Amidst the turmoil of this last week we received a most unusual and rather beautiful artefact; a portable Baptismal Font. The octagonal shaped font was crafted by a member of the Rununga Presbyterian Church on the West Coast of the South Island. It was carved from Oamaru Stone, a popular white limestone quarried in North Otago, and presented to the Rev. Frederick H. Robertson sometime during his stay in the parish. (1939-1942).
Reading, quite literally between the lines of a rather damaged news clipping glued to the inside lid of the Font’s leather case, one can glean that this gift was a “token of appreciation” from members of the parish for the “spontaneous” and “generous spirit” that the Rev. Robertson carried out his ministry. Indications in the news item are that it was through the “efforts” of a “Mrs Rankin” that the gift of the font “was made possible”. An apology was given for her absence on the occasion of the handing over of the gift.
The Rev. Robertson responded accordingly saying that he ‘greatly appreciated’ ‘the unexpected and particularly suitable gift which he accepted as a token of their desire to help on the work of the Church in the charge.’ The first baptism in which the font was used was that of his son on the following Sunday. Unfortunately we can not verify this baptism to secure a more definite date of the presentation as the Baptismal records do not appear to be extant.
The Font was no doubt used extensively in the far flung parish of Central Westland and remained in the Robertson family until it was passed on to the Rev. Samuel McCay in 1955. He had been inducted into the parish of Wairoa East in the Hawke’s Bay where there were eight preaching places and Mrs Veronica Robertson felt that once again the Font could be put into use. Over his ministry it was made regular use of and during that time two of their children were baptized from it. In 1971 while in Howick Parish they again made use of the font for the baptism of their youngest son.
The Rev. McCay in making the donation to the Church’s Archives notes the time has come to lodge this special artefact where its service in two scattered rural parishes can be remembered. I have always felt privileged to have and to use the font.
Thank you Sam it is a lovely artefact and sits well with the portable communion sets held in the collection.