parents were dairy farmers in Nilma and I have lived in that district the whole
of my life – my family attended the little Methodist church - had Sunday
School at 1.30pm and worship service 2.30pm each Sunday. And over the hot
summer period, services at night instead
sense of community was very strong in those days – everyone knew everyone –
and you all went to what was on – Dance, Cards, Kitchen Tea, Weddings, Sunday
School Anniversary, Picnic, Concert, and neighbours harvesting as a team or
maybe fighting bush fires.
course, after the war, cars became more common and distances shrunk.
Methodist Circuit in the mid 50s comprised Warragul, Buln Buln, Buln East,
Nilma, Ellinbank, Tetoora Road and Trida – one minister!
Doug Risstrom was a hard act to follow. Nothing for him to conduct four or
five services on a Sunday. Warragul at 11am, Buln East 1.30, then to Nilma
(with a thermos of tea and a ‘bite to eat’ in the back room) for a service
at 2.30, then a night service at Warragul.
preaching places in that era would be Warragul, Darnum, Lardner and Nilma North.
following years were probably some of the best for church attendance.
Country churches were quite viable and the main churches in Warragul had healthy
congregations. Of course in those days, Sunday was still Sunday – and it
meant something to people.
union has always been on the agenda – sometimes people working together,
the early 70s Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodist churches had worked
together to the point where the congregations were given opportunity to vote
forming / joining the Uniting Church. In Warragul these congregations /
churches agreed with the proposal and (in 1977) became part of the Uniting
Church in Australia.
our two main properties were close together, we knew each other and ministers
Norm Marshall and John Cooper helped to weld us into one body, by sharing
ministry together – prior to union – the move to become the Uniting Church
was very smooth.
the 1980s, much thought and attention was given to the matter of property
rationalisation. Which of the properties had the best potential to be
altered, extended, improved – to the stage where it would be a complex to
cater for current and future needs of Ministry – Mission. After a series
of plans, this one or that one, it became obvious that neither site was suitable
for expansion and upgrade, and that parking, access and traffic would always be
a huge issue.
December 1988, Parish Council decided to accept and use the ‘Mission
Concept’ developed as the basis for future planning, and appointed a Property
Site Committee “To investigate the viability of an alternate site for the
future of the Warragul Church”.
that committee considered eight different blocks of land – and shortlisted
that to three. 1990: Parish Council moved “That we take steps to
purchase the site in Friend Street”. Slowly, various approvals, permits
etc., were sought over the next two years. But things started to feel
promising when the Dedication Service was held on 10 October 1993, and we
planted the wooden cross and claimed, as our future home, this land.
next eight or nine years were hard going – very hard. Nothing fell into
place. We were unable to attract buyers for the existing properties.
Wesley Church was heritage listed. The plans for our proposed building –
were a bit grand, impractical and very costly. We felt like we were
swimming against the tide – and it was ‘scary’.
maybe we needed that time!!
Church was placed on a smaller title and the building was sold at bargain price
to Warragul Heritage Preservation Association. We were then able to sell
the remaining properties of the former Methodist site; but still no sale of the
Presbyterian St Andrews site.
prayer group was formed – met regularly and prayed faithfully for many years
about the future home and ministry and mission of the Warragul Uniting Church.
met again with the architect and came up with the design of an entirely
different multifunction complex – which you see today.
– A break-through! Finally an offer to purchase the St Andrews site,
with the provision that we could continue to use the buildings for two years, as
our new complex was being built. There was much rejoicing and I think
tears of relief when the answer came to us.
engaged a surveyor. The nine acre site was divided – half for the
Worship Centre and half to be developed into housing blocks. We appointed
a civil engineer to oversee the block development; a real estate agent to market
the blocks, and called tenders for construction of the new Worship Centre.
the subsequent sale of 20 housing blocks [plus one reserved for a new manse] –
in Stoll Court and Friend Street over the next three years, we cleared a profit
of $900,000; and together with the remaining sales money we were able to
complete this building debt free!
today is still part of the journey. We are so grateful for our heritage
– those who have gone before and planned for the future – dreamed the dream
– responded to the call and the cost on their lives – financial, physical,
emotional, spiritual – just plain hard work and commitment, loyalty,
is our history to this point in time.
today, celebrating 10 years on this site, and in this building: we are
privileged to be here – but we also know that responsibility goes with it.
To be faithful to this generation and give future generations the opportunities
and facilities – to worship, to enjoy fellowship and encouragement, to be
enriched and equipped to be the People of God into the future.
does give us a future!