Tantawangalo’s historic Anglican Church faces closure under a proposal being put to the community next week.
The Sapphire Coast Anglican Parish, which looks after nine churches, is looking at ways to grow its congregation and is proposing to sell St John’s at Tantawangalo and invest all monies into nearby St Peter’s church at Candelo.
The parish has three active churches all within 15km of each other – Kameruka, Tantawangalo and Candelo – all built between 1869-1906 when distances were harder to negotiate.
A wooden church at Tantawangalo was first built in 1877 before the current brick building replaced it in 1908
Now with falling attendances at weekend service and ease of access to larger centres, the parish feels concentrating efforts on services and outreach from Candelo could be a way to grow the church community as a whole.
Reverend Lou Oakes said last week’s Sunday service at Tantawangalo had just 10 people attend, and that included her and a visitor from Sydney.
“The community is quite rightly hurt and sad by the prospect of losing this church, but at the same time they haven’t been able to come up with a plan for its future,” Reverend Oakes said.
“It’s really important to recognise the history of the church, but also the struggles churches face today.
“Churches are seen as the heart of the community, but that’s not just about the bricks and mortar.”
Reverend Oakes said many churches are failing to attract younger generations while small rural areas are also under stress with people of all ages moving further afield for employment and other services.
“We are of course concerned for the welfare of our Tantawangalo community, but also that the church grows,” she said.
“New life and growth is possible – Wolumla is a really good model of what we can do at Candelo.”
Reverend Oakes was referring to the modern era of churches looking at outreach services and offering their buildings as multi-use centres for the community.
“People want choice. They are still looking for meaning, but don’t always go to a traditional church,” she said.
“There’s already a lively culture at Candelo and we felt we could work with that to connect with the community in new and exciting ways.”
A final decision is still some months away, but the proposal to sell St John’s is being put to the community at a meeting on Saturday, May 27, at St Luke’s Anglican Church in Wolumla.
Reverend Oakes said the Tantawangalo cemetery is not church property and therefore not part of any proposed sale. Access to the cemetery would be retained via an existing council road reserve and responsibility for the grounds put back in council hands.
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