by Peter Lineham*

Auckland City Mission celebrates its centenary in June 2020. The Standing Committee of the Anglican Diocese approved a proposal for the establishment of the Mission earlier that year and it commenced with services in the Princess Theatre in Queen Street on 6 June 1920. At first the Mission was an Anglican attempt to recapture the lost working class, but by early 1921 an office was opened in Queens’ Buildings at 48 Wellesley Street that soon became the resort of anyone who needed an emergency financial grant. Soon an opportunity shop was opened on the corner of Wellesley and Albert Streets, and a mission representative attended court hearings, and reached out to those in need. The rapid increase in poverty, occurring before the recognised dates for the Depression, impelled the mission into running a food kitchen and a doss house, catering for hundreds of people every day.

In writing the centenary history of the mission I am conscious of the need to write about the poor, not just about agencies set up to help the poor. The impact of the Depression in particular was huge in Auckland. While the 1930s were the heroic years of the Mission, there were a number of other phases in its history, partially reflecting the changing character of poverty in the city, as Maori, Pasifika, other migrants crowded in. For a while the central city was derelict, and the Mission was on the point of moving, but the existence of youth homelessness, general homelessness and the lack of community drew the Mission to stay in the city. In recent years poverty has changed again as refugees have become a significant feature of the city landscape.

A 1950s pamphlet for the Auckland City Mission. Downloaded from Te Ara and copyright to the Auckland Anglican Diocesan Archives.

 It is also important to see the Mission alongside other agencies, usually in a collaborative role, although Jasper Calder faced fierce competition from the Methodist Social Service Mission established in 1927 and run initilally by Colin Scrimgeour , as the smaller agency gained public attention through radio broadcasts, theatre services and publicity stunts much more colourful than those of the Anglican missioner, Jasper Calder. Although there has been no history of the City Mission in the past, similar agencies in Wellington and Christchurch have had histories, and other denominational agencies have been recorded, and there are important connections with bodies like the Red Cross, St John’s hospitals, and the like. The book Past Judgement ed. Bronwyn Dalley and Margaret Tennant (2004) has established the rich dialogue between the government and private and public agencies in the care of the poor. Auckland City Mission like other church agencies struggled to maintain its own integrity, but also sought to meet the changing needs of the poor.

The Mission could only survive by promoting interest in poverty relief, and selling itself as an agency for social stability and change. There is a fascinating story of the ways in which they made these needs known. There is another story of financial donations from Trusts and the role of the Mission’s opportunity shops in funding its ministry. Some of these donors are very important figures in the history of Auckland, including Sir Robert Kerridge, John Courts Ltd and the Bob Davis-Molly Carr Trust. While others were generous donors to just the Mission, such as Mrs Whitney who gave a house on the North Shore. In later years the ASB Trust was very generous and corporate sponsors gave to building projects. Donors and their reasons for donations are important in the story. So is government and community support. The Mission was never as beholden to the state as some agencies, since its primary work was direct assistance to the poor, but many of its specific ventures, notably the Detox unit, the Aids House, youth work and chaplaincies received substantial government assistance.

The institutional history of the Mission illustrates its inevitable ups and downs. City missioners often were very public figures in the city, particularly Jasper Calder (1920-1946) and Dame Diane Robertson (1997-2015). There were frequent struggles with the diocese, which considered that the mission belonged to it, yet gave it little financial support. There were clashes with other agencies, and there was a long-running tension with the old people’s villages founded by the Mission, and then in 1966 separated from it and formed into the hugely successful Selwyn Foundation. Each side considered itself the loser in the financial settlement that resulted. There were also struggles between the executive committee and some of the missioners, and at least one dramatic resignation was hushed up.

The religious history of the mission is in contrast to the religiosity of most of the churches. Jasper Calder was an Anglican Modernist, far more liberal in his Anglicanism than almost all his fellow clergy, and he alienated many from his ability to scoff at the church, defy regulations, hold services in theatres and on beaches, promote the role of women and scoff at traditional Protestant revivalism. From 1945 until 1990 the Mission came into the hands of High Anglicans who were much given to ceremony and ritual. They were sold the house at 100 Greys Avenue that had been built for the Order of the Good Shepherd, Anglican nuns, and inherited some of this ministry. The Mission was in 1969 handed over to the Anglican Franciscans by Bishop Gowing, without the involvement of the Mission’s executive committee, and for ten years there was a strong Franciscan presence in it, and then Don Cowan, who was a Franciscan in all but name. In this context the chapel and the Eucharist were highly important for the missioner and the mission helpers. In more recent years the Mission at all levels except the Board has virtually no sense of its religious origins.

The Doss House, Drifter, 4 February1928, 2.

 So what did the Mission do, and how has it changed over the years? In the early days it was a soup kitchen, and a source of small grants to help people facing financial crises. Gradually it accumulated a range of separate aspects of its work. It was never an orphanage like the first Auckland City Mission founded in the nineteenth century. The Anglican Church already had St Mary’s Homes. It lent support to a number of other agencies, for example Friendship House in South Auckland, and this meant that it did not operate directly in that part of the city. It worked with several other churches to operate James Liston House, the successor to the old doss house, which had been its main agency in the Depression era. It operated a house for teenage delinquents for a while, and later converted it to a house for AIDS victims. It operated a family therapy centre, a non-medical detoxification centre, a home for abused girls and above all opportunity shops in various parts of the city. It is important not to exaggerate the scale of this work, for like all city charities it found opportunities and used them, but its ongoing work was the distribution of money, food parcels clothing and other necessities to the poor who came to its headquarters in the central city.

The Clothes Stall, Drifter, 28 January 1928, 3.

The topic of the Mission is highly relevant to a series of historical themes concerning Auckland City, because the Mission so deliberately responded to social crises. It sought to mobilise other people in the city, not just church people but often business houses to respond to pressing social need.

I am writing a book on the history of the Mission for its centenary in June 2020.

Here is a timeline of the Mission:

29/4/1920 Auckland Diocese Standing Committee resolves on formation of ACM
11/05/1920 Exec committee established Calder in chair and employed
30/5/1920 Commissioning of Calder at St Mary’s
06/6/1920 First Sunday service held at Princess Theatre, Queen street
06/1920 Missioner inducted at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral
01/1921 Office opened in 5r Queens Buildings 48 Wellesley Street West (corner of Albert St); clothing and financial assistance provided
26/2/1921 Magazine “Drifter” begun
07/1921 Two Nurses available through Mission (and later hospital visitors)
07/9/1922 First Bazaar held in Town Hall Concert Chamber
10/1922 Jasper’s Concert authorised as fundraiser
09/1923 Sister Pat (Miss G Jeffs) appointed
01/6/1923 Separate shop opened below office Wellesley/Albert Streets
12/23 Christmas appeal for the poor
07/1924 Land purchased at Wiri/Flat Bush, Papatoetoe for half way house for ex-prisoners & retarded
02/1924 Organising secretary George Ponder appointed
04/1925 Establishment of hospital library
1925 Services held in Hippodrome Theatre
23/8/1927 Auckland City Mission Incorporated Society established to hold property
04/1927 Night shelter in Federal street for 8 months
12/1927 Chapel opened in Wellesley Street offices
02/1928 Rev C.W. Chandler appointed deputy missioner
11/1928 Services moved to Lewis Eady Hall Queen Street [Possibly the same place as Hippodrome]
1929 Night shelter run at 95 Federal St May to October
04/1929 Weekly medical clinic run with Dr A Kirker & free pharmacy
24/4/1929 First annual meeting of incorporated society
12/6/1929 E. Bart Clarke appointed organising secretary.
17/10/1929 Offices moved to 95 Federal Street, and camp site acquired on Waiheke at Oneroa
01/1928 First Summer Camp for poor children held at Waiheke site
12/1929 Permanent buildings at Oneroa campsite
28/1/1930 First mission shop opened [but see above 1/6/23]
03/1930 Rev G E Morton starts as assistant missioner (appointed Oct 1929) and prison chaplain
05/1930 Doss House corner Lorne St
05/1930 Services moved to Plaza Theatre
07/1930 Jasper Calder Charity Fund established
21/7/1930 Sunday services moved to Civic Theatre
24/7/1930 Government provides subsidy of L500 to doss house, it is kept open all year with huge numbers
09/1930 Emergency house established
10/1930 Synod bans showing movies at mission services
11/1930 Epiphany Parish combined with Mission services begin 16/11
01/1931 Night Shelter is moved to large lower Hobson Street Boot Company building open until November
04/1931 First annual deficit of L200
05/1931 Rev J Neville Thompson as curate of Epiphany
06/1931 Governor General Lord Bledisloe visits
06/1931 Questions in Parliament over non-payment of government share of Night Shelter set-up
6/10/1931 Mission ruled exempt from Rates as a charity not just a branch of the church
1932 Free dental clinic provided
06/1933 Whitneydale, Campbell’s Bay, given to mission [later used as IHC home]
16/07/1933 14 kicked out of night shelter as discontent rises
04/1938 Offices moved to Sunday School Union building, Queen Street
06/1944 Link with Epiphany ends
03/1946 Calder retires (although continues until new missioner appointed)
07/1946 Doug Caswell appointed as new city missioner
02/1948 Montgomery Young men’s hostel opened in Sale Street (later moved to Greys Ave, closed in 1966)
1949 Youth and Age appeal for L100,000 raises L22,000 including film “Indictment”
1952 Selwyn Village begun at Point Chevalier
08/1952 St Francis House 100 Grey’s Ave sold to the Mission by Order of the Good Shepherd. The mission moved its HQ to here in November 1953
1953 ACM statute approved by Auckland Anglican Synod
1954 Rev W A Garraway appointed assistant missioner
1962 Captain Banyard becomes children’s court chaplain (Church Army)
1963 Holy Sepulchre Church Khyber Pass Road given to the Mission
C1960 Surrey Crescent warehouse opened as opportunity shops grow in number
14/2/1965 Family Guidance Centre established led by Rev L. M. McFerran (resigns Sept 1967 replaced by FV Fennell, centre closed 1969)
1966 Selwyn Foundation created by ACM; Doug Caswell becomes Selwyn Foundation Director. St Francis House allocated to Selwyn Foundation
1967 Rev W.A. Garraway appointed City Missioner
08/1968 Bishop Gowing informs the Mission that he has invited the Anglican Franciscans to come to Auckland and take over the Mission
1970 Brother Michael Thomas (from 1974 J Wettestrom) from the Franciscans becomes City Missioner [resigns from 1/6/1979]
1971 New Statute for City Mission approved by Auckland Anglican Synod
1972 Franciscans move to Glen Innes leaving St Francis House vacant
10/1973 Anglican Methodist Social Services created; ACM vacates Holy Sepulchre
AMSS (and ACM) move to Open Circle, Airedale Street Methodist building
1978 John Towle not re-elected at AGM, Fred McElrea becomes chair in his place. Michael Wettestrom resigns
08/1979 Rev Jim Greenaway appointed director of Anglican Methodist Social Services (commenced 1980)
08/1979 Rev Don Cowan appointed City Missioner – commences in 1980
01/1980 Purchase of Prince of Wales pub 140 Hobson St
02/4/1981 Meeting of Selwyn Foundation and ACM to resolve property issues
Sale of Greys Avenue and of Jasper Calder Lodge, Waiheke island.
24/7/1981 ACM suspends support for AMSS and withdraws from 1982
02/1985 Old people’s chaplaincy commenced by Rev Jeny Terrell
14/10/1981 Detox unit set up in Federal Street
15/7/1983 ACM buys Blackwood House, Jervois Road from ATWC after occupation, sets up teenagers Home (closed in May 1989)
1986 Kathleen North House women’s refuge founded in cooperation with HELP Foundation in Western Springs formally commissioned 18/2/1988 (closed 1995)
1989 Cowan leaves, David Dunningham acts as priest in Charge of Mission
1990 Rev Paul Bathurst formerly vicar of Aranui appointed City Missioner
28/4/1990 Herne Bay House for HIV patients opened and blessed in Jervois Road (closed July 2005)
26/2/1994 Crisis and missioner resigns
12/4/1994 Canon Ron Bambury appointed acting City Missioner
1995 New missioner Rev Richard Buttle (resigns 31/3/98)
1996 Christmas lunch begun (initially sponsored by SkyCity)
1999 Kathleen North House changed into a Child Trauma Centre
04/1998 Diane Robertson appointed City Missioner
2000 Brian Corban becomes chair of Board
2002 Strategic plan developed by staff and Board
09/2007 New ACM Statute passed by Anglican Synod after sharp debate
12/2003 136-8 Hobson Street purchased
2004 Capital Foundation established
2009 John Button chair of board until 2012
2012 Kieran Vautier appointed Chair
01/6/2015 Diane Robertson knighted for services to community
12/9/2015 Resignation of Dame Diane Robertson announced from end of year
01/6/2016 Chris Farrelly commences as City Missioner
2018 Demolition of Hobson Street and Federal Street buildings


* Peter Lineham is Emeritus Professor of History at Massey University, from which he retired in 2019. He has written a range of books and many articles on aspects of New Zealand’s religious history, looking at denominations as diverse as Brethren, Anglicans, Mormons and Methodists, movements as diverse as Pacifism, Fundamentalism and social agencies, Bible translations, Maori and missionaries to Maori, and New Zealand missionaries to other parts of the world. His most recent book was Sunday Best (Massey University Press, 2017).