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3 February, 2021

Historic church on the chopping block

Worshiping has come to end at one of Mareeba’s most historic churches. Last week The Uniting Church Australia Presbytery of Carpentaria announced the ending of services at the Mareeba Uniting Church building (formally the Methodist Memorial Church), on the Corner Rankin and Walsh Streets in Mareeba.

By Phil Brandel

The last service at the historic Uniting Church in Mareeba was held on Sunday January 31.

Last week The Uniting Church Australia Presbytery of Carpentaria announced the ending of services at the Mareeba Uniting Church building (formally the Methodist Memorial Church), on the Corner Rankin and Walsh Streets in Mareeba.  

The final service took place on 9am Sunday January 31.

Rev Garry Hardingham said there had been a fair bit of debate amongst the congregation about the future and the suitability about the future building.

“Due to its location, the traffic and the ongoing cost of maintenance it’s just not viable to continue,” he said.

“When COVID hit and church services were suspended in March 2020 several members of the congregation chose to gather in home groups.

“After the Lockdowns it was decided by a group of them, that they did not need the building and they were going to start their own faith community.

“Subsequently the small number of elderly people left were unable to maintain the property or services, so they petitioned the presbytery to ask that they close that congregation.”

Rev Hardingham said the building had not been used since the COVID shutdown last year.

“The building is owned by the Queensland Uniting Church Property Trust," he said.

“The plan at this moment is probably to look at selling the land and the building.

"What we want to do is use the funds to build a new property in Mareeba and to re-establish a congregation.

"The Uniting church is not leaving Mareeba, It's just about the viability of the property."

Some locals were upset about the possible sale of the Church with Tonina Cleland posting on social media.

“I don’t go to church, I'm not a parishioner in the Uniting Church, but I do appreciate the importance of preserving a building with such an identity known widely for its architectural significance,” she wrote.

“This Church is a beautiful example of Eddie Oribins work.”

“Our main Street is screaming out for some architectural design influence and now we're about to have a rare gem by a world renowned architect bulldozed.”

Edwin Henry Oribin was an Australian architect who practised in Cairns. A number of his works are now heritage-listed, and he was known worldwide for his trademark cantilever angled designs.

Mr Oribin's significant contribution to Queensland architecture was recognised by the Queensland Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 2000, when the new "Building of the Year" award for the Far North Region was named in his honour.

While some residents have expressed concerns about the future of the church Mareeba shire council Mayor Angela Toppin released a statement that said. “Council has no plans or intention to resume the land for the roundabout and any future works would be conducted within the current road reserve. “

“Council is aware that the Uniting Church has indicated that the last service was this weekend (passed) and Council has no further information regarding the future intentions of the Church.”


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