Reality is slowing sinking in for Reverends Ed Masters and Lance Thomas as they survey the remains of their beloved St John's church.

"It's hard to believe. We're gutted, really gutted," Mr Masters said.

An inferno engulfed the church on Wednesday night in a blaze police are treating as suspicious.

"I got down here just before 6 o'clock and police and fire people were wonderful. You're pretty powerless and there's not a lot you can do except stand and watch," Mr Masters said.


Mr Thomas said one of the biggest losses were the historical stained glass windows from the original St John's Church.

"It's not the end of the church or the work we do ... nobody has been hurt, it's overwhelming but life plays out."

Mr Thomas said they had received had hundreds of calls of support and love.

"It's been overwhelming and humbling."

The possibility the fire may have been deliberately lit was not of too much concern to the ministers.

"We haven't really thought about it, the whole thing is sad, it doesn't really matter how it started," Mr Thomas said.

Mr Masters said they were processing things at the moment.

"As more information comes to light we'll continue to process things."


With the fate of the church unknown, Mr Thomas said if it was to be demolished it would be sad, "but it just is".

The ministers said St John's congregation was between 300 and 400 people, with around 200 to 250 attending Sunday services.

"Through the week we'd have hundreds more through the door engaging, it's used every day."

Mr Masters said the congregation would come together this Sunday.

"We are going to worship together, at 10am, on the grassy area [opposite the church], to get together, to support one another, to grieve, to give thanks for our time here and the stories we've shared there, and to worship our God."

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The service will take place rain or shine.

Rotorua Lakes Council has offered the Civic Centre in the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre for the church to worship in for a few weeks, something the ministers are grateful for.

"The congregation are shocked and incredibly saddened, but they are supporting each other in their grief, and believing there is hope," Mr Thomas said.

Other groups that use the church, such as the Sunbeams play gym for preschoolers and the community foodbank, would be taken care of.

"We have a range of ministries who are run by members of our own staff. We've gathered as a staff to identify what next week is going to look like," Mr Thomas said.

"There's just wonderful people within the church community and wider community who are helping in that process and the offers of support have been incredible.

"We're not going anywhere, we've been doing our best to serve the people of Rotorua and to love this city and we're going to keep on doing our best ... I guess we are discovering how much we're loved as well."