Parishioners and supporters have vowed to rebuild the Uniting Church Community Centre, in the northern Hobart suburb of Gagebrook, which was destroyed by a deliberately lit fire early yesterday morning.
More than $500,000 damage was caused to the site which not only housed the local Uniting Church but also offices of Uniting – which undertakes emergency relief operations within the predominantly public housing community – and a popular community op shop.
The op shop had only just re-opened after being severely damaged in another deliberately lit blaze in April. It is not known if the two blazes are connected.
Just over a year ago the site also suffered significant damage during severe flooding.
The latest setback has not dampened the parishioners’ determination to support their community. Church council chair Rev David Parker hopes to have temporary office and church accommodation installed in the carpark within a week.
“It’s quite clear from communications with members of the community that they see the centre as theirs, and are quite affronted by the actions of those who started the blaze,” Mr Parker said.
“Some were in tears. They said how shocked they are that somebody who provides assistance to the community will no longer be able to do so in the short term.
“It’s hugely disappointing but it reinforces our desire as a church to be where people are hurting.
“We believe it’s a really important place for the church to be, we will be rebuilding and we will be back.
“This is a community which needs assistance, and the services that are provided through the Uniting Church are greatly appreciated.”
Presbytery chair Ann Perrin has asked for the people of the parish mission and their pastor, Marian Bisset, to be remembered in prayer this week.
“We pray that this community weathers this time with courage and resilience as they look for an alternative place for worship, as damage is assessed and decisions made about the rebuilding of their church,” she said in a message to the presbytery yesterday.