Absent for 12 years The recently recovered and restored Christ figure was returned to the empty cross in Futuna Chapel and unveiled on the annual Futuna Chapel Open Day on Sunday 17th March 2013. The unveiling of the restored Christ figure by sculptor Jim Allen and Ema Scott was preceded by a bi-cultural blessing ceremony.
The discovery in late August 2012 in rural North Taranaki of a lost carving of the crucified Jesus Christ, 12 years after it was stolen from the Futuna Chapel in Wellington, was very welcome news to the Friends of Futuna Charitable Trust, the guardians of the statue’s original home.
The 160cm tall figure of Christ was hand-carved from mahogany by noted New Zealand sculptor Jim Allen in 1961, for the crucifix that completed the award-winning design of Futuna Chapel by architect John Scott.
Recovering the statue had been a goal of the Futuna Trust since it was established in 2003 to celebrate, restore and maintain the chapel, which is regarded as one of New Zealand’s modern architectural masterpieces.
Although the chapel is no longer a consecrated church, the Christ figure was part of Scott’s original architectural vision for the chapel, and its recovery provides a sense of completeness in the on-going restoration of the building. The Trust has been encouraging the use of the chapel for community events, so that its unique design and spiritual qualities can be enjoyed and appreciated as widely as possible.
Shonagh Kenderdine, the patron of the Futuna Trust and Chair of the Historic PLaces Trust Board, says “The return of the Christ figure to Futuna has great spiritual, cultural and architectural significance for New Zealanders. The figure is the mauri (life-force) of the chapel. Te Hokinga Mai (the Returning) began today with the figure’s road journey from Taranaki to Wellington under the protection of the New Zealand Police, who have been so instrumental in its return.”
Jim Allen, who designed and carved the statue in 1961, expressed his delight at its rediscovery. “This is a red-letter day for all of us and brings to a close our endless speculation as to its whereabouts. I look forward to its re-installation and further confirmation of John Scott’s vision for the Futuna Chapel.”
The statue’s rediscovery came about through the network of the trust, its trustees and patron talking with people. In particular, thanks to Kevin Dillon, a detective with the Wellington Police, whose patient and dedicated work led to the statue’s recovery.
A ceremony to welcome the statue back to its original home was held at the Futuna Chapel, Friend Street, Karori on Thursday 6 September 2012. There was a spirit of celebration, with the return welcomed by kaumatua and kaikaranga as well a priest from the Society of Mary, the original owners of the Chapel. It was an informal ritual of welcome and cleansing across faiths and cultures. After being lost in the wilderness for over a decade, this last significant artefact of John Scott’s original design has been returned.
The costs of fabrication of new crown of thorns , new ‘fixing’ hardware, restoration of the Christ figure and its re-installation were generously being covered by John Scott’s original hardware merchants FL Bone of Hastings and Mark and Wendy McGuinness of Wellington.
See also North & South Magazine March Issue 2013 pages 72 – 76