New 250-seat auditorium to open in Bethlehem

Annette Jeffares, Coralee Buckland and Ian Pittendreigh. Photos: Bruce Barnard

A new multi-purpose community facility will be officially opening in Bethlehem this afternoon.

The buildings and multi-purpose space includes an auditorium and canopy that can seat 250 people, a café area and playground area. The plan is for it to be used for family and social events, sports activities, choral and dance performances, and on Sundays – a gathering place for a church to come together and worship.

It was once all a paddock, and for years I cycled past it from our orchard in Moffat Rd to head to Bethlehem School and then Otumoetai Intermediate and College.

Sometimes it had a horse grazing but mostly I remember that it lay fallow. These days it’s home to not just the Bethlehem Community Church and a community garden, but is a vibrant hub of activity with many groups using the facilities day-to-day.

On September 28 the doors will be thrown open even wider to welcome everyone to come in and see the new auditorium, canopy and family centre.

I thought I’d head along and check it out.

“It was always in the plan to build a decent meeting space for worship,” says minister Rev Ian Pittendreigh. “But we first built offices, the foyer, the lounge, toilets and kitchen - over 11 years ago. The intention at the time was to build a multi-purpose hall.”

The building is now home to a Chinese culture group, and a counsellor who rent an office each. There’s one other office available to rent. There’s also a Justice of the Peace who the church hosts as a service back to the surrounding community. Other available spaces in the building are ideal for children’s parties or meetings.

“We also have Defensive Driving classes, Probus use it, and there are two choirs that come in as well.

“Enliven is on four days a week, Tuesday to Friday, involving up to 20 people from across the city.”

Enliven is a service for older people and people living with disability provided by seven NZ Presbyterian Support organisations. Day programmes using locations like the Bethlehem Community Church provide an opportunity for social clubs and activities.

“And Mainly Music. And a gardening group,” says Ian as he nearly finishes the list of groups.

Mainly Music is a fun music group for parents or primary care givers to enjoy together with their young child. Throughout sessions, children develop gross and fine motor skills, language, imagination, mathematical and pre-reading skills as well as socialise with others.

Ian pauses and we reflects on what else is happening within the four walls.

Annette Jeffares walks into his office at that moment.

“Do you need me?” she asks us. I remember that she organises a weekly community meal.

“It’s not strictly a community meal,” says Annette. “It’s called The Hub. We wanted an informal place where people could come and eat together. Often churches have events and groups for singles, marrieds, families and children – so this was set up so anyone can come. It was just a way to build community, grow a sense of family and belonging together.”

Annette Jeffares in the Bethlehem Community Garden

The meal at The Hub is a big attraction, only $5 a person or $10 for a family. I’ve been to a few and there’s also different interesting activities to engage in while sitting and chatting with locals.

“People bring friends, neighbours and relatives, and if they have visitors they bring them along,” says Ian.

Annette says The Hub, which starts at 6.15pm on a Friday, averages about 40 people each time.

The community garden on the southern side is a collaboration with Good Neighbour.

“They’ve got a manager who oversees four or five community gardens around the city,” says Ian.

Outside the garden a coffee cart operates adding to the friendly vibe.

Coralee Buckland is the children’s ministry leader.

“We do a Sunday school program on Sunday mornings but we also run children’s events as well,” says Coralee. “The holiday programmes which we open up to the community usually go for three days with four hours each day.”

Coralee Buckland

The holiday programmes involved plenty of fun games, crafts and plenty of baking in the church kitchen, with big lunches provided.

I go with Ian over to the opportunity shop located at the far end of the building. My mother has helped out here often, and it’s an open airy place with plenty of things to buy; as well as scones and tea and a table to sit and chat at.

“This Op Shop is run as a partnership between the Omokoroa Community Church and Bethlehem Community Church,” says Ian as he introduces me to Kevin and Loys Goddard, and Coco Wade who is also helping out that day.

Ian Pittendreigh, Kevin Goddard (at back), Coco Wade and Loys Goddard in the Op Shop

There’s a lot of cooperation and collaboration here, and a comfortable sense of being able to walk into this building and its spaces without feeling like I’m going to be preached at. I’m loving the friendly atmosphere and Ian’s soft chuckles. I think it’s probably easy to feel connected, be involved and develop a sense of belonging.

The new extensions include a multi-purpose auditorium and attached canopy that can seat 250 people and can be used for family and social events, sports activities, choral and dance performances and Sunday worship.

Under construction

The multi-purpose space called the Family Building opens out onto the canopy, grass and eventually a playground area for children. There’s a café area and spaces for groups to use for seminars, social events and breakout areas for children’s programmes both on Sunday and during the week.

We stop next to the front door and I look up at the cross and the words ‘faith, hope, love’. I remember the verse that says ‘and the greatest of these is love’.

So true.

The opening of the new buildings will be at 2pm on Saturday September 28. If attending please RSVP to

Under construction

Under construction

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