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Seventh Day Baptist Church

Built in 1983, the Seventh Day Baptist Church at 16 Livingstone Street replaced an older church building which had originally been a house.

Seventh Day Baptist Church, 8 Livingstone Street
Seventh Day Baptist church. Photographer (pht): Cafe Cecil, Contributor (ctb): Cafe Cecil. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The Seventh Day Baptists, also known as the Baptist Sabbaterian Church, were first established in New Zealand following the formation of a bible study class in Auckland during the 1930s. 

The Christchurch branch was initiated by Edward Barrar (1903-2004). Although born into an Anglican family, as an adult Barrar became a member of the Seventh Day Adventists. However, his studies into Biblical Hebrew and Greek caused him to question their doctrines and he became a lay preacher at the Associated Church of Christ on Moorhouse Avenue. During this time, he encountered Pastor Edward Johnson of the Seventh Day Baptist church in Auckland.

After being ordained into the church by Johnson, Barrar began to correspond with international members of the Seventh Day Baptists. This prompted him to form his own church in Christchurch. By November 1942, Barrar was holding public sabbath services in a room above Eastmonds shoe store in Greenwich House on the northwestern corner of Worcester Street and Manchester Street.

In 1944, the Christchurch group was admitted into the General Conference of the Seventh Day Baptists in the United States of America. Papers written by Barrar on theological matters were presented on his behalf at the conference and he was accepted as a listed pastor. 

Under Barrar, the trustees of the church purchased a semi two storey house at 16 Livingstone Street (Lot 13 District Plan 673) with the aim of converting it into a chapel. The site was chosen as it was still within walking distance from Cathedral Square. 

Built c.1880s, the house had been occupied by Andrew Dykes, an engineer, prior to his death on 4 September 1944. The trustees must have purchased the property prior to December 1946, as by then Elizabeth McNatty Crocker lived in the house with her father, her husband Charles Richard Crocker, her married daughter, and a daughter who was crippled. Crocker rented the house from the church trustees who wanted possession of the property. The magistrate, Raymond Ferner, made an order for possession of the house which had to be followed within six months’ time.

Barrar also purchased the adjacent house at 18 Livingstone Street as a family home and by October 1947 he was holding services there.

The church possibly took possession of 16 Livingstone Street after November 1947, when John James (Phil) Murphy, who had been residing there, died. 

To convert the house into a church, the first floor of the building was removed, and the interior was stripped. The two back rooms, which had originally been a bathroom and a laundry, were stripped and used as a sabbath school and vestry. Although most of the work to refurbish the building was undertaken by Barrar, a builder was also hired to construct the entrance porch.  

Rather than install windows behind the pulpit, Barrar attached three imitation Gothic window frames inside of which he painted a scene of Calgary. The rostrum was built high enough to allow for a baptismal bath to be inserted. The lid for the bath was painted by Barrar with a scene of a river.

On 11 September 1983, a fire lit by arsons destroyed fifty five percent of the church building. To replace it, a new church was constructed from brick to plans designed by Barrar’s son, Daniel Barrar. One of the builders was Andrew Goulding who came from the Auckland church to assist. 

The new church incorporated the southern half of the original building which still contained the vestry, a study, and two toilets. Like its predecessor, it was entered via a porch on the western side. The baptismal bath, while retaining the original lid with the river scene, was built into the ground.

In 2010, extensions for a lounge and kitchen were made to the church which adjoined the western façade at the southern end of the building.