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Uniting Church

 

Uniting Church History

 

On 27 September 1869, a Bible Christian Church was opened by the Reverend EW Hill at Robe, one of the oldest towns in our State. Since then the church has had a somewhat chequered history...

The Church was serviced with visits by a minister from Mt Gambier. During the years 1875-1885 it was leased to the Education Department for use as a day school. Services still continued to be held until 1878, when, after nine years of constant labour, church services were discontinued, and only the Education Department used the building. The Wesleyan Methodist Church purchased the church, and on 27 September 1885 services recommenced. The Reverend JB Angwin (a bachelor) was appointed to be minister of the church and resided in a room under the church.

The early days of the Robe Church were closely linked with the Lawrie's Hill Chapel (at Mt Benson) to which Mr Tubb-Martin, the first lay preacher in the district, belonged.

The church has remined open for worship and the nurture of its people ever since the Wesleyan Methodist Church took over. This has been carried out through the church's services including Sunday School, Junior and Senior Youth Clubs, Ladies' Guilds, Women's Fellowships, the Trust and a Temperance Society. Though the quality of the witness has ever been high, the response of the local people has fluctuated, the congregation often being as low as 5-6 people.

With the laying of the foundation stone of the Kingston Methodist Church, there began a combined witness of the church from 1886 which has not ceased. The lack of a continuing residing minister at Robe has contributed to the spiritual decline of the area at certain times. Between 1901-1945 Trustees seemed to have been non-existent and so the State Conference appointed seven men as the church was in need of urgent repair. In 1947 a gift of 100 pound was given to help pay for renovations. At one time there was a possibility of the property being sold to another interest - fortunately this did not eventuate.

In 1959 the Conference appointed Pastor Lewis Kelsall to Robe, he being the first resident minister for quite a long time. With his coming there arose the need of a parsonage and this was dedicated soon after. During the ministry of the Rev Harold Pitman a hall was built under the church. Pastor Des Ivens spent a time of enthusiastic ministry in Robe, then with the completion of Pastor Andrew Cripwell's term the Robe church was once again left without a resident minister. With the advent of this centenary year, the Robe parsonage has been sold and the church is free of debt, and with the modest supprot from the local community, the church's witness and service continues into the nextb era.

Since 1965 the church has been under direct pastoral oversight of theminsiter residing at Kingston - in 1966/67 the Rev. J Miller and 1968/69 Rev. NT Stewart

(compiled by Rev. Neville T Stewart for the Centenary Celebrations 1969)

Since the centenary year of 1969 the congregation has continued its ebb and flow, with faithful elderly women keeping the doors open as well as providing a wonderful pastoral ministry in the town during the 1970s. In 1977 the Methodist Church nationwide joined with Presbyterians and Congregationalists to form the Uniting Church in Australia. The Robe Uniting Church congregation continued to be offered pastoral care and worship opportunities under Revs. Richard Wallace, Roger Simpson, Geoff Graetz, Tony Davies, Leon Shearer and Jeff Miegel from 1974-2000.

As times change, and newer generations no longer "connect" with ancient customs and traditions, and old buildings require expensive upkeep, the decision was painfully made to sell the building and move to share modern premises at the "Tarooki" Uniting Church Robe Campsite.

(Lynn Parker, Kingston 2007)

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