End of an era: Perthville Uniting Church to close on Sunday

END OF SERVICE: Reverend Claire Wright out the front of the Perthville Uniting Church. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 051618church1
END OF SERVICE: Reverend Claire Wright out the front of the Perthville Uniting Church. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 051618church1

AFTER more than 150 years of service, the Perthville Uniting Church will hold its final service on Sunday. 

Reverend Claire Wright, the minister of the Bathurst Uniting Church, said the decision to close the church as a place of worship was made with the consideration of a number of factors and after a lot of discussion. 

Contributing to the decision to close was the infestation of elm leaf beetles, which the church’s congregation has endured for more than two years. 

The congregation has held its worship services in the church hall due to the overwhelming number of beetles that continue to reside in the church, despite many efforts to remove them and clean the building. 

“In a sense, it is a victory for the elm beetles, but we remind ourselves that the church isn’t the building, it is the people,” Rev. Wright said. 

Another part of the decision to close, and perhaps more significant, is the small and aging nature of the congregation and the associated maintenance and costs that come along with the old building. 

Rev. Wright said it is an unfortunate situation that many small churches and their congregations are facing now, not one exclusive to Perthville. 

“Churches are supported by the generosity of their members; there are no other funds by and large to keep a church going,” she said.

“As congregations get smaller and older, however gracefully they may be aging, it becomes a real challenge to manage the responsibilities of being a church in the community. 

“Not just maintaining services for the church and the community, like funerals and those things, but also the maintenance and the insurance of the buildings. They’re often heritage buildings, they’re often awkward sites with grounds to keep up and health and safety issues, and really that’s what has overtaken us here at Perthville.

“The congregation is now small and getting older, and the challenges of maintaining life and worship in this place have just become too difficult, and they would like to go while they are still in good heart and good health to actually keep contributing to the community and the church in other ways.”

The groups belonging to the congregation, including Creative Living Craft and Odd Jobs, plan to continue their work in the community after the closure of Perthville Uniting Church. 

A service of closure will be held at the Perthville Uniting Church hall on Sunday at 2pm.

It will be attended by Simon Hannsford, the moderator of the NSW/ACT Synod of the Uniting Church. The congregation and anyone who feels connected to the church are welcome to attend. 

“It will be a service of closure and we will have prayers expressing our gratitude for the history and legacy of the place and encourage people to share their great memories of this place,” Rev. Wright said. 

The cemetery will continue to be maintained following the closure of the church as a place of worship and reservations will be honoured.

Rev. Wright said the Perthville congregation will always be welcome to attend services at the Bathurst Uniting Church if they so wish. 

She said local people will continue to work with the Macquarie Darling Presbytery to find use for the church site. 

Members of the community are invited to put forward suggestions by contacting Brian Cowan on 6331 9151.