Heritage Sunday — 19th June 2016



Heritage Sunday

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(at right)



The sketches of our former Warragul churches —
St Andrew's (left) and Wesley (right) were drawn by church member Joan Cooper



The original sketches are on display in the Foyer 



Our 'ten-year old'
church building is
shown in the colour photo


Something significant to your heritage

Early in the service, people were invited to place on the Communion Table
historical items from their own family journey

Gathered for the unveiling in the Foyer

During the 'Heritage Sunday' service Rev Bruce Wood invited our congregation to gather in the Foyer for the unveiling of the board with plaques.


The board unveiled

Below the board is a table with a book for Records.  

It is intended that members may contribute information about people named on the plaques; and that this record book may also contain items of our church's historical journey.

To the left of the board is the clock from Wesley and photos of Wesley and St Andrew's.

A 'close-up' of the plaques on the board

The first six rows "Represents the plaques and inscriptions from St Andrews and Wesley"
(our former churches).

The plaques in the seventh row acknowledge people who have especially contributed to our present church location. 


As part of the Heritage Sunday service,
Stan Davey told the story of  “Where we came from” – “How we got here”

I guess most of you have seen photos of the early days of Warragul.  The first train in 1878.  There is evidence of forest surrounds with the Railway Station – some shops in the streets and by 1884 on the Victoria Street hill the original Methodist Church (Wesley 1888) – and then some years later the Presbyterian Church further up the street.

Today’s generation is just amazed with the vision, the desire and the ability of those early settlers to plan and construct these great buildings for the future.

At that time and over the next 20–30 years not only the town of Warragul grew, but also the other smaller districts and towns.

We have Drouin to the West; Lardner, Ellinbank, Tetoora Road, Cloverlea to the South; Nilma, Darnum to the East, and Nilma North, Shady Creek, Buln East, Buln Buln and Lillico to the North.  Just about every area had its own school, often a hall, a church, tennis court, sports area, and each of these places was almost complete in itself.  A community, all within horse and buggy / jinker distance maybe three miles (five Kms) and children walk, ride bike or horse to school.  And that is the history, the background, which is real to many of us.

That is also the beginning as well as the long term, area of ministry for both the Presbyterian and Methodist churches in Warragul in that era.

My 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 of afternoon.

The 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.

Of course, after the war, cars became more common and distances shrunk.

The Methodist Circuit in the mid 50s comprised Warragul, Buln Buln, Buln East, Nilma, Ellinbank, Tetoora Road and Trida – one minister!

Rev 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.

Presbyterian preaching places in that era would be Warragul, Darnum, Lardner and Nilma North.

The 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.

Church union has always been on the agenda – sometimes people working together, sometimes not!

In 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.

Because 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.

Through 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.

In 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”.

During 1989 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.

The 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’.

But maybe we needed that time!!

· Wesley 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.

· A 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.

· We met again with the architect and came up with the design of an entirely different multifunction complex – which you see today.

2003 – 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.

We 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.

With 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!

And 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, constancy.

That is our history to this point in time.

So 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.

God does give us a future!

The first bible reading

The second bible reading

Leading the singing of the
Millenium Prayer

After the service

retrieving family items
from the Communion Table

Heritage Sunday - The Choir sang “Sing to God with Joy and Gladness”

Our churches and our people — A video presentation of many photos from past years



Also, on Heritage Sunday we formally welcomed twelve people as new members of our congregation

Rev Bruce Wood moved around the congregation to formally welcome our new members


At the end of the service, we joined hands and sang the blessing for each other