Flood forces Murwillumbah's only Baptist church to close
THE March flood has claimed yet another victim, with Murwillumbah's only Baptist Church forced to shut its doors tomorrow just two years out from celebrating its centenary.
Established in 1919 by Baptist evangelist Reverend J.H. Baker, the church was previously forced to move from their original premises in Brisbane St, after the 1954 flood wiped out its building just as elders sat down to discuss its planned extensions.
The church moved to its current site in Eveleigh St to continue its services after the first flood but suffered dwindling patronage in recent years.
Member of 24-years, Jennie Parratt, said the March 2017 floods decimated the church in its entirety.
"It came to a point we couldn't afford to keep the minister on, then we had the flood, and it just finished everything,” she said.
"The flood flushed right through the bottom of the church and that was used as our outreach into the town.”
From there, the church ran the Tumbletown play centre, a playgroup, a Sunday school, and Golden Fellowship for the elderly.
"The flood just devastated that and we thought we can either fold or go and try to rebuild again,” Ms Parratt said.
"All the members were very elderly and with no minister, it was all too hard.”
Over the last decade Andrew Brown led the congregation while completing a PhD in theology and he was followed by minister Phillip Gibbs. The "heart and soul” of the church are former Sydney minister John Giles, 87, and his wife Gwen, 78, who retired at Murwillumbah in 2004.
"People were fed through into the church but not really enough to resurrect the day in this crisis period,” Rev Giles said.
When Mrs Giles retired earlier this year she hoped for a new face to take over Tumbletown but that never eventuated.
"Tumbletown was run by volunteers, some in their 80s, who loved the children as though they were their own,' Mrs Giles said.
The Murwillumbah Baptist Church will be remembered for its strong fellowship and caring atmosphere, Rev Giles said.
"A lot of visitors said it was like coming into a new family,” he said.
"It's all a little bit sad to be experiencing this, especially so late in our lives.”
The church will be leased and remaining followers will join the thriving Tweed Hub or Cabarita churches.
However for some, the trip would be too far, Rev Giles said.
The last church service will be held tomorrow at 2pm followed by afternoon tea. All welcome.