The History of The Chapel of Saint Kentigern

August 12, 2022 at 5:07 PM

(Story from Piper, December 2020)

From the outset, the desire for a Chapel on the College grounds was prominent in the mind of the first headmaster, Reverend Dr Adam MacFarlan, and in 1953, Mr Thos Miller set up a Chapel Fund, although it was to be almost 20 years until Adam’s dream was realised.

In the early years, the Headmaster’s Divinity lessons were legendary with Bible stories told in full, dramatic fashion. Ask a student from the 1950’s to recite the chief end of man from the Shorter Catechism or to describe the lives of some of the Old Testament characters and strong memories will be invoked.

In 1954-56 the Bruce House boarders were bussed to St Columba’s Church in Panmure for the weekly Sunday morning service, under the ministry of Reverend Andrew Ross, whose Scottish accent paralleled that of the Headmaster. In addition, the Headmaster took monthly evening services at Bruce House. In the 1950’s, pocket money for boarders was half-a-crown which didn’t go very far and the sixpence, that was expected to be put in the collection plate, was said to be often substituted with washers or buttons!

With the growth of St Columba’s, the boarders’ service was moved to the old wooden church of St Andrew’s in Howick. Later, the Panmure congregation and Bruce House worshipped together in Elliot Hall. In addition, a boarders’ Communion Service was held monthly in the Library. After the 1953 establishment of the Chapel Fund, there were many appeals over the years.

Finally in August 1970, the ‘first sod’ was turned by Reverend Dr MacFarlan’s son, Donald MacFarlan and the Chapel of Saint Kentigern was built from the bequest of Miss Elaine Goodfellow, Sir William Goodfellow’s sister, and from the generosity of so many parents. The Chapel of Saint Kentigern was opened for worship on 30 July 1972. Sir William Goodfellow handed over the Chapel in the name of his sister and the main door was opened by Tim Burcher, the Head Prefect. Adam’s long-awaited dream had been realised.

Built in two stages, the 1972 construction had a temporary painted wall behind the Communion Table and in a second construction phase in 1979, a reconstruction of the chancel took place, providing a Divinity teaching room, a Minister’s vestry, and the magnificent stained glass window incorporating the Celtic Cross. The new extension was dedicated by Trust Board member, Jim Milne at an evening service on 10 February 1980.

Approaching the Chapel, there is a lamp at the top of each flight of steps. The stone beneath the lamp on the left came from lona and was part of the island’s ancient Abbey. It was sent to Saint Kentigern College by Lord MacLeod of Fuinary (the Reverend Dr George MacLeod) who visited the College in February 1972. Beneath the right hand lamp is a stone from Westminster Abbey, London, sent by the Dean of Westminster through the offices of Mr Thos Miller. On the wall next to the entrance is a bell given by St Columba’s Church, Dundee where it had been rung for over a hundred years before that Church was closed. The original organ was presented by Mr and Mrs Douglas Goodfellow.

Since the opening, many generous and significant gifts have been bestowed on the Chapel, a place of peace and tranquillity in the middle of a busy College. During the course of 2019-2020, a generous donation from the Trustees of the Robert Allan Bell Charitable Trust, in memory of Mr Robert Allan (Dufty) Bell, a former Saint Kentigern Trustee and generous Howick/Pakuranga benefactor, allowed further structural improvements and refurbishments to the Chapel, including the construction of a much needed toilet block and removing a wall in the foyer to open up the available seating space.

We are very thankful for his kind donation that allowed the Chapel to be further upgraded to meet the needs of our current and future congregation. A plaque to commemorate this gift in memory of Mr Bell, who was a Saint Kentigern Trust Board Member from 1956 to 1973, has been installed inside the entrance to the refurbished Chapel and was formally unveiled at a dedicated Chapel service on 19 November 2020.

The Saint Kentigern motto, ‘Fides Servanda Est - The Faith Must Be Kept’ - presents us with a special challenge as we seek to encourage our students to know and love God and to serve others within and beyond our College community. Each of our schools holds special family services in the Chapel each term, bringing our community together to explore the Christian values upon which Saint Kentigern is founded.


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