In The Beginning...

On the 4th May 1955, a small group of Baptists with a concern for the developing area of Marchwiel, met together. They were all then members of the Wilson Street Baptist Church in Timaru and were inspired by the need to establish a Sunday School for the children of the rapidly expanding new housing area. This Sunday School was commenced subsequently on the 25th June 1955.

The Sunday School progressed well and plans were soon approved by the Wilson Street Church, under whose supervision the work was being conducted, for the erection of a modest but permanent building. This building was constructed on the present site at 16 Tyne Street and was of such a design that it could be extended easily when the need arose. It was officially opened on the 9th February, 1957.

Very shortly afterwards the Sunday School became a separate entity from the Wilson St Sunday School and at the same time the “Marchwiel Baptist Fellowship” was formed. At first the Fellowship met on a Tuesday evening alternating between bible studies and other activities. Sunday services were begun on the 3rd March, 1957 and a highly successful “Childrens’ Happy Week’ was conducted which lead to the doubling of Sunday School numbers. Space was a problem so plans were made to extend the Sunday School hall to include baptismal font and Sunday school rooms.

As soon as the 4th July 1959 a stone-laying ceremony was held to dedicate the completed church extension to the glory of God in the area. The following day, a Sunday, was the day when 23 people signed a pledge and became the foundation members of the Marchwiel Baptist Church, a church which was warmly welcomed into the Baptist Union of Churches that year at the Assembly meetings.

Ministry Timeline

The following is a chronological list of the men who ministered at Marchwiel from 1959 till the present:

Rev. P.A.C. Peters

December 1959 - May 1964

Rev. R.M. Gurney

November 1964 - April 1969

Rev. A.J. Lucas

February 1971 - August 1973

Rev. G. Buckley

November 1973 - June 1976

Mr H.A.F. Wood & Rev P. Millichamp

July 1976 - July 1985

Mr Leslie Redhead

July 1985 - August 1986

Pastor Alfie Orr

August 1986 - November 1998

Pastor John Leevers

December 1998 - October 2006

Mr Grant Phillips

October 2006 - February 2010

Pastor Nick Clevely

February 2010 - Present




During the 12-year period when Pastor Alfie Orr was ministering, the church came to rejoice in the Doctrines of Grace as summarised in the early Baptist Confessions (e.g. The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith) and sought to witness in the Marchwiel area to the greatness of God’s sovereign grace. To reflect this emphasis the church’s name was changed to “Marchwiel Reformed Baptist Church”.


On 7 May 2005, while John Leevers was pastor, Marchwiel Reformed Baptist Church became a founding member of the Fellowship of Reformed Baptist Churches of New Zealand.


In November 2015, the church members agreed to change the church’s name from Marchwiel Reformed Baptist Church to Covenant Grace Baptist Church. This was made official in August 2016, when the Charities Commission accepted the change.


On the 11th October 2020, we held the official opening of the newly renovated church building at 20 Archer Street.

This was previously an Exclusive Brethren building, and as such was quite closed in with hardly any natural light. The building was extended towards Rhodes Street as far as practicable, and the internals were completely renovated according to a design concept by Russell Cannons from Construkt (Russell has preached for us a number of times). Lots of windows were added, and the outside of the building was clad in Timaru Bluestone, courtesy of Rene Kempf, who single-handedly managed the building project. A number of people helped with the project, notably local builders Colin Ritchie and Tom Kubala, and local electrician Mike Watt of Sparky Watt Electrical.

The Lord was gracious to allow the three previous pastors (Alfie Orr, John Leevers, and Grant Phillips) to attend and be involved in the commemoration service, which was a great blessing to all who were present. Rene Kempf was asked to cut the ribbon to officially open the building after the morning church service, there was an official photo shoot (see photos below) and morning tea to celebrate.

Current Pastor
Clevely Family

Nick Clevely, his wife Lynn, and their boys arrived in Timaru in February 2010, coming from St Helena Island where Nick had previously been ministering. At this time many South African families are immigrating to New Zealand and some have bolstered the Sunday attendance. Also many of the children of the church families have reached their teenage years and are now forming a good core of enthusiastic youth. Nick has an emphasis in his ministry on the gospel and overseas missions, and this is encouraging prayer, giving and support of missionaries.

Congregational Photo
Covenant Grace Baptist Church congregation, taken 11th October 2020 at the Archer Street opening ceremony.

From the left, current pastor Nick Clevely & his wife Lynn, current elder Rene Kempf and his wife Bronwyn, previous pastor Grant Phillips and his wife Petru, previous pastor John Leevers and his wife Joan, previous pastor Alfie Orr and his wife Elsie, architect Russel Cannons, and builder Colin Ritchie. Photo taken 11th October 2020 at the Archer Street opening ceremony.