Who Are We
The church was founded in 1956, with 25 founding members. Prior to this there was a house church in the late 1940's with a minister from Hawera taking the services. The formation of this group into a formal Fellowship was in the early 1950's. The members first met in the Kindergarten in Juliet Street, and later in rooms above Carryer's shop in Broadway, Stratford. The church was constituted officially and affiliated with the Baptist Union of New Zealand at the national Baptist assembly in 1956. There have been 12 ministers between 1956 and 2013.
The foundation stone of the first church building was laid on 26.7.58 by the Rev L.A.North, and the church building opened on 6 December the same year. This building was extended in 1979-80. In 1985 the old Sunday School hall was demolished and a new church auditorium built with the original church being converted to hall and Sunday School rooms. The first manse was purchased in 1959, with several changes of manse over the years. The current manse in Swansea Road was purchased in 2009.
Sunday School started in 1956, and ‘All Age Sunday School’ was introduced in 1960. By 1962 there were 90 children and 20 adults. Today ‘Kool Kids’ is attended by about 20 children. A separate vibrant youth group caters for 15-20 teens.
Highlights associated with the church include a 10th anniversary celebration in 1966 and a Silver Jubilee in 1981. Fire destroyed the inside of the church auditorium in December 1982 and some church records were lost. In the mid 1980's the church attendance reached a peak with an average 220 people at morning services. A daughter church, Eltham Fellowship, later Eltham Baptist Church, was founded May 1988. There was a celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of the opening of the church building in 1998.
There has always been a strong missionary emphasis in the church and 12 men and women have served long-term overseas in different countries. Many other members have undertaken short term volunteer mission work. Over the years eight men from the church have completed training at the Baptist Theological College (now Carey College) and subsequently became ministers of churches around New Zealand.
Social services sponsored by the Stratford Baptist Church have been Ngaere Support Centre (rehabilitation for recovering alcoholics), with associated halfway houses: Triumph House - men and families (1980-1990) and Victory House - women, (1985-1990's). A craft group operated from 1984-1996 and again in 2003-4. Girl's Brigade had a group from 1983-1991. There was a farmers’ group 1987-1990 and a food bank operation 1990-1995. Dynamite Bay Children's outreach began in 1995 and continues today as an independent organisation involving 80-90 children, many from underprivileged backgrounds.
Today Stratford Baptist Church, under Pastor John Burgess and four elders, has 55 members and an average Sunday attendance of around 95. The church is known for its friendly welcoming fellowship, and it retains a strong emphasis on overseas work, and involvement in the local community.