Services of worship were being conducted in homes and the local hall in Morisset under the auspices of the Methodist Home Missions Department as early as 1907.
The first Uniting Church at Morisset was built on land purchased in 1911. We believe at a cost of about seventeen pounds ($35.00). The first service was held in June 1913 and the first wedding at about the same time. The couple had intended to be married in the Church of England unfortunately, it was blown down in a gale the week before! (It’s an ill wind …)
For many years services were conducted on a monthly basis by lay preachers and ministers from Toronto. In the early days, travel was on horseback or by a sulky, then in the 1950s by motorcar. A morning service was conducted at Dora Creek after which the preacher would travel to Martinsville for lunch. Firstly a service at the Union Church followed by one at Morisset Hospital in the late afternoon. Later an evening service at Morisset and return home bringing this “Sabbath’s Day journey” to a close.
In September 1922 the Morisset Masonic Lodge signed a ten-year lease to use the Church building for their monthly meetings. The lease, a single foolscap sheet, required the Lodge to build an anteroom onto the Church and:-
“That in the event of the Lodge installing a new light, we (the church Trustees) will supply all benzine or kerosine for the same, and that the Lodge has the right to remove the lighting plant at any time provided that the present lighting system is left intact.
A further ten-year lease was signed in January 1933. The Masonic fraternity ceased to use the church when their own lodge room was built in 1937.
During this time mains electricity had arrived in Morisset and in September 1929 the church was wired to take advantage of this innovation. History does not tell us who kept the lighting plant. Additionally, twelve pounds ($24.00) were spent on repairs to the building.
The 1962 Methodist Conference appointed a married probationer to the then Lake Macquarie South Methodist Circuit, to reside in Morisset. A parsonage was purchased in Newcastle Street and on Wednesday 27th January 1962 the parsonage was dedicated and the Rev. Les Wearing was inducted into the circuit.
In 1965 an expansion was felt needing and the round brick building was erected. This was first used as a hall and a kitchen added to it in 1970. A decision in 1976 was made to use the existing church as a hall and use the newer, brick building as the church. In 1979 the septic system was installed and the rear section of the timber building was converted into a kitchen.
A fire to this building in 1980 meant further renovations were needed. A larger kitchen was built, the front porch removed, a side porch added and the stained glass window installed. The renovated building was reopened in July 1982.
In the late 1980’s it was considered that the minister’s residence in Newcastle Street was not up to Synod requirements. It was decided to sell the home and build a new residence on the corner of Bridge and Yambo Streets, adjacent to the church buildings. The new minister’s residence was opened on 28th April 1991.
A Congregational Meeting held on 10th November 1991 resolved to apply for a Mission and Resource Fund grant to extend the church building. The original intention was to build over the top of the round church building. Discussion with officials of the Lake Macquarie City Council made it obvious that there would be great difficulty in complying with Council’s parking requirements. The first application for a grant was refused.
After some deliberation, it was decided that the Bridge and Yambo Streets properties should be sold and a new site sought. Eventually, six and one-quarter acres of land at the corner of Awaba and Stockton Streets became available and was purchased in April 1994. Action to build commenced immediately.
The first meeting of the Development Committee was held on 13th April 1994. In May 1994 a further application was made to the Mission and Resource Fund for a grant and a loan.
The outreach of the church on the new site commenced in December 1994. Since its inception twenty-five years previously Morisset Meals on Wheels had been seeking a permanent home. The organisation had sufficient funds for the material to build a kitchen and meeting room but was unable to acquire land on which to build. The offer by the church for them to utilise a part of the land was accepted. With voluntary labour, the building was quickly completed and opened on 5th November 1995.
Also in December 1994 verbal notification was received that the May application had been successful. A grant of $280,000.00 and a two-year interest-free loan of $100,000.00 had been approved. Plans for the new building were drawn up. No easy task. Alterations requested by Synod, the Development Committee and Congregational Meetings meant that the fourteenth set of plans finally met with approval.
After some preliminary clearance, the first service of worship was held on Sunday, 8th October, 1995. This took the form of an open-air service of Holy Communion.
Development of the site officially commenced in March 1996 when the contract was signed with the builder. When the builder moved out in January 1997 the building was almost to lock up stage. Since then there have been many working bees – painting, electrical wiring, concreting, tiling and lots of free advice. All have helped to have the building ready for the official opening on 12th and 13th April 1997.
It would be impossible to thank by name or give credit to everyone who through the years has contributed to the concept and the building of this wonderful new centre. It is only through the dedication, loyalty and faith in God of people from the beginnings in 1910 and on through the following eighty-seven years that we can move to and celebrate the opening of this new building.
By Albert Shaw & Elaine Cox