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Church of the Good Shepherd

Looking towards the village of Tekapo and the Southern Alps. The photo is taken from the sheep dog monument.

Timaru Herald July 16 2015 No photography inside the Church of the Good Shepherd per The Mackenzie Co-operating Parish who oversees the church.
An increase in numbers and visitors disrespecting God's house have resulted in a photo ban inside Tekapo's iconic Church of the Good Shepherd. The interdenominational church is one of the most popular scenic icons in the country with an estimated 100,000-plus visitors a year. Visitor numbers had increased by a third in the month of April. In April 2014 there were 4100 visitors and in April this year there were 6000. On average there are between 60 and 80 weddings a year.

"No need for stained glass. The clear glass chancel window allows the congregation to be inspired by the magnificent view during services"

Lake Tekapo is 44 km NW of Fairlie. 51 km NE of Twizel. A memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie, the Church of the Good Shepherd, lies on the shore of Lake Tekapo on Pioneer Drive with the surroundings left in their natural state covered with matagouri, tussock and rock. Registered as Category 1 with the NZ Historic Places Trust.  Historic place of special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value.For years church services were held at the various station homesteads in the Mackenzie. In 1933 some residents wrote the Anglican Vestry, Reverend W.E.D. Davies, asking for a church to be built and backed their suggestion with generous promises of money and land. Mr George Murray, Braemar Station, donated the land. The foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Gloucester on 16th January 1935 and seven months later dedicated 3rd August 1935 by Bishop Campbell West-Weston. Built to last from lakeside stone and oak with a clear plate glass window to allow a view of the blue lake from its dam-controlled outlet at the village, due north for almost 20 kilometres to tussock brown hillsides and mountain scenery. 

This Church is in the Cooperating Parish of Fairlie and the Mackenzie with regular services once a month sometimes fortnightly. A dedicated committee of locals oversee the church activities, maintenance, landscaping and employee a caretaker. The bushes in front of the church are matagourie with a pine tree behind and the Southern Alps covered in snow. The architect was Richard S.D. Harman of Christchurch (1896-1953) but he worked on a plan drawn by Mrs Norman Hope of 'The Grampians'. The pews and other items where donated by families in memory of someone's beloved. Seats up to eighty five. In 1948 heating and lighting was added. In 1956 it was decided to change the roofing material, wooden shingles, to slate and purchase additional land around the church to prevent the land from being built on. Visit the church or read "High Endeavour" by William Vance for a listing of donors.  


 1948. The immediate surroundings of the church was left in its natural state covered with matagouri, tussock and rock.


April 1947 "Whites Aviation Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library".

Probably the most photographed church in New Zealand.  See the night sky. Reflection  a.  b. d  e. f.

"This monument was erected by the runholders of the Mackenzie County and those who also appreciate the value of the collie dog, without the help of which, the grazing of this mountain county would be impossible."  Unveiled on March 7th, 1968 by Sir Arthur C.B. Porritt, Bt. C.C.M.C., K.C.V.C.. C.B.E., Governor General of New Zealand.  "Beannachdan Air na Cu Caorach." Sculptured by Mrs Innes Elliot, a Mackenzie farmer's wife. The model was sent to England for casting in brass.

Hurricks, Peter, 1950-  O'Connor, Shirley The Story of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand; written by Peter Hurricks; drawings by Shirley O'Connor. [Fairlie]: P. Hurricks, [1985]  This booklet was produced for the fifty jubilee of the church. Rev. Peter Hurricks was appointed the parish vicar for five years in 1983.


"It is not surprising that a landscape which comes in through the windows should attract poets."

A forgotten artist rediscovered. Frederick George Gurnsey born in Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales, 18 January 1868, was one of the greatest European carvers in wood and stone ever to have worked in New Zealand. For almost fifty years, following his emigration from Britain in 1907, Gurnsey taught and carved in Canterbury.  He trained at the Central School in London. Between 1917 and 1920, he was acting Director of the Canterbury College School of Art, forerunner of today's School of Fine Arts. After taking early retirement in 1924, he devoted the rest of his life to freelance carving.  St. Mary's Church, Timaru, whose late Victorian heaviness is lent charm by Gurnsey's west doors, pulpit, choir stalls, organ case and altar (1925-50) and Litany Desk. St. Thomas, Woodbury has angels and roses carved by Gurnsey. The alter cross at St. Anne's, Pleasant Valley is a good example of his skill in metal work. He also did the work on the Bridge of Remembrance in CHCH.

The Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo (1934-5), where Gurnsey carved the one large block of Oamaru stone altar (the figure of Jesus is depicted in strong clear lines and is shown carrying the lamb firmly under one arm), altar cross and oak lectern stand are based on a designs by Mrs. Hope. The church is a memorial and is filled with pioneering memories. This beautiful Chapel is a well known landmark in many countries all around the world. He also did the relief carving on the stone font - edelweiss, mountain lilies and keas from drawings done by the donor of the font Mr Jack Tripp.  Mr Gurnsey died in Christchurch on 23 October 1953. An obituary appeared in The Press in Oct 1953. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography has a lengthy bio regarding Mr Gurnsey. Dr Mark Stocker,  Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Canterbury, where he has taught since 1986, wrote Angels and Roses: The Art of Frederick George Gurnsey and said his versatility provides a fascinating insight into artistic styles: from the Art Nouveau of the country church font cover to the 17th century "Wrenaissance" style of the Bishopscourt font and chair; from the Elizabethan revivalism of his flagons to the distinctively New Zealand imagery on the North Otago pews. Angels and Roses was a collaboration between Mark Stocker, Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Canterbury, and Anna Crighton, Registrar at the McDougall Art Gallery, who did the preliminary research on Gurnsey as a post graduate student at the University of Canterbury several years ago.

Esther HOPE 1885-1975. An artist, b. at Waihi, Woodbury, daughter of John Mathias Barker. She studied painting in England and on the Continent. Served as V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Department) in Malta during First World War. She painted many water colours of the mountains and plains of the Mackenzie. Her sketch of a sod cottage can be found on the cover of Oliver A. Gillespie's South Canterbury A Record of Settlement and multiple pen and pencil drawings that depict high country life are found through out Jennifer Rayne's cookery book The Mackenzie Muster thanks to the generosity of Andrew Hope of Albury Park and twenty one  of her drawings are in Mrs A.E. Woodhouse's "New Zealand Farm & Station Verse."  Inside the front cover of 'High Endeavour' there is a drawing of station buildings by Mrs Hope. She spent most of her married life on 'Grampians Station'. 

George Murray was the owner of 'Braemar Station' in 1933 and represented the Tekapo riding on the Mackenzie County Council and was chairman from 1933 to 1935 and during his chairmanship the large central median plots down the main street in Fairlie were created.

Church of the Good Shepherd opened in 1935.  Recongised world wide.
June 1984

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Photo taken 2nd Nov. 2009 by Gary W. "It is not surprising that a landscape which comes in through the windows should attract poets."
The alter window in the Church of the Good Shepherd, taken Nov. 2009, designed "to encompass the beauty of God's creation" and Motuariki Island to the right has pines with large cones. 13 Jan. 2013 an accidental fire destroyed 40% of the trees on the 25ha Motuariki Island. "It was a very sad sight to see these beautiful pines of many years old ablaze." Mr Empson said. The blaze got really big. Weddings are still held here but the minster has to be ordained, no celebrants allowed.

In the memory of the Pioneers of the Mackenzie Country. Opened 16th January 1935. W.E.D. Davies, Vicar.