As Manningham Uniting Church marked the closure of one of its church sites, the congregation is already planning ahead for the next part of their ‘grand adventure’.
In mid-March, congregation members from all four Manningham UC sites gathered together for the final service at the Anderson Creek Road church in Doncaster East.
More than 200 people attended the thanksgiving service, which was part of a weekend of activities to commemorate the closure of the 30-year-old church.
Manningham Uniting Church minister Rev Lucas Taylor said it was a time to share past memories while looking towards the future.
“There was grief and nostalgia, but also a strong sense of moving forward,” he said.
“We were celebrating and reflecting on the reason that the church site was established in the first place 30 years ago.
“But now is the right time for that particular season to conclude and we move on to the next grand adventure.”
In 2012, the Andersons Creek Road church (then known as Doncaster East Uniting Church) joined with other Uniting Churches in Doncaster, Templestowe and Box Hill North to form Manningham Uniting Church.
Since that time different styles of worship have been held at designated sites or alternated between church centres.
Mr Taylor said the multi-site church model means congregation members can foster a sense of community that goes beyond a single church building.
“Over the last five years there’s been a real breaking down of ‘my site’ and ‘your site’. All of the sites belong to all of the people,” he said.
“Those people who five years ago just identified with the Anderson Creek Road site are now strongly affiliated with all of the remaining sites.
“So we were very deliberate in involving not just former Andersons Creek Road people in the leadership and participation at the service. It was a whole-of-Manningham event.”
During this time of transition, the congregation has appointed a transition ministry coordinator, Scott Leslie, to offer pastoral support to church members.
Mr Leslie’s role involves having conversations with members struggling with the changes, while also offering encouragement and inspiration for the journey ahead.
“I’m trying to meet with people and work with them about their feelings and what their future decision will be,” Mr Leslie said.
“Some people are less keen and quite sad that the church is closing. But there are people who are also excited about future developments.
“A lot of people said to me that they made a lot of good friends over the last two years and got to know people from different sites and joined new groups and found new possibilities.”
Manningham is the second congregation to participate in the synod’s Asset Strategy Program (ASP).
The pilot was trialled at Banyule Network of Uniting Churches.
Manningham Uniting Church elder Ruth Hodges said the program is designed for churches that are amalgamating to help them determine how to deliver their mission objectives and maintain financial sustainability.
“We are a shining example of how this is working well,” Ms Hodges said.
“The big thing we did five years ago was that all our different sites came under one church council. So we have a central council, which was a big move.”
The next chapter in Manningham Uniting Church is the redevelopment of their Templestowe church to create a community and worship centre.
Planning is underway and the congregation is hopeful that construction will commence before the end of the year.