Sunday, April 10, 2016

History of Butt Street church

from the Fiji Times:

From school to church

Peni Mudunavonu
Monday, April 11, 2016
MANY of us may not know how Butt St, where the headquarters of this newspaper is located, got its name. Or how the Wesley City Mission Church came to being.
According to an account in his memoirs, long time church member the late Ken Giblin said the Wesley City Mission Church, commonly known as "The Butt Street Church", was originally opened as a school.
"The name of the school was Wesley School and was built on a land bought by the Methodist Church for the education of half-castes.
"In 1938, I attended the newly-built school and I was told by staff members that the Government at that time did not want half-castes in their European schools so a school was made for them," Mr Giblin wrote in his memoir.
"The formation of Wesley Church was a brave venture among us unruly people, somewhat hard to control and yet fiercely loyal to one another,"
He said the venture was suggested by Reverend Charles Oswald Lelean whose memorial school was situated at Davuilevu near the banks of the Rewa River and the suggestion was only made a reality with the help from the European executive staff of the Methodist Church
"Two buildings were erected on the bought premises; one was a hall, a stage at the Gordon St side and the verandah facing Butt Street and it was recently torn down on January 4, 2016 for renovation and is now the new hall.
"The second building was called the Methodist Bookshop and the Methodist Office but the Methodist Church had other plans for the building which led them to install a printing press with several printing machines on the stage and an indigenous school started."
The National Archives records stated that the church was situated in the intersection of two streets named after two very influential personalities in the history of Fiji:
* Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon, the first governor of Fiji in the colonial times whose policies was decisive in shaping the history of Fiji; and
* John Marten Butt, who was the manager of the first branch of the Bank of New Zealand that was opened at Levuka on July 17, 1876 and he was also a warden (equivalent to mayor) and chairman of the school board of Levuka at the time.
Two years later the world was at war as World War II erupted.
"During the years 1941 and 1942, thousands of New Zealand and American soldiers poured into Fiji.
"Our school was taken over by armed forces and Suva was a town of soldiers, pillboxes, trenches and air raid shelters everywhere and that many of the members of the church went to the country side and at times there would be only five people attending the church service.
"Many people shifted elsewhere because of the war," he said.
At the height of the war, Mr Giblin said, the church celebrated its first wedding which was held on April 18, 1942. "It was the union of Ms Amete O'Connor and Mr Ted Petersen. "Ms O'Connor was our first local primary teacher at Wesley Primary School," Mr Giblin said.
In the course of time, there was a need for a new building and a new minister for the church.
"The matter debated was whether to get a minister first or build a building first." Mr Giblin said they were previously directed by the head of the Methodist Church at that time in Epworth House to get a minister first and when the members of the church finally agreed their decisions changed.
"The decision to get a minister first took many months, until we said that we would take both on regardless.
"Reverend W Gillard arrived in 1966 and with him the church prospered so much that Reverend Gillard served for two terms.
"Upon the arrival of Reverend W Gillard, he requested that a new caretaker manager be appointed to look after the premises of the church.
"After considerable deliberations, Alfred Jack was employed as the first caretaker manager in January, 1967.
"Mr Jack's hard work proved to be a success and he held that position for eight years," Mr Giblin said.
In a documented discussion with Mr Giblin, Ms Petersen said no one knew at the time that from this little group something special was to take place.
"From the faith of these families a church was born, it will grow and continue to grow.
"As Jesus said, it is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.
"The plant grew and became a tree and the birds made their nests in its branches, Luke 13:19," Ms Petersen said.
Mr Gibling ended his memoir with these words ... I will conclude my writing with a quote made by Rev W Gillard and I quote, "Please pray for us that we may do and say that which God requires of us for the healing of the racial, social and spiritual sickness in Fiji."
Mr Giblin has since died.

No comments: