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Cnr Kembla and Burelli Sts, Wollongong Sunday @ 9.45am
The new township of Wollongong had not long been planned and laid out in 1834 when the Reverend Dr John Dunmore Lang, a minister of the Church of Scotland and stationed in Sydney, went back to Britain to secure more Presbyterian ministers for the expanding colony of New South Wales. As a result, the Reverend John Tait was sent to the Illawarra as its first Presbyterian minister, commencing duties on 27 September, 1837, and serving until 1841. When he arrived there was no church building here, so he approached Captain Plunkett to allow the use of the Court House which still stands near Brighton Beach. This was agreed to, and so a service was held each Sunday afternoon, with an average of 10-12 people attending. A Mr Robert Langmore led the singing.
Mr Tait received a present of a half-acre block from Mr Charles Throsby Smith, at the corner of Crown and Church Streets. He obtained subscriptions for the erection of a church building, and in May 1838 plans were prepared by James Hulme, a Sydney architect. On 4 August, 1839, the building was completed at a cost of 821 pounds. The Reverend John Tait’s parish covered the area of Wollongong, Dapto, Shellharbour, Terry’s Meadow (now known as Albion Park), Shoalhaven, and, most likely, Appin.
The Reverend Cunninghame Atchieson succeeded Mr Tait in 1841 and left in 1864. During his 23 years he added a spire and porch to the building which served as the meeting place for the Congregation for almost 100 years. A total of 14 ministers served during this time, others serving for more than 5 years including the Reverend Robert Hope Waugh (1879-93), the Reverend Donald MacKay Barnett (1903-21), the Reverend William Duffy (1927-33), and the Reverend Dr. Marshall S. Campbell (1934-41).
As was reported in the local paper early in 1936, Woolworths purchased the church property for 11,500 pounds. The pulpit was moved into the church hall which was then used for services during the erection of a new church building at the present location on the corner of Kembla and Burelli Streets, on land donated by a member of the Congregation, Mr W.A.Lang. The foundation stone was laid on 31 July, 1937, by the Moderator, the Right Reverend A.C. Grieve, a past member of the Congregation. The building was opened by a previous Moderator General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, the Very Reverend Dr. R.G. Macintyre, on 19 February, 1938. The minister at the time was Reverend Marshall S. Campbell.
The complex consists of a Romanesque building with seating for 350 people, and a hall with a stage, kindergarten and class rooms, offices, and a large kitchen; it cost 14,000 pounds. A pipe organ was installed at a cost of 1,700 pounds, paid for by the Congregation and members of the community. The church building has a number of significant stained glass windows including a very beautiful one, in memory of Mr W.A. Lang and his wife, which has the town crest in a small window above it acknowledging that he had served as Mayor of Wollongong for some years.
The ministers inducted following Reverend Marshall S Campbell are: the Reverend C.E. Turnbull (1942- 49), the Reverend Charles Thomas Knibb (1949- 64), the Reverend R.A. Caldwell (1964- 73), the Reverend Ivan Cox (1974- 81), the Reverend Jack Knapp (1982- 86), the Reverend Lindsay Ferrington (1987-96), the Reverend Bruce Hammonds (1998- 2005) and the Reverend Dr. Granville Pillar (2006 -2009).
During Mr Cox’s ministry an OpShop was commenced in Crown Street to finance the purchase of a nursing home, Olunda, in Bourke Street. The first Matron of this valuable facility was Mrs Nancy Scott, a member of the Congregation. As an extension of this ministry, the old Manse in Corrimal Street was demolished and a Independent Living complex, Elouera, was built on this site and later extended to cover two other blocks. A new Manse was purchased at Mount Ousley. More recently, Olunda Nursing Home and Elouera was transferred to Presbyterian Aged Care (link) who administer the Church’s aged care throughout NSW. Other community outreach activities of the Congregation now include a weekly PlayTime toddlers group and a weekly Let’s Talk English conversation class for people learning English.