It was way back in July 1872, when a report came to the Presbytery of Castlemaine concerning Presbyterian worship in Sandhurst. The first Presbyterian Church in Bendigo (Snow St Andrew’s Uniting Church) had been established in 1854, and so this report, which came 18 years later, stated that worship services would still be well attended if a second Presbyterian Charge was established in Sandhurst. The Presbytery then resolved to apply to the Home Mission Committee for a grant not exceeding twenty pounds to meet the expense of such services as may be necessary to test the practicability of establishing that second Charge.
And so, in September 1872, Messrs. McIntyre, Rae, Purcell, Browne and Small appeared as a deputation relative to the establishment of this Charge. Curiously, Messrs. McIntyre, Rae, Browne and Small all shared the first name John! They stated that services had been conducted for several Sabbaths, that they had been well attended and that the collections obtained at them had been liberal, and they submitted a Memorial signed by 104 members and adherents who expressed their desire to be recognised as a Congregation. The Presbytery then agreed that the Prayer of the Memorial be granted and that in accordance with a suggestion made by the deputation, the new Charge should be known as the Congregation of St John’s.
150 years later, on September 11th, 2022, the St John’s congregation marked the occasion with a service of celebration. Greetings came via video from Rev Peter Barnes (Moderator general) and our own missionaries C and N from South East Asia. The guest preacher for the occasion was Rev Peter Phillips (PCV Moderator) who is both a ‘Bendigo boy’ and a current Bendigo resident! Peter preached a message on the theme chosen by the Session for our 150th year, ‘God’s Word for God’s World’. A further highlight of the service was the offering of prayers of thanksgiving for the past and petitions for the future which had been contributed by members of the Church family – both young and old. The congregation then gathered in the hall to enjoyed morning tea complete with the cutting of the 150th cake!
The history of the St John’s congregation makes for interesting reading with every kind of event you could imagine that might affect the life of a church – a split, a fire, a reunion, numerous places of worship, voting to join the Uniting church and then re-forming and buying back its ‘own building…! But through it all, the current congregation knows that “The Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5) “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12). While we thank Him for the past, we look forward to what He will do through us and for us in the next chapter of this congregation – which is still being written. Thanks be to Him!
Rev Philip Burns
PS If you would like to read more about history of St John’s you can do so at this link.