St Paul’s Church, Mooi River

StPauls_02The arrival of the railway meant the construction of a bridge across the Mooi River and engineers selected a site two kilometres upstream from the village of Weston and the Parish Church of St John. In 1884 the new station of Mooi River was built on ground purchased from a well known local Anglican Alexander Lawrence who made it a condition of sale that every train would stop at the new station. The impact of the station on local demographics was immediate and the focus of farming and commercial activity moved swiftly to the new business hub of Lawrenceville, as it was initially named. . As the community grew, so did the need for a more accessible place of worship and by the turn of the century this need was met by holding church meetings and services in a building constructed on the site of the present Roadside Service Station The Church Institute as it was named, included a small porch and even a humble belfry. By then the station had changed its name to the present Mooi River. While St John’s remained the parish church the Institute building still was the site of church activities in town until 1938 when the advent of the new main road made the site an ideal one for a service station and the property was sold to David Nicol for 1200 pounds sterling. The last service was held there on the 6th November 1938 and from then on services took place in Grantleigh Hotel until the new church of St Paul’s was built in 1941.

With the closing of the Institute the expanding town of Mooi River needed a new place of worship and a founding committee set about calling for designs from a local architect Anthony Parker, son of a prominent Mooi River doctor. Two designs were submitted by Parker and in 1939 the committee selected the traditional English style of the church now in use. It was built by W E Swale in 1940 at a cost of 2 600 pounds sterling and consecrated by the Bishop of Natal the Right Reverend Noel Fisher. The rector at the time was Rev Alston Geils and the church was packed with 237 parishioners with the offertory mounting to over 26 pounds sterling.

StPaulsPulpitAs the town of Mooi River grew, so that of Weston and the congregation of St John’s declined.. It was eventually decided in 1952 that St Paul’s be the parish church of Mooi River, as it remains to-day. The Terence Duggan Hall was dedicated in 1990 and named after a prominent parishioner. The first baptism at St Paul’s was that of Owen Sinclair.

StPaulsPulpitThere is an interesting history to the stone pulpit in St Paul’s. It was originally in St Cyprians, Durban, but when that church was demolished for the new building in Gale St it ended up in a builder’s scrap yard in Greytown. Rev Alston Geils discovered it there and rounding up some helpers had it transferred to St Paul’s.