Uniting Church prepares for a new chapter in Devonport

devonport

NIGEL TAPP

Last week, the Devonport Uniting Church congregation farewelled the Steele Street church site that has hosted worship since 1889.

More than 250 congregants from the across the North-West region of Tasmania, previous ministers as well as past and present church members gathered for the moving service of closure.

The 45-strong congregation made the decision to move more than three years ago and for the immediate future will meet in a nearby hall.

The Steele Street property has been sold to television chef Ben Milbourne. He and his wife, Sally, will transform the site into a new home for their production company.

In his sermon, Rev Allan Thompson conceded that many attending the service would have mixed feelings knowing it was the last time the building was being used for the purpose for which it was built.

“But the purposes for which this sacred place was built can be fulfilled without this building. Indeed, the present congregation is committed to ensuring just that,’’ he said.

“This is not the end of the Uniting Church in Devonport. This is not the closing of a congregation. The congregation continues to thrive, and it is committed to continuing its life from a property which is more user-friendly and low-maintenance that this old building has become.’’

Mr Thompson said when people invested a lot of themselves into a building they needed to be careful not to become worshippers of the bricks and mortar.

“The social and religious context in which our faithful Devonport Methodists built this place is very different from the social and religious context of Devonport in 2018,’’ he said

“And our understanding of the life and mission to which God is calling us in 2018 is very different from the understanding of those who laboured to build this edifice in the 1930s.

“Of course, that does not mean that back then our church leaders were misguided, or that what they did was inappropriate. It was no doubt right for their day, just as what is happening here today is right for our day.’’

The Methodists are intrinsically linked to Devonport district as they were the first denomination to conduct services in the Mersey area. Lay preachers ministered to the early settlements at the Tarleton coal mines and Cockers Creek, at Spreyton in the 1850s and 1860s.

It was not until 1889 that the original Methodist church was built in Devonport on the land where the current hall is located. Basil Archer and Robert Stewart donated the land in two stages.

The current church building was opened on March 1932, with the original church becoming the Sunday School.

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