The early settlers in East Taieri were men and women of strong character and sound religious principles. They loved their Church and very soon after their arrival in this district they were planning the education of their children and the conducting of Christian services.
By 1851 a visiting minister Rev. William Nicholson had visited the district and conducting, in a tent, what is believed to be the first church service in the Taieri District. Little more than two years later a decision was made that the second minister in Otago should be stationed at East Taieri.
The ‘Trustees for Religious Services and Education of Children’ thereupon made ground available for this purpose. Plans were drawn for a building which would serve as school, church and teacher’s residence and by 1853 this was erected. On December 3rd 1853 the schoolhouse was opened as a preaching station and a service was conducted by Rev. Thomas Burns the Minister of the First Church of Otago. It is recorded that one hundred persons attended this service and thirty more took part while standing outside.
The Parish of East Taieri was a first part of the Otago Church and under the care of Rev. Mr Burns. It soon became evident that the Otago Church required more ministers and arrangements were made accordingly. Therefore in 1854 there arrived from Scotland two young men Revs. William Bannerman and William Will.
On Sunday February 19th of the year Rev. Mr Will was introduced to the East Taieri congregation which he was to serve until 1899. A much loved person he contributed to the development of the parish’s most valuable qualities as well as being involved with the Presbytery of Otago. With the coming the twentieth century a succession of ministers continued the work of Mr Will. They were Revs: J.B. Hall (1900), W. Kinmont (1900-19), W.W. Brown (1920), D. McCosh (1920-27), A.C. Watson (1927-32), S.C. Francis (1932-37), S.C. Read (1938-44), W.G. McIntosh (locum tenens 1940-45), W.D.H. Warin (1945-53), J.G. Mathews (1953-76), P. Willsman (1976-2001) M. Schwass (2001-06) and M Maculay.
In 1877 a decision was made to sell the original manse which in fact still stands adjacent to Riccarton Road. This first building had been enlarged in 1866 but it was agreed to make the sale, purchase a block of land adjacent to the church and erect a new manse. In that year the present two storied building was erected. Over the hundred years for which it has stood, various re-decorations and modernisations have been carried out and today we have a charming comfortable home.
Thirty years after the erection of the church the need for a church bell was agreed upon. A bell was procured and although never hung was at the church for some time. It was then sold to a church in Central Otago and another bell purchased from Messers A & T Burt of Dunedin in 1904. It was brought to East Taieri on his wagon by a local farmer a prominent member of the congregation of that time. The belfry was erected adjacent to the church and the peal of that bell has become a well know feature to the residents of East Taieri.
Prominent among the notable feature of the church are the stained glass windows. These record a number of happenings and personalities associated with the church. The most prominent are the two feature complexes. The one on the west wall was erected to commemorate the men from the parish who gave their lives in World War 1. The theme quoted is “Be thou faithful even unto death and I will give you a crown of life.” On the opposite side of the church is comples which was created to show appreciation of the people who in the early days of the community brought their Christian belief of love and service to their fellow men. This glorious creation exemplifying the life they led was created as a tribute on the 100th anniversary of the Parish with the theme “Lo! I am with you always.”
Next to this feature is the tribute to those who died as servicemen in World War 2 and has the theme “Put on the whole armour of God.”. A tribute to the Gow family has the thought, “I am the Bread of Life.” William Shand is remembered in another window which illustrated the theme of the sower of seeds on fertile ground. Rev. W.W. Brown who died while minister to this church is remembered with the theme, “A Servant of the Lord. Gentle unto all men, Apt to teach, patient”. Another window is a tribute to David and William Christie and has the message, “I am the resurrection of life.” William Kirkland is recalled as a long serving member with the message, “Suffer the little children to come o Me”. Rev. John Collie who was associated with the church both as student minister and later a member of the congregation is remembered with the thought, “God stooping shows sufficient of His light for us to rise”. Another who served the congregation over a long period was William Todd and we are reminded of his work with a picture of the good shepherd. The lengthy ministry of Rev. A. Kinmont is recalled with the quotation, “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty”.
Some of the furnishings of the church are memorials to people who have been closely associated with the church. From ministers to lay people these people served their God faithfully through service to others in this community.