Where we’ve come from
Anglican worship began in Newtown in February 1882 under the auspices of the parish of St Mark's, Basin Reserve, in a small hall ('St Mark's Mission Room') situated at 150 Riddiford Street. Two years later a larger hall ('St Mark's Parochial Room') was erected where McDonald's is now located. Then in 1895 the original St Thomas' Church was built next door to this hall, and the Parochial District of Newtown was formally constituted the following year. St Thomas' Church was enlarged in 1898, including space for an organ commissioned from master organ-builder Arthur Hobday, who spent the later years of his career based in Wellington, and living in Newtown.
At this time the parish territory stretched down to Island Bay and as far east as the Miramar Peninsula, but over the next two decades separate parishes were formed in these various communities, including St Cuthbert's in Berhampore. By 1921 St Thomas' parish area had shrunk to Newtown and parts of Melrose, where from 1948 there was a second congregation based at the Church of the Transfiguration at the top of Manchester Street.
The year 1970 saw two significant developments. Firstly, the neighbouring parishes of St Thomas', Newtown (including the Church of the Transfiguration in Melrose), and St Cuthbert's, Berhampore, were amalgamated into a single entity, the Parish of Wellington South. Sunday mornings in the reconfigured parish saw the vicar kept busy taking three worship services: one each at Newtown (at 8am), Berhampore (9:30am), and Melrose (11:15am). Secondly, the original wooden St Thomas' church building was fire-damaged beyond repair. It was deconsecrated and demolished in 1971, with the Newtown congregation continuing to gather in a room in the church hall dubbed the 'St Thomas' Chapel-Lounge'.
More change was to come over the next two decades. The new St Thomas' Centre was completed in 1982, including a refurbished organ for the chapel which incorporated pipes from the original 1898 Hobday instrument. The following year, with dwindling attendances in Melrose, the painful decision was made to disband the congregation there and sell the Church of the Transfiguration. The end of the 1980s saw the parish sell property to the Wellington City Mission, which relocated to Newtown from its Taranaki Street premises and built a facility adjoining the St Thomas' Centre. The City Missioner began to share in leading worship services at St Thomas', and by the early 1990s the congregation there had come entirely under the jurisdiction of the Mission, with parish worship solely at St Cuthbert's in Berhampore. This state of affairs continued until 2011 when a change of City Missioner saw the congregation at St Thomas's reintegrated alongside the one in Berhampore as part of the Parish of Wellington South.
In the aftermath of the earthquake in August 2013, St Cuthbert's, Berhampore, was deemed to be unsafe, so the Berhampore parishioners relocated to Newtown to become the 10:30am congregation at St Thomas's. Our parish life has since flourished to the point that numbers at this second Sunday service exceeded the seating-capacity of the chapel. In May 2017 we started holding our 10:30am Family Service at Newtown School Hall, with a smaller congregation continuing to meet at 9am at St Thomas's. In 2018 a group of parishioners began offering a community breakfast at 9:30am on Sunday mornings in the school hall. This has proven popular amongst the local street community, and members of St Tom’s (especially our kids), with a number of our regular breakfasters also staying for the worship service that follows.