Fight to save South Cronulla church: Parishioners oppose land sale

Not united: Parishioners outside the South Cronulla Uniting Church. Picture: John Veage
Not united: Parishioners outside the South Cronulla Uniting Church. Picture: John Veage

ANGRY and upset parishioners of South Cronulla Uniting Church are hoping for a reprieve from plans to close and sell their heritage-listed church next year.

The congregation of the Wilshire Avenue church celebrated its 90th anniversary last year. But the local church council last month agreed in principle to close the church and sell it and the adjoining manse, which make up a parcel of approximately 1800 square

 metres.

‘‘South Cronulla Uniting Church is currently going through approvals to be sold,’’ the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT spokeswoman confirmed. 

‘‘The decision to sell the church was made unanimously by church council and subsequently by a majority of the members of the combined churches in New Beginnings Uniting Church. 

Parishioner anger: The South Cronulla Uniting Church is for sale.

Parishioner anger: The South Cronulla Uniting Church is for sale.

‘‘The proposed sale still has to be approved by The Uniting Church Georges River Presbytery and the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT.

‘‘While it sad to be closing the church it is a small worshipping congregation which will have the opportunity to join with the other New Beginnings Uniting Churches in the area.

‘‘Some of the funds from the sale will potentially be directed into expanding areas of ministry, including doing more for socially isolated and disadvantaged people in the area while maintaining traditional worship.’’

The church is part of the New Beginnings Uniting Church of Cronulla Group.  Others are the Uniting Church on Gosport Street, Cronulla, and the Uniting Church at Bundeena. 

All three are ministered by the Reverend Simon Lee.

The land on which the South Cronulla Uniting Church stands was bought in 1902 and the foundation stone laid on April 24, 1924.

The South Cronulla church has been identified by Sutherland Shire Council as a heritage item of local significance and is listed as a local heritage item in the Sutherland Shire Local Environmental Plan 2015.

South Cronulla Uniting Church parishioner Barbara Levy said the decision as saddened the congregation.

"Its more than sadness. Everybody is upset and very angry," Mrs Levy said.

"Part of the anger is that we have been given no choice. It has been done very quickly.

"A lot of people feel we have been steamrollered into this decision. It has not been unanimous."

Parishioner Sid Wishart said the church council voted unanimously to put the motion to the congregational meeting.

But the vote to sell was not unanimous.

"The vote to sell was 26-10," he said.

"The church is not the building, it is the people.

"If God wants this church to be a Christian outreach church in the future, whether a Uniting Church or something else, it will remain here."

His wife Margaret said a lot of people want to hold their weddings at South Cronulla Uniting church because it is older and has historic associations with the area.

A recent wedding saw the church full. More than 130 people attended the funeral of a parishioner recently.

The 90th anniversary service was attended by many people who had gone to Sunday school or who had been married there, as well as many dignitaries including Cronulla MP Mark Speakman.

Mrs Levy said many people would be upset when they hear the church is closing.

"I've seen these types of church buildings in country towns but it is unique to this area.

"I think it is bad to close this church. You are cutting off a lot of opportunities."

Unless there is a reprieve the last service will be held Easter Sunday, April 3, 2016.

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