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After a wait of 174 years, Auckland’s finally-completed cathedral prepares for consecration

Posted on: October 26, 2017 9:25 AM
The newly completed Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland will be consecrated on Saturday - some 174 after the land on which it stands was purchased.
Photo Credit: Gareth Robins / Holy Trinity Cathedral

In 1843, the first Bishop of New Zealand, George Augustus Selwyn, purchased land for a cathedral in Auckland; on Saturday – 174 years later – the finally-completed Holy Trinity cathedral will be consecrated for the first time. The cathedral’s foundation stone wasn’t laid until 1957 – some 114 after the land was purchased. Work on the cathedral finally came to an end this year, following the completion of a “Selwyn’s Vision” project to complete the work he started.

The London-born missionary George Augustus Selwyn set sail for New Zealand – then a British colony – on Boxing Day 1841. He had been ordained as a Bishop to serve the islands in October that year. He took with him a 23-strong team of missionaries. After a brief stop-over in Sydney, Australia, he arrived in Auckland on 30 May 1842.

He served in New Zealand for 26 years, before returning to the United Kingdom to serve as Bishop of Lichfield – a post he held until his death, at the age of 69, on 11 April 1878. The present Bishop of Lichfield, Michael Ipgrave, has travelled to New Zealand for the consecration service, which will be led by the present Bishop of Auckland, Ross Bay.

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The finally-completed Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland, New Zealand, which will be consecrated on Saturday.
Photo: Gareth Robins / Holy Trinity Cathedral

The Selwyn’s Vision project was led by the former Dean of Auckland, Jo Kelly-Moore, who has since become the Archdeacon of Canterbury in England. She will be present in Auckland for the service alongside bishops from New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific.

“The first Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Selwyn, offered us the vision of a cathedral to serve the people of Auckland,” Bishop Ross Bay said. “It is very exciting for our generation to see that vision fulfilled, and to be able to offer Holy Trinity Cathedral to God for that purpose.”

The present Dean of Auckland, Anne Mills, said that the cathedral provides a space to “look out to the city”, describing it as “a space for church and for city.”

She said: “Bishop Selwyn purchased the land where the Cathedral sits and described its purpose as to be a ‘centre for educational, social, charitable and missionary work’. He was looking to the future and so this generation has a place where there can be joy and lament as well as an expression of local and international concerns.”

In 2014, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was present when the first sod was turned for the new Bishop Selwyn Chapel. Work on the chapel was completed in August last year, marking the physical completion of the cathedral and the commencement of its journey to consecration on Saturday (28 October). The project has also seen the installation of a new cathedral organ and the removal of the bridge that linked the ‘old’ and ‘new’ parts of the cathedral – the chancel and larger nave.

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Bishop George Ausgustus Selwyn.
Photo: Mason & Co / Public Domain

Bishop George Augustus Selwyn’s legacy includes the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, which he helped to create; a number of educational facilities in his memory, including Selwyn College at Cambridge University; an annual theological teaching day for clergy and laity in Lichfield Cathedral; and a number of districts, roads and other buildings in New Zealand that bear his name.