Today I had the privilege of attending the final service and 90th anniversary celebrations at St. Columba’s Uniting Church in Balwyn. The turnout was fantastic, with people packing the church for the service and the rear hall afterwards for morning tea.
St. Columba’s is one of six Uniting Church properties in Boroondara that have been sold, with five out of the total six being in my ward (Maranoa Ward). These are:
- St Columba’s church, hall, tennis courts & kindergarten (37 Banool Road, Balwyn VIC 3103)
- St Columba’s adjacent dwelling (25 Banool Road, Balwyn VIC 3103)
- Trinity Uniting Church, hall & dwelling (172 Doncaster Road, 47 Sutton Street & 49 Sutton Street, Balwyn North VIC 3104)
The other Uniting Church property in Boroondara that has been sold are the tennis courts at 20A Broughton Road. A full list may be obtained on the Uniting Church website here.
It was a joyous occasion to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the congregation, but also a melancholy one for the closure of the church. Many people of all ages and locations attended, including past ministers, congregation members and Sunday school students. St Columba’s has a rich and vibrant history, including being the first in its parish to appoint a female minister, the operation of a hugely popular Sunday school and the St Columba’s Kindergarten.
Afterwards I spoke with committee members, ministers and other attendees, with some having travelled long distances to be there today. While there was understandable grief and anger with what has occurred, many were looking forward to the future and its opportunities for positive change and renewal.
There was discussion about the future of the many community groups who have used the church facilities for many years. The sale of the church and its buildings is not just a loss for the congregation, but a loss for the wider community. The benefit to the local area was translated through the provision of valuable space for groups to be able to carry out their work, from Scottish dancing to a women’s choir. The benefits from these activities extended far beyond the immediate congregation, and the church’s loss will be felt by many.
Thanks must go to the church’s committee members, ministers and congregation members for their hard work and dedication over the years to provide such valuable services to the community. While I am not religious nor a churchgoer myself, it is easy to see how much this hidden suburban church has meant to people and what a difference it has made to hundreds of people’s lives. I wish all the very best for the future.