Darlington United Church
The area which is now Darlington was originally part of George Smith's grazing lease, and early explorers passed through while opening up the land around Newcastle (Toodyay) and York. Timber felling was carried out on a large scaIe, and the railway line came through in 1884. Dr WayIen of Guildford recognised the areas potential for vineyards, so before the end of last century Darlington had orchards, vineyards, a few settlers and a reputation as a favourite picnic spot.
LeithdaIe House was built in the I890's, and it is known that Congregational services were held there before 1912. However, as no services were being held on the north side of the raiIway Iine and as many residents found it too far to journey to LeithdaIe House, Presbyterian services were commenced at Mr Simpson's home in July 1912 in the presence of a "splendid congregation" - and fortnightly services continued.
It is uncertain when the Methodist congregation began meeting or where they met initially. For a time, they held services in the Village Hall.
In 1914 a block of land was purchased by the Presbyterians for Twenty four Pounds, at the Hillsden Iand sale, spIendidly situated on a corner block facing HiIIsden road. Later the block was sold and the present site was purchased for eighty-five Pounds.
For some years, however, services continued to be held in private homes. A Congregational Church was built in Amherst Road in 1913 (but transferred to Bencubbin in 1951). The Minutes of the Presbyterian Church for April 1914 referred to a decision to bring the two church committees -Congregational and Presbyterian into conference for the purpose of united action on all matters. The Secretary explained that he had already been trying to do this unofficially, but his efforts had been turned down by the Congregationalists. After discussion it was decided to write to them officially, offering to convene a meeting to discuss the matter. However a reply from the Congregationalists stated that they regretted they were unable to support the movement.
In 1915, six monthly business meetings were held. In May 1915 the Secretary reported that up to date the finances of the church had not warranted opening a Bank account, but, as the present arrangements were hardly satisfactory, it was resolved that a Savings Bank account be opened in the name of the church. This decision was influenced by the need for a central place of worship. In talking of the building of a church preference was indicated for a stone church when such a building could be undertaken.
Efforts to unite the churches were still going on and members were confident that Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian folk would eventually worship together. In fact the April 1919 meeting was almost entirely devoted to the suggested union of local churches.
In the early days of the Presbyterian congregation offerings were handed over to the "South Perth, Mundaring, Darlington Mission". Later this was changed and a donation of up to One Pound per month was made to the Mission. Presumably the balance was retained to go towards the cost of the proposed building. Later on the Mission became the West Guildford, Mundaring, Darlington Mission.
A newspaper article under the heading “Presbyterian” in 1924 mentions at 3pm a service is to be held at Mr Neilson’s house by W.F. Woodcraft secretary of the YMCA National Council in Melbourne.
During the 1920’s there was much talk of a new building, in the first instance as a Sunday School hall, but later it was resolved to proceed to erect a church in wood at an approximate cost of Three Hundred and Forty-Two Pounds, in such a position as to leave sufficient space for a stone church to be built later. Rev. George Tulloch of the St. Andrews Session played an initial part in the building project. He was succeeded by Rev. Alex Crow, who took over and did a sterling job. It is interesting to read of the efforts to obtain financial aid from various sources including Presbytery. "Influential Presbyterians" were asked to give a direct contribution.
An article in the Swan Express on the Friday 20th May 1927 described the opening ceremony of the church:
“In the presence of a large gathering, which included representatives from different parts of the State, the new Presbyterian Church was opened on Saturday. The Rev. A. Crow gave a short resume of the activities of the Church, which had resulted in the erection of the building. The Right Rev. G. Tulloch (Moderator of the Assembly) was presented by the builder, with the key of the building, and he formally turned the key in the lock and opened the door. A short service followed, conducted by the Moderator, assisted by the Rev. J.R. Thrum, of Katanning and the Rev. J. Shaw of Narrogin. An interesting feature of the service was the singing of Miss D. Main and Miss R. Sampson. The company was afterwards entertained at tea by the ladies of the congregation”.
Incidentally, Mr. Crow conducted religious education at the State School in the late 1920’s.
The main building was built first and the vestry and choir alcove were added in March 1931 for Two Hundred Pounds.
The Swan Express recorded the dedication service to open these additions in Thursday 9th April 1931 as follows:
“Dedication - Special services were held in the Presbyterian Church on March 22nd to dedicate the additions just completed. The Rev. A. Crow preached in the morning and the Moderator (the Rev. W.D. Pearson) in the afternoon to large congregations. Singing by the augmented choir was a special feature of both services”.
The Methodist congregation paid six shillings and later ten shillings per service for the use of the building.
1937 shows the Presbyterian Church behind the store
By the late 1940’s new families had come to live in Darlington and the urge for a union of Christians became stronger and stronger until the inaugural meeting of the Darlington United Church was held in July 1950.
They were stirring times as the group began to draft a suitable Constitution. After the first submission, numerous counter proposals came forth and long discussions were held. Apart from the local committee members, there was the guiding “Council of Ministers” of the participating denominations who took a personal interest in the efforts and made a real contribution to the final result. All this debate took ten years. It was not until 1961 that the Inter-Church Co-operation Committee adopted the "Rules of the Darlington United Church. Mr Frederick Charles Osbourne Yeates was the Secretary at the time and Mr Bill Morgan was the President.
Several Baptist families had joined the congregation by this time and the weekly services were taken by Congregational, Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist preachers in that order each month, and a Mission or other special speaker on any fifth Sunday.
The third business meeting of the new United Church was held in 1951, there being 40 members present. Some of the family names of the 1950’s and 1960’s are still on our roll.
“Some Presbyterian attendees recalled by Joy Morgan included – Smythe, Scrymgeour, Park, Stremple, Wakelem, Skipsey, Vickers, Yeates, Camerer, Longman, Patrick, Johnston, Willoughby, Osman, Richards, Abbott, Williams, Morgan, James, Smith, Rhodes, Harris, Kilmaster”. Much earlier attendees included: Neilson, Simpson, Crowe, Maxwell, Taylor, Liddell and Hynes.”
In those years, group activities included monthly fellowship meetings and for some time evening worship once a month as well as monthly evening film services.
Good Friday film services were inaugurated on an inter-denominational basis (including Church of England). These continued until 1963 when they were terminated because numbers attending had fallen considerably.
In 1952 the church annexe was built. This is a story in itself. Mr Camerer organised the purchase and carting of the old building and the weekly busy bees for eighteen months that were necessary for the reconstruction.
The fellowship appears to have been well endowed with organists during some periods. In 1953 there were no less than four regular organists sharing duties. In those days, too, the minutes refer to an active church choir, as had been the case in the 1930’s.
There is reference in the records of the use of the church annexe by the Masonic Lodge for meetings and in 1955 by the Education Department as a temporary school classroom.
The original pews were brought from the Congregational Church. These pews were later passed to the Congregational Union for use elsewhere, when our present pews, and other furnishings, were installed in 1962.
It is interesting to note that in the early days the Ladies' Guild was paid six shillings per week for church cleaning. The support of the United Aborigines Mission was commenced in 1952 by the donation of clothes by the Ladies Guild. Support for aboriginal needs still continues.
1959 photo, courtesy of Thelma Rhodes who married here in 1959
In 1965, with the suspension of the appropriate rules, a Methodist theological student was appointed part-time minister for a period of a year. It had been pointed out that although the monthly rotation of preachers was very popular, there was a lack of continuity in preaching and a lack of youth work in the area with a drifting away of young people after passing through the Sunday School. It was not intended that the church become denominational, but that it continue to be administered by the Quarterly Members Meetings and the Church Committee. The proposal was to be reviewed annually.
During 1966, the difficulties of a part-time pastor as far as pastoral work is concerned became evident and further consideration was given to the suggestion put forward earlier by Presbytery that it might be more effective to have a tie-up with churches at Midland (Presbyterian) or Mundaring (Methodist) while still retaining the United Church identity and retaining the principle of rotation of denominations on a periodic basis.
The Midland Church came forward with a proposition (which was accepted) that for a two year period the Minister at Midland would spend a day and one evening each week in Darlington and conduct morning worship each Sunday, Darlington to pay an amount (approximating one quarter of Midland's costs) and this would enable Midland to become elevated to a Charge instead of a Home Mission Station. Darlington would retain its identity and administer its own affairs - i.e. maintain the church building and pay all incidental expenses incurred at Darlington. Midland Session would meet monthly and would include three representatives from Darlington.
The tie-up with Midland was extended for a second two-year term covering 1968-1969. During 1968 the need for a new manse became evident and at the request of the Midland Church, in order to remove uncertainty as to the future as far as Midland's planning was-concerned, the 1968-1969 term was extended to a period of ten years. This period expired in 1979.
Thus, during the 1970’s, the Church benefitted from the pattern of a more settled ministry. Reverends Gray Birch, Doug Purnell and Hallam Thorpe were able to devote time to pastoral work and were encouraged by a growth in membership, an increasing number of children, a stable committee, an emphasis upon fellowship and sound teaching. A youth group commenced in 1974 and youth work has continued to grow since then. In 1976 we agreed to work towards providing a new building, for the work amongst children and adolescents, together with more adults, meant that our facilities, even with an addition of two rooms were becoming inadequate.
At this time monthly family services in the Village Hall commenced, and the young wives group, men's teas, annual church camps and social events like tennis, cricket and picnics, provided means of outreach and nurture. In 1977 our giving to about a dozen Christian organisations was systematized as we were increasingly aware of the need to have a vision wider than the local church. However, we also agreed not to join the Uniting Church when three of the participating denominations entered union. We thus maintained a high degree of autonomy and avoided the danger of splits within the church along denominational lines, as people from many denominations were by now worshipping in the one Christian community.
New church built 1980
Plaque to commemorate the opening of the new United Church in 1980
(Rev. John Gilks was the son of the early Darlington Baker Jack Gilks)
Resulting from negotiations with the Baptist Union, we invited Tom McMath to be our pastor during his ministerial training, and from 1980 to 1983 he ministered in Darlington. During this time, a new building was opened debt-free (in December 1980) by Sir Ronald Wilson, and the growing congregation considered at length its goals and priorities. Following these discussions a structure of Ministries was commenced in 1982, with groups being responsible for nurture, evangelism, social concern, co-operation, and property. This pattern developed over years following, to include worship, visitation, training youth and small groups. Thus, instead of the ministry being monopolised by one full-time professional, the gifts of the congregation were exercised and developed. In 1982 a Family Faith Fiesta was led by Michael Lush of Scripture Union.
During 1984, Dr. Allan Chapple of the Uniting Church was our minister, and the quality of his teaching will long be remembered.
Then in 1985, Rev. Gordon Johnson, a Baptist minister from Canada, accepted the congregation's call and became the first minister to have accommodation provided in Darlington. This, together with the opening of the Church Office, proved of immense value.
Church growth continued to a point where, in 1986, two morning services were commenced and total attendances, including children at the Sunday Club, approached 200. A varied social programme, emphasis on house groups and regular evening services were means of maintaining a sense of corporateness. Steps were taken to develop our ties with the participating denominations, and the continuing quarterly joint services with the Anglicans and Roman Catholics demonstrated our unity with all believers.
We established links with a sister-church: the SUNGAI WAY-SUBANG METHODIST CHURCH in Kuala Lumpur.
Thus the church over a period of twenty years from the mid-sixties to the mid – eighties, showed sustained growth. But the ethos has altered little. A love for the Lord and His Word; a recognition of our union of Christ; an emphasis on developing the varied gifts of the congregation in the power of the Spirit, and a desire to be involved in the wider work of the Christian Church, continue to be the mark of a fellowship which is determined by God’s grace, to be orthodox in both doctrine and community. We are glad to welcome into our membership all who desire to walk and work together in the name of the Lord.
The president of the DUC: Murray Guy, notified via email that the name change for the church was approved as of 14th August 2018 to “Darlington Christian Fellowship”.
This account was done by Ian Lindsay 1986
(Use was made of early notes done by Joy Morgan; Stan and Jean Williams)