St Columba was built in 1930 to replace the original St Columba on the corner of Selbourne Street and Surrey Crescent which had served the parish since 1909. The present church, opened on March 29, 1931 and was designed by the Diocesan architect, Mr D.B.Patterson. A report in Auckland’s Sun newspaper writes: “with the concrete road, extension of the tram line, and an increase in traffic from the north, the parishioners of St Columba, Grey Lynn, found the old site too noisy.”
Of Victorian Gothic architecture, St Columba is a brick construction with a tiled roof. The tower is wood with a copper canopy. A memorial bell was later added and presented to St Columba in 1964 in memory of John Taylor Woodhall. Part of the charm of St Columba is its seclusion. It is set back from the road, in palatial grounds. A grove of pohutakawa, Phoenix palms, Selwyn oaks and totara grace the entrance. The church interior was renovated in 2002. Six Arrizi pendant lights were added to the nave. A new kitchen was added to what used to be the male choir vestry and the old Sunday School room was renovated and is now used as a counselling room. As much as possible, original or similar materials to those used when the church was built were used in the renovations.
The Latin words “Inquirentes Dominum non Minuentur Omni bono” over the main entrance are taken from Psalm 34:10 which translates “They that seek the Lord shall not want for any good thing.” These words convey the idea that St Columba is a place in which quest, hospitality, new beginnings and healing occur. Immediately inside the doors stands the stone baptismal font given in memory of long-time parishioner William Henry Lorking. Directly above the font, on the east wall, hangs a Tongan Tapa cloth or ngatu, which symbolizes ritual and hospitality. Built into the west wall above the tapa cloth is a stone from Canterbury Cathedral, taken from the outer wall of the ancient Norman part of that Cathedral, built in 1130 A.D. Directly opposite the main doors of the Church stands an Iona Cross. The marble was brought back from Iona by W.A.Lush, formerly vicar of the Church of the Epiphany in Newton, the then-mother church of St Columba. The stone and the Iona cross together symbolise St Columba’s Scottish past and New Zealand present.
The roll of honour, installed on the east wall shortly after World War I , serves as the entry into the church from the foyer. It displays the names of those who served and those who died in that war:
F.C. Anderson, J.C. Belsham, P. Barlow, J.W. Barry, R. Biddick, R.E. Brown, J.G. Bryan, R.H. Caitcgeon, E.Cardwell, P. Cardwell, C.F. Chase, J.R. Collins, Rev. P.C. Davis, H.I. Davidson, A. Deniston, W. Doughty, A.R Fletcher, C.V. Harris, S.A. Haverfield, S.A. Hayne, O. Hendrickson, B. Hildich, H. Hill, H. Jackson, H. Jackson, A. James, S. James, A.C. Jones, C.C. Kavanagh, P.A. Lorking, S.E. Lorking J.E. Miller, A. Montgomery, E.J. Norris, E.N. Oatridge, A.Q. Vedley, F. Rasmvssen, L. Rasmvseen, J. Richardson, J. Teasdale, J.S. Wallet, E.R. Warnock.
Opposite the entrance doors are two memorial windows designed by C. Rupert Moore. They are dedicated respectively to Mrs Henrietta Woodhall in 1969 and, in 1972, her husband John Woodhall, who served in World War II. The left-hand light depicts the Mother of Jesus and the infant Christ, and the light on the right depicts Christ’s baptism.
Designed by Rupert Moore, the two lights positioned on the right wall of the nave were dedicated on 21 September 1975, St Matthew’s Day, in memory of John Woodhall, a long-time parishioner. The left-hand light depicts Jesus crucified. To the left of the cross is St John and in front, Mary, his mother. Above the cross is the eclipsed sun, symbolizing the darkness which fell upon the earth. This is a reference to Matthew 27:45, “Now from the sixth hour there was a darkness . . .” Mary wears the traditional costume of a matron, a white robe, a white wimple head dress falling on the shoulders and a blue cloak. Her halo is white-edged with ruby. The colour of the background, the rich reds, purples and blues, symbolize royalty. The right-hand light depicts Christ resurrected, as seen through the eyes of John 20:14-17. Mary Magadalene is on her knees reaching toward Christ. In the background is the empty tomb with the stone rolled away, and on the hill are the three empty crosses. Christ is clothed in white and gold, symbolizing innocence. Mary Magdelene is shown as a young woman with long, raven hair. She wears a red robe with white girdle, and is covered by a blue cloak. He halo is white-edged with gold.
In 1981, five sets of kowhaiwhai panels and the ambry door, designed and created by St Columba, St Stephen’s School and Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, were added to the walls of the nave. Archdeacon Kingi Ihaka, on 12 July, 1981 gifted the community of St Columba with an interpretation which can be found next to each design. St Columba is one of the few churches in the Diocese of Auckland to include Maori design in its achitecture
This pattern indicates the passing on of “the Word” or the teachings, handed down from generation to generation. The three seeds, or growth pods, contained in each basic element of the design symbolize this. At one level of meaning these can be related back to the three baskets of knowledge in traditional Maori philosophy. On another level they represent the three main forms of knowledge, physical, intellectual, and spiritual, represented by the yellow growth pod. Yellow is used here to symbolize gold, the traditional Christian colour for innocence of soul, purity, and holiness of life.
The flounder pattern, shown in the diamond shape of this design, relates to the Maori name for a group of stars near the Milky Way – the Coal Sack. When this group of stars was in a favourable position (weather and season permitting) the flounder came in to shallow waters, and other sea foods were taken in abundance – thus hunger and a consequent loss of morale were avoided. The Patikitiki is used here to symbolize the gathering in of people in abundance into the church. The three gold circles in the centre indicate that this pattern is being used in a religious sense to reflect the Holy Trinity. The four koru shapes surrounding it symbolize the gathering of people from “nga hau e wha” (the four winds) from all areas and races of New Zealand. The Patikitiki pattern might also be understood as a reference to Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand in both a physical and a spiritual sense.
This “tauira” pattern refers to the three states of life that people encounter:
- The embryonic state in the womb, represented by the white circular shapes, or “kape”, at the top of the pattern
- The physical state of being alive in the world, represented by the spiral on the right. This symbolizes action, movement, and the intertwining of male and female elements (red and black)
- The spiritual state of life after death, represented by the stylized cross to the left of the spiral, which replaces the shape traditionally used in this pattern
This basic pattern is repeated in slightly different forms, with the three yellow koru, or growth symbols, representing the Trinity or spiritual state of being.
This is a pattern that can be understood on a variety of levels. The “ripo” or whirlpool-like design represents the conflicting social problems in society with which the Church is called to engage. In another sense this whirlpool pattern can be understood as a symbol of creation. The lines spiraling out from the centre represent life literally, or figuratively the life of the Church. Changes occur, perhaps forced by tragedy, which lead to short-term shifts in direction, but undergirding this turbulence the structure and overall direction remain ever constant.
Whakataki-Takehou means “in search of a new beginning”. This pattern is based on the “manawa” pattern, the continuous curving line running through the middle of each unit being called a “manawa” line. Here it represents “the Word” or teachings of God. Connected to this, within each closed curve, are two sets of “koru” shapes. The upper set, containing three “kape”, represent the Trinity; the lower set signifies the body, mind, and spirit of the person. There is another smaller “koru” shape coming off the top set, enclosing two “kape”; these represent the flesh and the blood of Christ. The colours used are red and green: red symbolizing the wine of the Eucharist, and green symbolizing the Christian values of renewal and commitment. This pattern adorns the ambry door, a traditional locker in which the consecrated bread and wine of the reserved sacrament is kept.
Continuing the developing pattern of panels up the nave this pair needs to be read along with the ambry doors in the sanctuary. Based on a traditional “manawa” pattern (heart/life blood) the continuous broad curved line running through the pattern is usually found in the most important “kowhaiwhai” pattern in a house. Placed traditionally on the “tahu” or ridge pole, it represents the life of the person after whom the house is named. In this pattern the “manawa” line represents the life and teaching of God. Connected to this, within each curve, are two sets of “koru” shapes (curved bulb-like shapes based on the unfurling fern frond, a symbol of life and growth). The upper set contains also three “kape” (circle shapes) representing the Trinity; the lower set signifies the body, mind and spirit of the person receiving God’s teachings. The small green motif contained in the largest of the “kape” represents the regeneration of body, mind, and spirit through openness to God’s teachings. There is also a smaller “koru” coming off the upper set, enclosing two “kape”; these represent the Eucharistic elements of wine and bread.
At the front of the church
The altar stained-glass window was presented on 17 June 1963 by the Bishop of Auckland, the Right Revd Eric A. Gowing, in memory of one of the parish’s founding members, William Hickson. The centre light, based on the window in St Matthew-in-the-City, depicts the figure of the risen Christ. The left-hand light depicts Saint Columba. Behind him are beehive huts in which his monks also dwelt, and a Celtic cross. At the foot is his coat of arms; overhead are angels that Saint Columba is said to have seen on the night of his death. The right-hand light features Saint Cuthbert, the Bishop of Lindisfarne who died in 687, and who, like Saint Columba was a monk. At the base of his coat of arms is a pectoral cross that today can be viewed at Durham Cathedral.
The pipe organ was dedicated on 30 October 1955, by the Right Revd W.J. Simkin, Bishop of Auckland, as a memorial to those who served and those who died during the second World War 1939 -1945: George Coulson, Fredrich Dustin, Stacey James Ellis, Robert Cecil Harden, Allan McClean, George Couthern, Douglas Alexander Couthern, George Davies McGaie, William Pearson, John David Rudling, Rodger Gleaver, Lawrence Taylor, Rowland Hay Watson and Bruce Wilson.
Outside the church
The foundation stone, which can be seen on the front of the church, was laid on 9 November 1930 by the Most Revd Alfred Walter Averill . Along the Surrey Crescent frontage are two Sewlyn oaks, planted at the time of the church’s construction. To the right of the church are three totara trees which were planted in the 1990s – and blessed by The Rt Revd Paul Reeves – to mark St Columba’s commitment to three tikanga relationships . To the west of the church is a herb garden and an outdoor labyrinth based on the design at Chartres Cathedral.