By CRIS JOHNSTON
On a warm, sunny Central Otago spring day the presence of 14 curlers and their stones at the Tarras Presbyterian Church drew the obvious question – “But where’s the ice?”.
Members of the Cardrona Curling Club and about 60 other people from the surrounding district turned out at the church on Saturday to watch the “blessing of the stones” and attend a fundraising auction at Bendigo Station later in the afternoon.
Taking pride of place in the line-up of stones at the church was a 400-year-old specimen imported from Scotland to New Zealand by Bendigo Station owner John Perriam. Mr Perriam said the “somewhat quirky” ceremony, which included an order for curling club members to “kiss their stones”, was held to raise awareness and funds so the community could buy the church put up for sale by the Presbyterian parish last month.
Since 1958 the church, thought to be about 100 years old, has been managed by Anglicans and Presbyterians under a joint-use agreement.
One of a three-member committee established to investigate the purchase of the roperty Mr Perriam said the church was a “special place” the community wanted to preserve. It had been used not just as a place of worship but for weddings, christenings and other functions.
The committee also included Felicity Hayman and Bev Batchelor. Mrs Hayman said it “came as shock to hear of its possible loss to the community”.
“We want it retained in the community for the community.”
During Saturday morning’s fun-filled ceremony, curling club member Graham Bell recited the Address to a Haggis by Scottish bard Robbie Burns, and celebrity chef Annabel Langbein offered tastings of the traditional dish to those present.
A total of $26,000 was later raised at the auction.
Mrs Hayman said she was “overwhelmed” by the community’s generosity. The next step would be to meet the Presbyterian parish leaders to find out what the price for the church might be.