The Green Bay Mission Hall
[Note, first published in the society newsletter December 2017]
Green Bay Interdenominational Mission
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
It does not occur very often that we can celebrate a centenary here in the Bay. Green Bay Mission building in 2018
This year on 1st December 2017 marks the foundation stone laying ceremony for the Green Bay Interdenominational Mission one hundred years ago, with the church being officially opened at the end of 1918.
[Note, the Green Bay Mission Hall is now part of the Blockhouse Bay Baptist Church complex at 504 Blockhouse Bay Road.]
Green Bay Mission Foundation Stone - Abel
Green Bay Mission This stone was laid to the glory of God Robr. S. Abel - Superintendent 1st Dec 1912
The citizens commemorated on the foundation stones are truly interdenominational, as were the eight Trustees appointed to care for the Mission, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Salvation Army, and Open Brethren.
[Note, the foundation stones can been seen below the window in the photograph above. Details of the stones are shown in the photographs on the right and below.]
(Photos courtesy Trevor Rumming.)
Why was a building in Blockhouse Bay Road called Green Bay Mission? The name Blockhouse Bay was not then used for our district, and many influential families (the Smiths of Smith & Caughey, the Astleys [of the Astley Tannery in New Lynn,] etc.) lived in the Taunton Terrace/Green Bay area and walked across to the Mission, so the name choice was not surprising.
The planning for a larger meeting place open to all religions began as early as 1913 when, especially during the influx of summer holiday visitors, the existing Anglican St Saviours Church proved too small, while the Presbyterian St Andrews Hall (where the Community Centre now stands) was also a very small building. Robert Abel, a City business man who from 1912 lived in Heaphy Street, purchased the land “Lot 9 of Section 11 of the subdivision of Allotment 76 Parish of Titirangi” signed it over at a very reduced cost to the Trustees, and he began the fundraising, approaching businesses for donations, the fundraising continued by the locals for several more years.
Photograph taken during construction of the front wall of the Mission circa 1918, taken from the Armanasco’s glass houses
The laying of the Green Bay Mission foundation stones at the end of 1917 was a big step forward, but much work was needed to complete the project. Although local tradesmen worked at low rates to help the cause, as well as a great deal of voluntary unpaid work, the actual building took much longer than expected, delayed by set backs and ever rising costs, so it was necessary to raise a large mortgage in order to finish the building, but at least this enabled the project to be completed by 1920.
Shortage of water for the foundation work was a problem, but behind the Mission was a creek in which at the lowest point were large water holes. To overcome the problem, a “bucket brigade” manned by locals was used each evening to carry water from the holes to store in a barrel on the site ready for concrete work in the morning. One morning workers were dismayed to find the barrel tipped over by vandals and no water left, they never found the culprits.
Pioneer families closely associated in the early years running the Mission included Mr Abel who was Superintendant for 16 years, and the Gittos and Ingram families. Another family dedicated to the cause were Mr C D Jones, whose son Vaughn worked full time, for no wages, while his wife Ruby earned the family living by sewing at home. William Ingram taught the boys’ bible class and a Mrs Brown the Girls. As well as church services on Sunday, children had Sunday School classes. The Editor well remembers the excitement of the Sunday School Anniversary Concert, held in November, always the occasion to wear a brand new summer dress!
The Mission obviously filled a need in the district, a newspaper report on the 1st anniversary of the Sunday school, stated about 50 children attended, while the Sunday evening service averaged 80 to 100 souls, and at the mid-week cottage meeting over 40 attended. Quite significant numbers when remembering how sparsely settled the Bay was at that time.
No history of this Mission would be complete without mention of the Mellsop family, of Matata Street. Sisters Mary and Sarah gave over 50 years of service teaching Sunday school, in 1935 Sarah began the local Girls Brigade, serving as captain for 43 years, and with Mary as her lieutenant, they trained hundreds of girls to become self reliant. At this time, brothers, Hayden and Jim formed the local lads into the 11th Auckland company of the Boys Brigade.
So the little Mission Hall continued to serve the local community, however with the growing Bay population it became apparent to the Trustees that the services of a full time minister would soon be needed. The difficulty was the original constitution meant that they could not simply decide to join one denomination, which seemed essential if they wanted to get a trained minister. A General Meeting of members was called in August 1948, when it was decided to instruct the trustees to sell the property and although as many Methodists as Baptists comprised the congregation, it was decided by almost unanimous decision to become Baptist. So the Green Bay Mission ceased and the official opening of the Blockhouse Bay Baptist Church was held on 2nd April 1948.
In 2007 the original Mission hall was granted a Heritage B listing in the Auckland City Isthmus Plan.