People who want to see the gorgeous interior of St Paul's Memorial Church in Pūtiki can pay for a tour - or go to one of its friendly and welcoming Sunday services.

The September 9 service began with a reference to rugby and a burst of laughter which, Warahi Campbell said, was a fine thing.

"The Lord knows that we are alive and willing to come to church."

The little church looks plain on the outside but is famous for its intricately carved, painted and woven interior.


There were about 20 there on Sunday, and sometimes the congregation includes tourists.

Nobody is paid to keep the church going. Services can be led by the vicar, Archdeacon Bernard Broughton, or by Tipene Anaru, Rangimarie Hall or retired archdeacon Elizabeth Body.

Attendees Margaret Tauri, Huia Kirk, Mick Duncan, Warahi Campbell and others come forward to give readings and lead prayers.

The singing is unaccompanied, and the service in both Māori and English.

Midway through, everyone gets out of their seats and goes into the aisle to greet everyone else with a quick hug and the words "Peace be with you".

On Sunday the theme of the service was Christian freedom.

Broughton talked about the value of a good reputation, and treating people without favouritism.

He said a priest once posed as a homeless person to attend a service - and no one spoke to him.

At the end of the service he was introduced to the congregation as their new vicar.

"If you treat some people better than others, you have done wrong."

The service ended with notices. Rangimarie Hall talked about a protest happening at Parliament on October 30, and aimed at keeping the word "God" in the parliamentary prayer.

"It's the last shot at keeping the word 'God' in the prayer. I didn't make it to the 1080 [protest] yesterday, but I will go for God," she said.

Broughton explained that the people involved in the church go back to the 1830s, when Wiremu Te Tauri worked with the Reverend Richard Taylor at Pūtiki Mission Station.

The names Te Tauri, Murphy, Campbell and Broughton have been woven into church history ever since.

After the service the congregation had another kind of communion - a cup of tea and shared food at a long table in the hall next door.