Wyn Chadwick rarely misses a service at St Stephen’s church in Whangaparaoa, and her favourite pew is in the little chapel, at the front, on the right hand side.
She has sat there each week, managing to avoid the occasional drips before the roof was fixed, and listening to services taken by a succession of vicars, for almost 50 years.
Wyn is the church’s longest serving parishioner; she moved to the area with her husband Jack and first attended St Stephen’s services in 1969. Next week, on June 9, she will celebrate her 100th birthday – in the same year as the centenary of her beloved chapel.
Wyn was part of a small, dedicated and fun loving group of local women, the Women’s Fellowship – their monthly Bring and Buy sales were an ongoing source of funds for St Stephen’s. Queues formed outside the hall where the Bring and Buys were held, with the cake stall the biggest drawcard.
There was always fundraising needed for improvements to the church and Wyn says “no matter what we wanted to do, the money came”.
Wyn also helped with the cleaning and floral art for the chapel – four large floral arrangements were created every week, using whatever flowers people had in their gardens.
In 2006, it was a proud moment when the church became a separate parish with its own vicar.
A few years afterwards there was what Wyn calls “plan number five”, which was for the building of a multi-million dollar new church, and sale of the little chapel.
Eventually Council conditions, in part caused by the presence of historic trees, put the removal of the little chapel from the site in the too hard basket – a cause for celebration among the congregation. “Plan number six”, which eventually saw the chapel restored and integrated with a brand new building, is referred to by Wyn as “the Lord’s plan”.
Today the peaceful chapel is used for quiet contemplation, small services and weddings.
Planning is well underway for a series of celebrations of the chapel’s centenary, which will take place in August.
The original church at Stephen’s was erected in 1917 to meet the needs of the small farming community. It is one of the oldest public buildings in Whangaparaoa. In 1960, it was extended with the addition of a sanctuary and in 1968 with a hall across the entranceway. In 2011 a new auditorium was built alongside and, as part of its refurbishment, the chapel gained a new entranceway, paid for by the Hopper family in memory of Edith Hopper.