Earthquake-prone Christchurch South parish church closes

parish church

Telling parishioners their beloved parish church is earthquake-prone and must close can’t have been easy for Christchurch South parish priest Fr Peter Head.

Head delivered the news after a notice from the Christchurch City Council informed him the Our Lady of the Assumption church building is earthquake-prone.

Head says his first concern is for his parishioners’ safety. He is also concerned about the staff and students from Our Lady of the Assumption School, who use the church for their weekly school Masses.

Christchurch Council’s letter explains that the church had been assessed at less than 34 per cent of the new building standard (NBS). It would be at risk during a moderate earthquake.

“If the building or a section of it collapses, it will likely result in injury or death to persons in or near the building,” the letter explained.

Parish meetings

Head has held several meetings about the parish church closure with parishioners.

At each of these, he has explained the reasons for the church’s closure and shared the options parishioners could consider.

“I think it’s fair to say that it was quite a shock to the parishioners because there was no indication of something like this happening,” he says.

“At present, the priority [is] the parishioners and their Sunday Mass.”


Head says a trial option is being tested, which is seeing parishioners attend Masses at the other churches in the parish during July.

“We’ve got three other churches plus the Carmelite monastery,” he explains.

“So, they have options of two vigils on a Saturday night, and they have options of four Masses on a Sunday morning in (Sacred Heart) Addington, (Sts Peter and Paul) Halswell, Carmelite monastery and (St Peter’s) Beckenham.”

“On Wednesday, August 2, there will be a meeting of the Hoon Hay parishioners to discuss/evaluate how this ‘trial’ has gone and, if required, look at other options.

“The meetings will be held in the Sacred Heart church at either 1.30pm or 7.30pm,” Head says.

Managing the change

Head says he notified Bishop Michael Gielen and the diocese of the Council’s letter as soon as he received it.

He also notified the parish staff, leadership team and management, as well as the principal of Our Lady of the Assumption school, Janet Cummings.

In a school newsletter dated June 22, Cummings said that the news was “very sad for the parish and school community”, but “the safety of all concerned comes first.”

In the interim, she said Friday school Masses will be held in the parish hall on the school grounds.

Head says Our Lady of the Assumption church still has to be deconsecrated and officially closed. Just when this will happen is not on the agenda at present however.

“I will work through with the parishioners [on] some way in which we bring closure to that church.

“The more immediate [concern] for me is that the community is able to attend Mass on a Sunday at one of our other churches. That’s the top priority” Head says.


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News category: New Zealand.

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