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Churches – Uniting

Churches – Uniting (formerly Wesleyan and then Methodist)

The first known Wesleyan Methodist service in Beecroft was conducted by the Rev James Carruthers in the home of members of the Church of England, James and Jemima Hull on the northern corner of Kirkham Street and Beecroft Road in 1889. However when a Church of England was being formed in Beecroft the Hulls asked if the Wesleyans could move elsewhere. Accordingly, shortly thereafter services moved to the home of Frederick and Eliza Mason [1] in Copeland Road (or street as it was then called) where services continued between 1892-1895 [2].

A meeting was held in the home of Mr & Mrs Frederick Mason on 6 June 1894 was presided over by the Rev J G Moore and “the desirability of erecting a Wesleyan Church was unanimously declared on the motion of Mr Mason and seconded by Mr Williams” [3].

A timber church building was built on the site of the present church on Beecroft Road in 1895 with the then Minister of the relevant circuit being Rev John Moore. The church building was largely financed with assistance from the Mason family with support from Thomas Thompson Jnr of Thompson’s corner who was a benefactor of a number of local Wesleyan churches [4] however the debt continued until 1909.

Church numbers were small but it had a strong Sunday School and a young people’s group that encouraged total abstinence.

In 1902 the Methodist Church in Sydney was formed after combining the Wesleyan Methodist Church with other Methodists congregations.

Encouraged that the church would continue to grow, the congregation decided in 1909 to build a new and larger church building. Due to financial pressures this did not occur until 1915 when a church, built on the same design as Epping Methodist by architect Alfred Newman, was opened. In 1926 a new church hall was opened with the old one being transported to the Glenorie Methodist Church where it stands on the corner of Old Northern Road and Munro’s Lane, Glenorie.

In 1938 the home of parishioner George Pettit became available at 20 Chapman Avenue Beecroft. It was purchased as the parsonage – and continued to serve that role until 1970 when it was sold to again become a private home. The parsonage moved to a home purchased in 52 Bambara Crescent Beecroft.

In 1955 the church property was extensively modified with a new sanctuary and extended hall space being added. A memorial stained glass window was designed by Mr Redeski of John Aswin & Co and was installed in memory of Clarence Fisher Newman a member and Trustee of the church who had died in 1954. The front of the church was then extended and another stained glass window added in 1965-6.

As part of the Union debate the Beecroft Presbyterian Church elected to continue as a Presbyterian Church resulting in Beecroft being joined with the Congregational Church in Cheltenham and the Bethlehem Church at Thompson’s Corner. The latter was a difficult partnership with different ethos and ceased in 1995.

131 Copeland Road became available for purchase in 1983 and was initially purchased as a home for the youth worker. Then in 1991, 129 Copeland Road was purchased from the Goldberg family and work commenced to build the aged care facilities known as Copeland Gardens.

Throughout much of the history of the church, 3 services have been held. During the 1940s the evening service was held jointly with the Anglican, Presbyterian and Cheltenham Congregational churches. A Harvest service was held between 1918 and 1970. Small groups of members meeting in homes commenced in 1952 [5].

The Minister in 1941-2 was Dr Churchward who had lived in Fiji since 1921 where he wrote a Rotuman Grammar and Dictionary and translated the New Testament into Rotuman. He published a book on Polynesian legends, a Fijian grammar, a simplified Hebrew Grammar and a new English Grammar that is not based on a Latin Grammar. He was interested in the Christian Socialist Movement, Legion of Christian Youth, vice-President of the NSW Aid to Russia Committee “and is devoted to the social side of Christianity and Christian work.” After talking in the Hunter he returned to live for 6 days with a miner when he went down the pit at the Aberdare Colliery. He was regarded as one of the great Australian intellectuals of his era [6].

Following the union that established the Uniting Church in 1977, one organisational feature adopted from the Presbyterian tradition was to form a Council of Elders who would assist the Minister in spiritual and pastoral oversight. Beecroft readily adopted this new concept and formed its first Council in July 1977 comprising 29 people of whom 7 were women [7].

While the Sunday School commenced when the church was meeting in the Mason home, the biggest numbers happened when Stan Carter was Superintendent in the late 1960 and early 1970s. Two of the longest serving Superintendents were A W Harrison between 1934–1952 and Mr Harold Cox 1954-1966. For youth there were a string of activities with one of the most successful groups being Friday at Beecroft (FAB) which started in 1981 and continued into the mid 1990s. It had regular attendances of 80 youth with a lot of the activities happening off site.

NOTE Link Malcolm Cox memories of Uniting Church 1950s to 1960s.

Throughout the history of the church there have been strong women and men’s groups. From 1991 there have been a series adult leisure learning with a particularly strong Australian History section.

On 1 March 2020 the Uniting churches of Beecroft and Pennant Hills have combined with services held (post virus) in the Beecroft building and the Pennant Hills site used for activities.

Ministers

1888-1890     J E Carruthers, W J Davis

1891-1893     J G Morris Taylor

1894-1896     J W Moore

1897-1899     W H Beale

1900-1902     W E Bourne

1902-1905     J G Morris Taylor

1906-1909     R B Bowes

1908-1909     B Deane

1910-1913     E E Crosby

1913             G T Moore

1914-1916     B E Lane

1914             AF Crapp

1915-1916     R H Doust

1917             W H Howard, W C Francis

1918             W H Howard

1918-1921     B Deane

1922-1923     J W Collier

1924-1928     W Deane

1929-1933     W M M Woodhouse

1931             F A King

1932             R C Barlow

1933             G W Johnston

1934-1937     J Bathgate

1936-1940     W R Robbins

1938-1940     A W Parton

1941-1945     L M K Mills

1941-1942     C M Churchward

1943-1945     L E Bennett

1946-1947     S M Barrett

1948-1950     A Collins

1951-1955     R A Gibbons

1953-1956     A C Towner

1957-1960     R C Dempsey

1961-1964     S Redden

1965-1970     D W Bliss

1971-1980     L Thompson

1981-1987     P Smith

1988-1994     A Kirkpatrick

1995-2018     J Weston

2018-            M Levine

[1]      For more information on the Mason family see elsewhere on this web site under People

[2]      Beecroft Cheltenham History Group Beecroft and Cheltenham: the shaping of a Sydney community to 1914 (privately published, Beecroft, 1995) p 224

[3]      M Barr & J Moore A Charge to Keep, A History of the Wesleyan-Methodist-Uniting Church Beecroft 1895-1995 (Beecroft Uniting Church, Beecroft, 1995) p1

[4]      Beecroft Cheltenham History Group Beecroft and Cheltenham: the shaping of a Sydney community to 1914 (privately published, Beecroft, 1995) p 226

[5]      M Barr & J Moore A Charge to Keep, A History of the Wesleyan-Methodist Church Beecroft 1895-1995 (Beecroft Uniting Church, Beecroft, 1995) pp19-25

[6]      Smith’s Weekly 21 February 1942 p 14 – which also contains a caricature of Dr Churchward.

[7]      M Barr & J Moore A Charge to Keep, A History of the Wesleyan-Methodist-Uniting Church Beecroft 1895-1995 (Beecroft Uniting Church, Beecroft, 1995) pp.26-27.