Caversham Community church has its origin in 1883 as a geographical home church plant from (as oral history tells us) an Open Brethren Assembly of approximately 500 people meeting in a hall somewhere in the area of what is now Dunedin ANZAC Avenue.
Numbers in Dunedin grew quickly as the Assembly of origin held many successful missions. On one occasion a series of addresses by Messrs Torray & Alexander witnessed 1000 people counselled for salvation. In 1901 Dunedin had the highest number of Open Brethren of all the main centres in New Zealand.
Evidence of the growth of the Caversham Assembly is in the first (known) receipt for the use of the Caversham school buildings in July 1886.
In the early 1900’s it became evident that the expanding needs of the congregations outreach activities and meetings during evenings would require their own building. (Sunday School numbered over 200 children).
The present building, on what was then the corner of James and John Street, now Playfair and Pencarrow Streets, respectively, was first inspected in 1906 and purchased from the Baptists early in 1908, costing £575.
Caversham Open Brethren became the official owners on 15th June 1908 when the trust deed was signed. The building came with a chapel, complete with baptistry and a pulpit bolted to a platform at the front, kitchen, classrooms, games hall, lounge and (in those days) one stand alone toilet house out the back.
Given the fact that “Brethren” was never a name given to this Protestant denomination by itself who just wanted to be known as Christians. (The local newspapers in Britain noticed that these people referred to each other as Brothers and Sisters, so, when a meeting was being noted by the “Press” they called them Brethren.)
The buildings never had a denominational name on them. All early photos of our building just had the name Playfair Street Hall written on the front face of the building. In the early 1960’s it was changed to Caversham Gospel Chapel. In the 1990’s this was reviewed as a number of the members thought that most non church people thought of a Chapel as a place for a funeral - and what did the word gospel mean to those folks? The name on the front was then changed to its current form of Caversham Community Church; saying that we are a Christian Church, based in Caversham for the benefit of the community.
We currently share the building with the Cook Island Christian Church.
In recent years, our denomination for the first time in its history has given itself a name in line with the Australian Open Brethren Assemblies where there were a number of issues with the “Exclusive Brethren” and the Australian government. Not wanting to be mistakenly associated with this group through the similarity of the names, the Australian Open Brethren, followed by New Zealand and other countries are now officially known as Christian Community Churches of New Zealand (CCCNZ).
In both world wars a significant proportion of men and woman from our congregation served in all three branches of our military forces; not all of them returned. At the home coming of these service personnel, on both occasions, a service was held to remember those who did not return; to thank those who did and to thank God that we were still free to worship without restrictions or persecution.
Missions, both home and overseas has been a strong and effective focus from the early days to the present. These include the missions previously mentioned plus:
- Street corner preaching
- Port Chalmers “Sailors Rest”
- Home Church-based youth work
- Sunday school
- Saturday night youth group
- School holiday programs
- Every Girls and Every Boys Rally (an international organisation, a post WWII follow-on from the organisation known as Every Mans Hut, a Bible based, social, food and recreation place in both active and training military bases)
- Part time leadership and support roles in Youth for Christ
- Scripture Union
- Gideons International
- Christians Woman Communicating Internationally (CWCI)
- Prison fellowship
- University campus
- Bible College NZ
- Children’s National Radio Sunday Afternoon programmes
Full time missionary service to:
- New Guinea
- Student Life
- United Maori Mission
- Covenant Players
- South Seas Evangelical Mission
- Andes Evangelical Mission (Missionary Aviation Pilot)
- Open Air Campaigners
- Word of Life (International Youth ministries that include training and equipping leadership teams).
Associated with our youth work have been some memorable annual inter church cricket, rugby, and soccer matches (Rugby from as far afield as Invercargill and Christchurch). We had our in house married vs singles annual cricket matches (sometimes there were treacherous acts - someone got married). We also fielded a cricket team for a few years in the local Twilight Cricket competition - quite successfully too! We were registered as “Caversham Playfair” (written on the back of our white sweatshirts with “One Way” on the front and underneath a hand with the umpire’s sign for “out” which doubled with the “one way” above). There were also all-day car rallies covering some fairly extensive out of the way areas - Petrol at 50c a gallon.
For a few years there was the annual youth seminars where a wide range of topical issues were debated, and a Biblical perspective given. Regularly those attending included a bus load from Invercargill and another from Oamaru.
Other events were church camps, youth camps, raft races and for a few years “A Night at the Oscars” participating church groups exhibited their home-made movie, the hall was set up with round tables for a sophisticated meal. The walls were decorated with huge original movie posters and everyone (youth, late teens, early 20’s) were in formal dress.
All these activities provided a good safe environment for people to get together, enjoy each other’s company, get to know people, form new friendships, and gather at the end of an event for some appropriate ministry from God’s Word.
Coming out of a foundation of solid, in depth Bible teaching the Caversham congregation has always modelled itself on the New Testament requirement to be a Christ honouring family of supportive Christians; a caring, loving, united, welcoming community of forward-looking followers of Jesus.
We have a strong heritage; both Biblically and in our local history to uphold as we continue until the Lord calls us home.
Our endeavour is to bring all to spiritual maturity and to help each one of us to find who God designed us to be in His service.
Choir and Audio Drama Actors
1969 at the Burlington Street Radio Recording Studio
Centenary Celebration Group Photo
1983 at College Street School grounds opposite the church