full view of the pulpit.

When William Sansom, senior, became preacher, he followed the Ivory tradition of long sermons. On his retirement after many years, a successor was not found and Little Bethel closed. The Baptists scattered to other congregations.

Baptist worship was revived in Rangiora in 1895 when the Canterbury Baptist Association took over Little Bethel. An enlarged Little Bethel served the Baptists until their centenary service on October 27, 1962.

At one stage, it seemed that the borer might win the day. Some women sat in Little Bethel with newspapers and magazines draped overhead to stop the borer dust from the timber ceiling falling on their clothing. Eventually funds became available to reline the ceiling.

The Baptists began their second century in a new church, after buying and modifying the former Brethren brick church, across the road on the corner of Victoria and Queens Streets. Subsequently a new hall and other facilities were linked with the church.

Miss M Breach gave dedicated service as organist for 58 years.


Extract from "Rangiora - An early pictorial record"


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