Connecting outdoors in natural surrounds

April 5, 2017

Church took on a rustic quality one weekend in February as everyone decamped to TOPEC, on the outskirts of New Plymouth.

For the first time in many years the whole congregation gathered somewhere other than Vivian St for a Sunday service.

Close to 100 people squeezed into the main hall at TOPEC (Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits Education Centre) on Hydro Rd, a five-minute drive south of New Plymouth.

For some, it was the best all-ages service they’d experienced. Others commented on the peaceful atmosphere and the fact that TOPEC seemed remote, yet so close to the city.

The 10am service was the culmination of an overnight camp that began on Saturday lunchtime and wound up 24 hours later.

During the weekend of February 18 & 19 there was a river swim, a treasure hunt, group and craft activities, shared meals and a bonfire on Saturday night.

Many families stayed overnight while others came for the Saturday activities or Sunday church and lunch.

The weather was patchy at times, but strong fellowship knitted the congregation together.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive – and everyone is keen for a re-run in 2018!

Around the bonfire

Meanwhile, a month later, Taranaki Retreat opened its doors to the public, almost three years after a group of people got together and dreamed of a safe space for families and individuals to stay, for free, when things are rough.

Lead by former cathedral Dean Jamie Allen and wife Suzy, the retreat is a brand-new spacious brick house set in tranquil surroundings on Hurford Rd.

Jamie says it will cost nothing to stay, and there will be no discrimination around who it is for – because the community made it.

To check out what has been built or help in any way (as ongoing support is sought) visit to find out more. Or see the website of Te Karaka Foundation, the charitable foundation established for Taranaki. It can organise a donation or bequest to the Taranaki Retreat Legacy Fund which will help with the operating costs of the retreat and later on. See

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