21 Sep 2009

The times they are a-changin'

Here is our beautiful church at the end of last week's service.

Here it is yesterday.

Our church was established in 1862. Australia has changed a great deal since then, but the gospel has not changed, and today it is still as true and relevant to the needs of men and women as it was then. Over the years God has blessed us and our congregation has grown. Our lovely bluestone building can no longer hold the number of people who meet there every Sunday morning and evening. It is time for change.

Oh dear.

Change - a red rag to a raging bull.

Not only do we need to consider the church building's heritage listings and run all of our plans past Geelong's heritage council, but we also have an even greater responsibility to take into account the differing personalities, opinions and feelings of the people who make up our church congregation. I do not envy the task of our Renovation Committee, ably headed by my wonderful brother-in-law (seen between my mum and hubby in the photo above - that's my sis on the right) one bit. The men and women on that Committee need the diplomacy and tact of Winston Churchill to deal with their fellow brothers in Christ with sensitivity and understanding. This is an amazing gift.
A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing. Proverbs 13:17

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:1-4
Of course no one has the ability to say just the right thing or to act toward another in just the right way every time. We know that relationships and interpersonal actions require at least two parties, and when one of them is not God, the possibility for misunderstanding and offense is very real. We have managed to hurt some of the members of our congregation. Nevertheless, with the help of the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide their words and actions, the Renovation Committee has for the most part managed to 'soothe the wicked beast' (just to keep up the angry bull imagery) and move the work forward.

Last Monday the old wooden pews were removed. The old termite damaged floorboards have been lifted and the joists will be replaced to prevent somebody falling through the floor. New pews have been purchased, new carpet will be laid, and the pulpit will be lowered. The new design will fit more people in more comfort, and we will meet Occupational Health and Safety regulations at the same time.

Later we will redo the hall as well. We will be adding class rooms, a new kitchen and a separate creche.

I can't help feeling a little wistful as I look at those 'before' pictures. I was married in that church. So were my siblings, my parents and my grandparents before me. I liked the old wooden pews, the high imposing pulpit and the elegant austerity of the building. On the other hand, I see the need for these changes. I accept them with excitement.

I must admit that I suspect I shall appreciate the new padded pews and the new heating system just a little bit too.

The before photos were taken by another member of our congregation with more foresight than me. Thanks, Meg.

'After' pics coming soon!!


  1. Wow, it's so good to hear of churches growing! I must admit I am deeply saddened by the beautiful church buildings that get converted into warehouses/ homes because no one goes there anymore.
    I know that growth brings it's challenges and the congregation need to be carefully steered on in the uncomfortable path that comes with growth. I don't envy your brother in law one bit:)
    On another note, I can't imagine what it's like to attend a church where my parents ,grandparents and siblings and myself all got married! Wow, that is amazing! What a blessing!

  2. Hi Jeanne,
    Wow, what a beautiful building - glad to hear that your church is still growing.

    The Baptist church in Jamestown is up for sale - not enough members.

    I love the old pews - they seem to go with the old church buildings, but I guess time marches on and waits for no man.

    Have a wonderful week.

  3. Wow, that brings back memories...of "Girls' Club" back in the '80s! I think we even watched "Star Wars" in that building! All the best for the renovations.

  4. Jeanne,
    That is a beautiful building and a wonderful covenaant heritage. For your parents and grandparents to see their children's children and Lord willing, peace on Israel!
    I am also so encouraged that you have growth in your numbers as that is rare these days in our circles.
    As joyfulmum said about the church converted to a warehouse, we have that sort of thing happening here. One old CofE cathedral, beautiful building, turned into a furnishings and nick nack shop. I have never set foot in it as when it opened a friend warned we there were buddas and charms etc for sale:-(
    May the Lord give wisdom to your BIL and all involved and bless the outcome~

  5. It was lovely, but I'm reminded of the Presbyterian Church we visited soon after moving here. It had the beautiful, original "everything" from 1809 [about the year Ohio became a state] but only a handful of people--all over 60. The Church needs to be the LIVING body after all! I know, in time, the new will be "lovely" too but likely not as warm and majestic. It reminds me, too, of the "President's Church" in the movie of Catherine Marshall's classic "A Man Called Peter."


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...