“If we lose churches, we lose the soul of our community,” says Stuart Holm.
Stuart is not a member of the St John’s Uniting Church in Adams St in Coraki but he cares about its closure and what it means for the community. He is one of eight people in a working group discussing the re-invention of the church.
“The conversation started three weeks ago and it’s building momentum,” Stuart said.
Thirty-five people came to the initial meeting and the “inspiration was incredible.”
With only four members left in the Uniting Church congregation, Anne Gwynne is one of those who used to come to the Sunday service held once a month.
“The church has been closed since the end of 2019 when covid started,” Anne said.
Since then Anne and her mother Ivy Carter have held their own service at home using a DVD. “I want to bring my mum to church. She’s already seen the closure of the Wardell Church.”
It is a common story across rural communities.
Old Bonalbo lost its church months ago and others are under threat.
At Rappville, Richmond Valley Council bought the Anglican Church and it will become part of the new community centre grounds.
Margaret Jennison has been in Coraki all her life and is one of the four members left.
“My family and ancestors contributed to the very first church,” she said of the former Presbyterian timber church on the site for almost 100 years before St John’s was built in 1985.
“It’s part of your being,” she said.
At Coraki, they want to reinvigorate the church building owned by Lismore Mission while maintaining the worship part of the church. The Box Ridge community runs a service at the Box Ridge Community Centre and is keen to use St John’s every Sunday for their Christian service and the group are excited about this commitment.
Jodie Hughson is in the working group and she wants the church’s future to include honouring older parishioners and growing from that. The kitchen and space next to the sermon area is ideal for youth workshops, cooking demonstrations, there could be country markets and much more, Jodie said.
Anne has been speaking with the Red Cross about holding regular morning teas in the space.
The community is invited to a morning tea followed by a worship service this Friday, June 25, at 10.30am. Everyone is welcome and there is no obligation to attend the service.
The working group wants to hear everyone’s ideas.
This article appeared in the Richmond River Independent, 23 June 2021.
Related stories: Small church to hold a service before closing; Copmanhurst Church closes after a century of service.