Celebrating history at Northcliffe

Northcliffe Uniting Church recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of their church building. On Sunday 22 September, guests attended a special worship and lunch to mark the occasion. Naomi Backhouse, member of Northcliffe Uniting Church, presented this history of the church, and shared it with Revive.

God has been in this place among the trees from the very beginning, I know very little of those who walked and lived here until 1924 when the group settlers arrived. They came from a long way and God was an important part of their life and culture.

I have a 90 year old friend whose family came here with the groups. In the early days they would attend any service of worship that they could. Denomination didn’t matter; if it was the Salvation Army or Anglicans who came to town, the chance for worshipping together was too important.

When my friend and her sister were in their teens they would ride their bikes to town each Sunday to attend worship. Their family didn’t have a car so it was the only way to get to church. Later, when her sister got a car she would collect her mother and bring her to church. Mrs MacRitchie was always grateful for the chance to go to church. Other families rode to church on horseback.

I don’t know when the Methodists started meeting in town but in May 15, 1955, Mrs Phipps opened a small meeting room that had been built by Arthur Owens. In January 1956, June Richards and Alf Barrett were the first couple married in this little meeting room.

The church and the Ladies Guild worked hard to raise the money for the main Hall. Mrs Collins and her sister hosted a show “Like the Royal Show”. People entered all kinds of crafts and produce and won prizes. It raised a lot of money for the new building. Jerry Kaser built the main hall and Mrs George Beebe opened it. On Sunday 20 September 1959, Rev J Vaughan, President of the Conference, conducted worship to commemorate the foundation of this building.

At the time, Rev Lloyd Semple and his wife served the Northcliffe congregation. They would bring down young folk from Manjimup to help with the afternoon service and then share a “bring a plate tea” before going on to Pemberton for an evening service.

Doreen Owens was one of the young people from Manjimup that Lloyd brought  to services with very strong memories of the road to Northcliffe, alleged to have 97 bends in it and extremely rough. As Lloyd was always in a hurry to get there after taking a service in Pemberton the result was a rather hair raising trip including bumps in each head.

Other minsters over the years have included Rev Neville Watson, Rev Ron Limb, Rev Geoff and Lillian Widnall, Rev Mervyn Anderson, Rev Glenn Noble, Rev Alan and Ruth Rankin, Rev Derek and Pam Hope, Rev Keith and Edna Bird, Rev Anne and Terry Tero, Rev Isobel and Roger Shortreed, Rev Wendie Wilkie, Rev Peter Harvey, Rev Alistair Melville and currently Pastor Kristin Grainger.

For many years, neighbours George and Jessie Gardner maintained the church gardens. One very hot day when the church anniversary had a big congregation, the children became restive and a Manjimup Sunday school teacher (Lorna Davies) took them out side.

Where to go? There was a nice garden next to the church.  Lorna went and knocked on the door with no answer. So she took the children and sat them down on the lawn and told them Bible stories. After the service she asked who owned the garden. It was no wonder they couldn’t answer the door – George and Jessie Gardner had been at the church!

The Ladies Guild was an important part of church life and instrumental in raising money for church maintenance, improvements and the support of missions.

In May 2000, Northcliffe Uniting Church had been meeting once a month at 2.00pm for some time. It was then that we agreed to co-ordinate services with the Anglicans so that rather than having both some weeks and none others there would be at least one service of worship every week in town. With them lined up like this there was a mutual attending of each others services, more skills to share. Over time we have become one congregation with the lines blurred between who is Uniting and who is Anglican and newcomers being welcomed into both.

Although the people have merged, services are kept in one style or the other. Several years ago we welcomed the Anglican services into our building when Christchurch Anglican became unsafe.

We continue to worship and serve God here in this place and pray that our ministry and mission may cause God’s name to be hallowed in our town and beyond.

Naomi Backhouse

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