The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (15:30): Today, I would like to talk about the Wandearah Uniting Church, 1895 to 2020. The earliest occupation of Wandearah was in 1847. The early settlers arrived in buggies, carts, drays and wagons. They were principally of Methodist religion and, after taking up land, quickly established places of worship in their community. They were people of deep faith and put their reliance completely in God’s hands. The first divine services were held in the home of E. and G. Jacobs, with a Wesleyan minister coming from Port Pirie in the 1870-1880 era. Later, a weatherboard church was erected on land given by Mr Graham in 1875.
The present church, which celebrated its 125th anniversary this year, was opened in 1895 on land given by Mr Vanstone, with the committee at the time paying for his crop that had been planted. Four churches were built in the district known as Wandearah South, West, East and one known as the Lower Broughton Methodist Church. The first was East Church, being a wood and iron, but in the year 1894 they began building a solid stone church, as they decided the church was not big enough. The present church was built shortly afterwards at a cost of £160 and opened in 1895.
The opening ceremony was held on 6 January. Three services were held on this day. At the opening of the new church, the Sunday school scholars numbered 116. In those early years, Sunday school lessons were held prior to church service but, since the new Sunday school hall was built in 1957, lessons are being held at the same time as the church service, with the children participating in the first part of the service. In the early days, the pews on both sides of the church were labelled with the names of some of the members of the congregation, for which they made a special contribution to church funds.
Originally, the altar, pulpit and organ were raised in the centre at the front of the church. This was later changed, with the railings removed and the pulpit placed at the left side of the church. In these early days, lighting in the church was undertaken by carbide gas lamps and, later, petrol lamps. Power was connected in 1965. When the church became the self-supporting Wandearah Methodist Circuit in 1922, a manse adjacent to the church was ready for occupation, with the Reverend D’Arcy Dickinson being the first resident, with his wife.
The porch on the front of the church was opened and the last organ was purchased in 1927. The Sunday school room was dedicated on 21 April 1957, and 1977 saw the formation of the Uniting Church in Australia, with the joining together of the Methodist, the Congregational and the Presbyterian churches. The church is now known as the Wandearah Uniting Church. This year, the congregation, which would have included many descendants of the original early settlers, had decided to hold an anniversary celebration. This was both to celebrate the 125th year of this church and give thanks to those who had the foresight to commit to building this structure.
It has been an integral part of the community over the last 125 years for many people. Ladies’ fellowship, youth group, Sunday school picnics, strawberry fetes and concerts have all featured strongly in the past. More recently, the congregation had been holding weekly services with visiting preachers as well as continuing community outreach with events such as the Biggest Morning Tea, Great Outback BBQ and Samaritan’s Purse collections.
On 29 March this year, at 10am the celebration would have begun with a service at the church. This would have been followed by a shared luncheon at the Wandearah Memorial Institute. Christian memorabilia dating back to the 1800s would have been on display as well as wedding dresses from past Wandearah brides. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, the event had to be cancelled. However, I am sure that this community will be looking to celebrate the activities of the church over the past 125 years when the opportunity arises. With others, I am looking forward to the celebration and hope that many past and present members of the community and surrounding areas will join to celebrate this great occasion.
In closing, I used to live at Wandearah. I did all my schooling there with seven grades in one classroom and one teacher. The people in those days were from quite a few farms. Today, there is only one church, and the Broughton Plains Heritage Society looks after all the memorabilia. Someone I would like to acknowledge is Mr Lawrence Joyce, a very religious person from a Wandearah pioneering family who unfortunately passed away just recently. Certainly, I pay my respects not only to Lawrence but also to the pioneers who came to Wandearah in the early days, and I look forward to the 125th anniversary post COVID-19.