Future uncertain for church site

The site where St James Presbyterian church stood may become a car park. PHOTO: GILLIAN VINE
The site where St James Presbyterian church stood may become a car park. PHOTO: GILLIAN VINE
Plans to replace a South Dunedin church are on hold.

‘‘We’re waiting on costings on a potential design,’’ said the Rev Geoffrey Skilton, interim moderator of Dunedin South Presbyterian parish, which does not have a minister.

Once the costings came in, a decision would be made on whether rebuilding was viable or to continue to worship in the Chalmers Hall-Reid Hall complex next to the church site, he said.

‘‘Until we’ve got the numbers, we don’t know [if a new church is feasible] or whether the site will become a really good car park for church and community users of the halls,’’ Mr Skilton said.

St James’ church, built in the late 1880s, was demolished last February, 12 months after the congregation voted not to pour more money into the aged building.

Now, if the cost was too high to build a new church, worship would continue to be held in Chalmers Hall.

Mr Skilton is the minister of Highgate Presbyterian parish, which also has building issues. In October 2016, the last service was held in the century-old Maori Hill church building, which was considered an earthquake risk.

A congregational decision to demolish the church was appealed to the Southern presbytery in May 2019. This was followed by a community petition asking that the decision to demolition the church be reversed. In September 2020 the parish council appealed to the Synod of Otago & Southland — the Presbyterian body which has jurisdiction over southern church properties — on how it might proceed.

The parish council and congregation await the decision of synod, Mr Skilton said.

‘‘We’re in limbo until we get a decision from synod.

‘‘In both situations, we continue to care for one another and the community while we wait,’’ he said.

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