God’s guidance for the journey

Melville Uniting Church has decided to close as a congregation, and held its final service on Sunday 23 June 2019. The Korean Presbyterian Church, who has been meeting at the premises for 20 years, sung a moving hymn to open the service, which was attended by more than 120 people. During worship, Jean Mackenzie delivered this address on behalf of the congregation.

Sixty two years ago this congregation came into being when a small group of Christians began meeting each week to hold a church service in a local home.  This was the fledgling beginning of Melville Presbyterian Church, and two of our members, Hilda and Alan Dickman were among the founding members.

The community flourished and grew, and, fast forward to 1977 when the Presbyterian Church amalgamated with other denominations to become the Uniting Church.

Melville Uniting Church – a community with a strong mission to do God’s work in this place – continued the vibrant expansion for many decades. More recently, as with many other traditional churches in a rapidly changing environment, our numbers have been in decline.

But, while numbers have decreased and we have faced some challenges, we have felt ourselves blessed in many ways.

In 2009, the fire which gutted the church made us recognise that the buildings could be wiped out in an instant, but our faith and sense of community is what sustains us.

In the past two and a half years lack of funds has meant that we have been without a minister. Even as our numbers decreased there was a commensurate increase in willingness of members to step up and take on new or additional roles.

This is a congregation where every member has been actively engaged in this church. And as there have been fewer of us, we have been able to get to know one another better, and we have had the joy of being a very connected, close and supportive community. We have truly been a church family.

We have been challenged again and again to adapt to our changing circumstances, and have met that challenge with good humour and willingness. We have practiced flexibility. So, in a way we have been preparing for this day.

Recently, the logistics of finding ministers or lay preachers each week to take services, the Synod of WA’s proposed closure of the buildings for an extended period to undertake refurbishment, and the  desire of some members to worship where there was a permanent minister, have made us reconsider our situation.

In February at our Annual General Meeting we made the decision the time had come to disband and find new homes in other congregations. This has been accepted by Presbytery.

Each member is considering his or her circumstances and making decisions accordingly. Many will be going to Applecross St Stephens Uniting Church, where we have been made welcome when we have shared communion with them on a monthly basis. Others will go to Mt Pleasant, Wesley Fremantle, Kardinya, Bicton and Willetton Uniting Churches, although this is by no means a comprehensive list.

We acknowledge the sadness but we are not afraid of change, so it is mixed also with an anticipation of new opportunities and new relationships. We go having explored all the options and asking God’s guidance on our journeys.

We are a pilgrim people, after all.

Melville Uniting Church is not closing its doors. The Korean and Spanish congregations, with whom we have had long and warm associations, together with our Hall Cafe and other community groups will continue to meet here for a period, at least until the proposed refurbishment program begins.

So, we move forward in the hope that sometime in the future there will be a facility here which will meet the changing needs of the community, to once again be a vibrant presence of the Uniting Church in Melville.

Jean Mackenzie

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