Gordon Uniting History (before GPUC)

a picture of a history book, which is the christian bible

Here is an extract from the history of our Church written by Marj Binns for the GUC Centenary in 2003...

Our Beginnings

As we move also into the Centenary Year of our Church, we feel the need to document our history.

In April 1903 a Methodist Church, as seen here, was opened on the site of our present church buildings to create both a place of worship and a centre in the scattered community, where those of the Methodist tradition could come together as a supporting Church Family.

The area was not as we know it to-day - in fact the Pacific Highway was still a dirt road. There were no cars, and travel was not easy.

The foundation stone for this church was laid in December 1902 by Mrs R S Callaghan - a member of a family which played a significant part in our church life over many years.

I can remember that there was a Sunday School Prize donated and presented each year by Mrs Callagham! I envied those clever enough and sufficiently dedicated to receive the prize. I never made it. But what quiet caring and on-going interest Mrs Callaghan showed by encouraging the young people of the Sunday School to strive for their best.

When the Church was first opened it had no large organ or stained glass windows - these came later as memorials to various members of the Church Family.

You can still see 2 of these windows today! They were carefully removed at the time of the demolition of the church and are preserved in the hallway leading from the Church to the Highway Centre.

Flowers for special occasions have always been a part of our Church tradition, and dedicated folk, down through its history have used their ingenuity and talents to beautify the Church and express their care and commitment in this way. The 1920 photo shows the floral arrangement for the Sutton - Callaghan wedding. If you look closely, you may see a bell at the top of the photo. This was filled with rose petals and, at the appropriate moment, the bridesmaids would pull the attached cords and release the petals over the bride and groom.

The third photo shows snippets from the Church's accounts book of 1908! How values have changed! These of course were very much pre-decimal currency - when there were 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound. But they are nevertheless early examples of meticulous accounts kept by various Church Treasurers over the past 100 years!

We thank God for the vision of the folk who established our Church here in 1903.

They worked hard for what they believed was important for the young community and passed on to future generations a tradition of caring and concern that we have the privilege of continuing one hundred years on!

Two Wars In-Between

As the 20th century progressed the Gordon area grew and so did the Gordon Methodist Church.

World War 1 fought on the other side of the world) saw many of the local men volunteer for Army service in Europe. Casualties were enormous with great loss of life. If you look at the memorial windows from the "old church" you will see a list of 4 who did not return one being a Callaghan son Stanley Ross. Others returned scarred, with memories and physical disabilities to contend with for the rest of their lives.

One of my teenage memories is of an older gentleman - a stalwart of this Church who had been gassed while serving in France and consequently had very little voice. Yet every year he prepared the conformation classes and presented the group to the Church. Teenagers noisy! disruptive! talkative! but for George Moore there was always quiet respect.

The Great Depression followed in the late 1920's creating a challenge for the whole world AND our small part of it. Jobs were lost, money was scarce and ingenuity was needed to make it go the distance. The people needed caring support and this they received from the Church. The Kindergarten Guild was formed a fellowship and support group for mothers of young children, and a "Rays" group for girls and an "OKs" group for boys to provide for the younger people who needed occupation and a goal. There was no money for entertainment, but there was a lady in the Church - Alice Staff - with an interest in amateur theatre, and each year she would spend countless hours, after school, training us in songs, dance, and little operettas, and scrounging together costumes suitable for each occasion, so that we could perform to a hall of very proud and grateful parents. We learnt a lot about being part of a team in those days that we were all important no matter if we had the star part or were just there to pull the curtain back and forth on the little stage.

Then, World War II, overtook us, and some of the men of the Church began to enlist and appear in uniform.

Cecil Callaghan, another Callaghan son, was a member of the 8th Division who later rose to the rank of Major General and commanded the Division after the fall of Singapore. Also in the 8th Division was Bill Locke's father. Reg Locke was 38 when war broke out, and was one of the older serving officers. Captured by the Japanese, he spent 3½ years as a POW in Singapore and Japan. Bill tells that each man going overseas went with a keepsake presented by the Church in the morning service in Reg's case a Fountain Pen. This left Reg's keeping only once, when due to hunger, he traded it for a bun. The pen was subsequently bartered back again and returned to Australia with Reg after the war .

Bill also talks of the Church family's strong support for Marj, his mother, and the young Locke Family during this difficult time.

During these years I was a member of the Church Youth Group, known as the Study Circle. We were a strong band of youngsters and apart from our homes and families, the Church and the dedicated Youth Leaders were the centre of our world. We had our own small room named naturally the "Study Circle Room", and it was here that we displayed on the wall for all to see the framed photos of each of the young men and women of the group who on reaching 18 were required to register and join the Forces. Jack Lewis and his brother Stan were there. Val Stevenson's brothers Bruce and Keith. The attached photo is of Bev Jones' brother Geoff, who subsequently became a Methodist Minister. There would have been more than 20 photos in our gallery and we were proud to be associated with these young folk. Most, but not all, returned at the end of the war and settled again to the jobs and studies which had been interrupted by their time in the services.

Our world today is our legacy and we are grateful to those who gave their lives, their time, and their talents during two world wars, that we could continue the work of the Church in this area.

Building for the Future

With great rejoicing World War II came to an end in August 1945 - families were reunited and "returning" men and women settled to work and study after five years of interruption to their lives. To some, those lives had been so changed they felt the need for new directions with different goals in mind. There was a feeling of optimism in the community, even though many essential items were still in short supply or rationed.

As young folk, the local Church was still very much the centre of activity with sporting groups playing cricket, football, tennis and other social activities on Saturday, and meeting for fellowship and discussion on Sunday. Each year, many became part of the "wider" church when the State Methodist Conference was held, and a 500 voice choir (the Methodist Crusader Choir) sang in the Town Hall for the Young People's Demonstration. Our own Gordon Sunday School Superintendent for 17 years, Roy Scotter, was the conductor - a man with enormous energy and enthusiasm, which he imparted to all with amazing ability.

The Women's groups all flourished (W.A.O.M. Ladies Aid, Kindergarten Guild) supporting not only their special wider church interests, but our very active Sunday School and Youth Groups which at one stage numbered over 300 members. They were very proficient and willing sandwich makers for the large Sunday School picnics held at "Fairyland" on the Lane Cove River every year.

The "Men's League" was a post war initiative, designed to attract returning servicemen and new families settling in the rapidly growing locality. It was a monthly evening tea with a topical speaker which was run by the Church but open to all. An early speaker was an eminent K.C. (Kings Council) who was an official Australian representative at the Nuremberg Trial of War Criminals.

With the rapidly increasing population the membership of the Church grew. Consequently new buildings were needed. In 1946 the Beginners Hall (Ballet Room) was built, a little later, an annexe opened up to the main Church to increase seating. In 1953 a new Study Circle building was erected and consideration of a larger Church building began. The Wells Organisation was invited to outline the concept of "Planned Giving" to Gordon. It was a new and innovative step in those days, which gave the Church Planners a sound basis on which to move forward, and the whole congregation a feeling of ownership and interest in this great new building. The Church was erected and opened in 1956.

The original Church remained and was for many years the centre of social activities Concerts and Dinners, Indoor Bowls, and Youth Dances of the 1960's (or Stomps as they were called!)

Also in the mid 50's a new group was formed, catering for the younger mothers and working women of the Church. Its name varied through the years Juniors Guild, Evening Aid, Evening Fellowship a vibrant group with young families and a desire to assist the Church and the wider community. You may not be aware that the Church, through this group, was involved in the very beginnings of Meals On Wheels in this area. The late Estelle Cooper the Social Worker for Ku ring gai Council (and incidentally the first ever employed by a municipal authority) speaking at one of the evening meetings, told of the plight of a few households in the community where folk were too disabled or too old to be able to buy food or cook for themselves. She asked the Evening Aid group if as one of 4 local churches we would be responsible for supplying meals to these people for one week each month! We accepted the challenge and, on a roster system, when preparing our own family meal, cooked an extra meal and dessert. Then, often with "littlies" in tow, we delivered the meal next lunchtime to the designated house! This was done until the Ku ring gai Meals-on- Wheels service started in 1961. Today 220 meals are cooked in the Council kitchens and delivered each day to those in need! A far cry from the meagre beginnings! There are some from the Church who have been with this service from its' first days and are still delivering!

In addition to service, the Aid was about fun and fellowship concerts and dinners in the old Church Hall and lasting friendships made, working together in building community.

Then there was Leisure & Learning one of the most successful outreach activities! It had its' genesis in the Gordon Craft Workshop started by the late Nina Hickson in 1982. It met monthly and encouraged those interested in craft activities to learn new skills and enjoy each other's company. John Woodhouse was our Minister at the time and Kath Kline (Hamilton) was just retiring as Social Worker at Sydney Hospital. These two saw in the Craft Workshop, the seeds of a larger outreach weekly classes covering a much wider range of interests and open to the whole community. So in February 1984, under Kath's guidance, Leisure and Learning was born. Once started, it quickly expanded into a vast array of interests and activities, which changed over the years to meet new demands, like the teaching of English language and conversation to new arrivals, and more recently Computer and Family History groups. The seed of an idea back in the 1980's is still, with dedication and devotion, a thriving outreach programme in the new century!

As these, and other activities expanded, and as the 80's progressed and both the old church buildings and the old Manse were becoming extremely costly to maintain, the Property & Finance Committee began discussion on the possible demolition of the old complex and the building of a new one. Architect Russ Smith was commissioned to draw up a plan to co ordinate the whole site into a workable 7 days a week complex. The old buildings, much loved as they were, had to go if the Church was to survive into the future. If accepted, it was to be quite a daunting project. Firstly, the logistics of living with a construction site, and secondly, financing the whole scheme which in all, would necessitate finding over $1million!
The whole Church family took the project to their hearts, coped with the discomfort, and gave generously. The new buildings were opened in March 1987. By 1992 the second stage was completed with the purchase of a new Manse in Norfolk St.

I entitled this final article "Building For The Future". This phrase seemed to encapsulate the whole story of what has been undertaken at Gordon in the 50 years since World War II.

And I refer not only to the physical buildings, but to the building of a supportive and caring Church Family, the building of ties with, and outreach into, the local and wider community, and the commitment of those who gave generously of themselves and their professional and financial skills in the service of others to carry the message and example of Christ out into the wider world.

Let us pray that this "building" will continue!