Historic Auckland church burns as reverend looks on

Emergency services have rushed to Jervois Road after a big fire has broken out at the historic St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church on the busy Auckland street.

Numerous fire engines are at the scene. Several police cars have also cordoned off an area near the building.

Smoke from the blaze can be seen from as far away as Auckland’s North Shore.

Police said they were called to assist Fire and Emeregency with the blaze at St Stephens at 3.30pm.

A police spokesperson said they were assisting in a traffic control capacity.

St Stephens Rev Grant Ridout was standing outside St Stephens watching his church burn and said “he’d been better” when asked how he was coping

“I actually don’t know a lot and I don’t think they know a lot yet. Just trying to contain it and keep it under wraps as much as they can but there’s not much information at this stage about how it started,” he said.

“The building was empty. I’m standing out the front and there’s a lot of smoke and that’s pretty much all I know at this stage.

“I don’t know what it looks like on the inside or where things are at. We’re just watching from a distance.

“Up there [in the roof of the church] it’s just pretty much wooden rafters. The whole building is made of wood so there’s nothing much up there it’s just cavity space.”

Ridout said there was no construction or any sort of work being done in the ceiling.

Matt Mannoni from the Jervois Steak House across the road from St Stephen’s said at 4pm that the fire seemed to be have been brought under control.

However Jervois Rd was blocked and traffic was congested, Manoni said.

“The traffic is pretty packed up. The road is completely blocked both sides,” Mannoni said.

“It’s definitely something in the ceiling, that’s all I can see from here,” Mannoni said of the location of the fire.

On its website, the church states: “We believe the church is about imperfect people coming together to love God and each other. We aim to encourage, equip and spur each other on in our love for Jesus Christ and his love for the world.

“We do not believe that the church should be about keeping Christians busy doing in-house things. We’d rather grow people than programmes. We’d rather live the good news outside of our walls.

“Come and check us out, we’d love to meet you.”

It also states: “St. Stephens Presbyterian Church in Ponsonby has stood for more than 134 years and is registered Historic Place Category 2, with Heritage NZ.

“The original Church opened in 1879 and was designed in a Gothic Revival Style by an established and well known architect, Edward Mahoney.

“Later in 1907, a major extension was added in an Edwardian style influenced by the emerging Baroque Style and designed by architect Robert Martin Watt.”

“In 1994 Architect William Algie provided plans for alterations and additions to the Second Hall, that included a walkway and porch linking the building to the church. A verandah was also added on the East side and a car park area developed alongside, where small cottage had previously stood before demolished.”

“A Manse was also part of the original church complex and having been designed and built in 1908, the building was eventually sold in 1997.”

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