Bushley Uniting Church Closure

The heavens opened on Sunday, 5 December, as community members past and present said goodbye to the Bushley Church.

At least 75 people attended the rural district’s last service, which included a closing ceremony and carol service. Guests included past members of the church and their relatives as well as former pastor Dorothy Demack, past minister Rev Scott Ballment, former regional leader Rev Brian Gilbert and Rev Andrew Gunton, moderator of the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod, who was also one of the ministers of the Bushley church.

Rev Andrew Gillies from Rockhampton South Uniting Churches said while the ceremony was interrupted by a storm, forcing guests to shelter inside, it only added to the atmosphere of the night.

‚ÄúThis event marks the end of an era. In the Bushley district there was never a pub or a school but for more than 100 years there was a church and before it a hall.”

Rev Gillies said while it was unfortunate to see the church close after so long, lack of attendance meant the decision had to be made.

“Bushley used to be a dairy farming area and was much more closely settled. And 100 years ago when they first started worshipping there about 50 per cent of the population went to church, compared to about 10 per cent these days and even then not every Sunday,” he said.

“Up until Covid we held a weekly service there and were still getting about half a dozen or so people, but since Covid most of the people who were physically able to go to church on a regular basis have moved into town.

“They’re of that generation where they’ve well and truly retired.”
Rev Gillies said some guests had come from as far as the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

“A few people were a bit sad about everything coming to an end but people seemed to enjoy the night,” he said.

The history of worship in the area dates back to the 19th century. In 1864 Rev. Robert Hartley arrived in Rockhampton to expand the work of the Methodist Church but it wasn’t until after 1868 that he went west and established a church at Stanwell and Westwood, with the first worship services held at Bushley in 1875 at the home of Mr and Mrs Isaac Coombs.

The Coombs later donated the land for a community hall, which was erected at about the turn of the century, with worship continuing there until the brick church was opened in 1959. Although it’s been rebuilt, the hall still stands behind the current church today.

Rev Dr Alan Morrison, the nephew of church stalwarts Mr and Mrs Tait, remembers playing the organ for the church and believes he was the organist at the opening service of the 1959 church building.

Darryl Kelly spoke about the history of the area, explaining how his mother used to bring his sisters and himself to the original church in a horse and sulky.

“One day mother nature took its course and moved upon the church with a serious thunderstorm completely destroying it,” he said.

“Senior members of the church congregation decided the church must be rebuilt. Bill Tait worked at the local brickworks and a decision was made to determine if the new church could be constructed from brick.”

The bricks used to build the current church were made on the weekends at the Kalapa Brickworks by members of the congregation, with Darryl one of the last surviving brickmakers.

“The church was officially opened on 13 December, 1959. Today is the 5th, which makes the life of this church 62 years, less eight days. Quite remarkable.”

MATTHEW PEARCE
Journalist, CQ Today
Used with permission