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Locals not happy about Eureka church sale

Eureka residents Don, Marin and Peach would like to see the church become a community asset. Photo Tree Faerie.

UPDATE 11.06.2019 4pm

Eureka Uniting Church Statement

The Uniting Church works in consultation with Presbyteries in regard to the sale of property.

Eureka Uniting Church hasn’t had a congregation worshipping in the building since 2017 and the decision was made by the Presbytery to sell the property in November 2018.

The property hasn’t been released for sale to the open market as current expressions of interest to local community members are being fielded. As with all historic buildings, there is a heritage report that will protect the building.

Decisions are made by consensus in each area of the Uniting Church’s life. This includes the sale of Church property, which is done in consultation with Presbyteries working with local Congregations.

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Resting on what must unarguably be one of the prime pieces of real estate in the Byron hinterland, is the Eureka Uniting Church. Locals are unhappy that the property is apparently for sale.

Built in 1887, the land on which this church stands was donated for the well-being of the local community to the then-Methodist Church in the 1880s by Andrew Johnston, one of the first settlers of Eureka. The church itself was designed and built by members of the community, and became the centre of important religious celebrations of births, deaths and marriages.

Johnston’s great grandson, Douglas, was still a regular churchgoer there until the presbytery decided to close the church down just over a year ago.

The Eureka Uniting Church was built in 1887 by the community on donated land. Photo Tree Faerie.

President of the Eureka Public Hall Committee Kim Goodrick says the committee were extremely upset to learn recently that the Uniting Church Property Trust had decided to list the church and land on Springvale Road for commercial sale without first offering it to the community for purchase as a community asset.

‘This appears to be in direct contrast to an undertaking that Rev Griffiths made to the Hall Committee by email on November 19, 2018 to consult with the community “when and if any decision was made” to sell the Church,’ says Ms Goodrick.

One resident said he felt that the church would end up being the ‘Eureka Coffee House and Souvenir Shop’ or something similar if the community were not given the chance to buy the church.

Ms Goodrick says that recently the Eureka Hall Committee were informed via a third party that the church has already been listed with a real estate agent. ‘On enquiry to this real estate agent, the Hall Committee was advised that the Church had been offered for sale to the Johnston family at a commercial market rate. They were sadly unable to meet such high financial demands, and that one other interested party who had approached the Uniting Church had been notified.

‘This seems to be completely at odds with the undertaking that Rev Griffiths had given to us, and on the surface, appears to lack a level community-mindedness and transparency that one would expect from the Uniting Church.’

Goodrick says that when the Anglican Church was similarly offered for sale at Jasper Corner in Federal a decade ago, the community was given the first opportunity to buy the church. ‘This has undoubtedly been a resounding success. All that the Eureka Hall Committee is asking is to have a similar opportunity before this important historical asset is lost to our future generations’.

The Echo contacted Rev. Robert Griffith, chairperson of the Far North Coast Presbytery of the The Uniting Church in Australia. Mr Griffith said he was not able to make any comments to the media on any issue. He said all media statements come from their Communications Department in Sydney.


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14 responses to “Locals not happy about Eureka church sale”

  1. Ros Doyle says:

    I am a several greats granddaughter of Andrew Johnston – I’m horrified to think what will become of this church.Something to be used by all members of the community would surely be more in keeping with his charitable intentions

    • Barnabus says:

      A church is for Worshipping God and not for charitable intentions. The church would not have to be sold if there was a congregation there. If people don’t support the church then it closes, end of story.

      • Peter Hatfield, Cumablum says:

        I agree Barnabus. As a member of a UC parish in the region I do not see it as our Northern Rivers Presbytery’s greatest challenge is to provide the residents of Eureka with a familiar landmark. The community can buy the church if they need a building, or otherwise in likelihood it will be repurposed as a cafe or home, preferably with its inevitable Bunnings Buddha placed out the back so it can continue as a reminder that this area was once a Christian community.

      • Beth Noble says:

        Barnabus is spot on. The church would not have needed to close if the community had supported it.

  2. Mark Bailey says:

    A coffee shop tea house would be a great thing there. Lovely location. Much better use.

  3. Milton Cater says:

    Never sell a gift.

  4. Len Heggarty says:

    This church is heritage and history as the date say so, 1887. The look of it gives an impression of the spirit of Heaven. It is outrageous that that church is offered for sale when its age is 132 years old, pre-dating any human alive in Australia. It looks alive, it is human and well and bright and cheerful and welcoming to any community who wants to walk in it and with it into the future. That church has spirit and that is why it has lasted so long with a long-loving community who have looked after it and painted it and tended it. I ask you just what has lasted 132 years in Australia? The authorities are uniting the people against the sale for bland and mediocre commercialism. Just who would put a Coca-Cola poster on the side wall or a “Pie and Pies sold here” on a church that is the centre of how and why the community exists. You can see how it has been tended that there is a loving community here in Eureka. Just as at the Eureka Stockade “Eureka” means “Ah, I have found it” The church is pure gold. It is just too precious to sell.

  5. Mark King says:

    Definitely not a house block. Sell, keep the building , change the use, Use the money for something godly, if we humans are capable.

  6. Angela Pollard says:

    I don’t think we realise how different our attitudes are from the original Eureka congregation that gifted the land and built the church. I use the word congregation rather than community because that’ is likely to have been their primary identification in building the church. TImes have changed, churchgoers are few and ageing, This region has one of the highest rates of ‘no religion’ in the country. https://profile.id.com.au/byron/religion?WebID=120 This would have shocked those who donated their time, money and land to what they perceived as a higher purpose. The property belongs to the Uniting Church and ultimately they need to act in the best interest of their religious membership. Sadly for locals, this means that the church will be offered at market rates and given the ridiculous land values we now see here in the ‘Byron hinterland’ it will be unaffordable. I think that is the greatest tragedy- our land values are gentrifying to the point where the next generation will have to be wealthy to live here.

  7. Natalie Clarke says:

    Perhaps the manner in which The Uniting Church treats community, whether they be church goers, local or not will be reflected in the ongoing viability of the Uniting Church. Who is drawn to an organisation that appears heartless? Treating people well is what counts.

    Why is the church being sold, if there were still SOME people still attending church there and continuing to care take the property? I would guess that the local community would be prepared to fund-raise for major maintenance issues.

    If the land was donated by locals, the building built and cared for by locals and still attended by locals (albeit in small numbers) why sell them out….is it to fund sexual abuse compensation payouts! Is it the community that pays for church misdemeanours?

    Surely after 132 years, giving the local community 1 to 2 years to come up with viable means of preventing a community asset from being privatised is not unreasonable?

    • Hilary bone says:

      Well said. How did the uniting church acquire title for this property? Perhaps they paid a Pound sterling for it. The attached hall came from Federal. A historic title search is required prior to sale to establish rightful legal ownership. The community should be given an option to acquire the property. Two years is a reasonable time to exercise an option. I do not agree that it should be used to benefit worshippers through raising funds. It was provided for the benefit of the community at large. At the turn of the century people supported all of the church communities by attending functions and assisting each other to raise funds. You will see the same names appearing on committees across the villages .This is a community asset entrusted to the community in perpetuity by those who provided the land and paid for the building. People are entitled to their religious beliefs but those who don’t subscribe to those particular beliefs have their own beliefs which are equally important, religious or otherwise. There is no single agreed definition of religion. Religion is but simply a set of beliefs.

  8. Mark says:

    I rode past this building on Sunday. Looked and sounded like a church meeting to me.

  9. Rhonda says:

    It is in fact being used as a church again. The Uniting Church is renting it out to an independent group.of Christians, including a couple of local Johnstons.

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