Waiapu Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Napier, New Zealand

Waiapu Cathedral, Napier, New Zealand


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper: cherokee
Church: Waiapu Cathedral
Location: Napier, New Zealand
Date of visit: Sunday, 5 November 2006, 10:30am

The building

Waiapu Cathedral of St John the Evangelist is a modern city centre cathedral, built to replace the previous one destroyed by an earthquake in 1931. It has a carillon playing hymn tunes to invite people to worship. It contains a cross of nails from its "sister" cathedral in Coventry, England. Behind the altar is the Maori Chapel with a wall decoration in traditional Maori materials and colours plus the Maori Bishop's cathedra (or throne).

The church

They seemed very welcoming (see later) and they include local groups in their services. For example, on the evening of the day we visited, there was to be a service featuring the local undertakers, since it was the nearest Sunday to All Saints Day and they were remembering the dead.

The neighborhood

Napier is a smallish city of beautiful Art Deco buildings, almost entirely rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake, which was the largest ever in New Zealand. The cathedral is in the middle of the city. Napier is the largest town on Hawkes Bay, a wine-growing area that enjoys warm, dry weather.

The cast

The dean, the Revd Helen Jacobi, assisted by the Revd Jon Williams and Deacon Jan Marrington. Lessons were read by Matthew West and Hugo Powrie and prayers by the Revd John Sanders and Toni Sanders.

What was the name of the service?

Requiem for All Saints Sunday.

How full was the building?

About a quarter full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

We were approached as soon as we entered, asked where we were from, and given our service sheet.

Was your pew comfortable?

Yes it was. It had a soft cover that made sitting a pleasant experience. There was under-pew heating, which on a chilly morning was very welcome!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There was an initial flurry of activity at the back, but thereafter it was quiet and peaceful.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"You will find the words of the first hymn on the front page of the order of service booklet."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

There was a specially produced order of service. The New Zealand Prayer Book was available, but we did not need to use it.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ only.

Did anything distract you?

There was a large cross hanging above the altar, with a large red stone (I assume) in the centre. It looked cumbersome and somewhat out of place. I was trying to decide what the red thing in the middle was.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

It was standard Anglican, formal without being stiff, and certainly nowhere near happy clappy.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

10 – Helen Jacobi spoke clearly, succinctly and straightforwardly and what she had to say was easy to understand. A new votive candle standard had been consecrated the day before and she used it as the basis for the sermon.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

A candle is the symbol of the presence of Christ and candles can mark significant moments in our lives. On All Saints Day, we remember people from different areas of life – personal, national and world – and candles can be lit for all these and so have all sorts of meanings. Current examples are those of the ordinations of the first female bishop in the USA and the first gay deacon in New Zealand. We were asked to remember them in our prayers.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The joyful singing of the last hymn, "Give thanks for life, the measure of our days," whose theme said it all.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The previously mentioned large cross, which I found oppressive.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

We hadn't time to even try to look lost! As soon as we got to the back of the church, we were led to the tea table, where we had all been invited earlier by the dean. At least four people asked us where we were from and why we were there, and were keen to tell us all about the cathedral. One lady was the daughter of a former bishop. We were delighted by the warmth of the welcome.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Tea and coffee were served in cups and both were hot and plentiful. There did not seem to be any biscuits or cakes.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 – Despite this being a cathedral, there was a good feeling of informality without losing the seriousness of the occasion, and there was no stiffness or over-ritualisation. The church seems to be a close and friendly, open community.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes. It hit all the right buttons.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The genuine, warm welcome by so many people, including one person outside as we left who had not had time to talk to us inside.

Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you’d like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.

Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools