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Back in the building . . . Woodlands Rd Methodist Church members (from left) Ian Urqhart, Margaret Ramsay, minister Rob Moore and St David's congregation members Margaret Johnson and Morven Sidal are pleased to be back in their church building after three years. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

The congregation of the Woodlands Road Methodist Church is back in its building after three years.

The church was deemed an earthquake risk in 2015, after an assessment put it below building safety standards enforced by the Methodist Church of New Zealand.

Despite buildings being classed as earthquake-prone if they failed to meet 35% of the upgraded national building standard code, the Methodist Church of New Zealand decided to increase that required figure to 65% for all its buildings.

Church treasurer Ian Urquhart said the Woodlands and St David’s congregations had used the nearby church hall and lounge for their gatherings for the past three years, since in the initial assessment the church building was deemed to meet less than 65% of the code.

“[There was] no quake damage – it was just the risk.”

However, a recently completed report by a Dunedin-based building assessment firm had said the church met 70% of the national building standards, Mr Urquhart said.

The denomination’s Bank St church also met 70% of the required standards and could also be used, Mr Urquhart said.

St David’s lay minister Morven Sidal said the safety of the Methodist churches had been paramount after three employees of Timaru’s South Island Organ Company, Neil Stocker, Paul Dunlop and Scott Lucy, died when the Durham Street Methodist Church collapsed in the Christchurch 2011 earthquake.

Mrs Sidal said the St David’s congregation – which meets in the church before the Woodlands Road congregation on Sunday mornings – was pleased to be able to move back into the main church building.

While the church had been used since Palm Sunday on March 25, the congregation had held its first monthly communion service last Sunday.

Being able to take communion again while kneeling at the altar rail of the church had been a special moment for the congregation, she said.

“We were very happy about it.

“It was a time of celebration.”