Caption: Eastern Fleurieu School vocal ensemble sing under the gum trees beside St Andrews Strathalbyn Uniting Church at a community barbecue to celebrate the church's 175th Anniversary.
Over 90 people attended a community barbecue under the gum trees beside the church on Saturday 2 November, followed by a community worship service on Sunday morning. Each event was marked by the arrival of a piper, Caitlin Fry, Chief of the Mt Barker Caledonian Society, signifying the Scottish origins of the church.
The barbecue evening included music from local band ‘Kick the Dog’ and the Eastern Fleurieu School vocal ensemble. Peramangk elder Mandy Brown conducted a smoking ceremony with the assistance of Chelsea Hatwell and Ngarrindjeri elder Mark Elliot, who also welcomed guests to country.
The Moderator of the Uniting Church in South Australia, Rev Sue Ellis, gave thanks for past indigenous elders who welcomed and helped the first European Presbyterian settlers, and she apologised to present elders for the way they were later treated in the culture clashes around property and survival. Sue affirmed the Uniting Church’s Covenant with the Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress as “a sign of the Church’s willingness to walk together towards a destiny that honours sovereignty and treaty and a life of learning together as people of God in this land.” She also paid tribute to the generations of people since 1844 who have come to St Andrew’s “to drink from the water that wells up within as the Holy Spirit of God, bringing blessing, hope, healing and the abundant life Jesus has promised.”
Rev Marty Rosenberg, current minister at St Andrew’s, pointed out that while the first small church on the site dated from 1844, the first stone section of the present church was begun in 1848, making it the oldest surviving example of early Presbyterian churches in the state. (The only earlier one, on Gouger Street in Adelaide, was demolished a few years ago.)
The Sunday morning church service featured two choral items from the Alexandrina Singers as well as congregational hymns dating from the 5th century through Charles Wesley to the 21st century, accompanied by Jeff Bone (piano), Mary Roberts (organ) and Ali Steer (guitar). Recollections from families who helped found the church were given by Janet Rankine, Gwenda Knights and Tania Richardson.
The Bible reading from Luke 19 was given by Angela Lennon-George. Rev Rosenberg then preached on “If these stones could talk . . .”, referring to the St Andrew’s building which has witnessed so many significant events throughout its history. He described the “living stones” as the people who make up the real church today, and finished with an encouragement to ensure that our reputation is tied to the faith and works of the people interacting with the community, rather than to the building as a monument.
At the front of the church was a timber cross hand-crafted by local resident Jim Workman, bearing Greek and Celtic words to mark the influence of Saint Andrew, who died in Patmos, and after whom the church was named.
Over the weekend there was an historical display in the church hall, featuring wedding dresses which had been worn at St Andrew’s, plus photos and biographical details of these and other weddings, sometimes spanning two generations. There was also an array of oil, acrylic and watercolour paintings of St Andrew’s Church over the years , including an early James Ashton painting loaned by Councillor Rex and Norma Keily.
Historic photos of the church and its people were displayed digitally and there was a video recording showing a 1980s church service. There were portraits of Uniting Church and Presbyterian ministers dating back to the first resident minister, Rev John Anderson of the Free Presbyterian Church in Scotland (1851-1871), and pages from The Southern Argus featuring St Andrew’s over the years. The most significant of these covered the 5 December 1982 final service at the John Wesley (former Methodist) Church in Commercial Road, prior to it being sold to the Strathalbyn Players; and the 12 December 1982 re-dedication of the refurbished St Andrew’s as the one Uniting Church in Strathalbyn, where former Methodists and former Presbyterians now worship together.
On Sunday a 175th anniversary cake was cut by Uniting Church Synod Region Minister, Wendy Perkins, as part of the morning tea celebrations.
Last week 200 Australian Christians and 15 Pacific church leaders held almost 100 face-to-face meetings in Parliament with the nation’s politicians, including senior government ministers, as a part of the Micah Australia Voices for Justice Conference.
Synod Standing Committee meeting updates are published to inform the wider Uniting Church SA community of the discussions, deliberations and decisions arising from each meeting of the Committee. This update refers to the recent December 2019 meeting.