St Mary’s Church closed for quake strengthening

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St Mary’s Church in Timaru is closed again – this time for earthquake strengthening work for the next six months.

The Anglican church in Church St was damaged in the September 2010 Christchurch earthquake and the spire had to be removed.

The church was closed then as a precaution and the congregation worshipped in the chapel at Craighead Diocesan School, until it reopened in 2015.

Minister Rev John Shoaf said the Anglican diocese had decided to undertake strengthening work to ensure the church met the building code standards that had been upgraded since the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

Rev Shoaf said the work, which was expected to take six or seven months to complete, would involve making the walls even more connected to the roof, so if the ground shook, the building would move as a solid structure.

The congregation would hold its services in the neighbouring church hall and all Sunday, midweek and evensong services would run as usual, he said.

“We are very fortunate to have [the hall].”

The repairs to the church, which was over 100 years old, were mainly being funded by the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, which looks after all churches in Canterbury.

In addition to standard services, the church would also hold a special blessing service for teachers on February 11, as staff returned to work for the new school year.

Rev Shoaf said the invitation was sent out to all schools in the Timaru district. It would be the third year the parish had held such a service.

St Mary’s parish staff were also preparing for Easter. Lent would begin in early February and Easter would fall at the end of March, earlier than usual, he said.

“We’re getting ready for those services.”