Cnr Oxley Highway & Sherwood Rd, Port Macquarie NSW Sundays 8.30am and 10.15am. (9.30am on 2nd and 5th Sundays of month)
In October 1818 explorer John Oxley was the first European to come to the Port Macquarie area. A penal settlement began in April 1821 and free settlement was approved from 1830.
Half an acre of land in Horton Street was granted to the Wesleyan Methodists by the government in 1835, and a building was opened about 1837. The brick Wesleyan Chapel had its start in 1840 when a foundation stone was laid. Construction was slow due to tough economic conditions, but under the leadership of William Litchfield the building was progressed and the first service was held on November 30, 1845. The building was completed the following year. The first local preacher was William Currey who was employed from 1846. He was withdrawn at the end of the penal settlement when two-thirds of the town’s population left the area. The chapel was regarded as being closed between 1849 and 1858 but records indicate that some services were held by local preachers during this time. As the town’s population grew James Boltwood and Silas Gill arrived from the Maitland area and they, being enthusiastic local preachers, were successful in reviving interest and re-opening the church in March 1858. The Taree minister then made quarterly visits. The church remained ‘open’ until 1964 when a new and larger building was erected on the northern portion of the half-acre site.
From the time of the appointment of Rev W J Davis the church was able to provide for a minister. The building was extended to the east in 1870.
The Wesleyan Methodists became known as Methodists from January 1902 until Church Union in June 1977 when the Uniting Church was inaugurated.
Following the 1995 building of the Sherwood Road worship centre the chapel became the ‘home’ for Emergency Relief until early this year. Community groups have long been regular day-time and night-time users of the chapel. It continues to be the venue for church services on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday afternoons each month, and concerts and weddings also take place in the chapel. When volunteers are available the chapel is kept open for public viewing two hours each weekday morning.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to ever face the Port Macquarie Uniting Church’s Parish Council was whether to expand the Horton St Church or purchase land and build a new church outside the town’s centre. This topic was hotly contested for many years. With more than a century-long family history of attending church in Horton Street many worshippers were reluctant to move elsewhere, but others saw the church building as inadequate at that time and incapable of providing opportunities for expansion into the future. Combined services of the two morning services were not possible on the Horton St site and these were held in the Port Macquarie High School auditorium.
Many proposals to expand the church building to accommodate more people were considered, but were not given the green light. Thoughts of demolishing the hall or the chapel to make way for onsite parking were also raised. The search for new land was undertaken from the early 1980’s with many sites investigated until the Sherwood Rd site became an option in 1991. In August 1992 the congregation approved this purchase with the intention of erecting a new building within 3 years. A new development application covering 3 buildings—the worship centre, administration and Lifeline was lodged early in 1994 and in December a tender for construction of the worship centre and administration was accepted. Gary Bannister was the successful tenderer with a quote of close to $1.124 million.
The first sod was turned in January 1995. Construction continued for the next 8 months and the first church service was held on 15 October 1995. The official opening and dedication took place in December. Chris Ireland and Roger Stonehouse were Parish Council chairman and secretary respectively, each holding those positions for the 10 years until the Sherwood Rd worship centre was completed. At that time the proposal was that annual rentals from Coca-Cola over the next decade would pay for the site—but Coca-Cola later advised it was discontinuing its use of the site. Following construction of the worship centre the congregation was told it had a debt of $1.3 million. About half this amount had been paid when the excess land was sold to UnitingCare. That sale extinguished the church debt. Mingaletta was built on that site.