St John’s cemetery

The grounds of St John’s Anglican church in Arawata St  hold an historical cemetery.

It’s a closed cemetery, meaning that there can be no future burials there. I’m always surprised by the number of people who wander through. Some come searching for a particular grave, a recently discovered family member perhaps, or someone their extended family has asked them to  honour.  Some just come in general interest.

St John’s Anglican Church cemetery

Julie Guest

This cemetery tells many stories, including that of the history of this area during the period of the New Zealand Land Wars. There are graves that remember babies and very young children, and those who celebrate the great age some have reached, even when the health system left a lot to be desired.

A special family grave in the grounds contains four of the children of John and Maria Morgan. I find this grave particularly poignant in that it helps to tell the story of the cost that early missionaries bore as they sought to share the message of God’s love for all people in Aotearoa.

John and Maria came from comfortably off English families. They each felt the call to come to New Zealand, knowing they would face unfamiliar and difficult adjustments to their lifestyle. They willingly gave up the comforts of their English life because they believed all people deserve the opportunity to hear the message of God’s love. They came determined to all they could to share that message. Old St John’s is a lasting taonga in Te Awamutu which evidences their dedication and work alongside that of  mana whenua who welcomed them to live and work among them.

In this cemetery there are also two monuments erected by the New Zealand government to remember those who died during the New Zealand Land Wars at Rangiaowhia and Orakau, along with the graves of four soldiers who died after the fighting ended. These four graves and the monuments are listed with Manatū Taonga, The Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The Ministry makes an annual grant to the church to assist with the maintenance of the graveyard. The grant is enough to cover the cost of mowing the lawns three times! The Parish of St John’s carries the cost of mowing for all the rest of the year.

St John’s Anglican Church

On top of this, our cemetery is getting old. Some of the headstones have fallen, and subsequently been placed on the ground in front of the grave. Some are becoming unsafe and will  either need repairing, if that’s possible, or will need to be knocked over and laid down as a health and safety precaution. There are many graves that need careful maintenance.

Although the graveyard sits in the church grounds, it holds the history of the Te Awamutu community. It seems to me that the upkeep and maintenance should be a community responsibility not rest almost entirely on the donations of parishioners.

Along with the two historic buildings, the people of St John’s church maintain a significant part  of Te Awamutu’s history. Other communities have groups such as “Friends of the Cemetery.” If you’re interested in forming such a group to help care for this history, please phone St John’s office on 07 871 5568

St John’s Anglican Church

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