On Sunday 24 September, the Walpeup Uniting Church was filled to capacity for its 80th anniversary.
Moderator Rev Sharon Hollis and presbytery minister Rev Gordon Bannon joined approximately 65 people in celebration at the town in the Mallee district, 130 miles (209km) south of Mildura.
A Christian community existed at Walpeup long before the Methodist church was built in 1937.
By February 1910, the construction of the branch line from Ouyen had reached Walpeup and the first of the pioneers began to arrive, clear the land and make homes for their families. Among the early pioneers were those who started to carry out the work of God.
In June 1913, 18-year-old Abraham Ray was one of six young English missionaries brought out to Australia for pioneering work in Victoria and Tasmania. After three days in Melbourne, Abraham was put on a train and sent to Underbool – there was no church, no building and a very small congregation. Overseeing a large circuit on horseback would have been a daunting task for the young Englishman, who had never ridden a horse before.
In 1914, money was borrowed from the Methodist Church building fund of Victoria. About mid-1917 a meeting between the trustees was held and it was decided to build the Walpeup Methodist Church.
Local folk worked hard to raise some of the funds and a loan of 100 pounds was obtained from the church building fund to be paid back over 10 years.
Former congregation members, descendants of church pioneers and the son of early minister Rev Bill Higgins (1949-1956) attended the celebrations. The congregation sang Happy Birthday to the church, while Ms Hollis offered words of encouragement and cut a delightfully decorated 80th chocolate cake.
Following the service attendees enjoyed a ‘Great Outback BBQ’, which raised funds for Frontier Services. This was a time for sharing memories and renewing past acquaintances.