Whiteley Memorial Methodist Church

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The Methodist missionary Rev. John Whiteley was killed at Pukearuhe on 13 February 1869. The tragic circumstances of his death have been described elsewhere. Suffice to say here that his life and death were subsequently commemorated in several locations. He was listed on the Pukearuhe NZ Wars memorial, unveiled in Te Henui cemetery, New Plymouth, in 1871. In February 1923 a memorial cairn was unveiled near the site of his death (this has since been demolished). The most substantial memorial, however, was the Whiteley Memorial Methodist Church on the corner of Liardet and Courtenay Streets, New Plymouth. The Governor of New Zealand, the Earl of Ranfurly, laid the foundation stone of this church on 9 December 1897, and it was formally opened on 15 December 1898.

The first building burnt down on 18 February 1959. The two cornerstones of the replacement building (which was designed by local architect John Bowering) were laid on 16 September 1961. One was laid by the Hon. J.R. Hanan, Minister of Maori Affairs:

THE REVEREND JOHN WHITELEY/ COMMISSIONED THE FIRST CHRISTIAN / MISSION AT NGA MOTU 1839. / HIS SELF-SACRIFICING DEATH AT PARINIHI / (WHITE CLIFFS) ON 13 FEBRUARY 1869 / WAS A MAJOR FACTOR IN RESTORING / HARMONY BETWEEN MAORI AND PAKEHA. / FIRST WHITELEY MEMORIAL CHURCH / FOUNDATION STONE LAID BY / THE EARL OF RANFURLY 1897 / DESTROYED BY FIRE 1959.

The other was laid by the Reverend W.H. Greenslade, Superintendent Minister of the New Plymouth Circuit:

WHITELEY MEMORIAL METHODIST / CHURCH / IS REBUILT HERE THAT / GOD MAY BE KNOWN AND SERVED / IN JESUS CHRIST / TO MARK OUR PURPOSE / THIS STONE IS LAID BY / THE MINISTER OF THE CHURCH / REV. W.H. GREENSLADE / 16.9 .1961.

The new church was dedicated on 19 October 1963.

The church contains several other memorial items. Both First World War and Second World War rolls of honour are displayed inside the entrance. The former lists the names of 128 members of the congregation who saw active service; the latter is a similarly formatted brass tablet which has 126 names. The Fitzroy Methodist Church’s roll of honour also hangs in the nave: a wooden tablet that lists the names of nine men from the Fitzroy congregation who gave their lives during the Second World War.

Sources: ‘Opening of Whiteley Memorial Church’, Taranaki Herald, 16/12/1898, p. 2; ‘Historic Church Destroyed’, NZ Herald, 23/2/1959; ‘Whiteley Methodist Church’, Auckland Star, 15/1/1964; W.W.H. Greenslade, John Whiteley, 1806-1869, Auckland, 1968; Mike Gooch, Whiteley Methodist Memorial Church (Kete New Plymouth, 2012).

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