Church oasis for soldiers
Community rallied to save rural chapel at Crownthorpe now 100 old years
For 100 years a Crownthorpe chapel surrounded by palm trees has been an oasis for those who have endured “chaos”.
Since 1921 war veterans and service personnel have appreciated the solace and sanctuary of St George’s Memorial Chapel, which will continue with a Centenary Anzac service this month.
Father Bill Chapman has been involved with the chapel since the early 2000s and has been instrumental in bringing back its Anzac involvement.
Chapman said St George’s is a sanctuary for those who have seen and experienced war.
“It’s an oasis of peace that was built from chaos,” he said. “This came out of a tragedy: it’s called the First World War.”
The memorial chapel was built and consecrated on April 10, 1921, as a family memorial by Crownthorpe Estate’s John [James] Henry Coleman.
He commissioned it in memory of his son, Herbert Napier Coleman, who was killed in action in France on April 13, 1918.
Herbert’s youngest son, Lloyd Watt Coleman, was also killed while serving in the Air Force during WWII.
When Chapman first started preaching, the chapel was in disrepair.
In 2008 he rounded up the members of the community and asked them to help save “their chapel”.
Chapman said the meeting place was so full you couldn’t move.
“These people had never darkened the doorway at any time, unless it was a funeral or a wedding or a baptism, but on this occasion they were all here,” he said.
“They raised thousands because the building meant a lot to them.”
Chapman, who served in the Royal Navy, said he had always admired the community for the way they got stuck in and restored the place.
The churchyard also pays homage to those who have served the country, including the gravestone of Gallipoli veteran James Agnew and a descendant seedling from the original Gallipoli Lone Pine.
It’s an oasis of peace that was built from chaos. This came out of a tragedy: it’s called the First World War.
Father Bill Chapman
The chapel is attached to the Waiapu Anglican Diocese.
Hawke’s Bay regional dean and reverend David Van Oeveren said Chapman has restored a community at St George’s with a military focus, building links with veterans.
“You get these returned servicemen who, by the very nature of their job, are a bit rough around the edges, and they come here and there’s a real level of spiritual depth and camaraderie because they’re remembering things that they might not talk about,” he said.
“They’re remembering comrades that have fallen in battle or have passed since.”
Vietnam veterans are among the servicemen who regularly make the trip to St George’s.
Van Oeveren said they had horrific stories to tell, but they came to Crownthorpe and felt centred in a “very spiritual place”.
On Anzac day, Sunday, April 25, at 2pm, St George’s will have a remembrance service to celebrate its 100th year.
Van Oeveren estimates 100 to 200 people will turn up.
“That will be a good turn-out for a rural chapel 45 minutes from anywhere,” he said.
“There will be three key speakers involved at Sunday’s service, two are locals who have a connection with this place and one is the Bishop of Waiapu,” he added.
Photo captions –
Father Bill Chapman and Reverend David van Oeveren outside St George’s Memorial Chapel.
St George’s Memorial Chapel in Crownthorpe turns 100 on April 10.
Inside St George’s Memorial Chapel, which had extensive restoration work in 2008.