Kaipaki Church once had between eight and 12 regular attendees - now, owing to the growth in its congregation, it has had to move location in order to adhere to social distancing and level 2 lockdown regulations.

Pastor Dave Firth became a part of the Kaipaki fellowship in July 2019. A member of Leamington's Raleigh Street Christian Centre, Dave had been shoulder-tapped to take the Kaipaki services once a fortnight.

He did this until December, when he "fell into" the fulltime role of Pastor, moving to weekly services.

Originally he had been there to help out but as people started asking to speak with the Pastor he realised it was him.

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Dave loves attending the rural church and hasn't looked back since.

"The value of it is that it's a small church in a small community," says Dave.

The Kaipaki chapel building turns 150 in 2021. Photo / Jesse Wood
The Kaipaki chapel building turns 150 in 2021. Photo / Jesse Wood

Raleigh Street has continued to support Dave and Kaipaki church, helping out with equipment and finances when needed.

Between January and March, the church was averaging around 35 people but then lockdown hit and the sermons had to be delivered online.

"There were only so many cups for tea, so we had to wash them after each person was finished so that the next round could be served."

Dave was in awe, as there were 400 to 500 views on each video.

Post lockdown, the church numbers have averaged 65, around an 800 per cent increase in attendees.

Due to the increase, the fellowship currently meets at the Kaipaki Centre down the road to maintain social distancing.

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Many are locals, while some come from Hamilton, Leamington and Te Awamutu to support the church.

The congregation is diverse, with a mixture of denominations and intrigued passers-by.

Former New Zealand cricketer and Kaipaki Church attendee John Parker believes that it may be the fastest-growing church in New Zealand.

The Kaipaki Community Support Group is one of the church outreaches. Every 3-4 weeks, the group get together to help out members of the community who need a hand with jobs.

Sometimes it may be splitting firewood and other times it may be mowing lawns.

With future numbers and Covid-19 restrictions uncertain, Dave and the church have been looking into options to make sure that the chapel is still in use.

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It's still in use for weddings but night services are a future possibility.

Kaipaki is one of the oldest chapels in New Zealand and was built in 1871.

It was originally located at Pukerimu, 5.9km closer to Cambridge, and moved to its current site on the corner of Mellow Rd and Kaipaki Rd in 1901.

In 2021 the chapel will be 150 years old.

"I'm not saying we've got it all right but we've got the growth and the support of the community," says Dave.

"If a church like Kaipaki could get to 80-90 people then we could plant in other communities around the area too."

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