Dog and Church
I have somewhat irreverently called this post “Dog and Church”. It sounds like a British pub, but its not. On the shores of Lake Tekapo in the area known as “Mackenzie Country” in South Canterbury are two key attractions on every tourist coach journey through the South Island of New Zealand. Apart from early morning and late afternoon there is a steady stream to tour coaches, campervans, rental cars and other miscellaneous vehicles which arrive at the lake shore to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd and a bronze statue of a sheepdog. If one arrives during the tourist period in the day it is almost impossible to capture images of the church, especially, without people filing into and out of the building and wandering around it’s perimeter.
In this image there is only one coach. When we arrived there were three others and twice as many cars.
The little stone church is a gem. Some twenty five years ago we had the privilege of attending a Christmas Day service there with our three boys while on a camping holiday in the South Island. It was a very local service, with families from the town and surrounding farming community gathering together to celebrate the Christmas story. There were tourists and tour coaches then also, but not in the numbers you see today. One of the unique features of the church is the window behind the alter that gives a view of Aoraki Mt Cook in the distance at the farthest end of Lake Tekapo. Despite the many thousands of travelers who visit the church every year, it is still used for active worship and is a focal point for the Mackenzie Country families.
Outside the church is a bronze statue of a border collie sheepdog. Quoting from the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, “In the 19th century, Scottish shepherds came to work on the pastoral runs of the eastern South Island. The high country could not have been farmed successfully without the border collies they brought with them. To honour these ‘canine Scots’, a statue of a collie has been raised at Lake Tekapo.” The statue is a much loved attraction, and many a honeymooner and visitor has a photograph of themselves with the dog.
The Mackenzie Basin was named in the 1850s by and after James Mackenzie (or in his native Scottish Gaelic: Seumas MacCoinneach), a shepherd and sheep thief of Scottish origin, who herded his stolen flocks in what was then an area almost totally empty of any human habitation, though Māori previously lived there intermittently. After his capture, the area was soon divided up amongst new sheep pasture stations in 1857 (Wikipedia). The Mackenzie story is one that captured the imagination of many a young school child when I was small and we were closer to the living history of European settlement than we are today.