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April 11, 2011 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

An Outsider’s Guide to Some of the Churches of Wellington

A non-definintive, non-representative sample of the religious buffet in our fair city.

Wellington Methodist Parish, 75 Taranaki Street

The Wellington Methodist Parish gains the biggest Kumbayah from this author, as it conducts multilingual services—Fijian, English, Samoan, and Tongan—and has a lot to do with the Downtown Community Ministry, which helps the homeless and less fortunate members of society. Most of the original missionaries to this part of the world were Methodist—an offshoot of Anglicanism, which gained its name with its methodical interpretation of the bible—which shows through in the varied Pacific Islands represented by its congregation. If you walk past Friday evenings or Sunday daytime, you’ll see a team of cute kids running around in lavalavas.

ARISE Church, 44 Wigan Street, Te Aro

ARISE Church members are the ones we keep mistaking for cheerleaders. ARISE is a purely NZ phenomenon, with churches in Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. It has an active presence anywhere young people are to be found, including on campus. The congregation is young, young, young, and you’d be forgiven for mistaking its Senior Pastors John and Gillian for first-years. There are heaps of services a month, mostly for members under the age of 26; free lunches are a favourite of uni students, while underage raves for high schoolers are also popular. While the free lunch was tempting, they’re so happy and carefree that you do feel bad for turning up in a “JESUS WAS A CUNT” T-shirt.

Vic Muslims,

Vic Muslims is the club that represents, well, Muslims at Vic. Islam has as many denominations and followers as Christianity, so it’s hard to define such a varied religion when the local community is so small. Vic Muslims have a blog which is well worth a read, as it gives readings from the Qur’an, muses on world events, and keeps you up to date with activities. Aside from Islamic Awareness Week, they hold barbecues and Ramadhan activities. For your reference: “hijab,” pronounced he-zjab, refers to female modest Muslim dress, covering of all but the face and hands in public as per Sharia law. “Burqa/burka” covers all but the eyes; “khimār” is a headscarf and the term used in the Qur’an. Headscarves such as those commonly seen on campus are worn for such a variety of cultural, religious and social reasons that foot-in-mouth syndrome is common.

St Andrews on the Terrace, 30 The Terrace

St Andrews on the Terrace printed “God hates Shrimp” T-shirts for Out in the Square one year, and as such would achieve God-like status if that weren’t sacrilege. St Andrews will love you for who you are: they promise to ignore your “creed, race, class and sexual orientation”. While Presbyterian in origin, St Andrews split from the international body over issues such as women’s roles and homosexuality: its Minister Margaret Mayman is female and gay. One of the more ‘traditional’ but vibrant churches that you could peep in on one lazy Sunday.


Considering the relatively small size of the Jewish community in Wellington (it’s estimated at about 1,300 people), the Jews have two synagogues, a kindergarten, day school (Moriah), kosher food shop and modern community centre. There’s also a new liberal Rabbi in town—who began a few days ago, so we can’t tell you too much there. Jews are Jews from birth (or three- to five-year conversion), and most of this community have thus known one another about that long, so chiming in could be a bit uncomfortable. However, the schools are roughly 50/50 Jew/Gentile and it’s worth keeping an eye out for the Klezmer Rebs, a fantastic Jewish music group. Also, who wouldn’t want to gatecrash festivals where you have to drink until legless, and eat until sunrise?

C3 Church, Level 3, 84 Willis Street

C3 Church is about the most constructive church you will ever come across that isn’t a cult or based on a 12-step programme… that I know of. They have seminars aplenty, and support groups for any and all types of people trying to improve themselves. Jesus tags in, of course. The C3 is just an Australasian church for now.

Hare Krishna, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness

Krishna is the name of God, and the hope is that in singing it over and over again, one will achieve a higher state of consciousness. Hare Krishnas are the ones who tell you nice things about yourself in the hopes that you won’t see through their cunning ploy that their books are free for a “donation.” They also have cheap, delicious food, which is surprising because Krishnas will not consume a large number of things, including garlic, meat, fish, eggs, caffeine or any kind of drugs or alcohol. Sing and dance with them on the street one day for fun; remain celibate outside of marital procreation with them too. ‘Alternative’ lifestyles, such as homosexuality, are frowned upon a wee bit. Technically, as their leaders will tell you (regularly) they aren’t a cult. Yet. This author is fond of the Krishnas as they light up Wellington with a bit of visual diversity.


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