Founded by an Australian evangelist who wanted to see the gospel practiced as well as preached, the Gloriavale Christian Community began near Rangiora, on the East Coast of the South Island of New Zealand in 1969. This development came after more than 20 years of evangelising throughout Australia in tent missions and working in the slum areas of Sydney. Attempts during these years to find or establish a full sharing life for the whole congregation failed, but the vision was there for a church based on the principles of the Bible. Many of our foundational beliefs concerning salvation and the need for practical Christianity came from these years of sacrifice and testing. When he was invited to preach again in New Zealand in 1968, our founder was experienced enough in the faith to begin building the church himself instead of looking for a lead from somebody else. God had already been preparing the hearts of the new congregation.
God drew many of our early converts from all over the world to come together in faith to solve the practical problems of sharing and caring for one another, while keeping separate from a world that was becoming more ungodly. One of the first projects was to start a private Christian School with Biblical values taught by our own teachers. Over time, God showed us the wisdom of all living together on one property. When the Lord provided the means of doing this, we designed and built the buildings that best suited our needs. The Springbank Christian Community grew slowly as God tested our resolve and added to the Church daily such as should be saved. Our foundation principles were established at Springbank through reading and practising the word of God. Our economy depended initially on our tradesmen, who earned a reputation for their honesty, and the quality of their drainlaying, building, plumbing, painting, floor laying and aircraft engineering. Income went into a common purse. Then we began establishing businesses on our own property by growing market garden produce, growing willow cane for basket making, and dairy farming. Manufacturing enterprises included furniture and waterbeds, and the baking of bread. By the late 1980s it was apparent that we needed to expand.
An opportunity to buy a property on the West Coast of the South Island opened up in 1991. It seemed that God had prepared a homeland for us at the foot of the Southern Alps, a farm surrounded by native bush, bordered by the Haupiri River and Lake Haupiri. We named the 917 ha property Gloriavale, in honour of our founder’s late wife, Gloria. Teams came from Springbank for working bees, putting in long, arduous hours to build the district’s first Rotaflo dairy – a floating concrete platform for a 40 bail rotary dairy. Built entirely by our own tradesmen, the dairy was the first of many buildings. As we sold the farms at Springbank and added to our facilities at Gloriavale, more people came to join in the pioneering. By 1995, we owned a total of 1700 ha on both sides of the Haupiri River. The shifting was over, and we were again one people living in harmony. Since then we have built the facilities we planned on 25 years ago, as well as many buildings that were not even dreamed of.