I spent last week in Taumarunui. I know, not your usual holiday destination… actually it was for work. I spent a good part of the week at St Patrick's Catholic School soaking up their nearly 100 years of history and dodging the rain to walk over to the church to pray a whole-school Rosary every afternoon.
It's the church I want to blog about. Have you been in that church?? Definitely one of the most unusual Catholic churches I've visited. Apparently it was architecturally designed and won a few awards back in the day.
For those of you who haven't been there it's quite difficult to describe. On the outside it kind of looks like a Pizza Hut. It's white and sort of in two squares with two dark gray pyramid roofs. Quite unassuming. When you go inside you start in this very light and airy foyer that leads into the church which is very dark in comparison – quite dramatic. The interior is positioned diagonally so that the altar is in one corner of the square with all the pews in diagonal lines. It seems to be a complete mish-mash of styles, sort of medieval meets 1970s. There are exposed wooden beams, a huge skylight above the altar, a high-backed leather domed presidential chair, coloured glass windows in the shape of portholes, a huge tree trunk holds up the altar and the tabernacle is a dark, carved wooden box. Very different. It feels a bit like a Catholic church with a pagan edge, or at least that's how it made me feel.
Unfortunately we were there in a storm so right in front of the altar was a big bucket full of water that was leaking through the roof. With a congregation of about 30 on a Saturday night and 40 on a Sunday morning, and sitting in a town that very sadly has more boarded-up shops than open ones, I wondered if eventually this church will go the way of many of our other North Island churches and be shut and/or sold. Around my neck of the woods we have just recently seen the sale of the church at Ngongotaha, and the church at Reperoa has been closed now and is for sale. The church at Tokanu is shut and all the churches in small towns such as Ngaruawahia and Murupara are kept locked during the week as there are no priests there.
As weird as the little church in Taumarunui is, I'm glad I got to see it. What other churches should I check out before they are lost?