After 79 years serving the community, Canberra’s first Methodist church for the past 29 years, Reid Uniting Church closed with a special service on Sunday 25 June. It was a full house as dozens of people from around the region came to celebrate their links with a church which fostered the growth of other congregations in the early days of the fledgling national capital. The service was led by Presbytery’s Pastoral Relations Worker, the Rev. Dr Ross Kingham, and former Reid minister the Rev. Norman McDonald, who had been a frequent visitor from his home in the Blue Mountains in recent months.
Organist Mrs Marj Bissaker came from the coast to bring Reid’s beautiful pipe organ to life one more time. The organ was built and installed in 1963 at a cost of 4500 pounds.
Steve Davis, a member of Reid UC for 20 years from his student days in 1981, described the church as having been like a big family. “The Reid community helped shape the lives of so many people,” he said.
Reid UC chairman John Howard, a member for nearly half a century, described the church as a haven and expressed both sadness and optimism at the closure. It’s almost like the final chapter of a book. “There’s a sequel to it, and we’re about to discover that.”
Norman McDonald, one of 19 ministers to serve the Reid Methodist/Uniting Church, recalled weddings, funerals, baptisms, battles – a tapestry woven into the red bricks. He referred briefly to the very real hurt caused by a wrenching split in the congregation after the 10th Assembly’s decision on Ministry, Membership and Sexuality. While the split probably hastened, rather than caused, the eventual closure, as journalist Graham Downie said in that morning’s Sunday Times, to end on such a sour note seems desperately sad.
The service, however, was much more of a celebration than that, as speakers recalled the essential warmth and kindness of folk in years not so long past, when Reid UC was a true hub of the community, with a Sunday School enrolment of 200, couples club, youth groups, tennis groups, soccer teams, an eisteddfod-winning choir, drama group, women’s groups, mission projects and a thriving, dedicated congregation.
Photo by Brian Rope shows Reid stalwarts, including Joyce Herring and Estelle Edwards, leaving he church after the final service.