St Michael and All Angels Church in Clyde has been sold into private ownership despite efforts to keep it in community hands.
A service at the Matau St church last week marked the end of 158 years of Anglican ownership of the site.
The Anglican Diocese of Dunedin is remaining tightlipped over the sale.
Tenders for the 1877 category 2 heritage-listed schist church — the second built on the site — the church hall, and category 1 heritage-listed stone wall at the street frontage closed on January 21.
Anglican Bishop of Dunedin the Rt Rev Dr Steven Benford confirmed buyers had been found and visited Clyde on January 29 to conduct the secularisation service.
About 30 people attended what was the last gathering to be held in the church before it is handed to its new owners on March 26.
Conducted by Dr Benford, the service followed a traditional format.
It featured hymns, prayers, and a sermon based on the the biblical tale of Jonah and the whale.
Like Jonah, those behind building the church were answering a call to God, but the world and people had changed and that had led to the decision to sell it, Dr Benford said.
He acknowledged some of the congregation could be angry or upset by the closure of the church and gave them an opportunity to speak.
One to take the opportunity was David Hurd, of Ophir.
‘‘This is a very sad day for me and my family,’’ he said.
The ashes of his father Stanley Hurd former Vicar and Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, and longestserving in the Dunstan parish were interred there along with his mother Mary’s, in the columbarium (a site for cinerary urns) under the wall of the church street frontage, as were the ashes of his brothers Michael, priest of the Waiapu, Dunedin and Nelson Dioceses, and Ian, a lawyer from Invercargill.
‘‘I was baptised here, I came here every Sunday.
‘‘For the future all I hope is those is that have bought this place do what it is indicated they they intend to do.’’
Dr Benford then read the document to secularise the church.
The move capped efforts since 2014 to keep the church in community hands.
The Friends of St Michael’s Trust was set up to buy St Michael’s.
A Diocesan Commissioners report recommended the trust be given the time needed to raise funds to buy the church, but trust members said the bishop and Diocesan Council chose not to follow that and Dunstan Parish voices had swayed the end result, resulting in its private ownership.
Details of the buyers and the number of tenders received have not been disclosed, nor has the price paid.
The Dunedin Diocesan Trust Board simply confirmed tenders had been put in, and the board and the parish were pleased with the outcome.
Dr Benford said the sale followed an extensive process for the Dunstan Parish, including ‘‘considerable community interest in the building with a desire to see it retained in some way’’.
The new owners were formerly from the area and had indicated they wanted to keep the church intact, Dr Benford said.
They were also willing to explore how the building could be available for wider community use, but would eventually build a house sympathetic with the heritage of the area on part of the land for their own use.
Funds released from the sale would allow the Dunstan Parish to progress with plans to strengthen ministry in Central Otago.
‘‘It is always hard to let go of a building like St Michael’s, which was pivotal as the mother church for Anglicans in the Central Otago and Upper Clutha area.
‘‘This has been a sacred space for so many of the years and it is hard to say goodbye, although it is encouraging that the intention is for the church building to continue to have a presence in Clyde.’’
Dr Benford said the church was ‘‘never — and never has been — buildings, but is always people who are called together in community’’.