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The Friends of Taranaki Cathedral

Friends of the Taranaki Cathedral of St MaryThe Foundations for New Zealand’s Oldest Stone Church

Taranaki Cathedral began as a vision in 1842 when Bishop Selwyn travelled by foot to the tiny settlement of New Plymouth. He laid the foundations for what was to become New Zealand’s oldest stone church. 172 years later - that church, the Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary, remains at the spiritual heart of New Plymouth. It is tied intricately to the city’s history and development.

In March 2010 St Mary’s was consecrated as a Cathedral after many years as a provisional Cathedral. The ceremony, attended by hundreds of guests, dignitaries and parishioners as well as the Archbishop of York, was moving and significant.

As the Cathedral looks ahead to the next 160 years, it is expanding its vision through the Friends of the Cathedral.

Cathedral Friends connect with the Archbishop of York

During his visit to New Zealand in 2010, Dr Sentamu established strong links with Taranaki and the Anglican community. He spent time at Owae Marae, the Maori meeting house at Waitara, north of New Plymouth, as well as striking up a friendship with the country’s first Maori governor-general and Anglican Archbishop, the late Sir Paul Reeves. Sir Paul was descended from Taranaki Maori and mindful of the role the regional Cathedral could play in Maori-European relations.

When Sir Paul died in August 2011, Dr Sentamu travelled from the UK to attend the funeral, making the special journey as a testament to Sir Paul’s bedrock faith.

Dr Sentamu is a Patron of the Friends group along with the Archbishop of New Zealand and Bishop of Taranaki, the Right Revd Philip Richardson, and The Venerable Tiki Raumati, a Maori elder or kaumatua.

Serving the Community

A book commemorating the Cathedral’s consecration was published in 2011. In its foreword Sir Paul wrote: “The essence of a cathedral is that it belongs to the community and mirrors whatever makes that community rejoice or sorrow.”

For years, St Mary’s - geographically situated in the centre of New Plymouth - has played a commemorative role in the city.  Services have included those that mark the Battle of Britain and for those mourning the loss of lives in the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Cathedral also contributes to the modern ‘flavour’ of New Plymouth and Taranaki and provides an enduring link to ‘home’. Parishioners feel an affinity with it – even if away from the region - and many return to marry or have children baptized within its walls.

St Mary’s complex stone structure and original walls make it architecturally significant. As well as the stone exterior, the church boasts a soaring timber ceiling, stained glass windows and historic artifacts.  Its churchyard houses graves belonging to early settlers and memorials to early Maori.  Inside, plaques, flags and pews mark its connection to the city’s past.

But like all historic churches, maintenance is an ongoing challenge. The Friends group will work cooperatively to maintain the Cathedral’s beauty and keep it in sound condition. 

The Friends group is also a vital addition to the life of the church and its wider mission, as The Very Revd Jamie Allen, Dean of Taranaki, says: “It will strive to uphold the core vocation of this unique Cathedral – to be a centre of peace and reconciliation for all people.  To be the church of the poor.”

Joining the group will ensure members are linked to St Mary’s in a tangible way.  With membership comes knowledge that individuals are helping secure the Cathedral’s future.  The group will meet for social occasions, while those further a field will be kept in touch through the Cathedral’s quarterly magazine. Joining the group ranges from $25 per year to $300 for a life membership and in British sterling this is around £13 and £150 respectively.

Sarah Foy (Dean's Warden) and Carolyn Manuel (Dean's PA) at Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary

The Archbishop of York has been Patron of The Friends of Taranaki Cathedral since 2010.

Registered Charity No. CC21363