St Bartholomew’s, Alstonville

The history of the Anglican Church in Alstonville is intrinsically linked to the pioneering days of the district. The first European settlers came to the area in the early 1830’s, and they soon discovered that there was a plentiful harvest to be head in the forests of red cedar, which for centuries prior, had been growing on the fertile volcanic soil of what is now referred to as the Alstonville Plateau. By the early 1870’s the settlement of Duck Creek Mountain had a population of 150, among whom there were a number of Christian men and women whose thoughts turned to the conduct of worship services. The first gathering of Anglicans came through the efforts of two cedar getters, Pearson Simpson and Francis Morrish, who utilized Morrish’s primitive hut to be the regular meeting place for the congregation of the Church of England at Duck Creek. Ministers of Religion were rather scarce on the North Coast at that time, and the whole of the Richmond region was under care of two clergy; the Reverend Henry Porte of Casino and the Reverend FR Newton of Lismore. It was Reverend Newton who in 1876, offered to conduct a monthly service at Duck Creek. Over the next 25 years church buildings began to appear in the communities on the plateau. The first Anglican church of St Paul’s at Wollongbar was built in 1878. In 1896 the first St Bartholomew’s Church was built at Ocean View on land donated by Mr John Perry MLAA. Other churches to be built in that same period were St Thomas’ at Dalwood and St John the Evangelist at Rous in 1897 and St Peter’s at Tregeagle in 1899. In 1905 the decision was taken to relocate the original St Bartholomew’s Church to 1 The Avenue in Alstonville. The first resident Priest was the Reverend HH Mirrington who was appointed in January 1909 and took up residence in the Rectory which had been built at 3 The Avenue – alongside the church. In that same year (1909) land was purchased across the road from the then St Bartholomew’s church for the purpose of building an enlarged and more permanent church. Designed by local architect William Jolly the church was to be a distinctive building of Federation Gothic style and sandstone construction. On 20 August 1913 Bishop Druitt laid the foundation stone, and it took less than two years to complete using stone brought by bullock dray from a quarry on the property of the Anstey family at Tregeagle. The original roof was made of slate. On 7 March 1915 saw the last service conducted at the original church, and four days later on 11 March 1915 the dedication of the new stone church took place. The former church became known as the Church Hall and has continued over the years to be used for God’s work, being a meeting place for the church faithful and community groups, and a venue for celebrations and functions. In 2001 the building was renamed the Anglicare Centre and became the location of the parish’s charitable and community services. The quality of the sandstone used for the new church was rather inferior being of poor geological structure and varied texture. Over the first 30 years the stone progressively deteriorated, and coupled with movements of the foundations, major crumbling of the walls and pillars was occurring. In 1949 a storm caused considerable damage to the church, and by 1952 the slate roof was irreparable. So significant was the damage to the roof that it became necessary to drill holes in the floor to let leading rainwater drain away – and these holes are still visible. Between 1952 and 1960 St Bartholomew’s was thoroughly restored at a cost of £6,499. The church was has remained much the same for the past 45 years, with the exception of the installation of several stained glass memorial windows. The church is now classified by the National Trust of Australia as a heritage building. At different stages of its life the parish has grown and contracted. In the late 1960’s a regular worship service began at Marom Creek and 1972 the church of St Thomas’ at Wyrallah was incorporated into the parish. Against this there has been the closure of the churches at Dalwood, Wollongbar and Rous. Services at Marom Creek also discontinued and more recently the church at Wyrallah has come under the ministry of the Parish of Lismore. Through its life the parish has been a strong community of faith. A Sunday School has operated almost uninterrupted since it was founded by Miss Mary Jane Barlow. A Church of England Men’s Society and Girl’s Friendly Society (GFS) both thrived and were the foundation for the growth in faith of many of today’s members of the parish. Women’s Guilds and Mothers’ Union have always been strong groups who have provided fellowship and nurture for their members and have contributed significantly to the promotion of Christian teaching and worship. In more recent decades the parish has been impacted by the fruits of the Cursillo movement, Marriage Encounter, the Alpha program, the Network course, Play Place, Icthus youth ministry, the Pastoral Partners program, Healing Ministry, LIFE Groups, Coffee Club, Messy Church, and a very efficient Op Shop and Welfare Centre. One development that has had a major impact upon the parish and the community has been the establishment of a Ministry Centre. In 1987 the decision was taken to purchase the former Presbyterian Manse that occupied the block of land next to the church – 8 The Avenue. The house was converted into the Ministry Centre in 1996 with offices from which the parish was administered. A meeting room was created providing a venue for study and fellowship groups to meet. In 1997 a building fund was launched to finance the building of the Anglican Ministry Centre and Hall. This centre was opened by Bishop Philip Huggins on 2 September 2001. The Centre is in constant use, housing the parish office, meeting rooms, hall and large kitchen. With the vacating of the old church building, following the establishment of the ministry centre, it was decided to establish an Op Shop and Welfare Centre. From small things big things grow. The Op Shop opened in late 2001 trading from the decommissioned church building and garage, and within a short time additional space was required. In 2010, a large furniture shed was constructed, doubling the retail space to 200m2.  A delivery van was purchased in 2014, and plans are underway (2016) to extend the furniture shed, and also create a Café Ministry. The evolving nature of Church life at St Bartholomew’s saw the arrival of Messy Church in February 2012. Messy Church meets each month and concentrates on building a Christian community through exploring the nature of trust and relationship with Jesus in a creative, hospitable and integrational manner. Sunday 18 August 2013 witnessed a celebration service of thanksgiving, communion and re-enactment of the laying of the foundation stone in 1913.  A large crowd of parishioners and community members attended the service. Two years later on 15 March 2015, a thanksgiving service celebrating the centenary of the dedication of St Bartholomew’s was conducted by The Right Reverend Sarah Macneil, Diocesan Bishop.  In order to commemorate the event a comprehensive history was published – A Vision Splendid. It not only includes the history of the church’s foundation, but also stories of people, events and Christian community service in Alstonville over the last 100 years. Bishop Sarah Macneil launched the history book following the service.

St Peter and St Paul’s, Tregeagle

In the late 1890’s, land was granted by Mr Jeremiah Davis to the Church of England for the construction of a church to serve the local community.  In 1899, the faithful community of Cedar Grove (later Tregeagle) contributed to the construction of a weatherboard church building. The church was dedicated St Peter’s on 2 July by the Bishop of the Diocese, Dr Green. Dedication of New Church at Cedar Grove. (Extract from Northern Star, 5 July 1899) ‘The new Church at Cedar Grove, or as it has previously been known, Boggy Creek, was dedicated on Sunday afternoon 2nd July, by his Lordship, the Bishop of the Diocese, Dr Green. There was a large attendance and a number could only obtain standing room in the porch. Bishop Green was met at the porch by the Trustees, who presented the petition for dedication of the Church, and this being granted, the usual service for such occasions was commenced, and the new Church was duly dedicated to the worship of God, and it will in future be known as St Peter’s. He congratulated Mr Marchant, the Vicar’s assistant, on the result of his labours. He also congratulated the Trustees on the financial position of the Church. Bishop Green acknowledged the congregation would have wished their good old Vicar was present with them on this occasion (Canon Robert Kirkwood Ewing had died on 10th April 1899), but that was not to be. Bishop Green carried on to say certain newspapers were always putting in a headline, “Decay of Anglicanism” but the decay was never visible to him. When he first came among them in 1894 there were eight churches in this part of the Diocese. Now there were 19. If that was dying it was the sort of dying he liked, and if this is dying he would like to know what living is.’ On Sunday 27 June 1999, the church celebrated its centenary, and the renaming as St Peter and St Paul’s in recognition of the association of St Peter’s Tregeagle with the former St Paul’s Wollongbar. Holy Communion was celebrated by the Grafton Bishop, The Right Reverend Philip Huggins. In 2009, The Right Reverend Keith Slater, Bishop of Grafton, presided at the celebration of the 110th anniversary of the Tregeagle church. Mr Allen Davis, grandson of Jeremiah Davis who originally gave the land for St Peter’s, was present at the celebration.