Church needs a $1.8m miracle

St Andrews Uniting Church congregation the saving grace of Strathalbyn

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MAMMOTH TASK: Work gets underway at St Andrews Uniting Church.

MAMMOTH TASK: Work gets underway at St Andrews Uniting Church.

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Parishioners rally to raise $1.8m to save St Andrews Uniting Church at Strathalbyn

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Time is eating away at a historic Strathalbyn church more than 173 years after it was built, sparking impassioned parishioners to raise at least $1.8 million for its future.

St Andrews Uniting Church - the Kirk - is South Australia's oldest surviving Presbyterian building still functioning as a church, now a Uniting Church.

Built in Scottish-Gothic style from 1848, it is on the National Trust Register of Historic Places (#879).

The congregation decided last year to proceed with urgent restoration of the church building stage by stage, as funds are received via grants, donations or bequests.

Total restoration costs, with medium and low priority work, adding contingencies and on-costs, are estimated at $1.8 million.

Its congregation has rallied to form Save Our St Andrews, presenting a series of events including music and entertaining theatrical historical talks to raise funds.

Artist and Strathalbyn resident Helen Stacey said the response was fantastic.

Artist Helen Stacey.

Artist Helen Stacey.

"Amazingly, this is becoming a church and community project with over 35 local people involved to date in the realisation of our first event - the Emma Horwood concert HarpSong on April 10," she said.

"We have more coming up in May."

Ms Stacey said the first series of diverse fundraising events at St Andrews continues until May and audience members are invited to meet performers over refreshments after concerts.

RAINBOW CONNECTION: Members of Save Our St Andrews are hoping for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to fund $1.8 million renovations.

RAINBOW CONNECTION: Members of Save Our St Andrews are hoping for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to fund $1.8 million renovations.

Kirk & Town is an Theatrical-Historical Tour starting at the church on May 7-8 and May 14-15 from 2-4pm.

Ms Stacey said this was a theatrical-historical tour with hilarity.

"It's an SA History Festival event where singers, actors and raconteurs combine with local historians to bring to life Strathalbyn's early history. Strathalbyn was the second town surveyed after Adelaide," she said.

"Be summoned by bagpipes. Be greeted by a Peramangk custodian, meet your tour guides Enid Baumgirdle-Smythe-McNitty, Women's Guild President, and Church verger Gerald Hardly.

"Delight in tantalising tales, dramatic re-enactments and jubilant song. Walk from St Andrews to colonial pubs and early businesses, beautiful Peninsula Gardens with Shield Trees, Rotunda and Soldiers Memorial.

"Finally rejoice in St Andrews' glorious interior with magnificent stained glass windows, music, song and story. Retire to the Hall for a country-style afternoon tea. Funds raised assist the Save Our St Andrews restoration project."

  • Tickets are $25 adult, $20 concession, child under 12 free. Book through TryBooking or at The Book Keeper, South Terrace, Strathalbyn 0438-847-529, or email: thestacks@live.com.au

"We can consider a mid week bus group booking for Kirk & Town but 25-plus people would be a minimum number," she said.

The interior of St Andrews Uniting Church.

The interior of St Andrews Uniting Church.

Forces of Nature: A French Encounter featuring Adelaide Baroque on is Sunday, May 22, while Rural Remnants is an exhibition at Mrs Stacey Bunton's art gallery at 17 Harriet St, from May 17 to June 6 with 25 per cent of sales going to the restoration.

The first Christian services held in the Strathalbyn area took place on farm homesteads from 1839.

Since then, the community has contributed to many projects to build and later extend the church as the Strathalbyn population grew, particularly in 1857 when copper mining had increased the population and wealth of the town.

Cash was always scarce, but people supplied labour and materials. They donated sheep, cattle, grain and hay to be sold. Tea meetings, lectures, musical evenings and fetes were organised. Loans were arranged through banks, often at high interest rates, and through local parishioners.

Here is what is happening so far:

  • Stage 1: Repairing the front Spire has begun with $39,000 already donated from within the congregation. This will allow the front door to be used, and the church fully re-opened.
  • The congregation has already paid $35,000 for a survey by structural engineer John Bowley and heritage architects Hosking Willis, which revealed that the church was well built, on good foundations, but that repairs needed as a result of weather and time.
  • Two State Heritage grants were received, one for the Survey ($5000) and one for the Spire ($10,000) and a donation of $500 from Meningie Uniting Church and many others from members of the community as well as its own congregation.
  • Stage 2: Funding of $100,000 is now being sought for Stage 2: repairing the roof and gutters with $38,000 towards this.
  • Stage 3: The clock tower and other high priority work will cost another $200,000.

How you can help

Donations can be made direct to: St Andrews Strathalbyn Restoration Fund, BSB: 105-019 Account: 047 416 240

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