Hastings Baptist Church held its first service on Sunday 2 May 1909 and the Church was formally constituted on Wednesday 29 December 1909.
After a century of gathering as a Baptist congregation in Hastings, the church celebrated its centenary over the Labour weekend. It was exciting to see so many joining in the reunion, remembering and rejoicing at what the Lord has accomplished here.
Labour Weekend Celebration - 2009
The festivities began with a "Meet and Greet" on the Saturday afternoon. People who had not seen each other in decades looked, looked again, checked the name tag, laughed, embraced and then the conversation flowed.
Saturday night saw the church's auditorium transformed into a spectacular dinner venue. Six long lines of tables stretched down the auditorium with more tables in the adjoining church lounge in order to cater for the 250 dinner guests. There were some video clips of yesteryear with a contemporary voiceover for some light humour, along with greetings from overseas. Karina Fothergill sang two solo items and Melva Mildenhall cut the centenary cake. After-dinner speakers were the Rev. Ken McCormack, pastor in the 1970s; Peter Hensman, who grew up in the church; and Richard Jamieson, MC for the night and a current member.
Sunday morning saw the auditorium full again, this time for a service of thanksgiving and worship. The current pastor, Paul Davison, who has become the longest serving of the church's 19 pastors, preached from Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever". Lionel Nunns, a former youth pastor of the church, led the communion which closed the service.
A number of church homes served visiting guests with Sunday lunch.
Sunday evening saw another large crowd joining for a finger-food dinner in the church lounge. This led into "Hastings Baptist Has Got Talent". Master of Ceremonies, Stephen Hensman brought together a varied and enjoyable programme. Musically there was: Levi and Isaac Cox singing "Mamma Mia"; Sally Hensman playing "Annie's Song" on flute; Eric Thorpe used his gifts with the piano to lead a Vera Lynn sing-a-long; Carl Jamieson brought "The Phantom of the Opera"; and David Youngson reminisced and sang. One of the musical highlights of the evening was the impromptu choir made up of all those present who had at one time or another sung in one of the church's choirs. Ruth Sweatman conducted the group of more than 50 singers in "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah".
Along with the music there was also testimony. A number of people who had grown up in the church recalled the past: Neville Kenning (who flew in from the USA), Paul and Leyette Callister, Yvonne Hewitt and Margaret Fowler. A collection of short video testimonies dotted through the evening were a powerful reminder of God's work through this local church. John Paynter expressed appreciation for Paul & Joy Davison's 10 years of ministry at the church. The evening closed with Peter Pritchard, pastor 1985-1986, offering a devotional reflection.
The weekend was rounded out with a farewell breakfast on the Monday morning.
More than 80 people journeyed to the Hawke's Bay for the celebration weekend. They were joined by another 60 people with connections back to Hastings Baptist but who are now part of other churches in the region.
Amongst ministers of the church still alive, 6 of the 8 previous pastors were able to be present. They were: Geoff Macann (1964-1972); Ken McCormack (1973-1981); Robin Golding (1981-1983); Peter Pritchard (1985-1986); Peter Eaton (1987-1993); Gordon Mill (1998-1999).
For most, the weekend exceeded their high expectations. Friendships were rekindled, the church's history was celebrated in style, and there was a strong sense of gratitude for God's faithfulness to his people at this church.