The single ring of a bell echoed through the Holy Trinity Cathedral, signalling the moment the earthquake struck.

Hundreds of people stood together silently, heads bowed, to remember the dead at a ceremony in the Anglican church in Parnell yesterday.

Most of those gathered - who included police staff, MPs and Auckland city councillors - were dressed in Canterbury colours, black and red.

Others had a bright red ribbon or a rose pinned to their chests.

Auckland Dean Jo Kelly-Moore's encouraged all New Zealanders to remember their fellow countrymen in Christchurch.

"May you [in Christchurch] know our love and support in your grief. And may you know courage, strength and hope," she said. "Today we remember those who have died ... and the families who are still waiting to be reunited with their loved ones."

Prayers were said and haunting but beautiful tunes sounded from the organ.

At 12.51pm the bell echoed loudly throughout the church and the congregation stood together, in silence.

As the bell rang a second time - ending the two-minutes' silence - a woman walked towards the back of the church, her eyes red.

A man walked towards her and they hugged, as the Dean's prayer reached the words, "[Lord], grant us all the strength and hope we need."

Another couple held hands as they bowed their heads in prayer; while a man in the congregation held a hand towards the heavens as tears rolled down his face.

A sombre Auckland Mayor Len Brown bowed towards the altar before stepping on stage to speak.

"We have seen a community spirit that has stopped the world," he said.

"Today, we are all red and black ... I have a message for you, Christchurch: Auckland has never been more close to you. We will do whatever we can to help ... Kia kaha."

As the service came to a close, the congregation stood to sing the national anthem before hundreds of people filed towards the front of the church to light tiny candles of remembrance.