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.
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.
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.