The Thames goldfields opened on 1st August 1867. The minister of the Wellesley Street Baptist Church, which later became the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle, challenged unemployed young men of the church to go and work at ‘The Thames’. His challenge was for them to find employment, witness for Christ and help pay off the loan on the first Auckland Baptist chapel. Soon a small congregation sat on planks between powder kegs in the home of Henry and Sophia Driver in Thames to meet for worship.

The Drivers’ cottage became too small as numbers increased. An application by the congregation for a land grant soon resulted in a gift of freehold land from local Chief Hoterini Taipari and Rapana Manganoa. Thomas Donovan was given a contract to build a suitable place for the church, and the building in Willoughby Street seating 200 was opened for worship on 6th May 1869.

Twenty years later, because the congregation had outgrown those premises and on the invitation of the Congregational Church which owned the property at 303 Mary Street, the Baptists united with them for worship there. This arrangement lasted for the next 35 years, until that property, which is our present church, was sold to the Baptists in 1926. The 12 stained glass side windows were installed as memorials to the founders in 1929.

We plan to honour that gift of land, as we welcome and join with descendants of those pioneers and former members in celebrating God’s goodness, on the weekend of 24th to 26th May 2019. Find us on Facebook at Thames Baptist Church 150th Celebration or email office@thamesbaptist.org.nz.

Story: Elizabeth Jones