…the congregations, were at times, too large for the house, and the services had then to be conducted in the open-air, and the friends resolved to build a chapel…
‘The first public religious service held in Arthurs Creek’ was arranged by John Ryder, and George Gilbert of Eltham. Gilbert, who was a Primitive Methodist, brought another preacher with him, and together they conducted a service under a tree on the flat near John Ryder’s dwelling. Arrangements were made by Gilbert to hold services regularly.
‘For over two years preaching services were held in a barn and house belonging to Mrs. (Christina) McDonald’, later to become Mrs. Stewart. ‘The congregations, were at times, too large for the house, and the services had then to be conducted in the open-air, and the friends resolved to build a chapel. Messrs Robert Airey, Comer, Mann, Ryder, William Reid, and Murphy took a prominent part in this…’
Robert Airey and John Ryder each offered to donate a block of land. Mr. Ryder’s offer was accepted ‘as being the most central and convenient.’ The block of about 1 acre was cleared by the bachelor friends. Eight church trustees were appointed―Messrs. Airey, Thomas Walke, Thomas Murphy, J. Ryder, William Murphy, A.T. Glasson, James Mann and George Gilbert.
The contract to build the chapel was let to Cornelius Stewart ‘who, with the help of the local voluntary workers, completed it in time to be opened for Divine worship on Sunday, the 30th of November, 1873.’ (The first marriage to be celebrated in the new Church was the wedding of Cornelius Stewart to Christina McDonald on 12 October 1874.)
The Arthurs Creek church was originally part of the Heidelberg Primitive Methodist Mission Station, which in 1879 become the Nillumbik Mission Station. Primitive Methodism, founded in England in 1811, began ‘as an attempt to restore the Methodist Revival begun under the ministry of John Wesley. Primitive Methodists in Victoria continued as a separate sect until the Methodist Union of 1902.
Heidelberg Mission Preaching Places in 1873 included Heidelberg, Eltham, Diamond Creek, Nillumbik, Arthurs Creek, Linton (Mann’s), Bulleen and Rosedale. The Arthurs Creek church was well supported by the early settlers and brought together a number of different groups in the local community.
‘The three services on the opening Sunday were conducted by the Rev. A.T. Glasson, Mrs. Ryder leading the congregational singing. The congregations were large, and in the afternoon, many were unable to get into the church, although some had come a distance of 12 or 13 miles’. On Tuesday 2 December a public tea was provided in the church. After the tea a public meeting was commenced by the Rev. A.T. Glasson giving out the 708th Hymn. ‘The friends by doing so much work themselves’, together with the financial result of services and donations, enabled the church to be ‘opened entirely fee of debt’. The Rev. Glasson, in his report of the opening, stated that ‘Arthurs Creek is a thoroughly rural district, and the people have warm hearts, hence this grand result’.
The first members of the church were Robert Airey, who died at age 59 on 24 October 1874 after fracturing his right leg, and Mr. and Mrs. James Mann. At this time services were ‘also being held at East Linton in a house belonging to Mr. James Mann’.
Robert Airey was appointed the first Sunday School Superintendent. He was followed by Mr. Thompson, of Back Creek (Cottle’s Bridge), Mrs. Dugald Taylor, Mr. (Cornelius) Stewart and, in July 1886, Mr. Hugh Macmillan.
In 1888, Mr. and Mrs. Comer subscribed 10 pounds toward the purchase of an organ. The first organist was Miss Bel Williams, daughter of the head teacher at the Arthurs Creek school who in 1889 became Mrs. William Plenty Draper.
Trustees of the church registered in 1906, were Messrs. Joseph Murphy, Mann, James Ward, Hicks, Hempel and J. McDonald.
In 1917, an Honour Board, donated by the ‘capable undertaker’ Mr. Apps, was unveiled to record the names of parishioners of the church who served in World War I. Of the 28 men who enlisted, seven were killed in action. The Honour Roll also includes the names of 12 men who served in World War II.
An entrance porch was added to the church in 1899. During the Golden Jubilee year in 1923, a vestry was built at the rear of the church.
In September 1936, a tea meeting and reunion of past scholars of Mr. Hugh Macmillan, was held in the public hall to celebrate his 50 years of faithful service as Sunday School Superintendent. The tea was followed by a concert given by the Ivanhoe Methodist Church Choir. A brass plaque to mark the Jubilee was unveiled during the Sunday afternoon service held in the church.
To mark the 80th anniversary of the church, the trustees spent about 150 pounds to renovate the building and erect a set of memorial gates―‘Erected in Memory of the Pioneers of this Church 1873-1953’. The original church cost 60 pounds to build.
A ‘new’ Sunday School hall, positioned at the rear of the existing church building, was dedicated during a service to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the church on 3 November 1963. The Sunday School was the former Nillumbik Methodist Church building, first erected near the bridge at Diamond Creek in 1871.
A Centenary Service was held in the church on Sunday 28 October 1973, to celebrate ‘a century of Methodist witness in Arthurs Creek’. Some 150 visitors participated in a week-end of celebrations held under the Chairmanship of Mr. Ken Macmillan.
In August 1975 a meeting of Leaders and of the congregation, voted unanimously for the Arthurs Creek church to ‘become part of the Mernda-Whittlesea Parish within the Uniting Church at the time of union’. (1977). In the late 1990s, alterations were made to the interior layout to provide more space for the congregation. At this time Jim Barr, an Elder of the neighbouring Hazel Glen church, crafted a fine red gum communion table and lectern for the church.
Following a decline in church attendance, the congregation at Arthurs Creek voted to amalgamate with the Whittlesea congregation.
Source : Based on report of trustees prepared for the Church’s Golden Jubilee in 1923.