Ruapehu parish hall gains new life to bless many

Ruapehu parish hall gains new life to bless many

What started as the seed of an idea has germinated, been watered and has now come to fruition with the opening of our new Ohakune Lodge Retreat.  During the elective period at the recent Synod meeting in Ohakune, about 40 Synod members crammed into the former St James’ parish hall in the tourist heart of the mountain town as Bishop Justin blessed the venture, and invited us all to take a look around.

The retreat project started with an idea from Ruapehu Parish, who sought ways to turn a seldom-used church building into a blessing to the community.  They got in touch with diocesan management, and the idea of turning the hall into a retreat caught the imagination of Chris Casey, our diocesan intermediate ministry co-ordinator.  He’s a champion gatherer of people, project manager and ski enthusiast, and took a big leap of faith taking on this project – steadily becoming less and less present at the Anglican Centre and more so at the other end of the diocese!

Chris gathered a team of faithful people, and their collective vision brought the lodge into reality, as a great example of adaptive re-use of resources, and being open to new possibilities. The hall was surplus to requirements for the parish but had been well-maintained, with a large kitchen and toilet facility – and this laid the groundwork for an awesome space.  Chris told us: “That maintenance really made a huge difference. The decisions of past-parishioners had an impact,” leaving a legacy of a well-cared-for resource in the centre of town.

The lodge is a staffed retreat space, bookable by anyone for group retreats. It sleeps up to 17 people (excluding staff), and breakfast is provided each day. There’s a spiritual rhythm to start the day – reflection, prayer, and Bible reading – which guests join in – and then guests are free to choose whether they want to stay on site, or explore the great outdoors.

The space beautifully juxtaposes the modern retreat aesthetic with the hall’s historic past, and the workmanship is of the highest standard.  The retreat is situated in the midst of the busy tourist town but the quiet trickle of the nearby stream, the blossoming flora and the magnificent maunga vista mask the hustle and bustle of the nearby main street.  The lodge aims to provide a space for people looking for spiritual wholeness, and is available to the whole Anglican whānau.  It also aims to strengthen mission and ministry in the Ohakune area.

To get the work done, Chris and his team engaged local contractors as well as volunteers from throughout the diocese who donated copious amounts of hours.  “We have had many miracles of contractors who gave up their time to do work for free – probably saving around $9-10,000 in costs,” Chris told us.  “The missional opportunities with the local community are also so present.  Just in engaging local contractors and interacting with locals, I think around one-third have shown interest in engaging with faith.”

It has been so wonderful to have this project initiated by our local Ruapehu whānau but to truly be something that the whole movement has got behind, with many people from all over our diocesan family volunteering time and resources to paint, plaster, sand, and cook meals for hungry workers.

We owe a huge debt of thanks to Ruapehu Parish, to Chris Casey, and all who worked on this project – may everyone have the chance to enjoy this wonderful retreat space!

The Lodge is available all year round, and costs $160 per night for the first 6 people in a group, then $17.50 per person thereafter, including breakfast. If you’re coming as an individual or in a group of less than 6 costs are $30 per person per night including catering. There are two bunkrooms, and bedding is supplied. There is disabled access and bathroom facilities.  If costs are an issue, there are opportunities for funding from a couple of Diocesan Trusts – please get in touch for more information about this.

A great weekend at the Lodge might look like skiing, cycling, relaxing in the hot tub, and spending time with Jesus.

For more information about the Lodge, please get in touch with Chris at or on 027 472 1057. Click here to visit the Ohakune Lodge Retreat on Facebook.