The little church kept alive by community love
AS WE approach Easter, there can be few better places to celebrate God's gifts than the beautiful Yarramalong Valley.
Resident Cynthia Tomkins said St Barnabas Church, the oldest in Wyong Shire, is at the community's heart.
"It's a mixture of history and community and it brings the community together. We love our little church," Cynthia said.
"We have 17 weddings booked for this year. My grandson was married there in January and the photos are absolutely beautiful. It's lovely to see the old church there in the background."
Yarramalong means place of cedars and was permanently settled in 1856 by the families of William Stinson and Ezekiel Waters.
Set on the outskirts of the village, St Barnabas was built by community volunteers under the supervision of James Bailey, and opened in December 1885.
Cynthia said the little wooden church served the community well for 92 years but in March 1977 what was then believed to be the last service was held, the church deconsecrated, and the congregation moved to Wyong.
But this little church, which holds just 60 people, was not going to die.
Realising the church's historical significance, Wyong Shire Council acquired the building and land in 1978 and the NSW Heritage Council placed a permanent conservation order on it.
A local 355 committee was given charge of the church's care and, due to public demand, services have resumed over recent years, with Catholic services on the first Sunday of each month (11.15am) and an ecumenical service on the third Sunday (11am). Special services are held on Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve for all denominations, often filling the little church to capacity.
"We have people drive quite a distance to attend," Cynthia said. "Some people go for a drive, attend mass and then go on to lunch in our beautiful valley."
Others, including the grave society, are fascinated by the historic cemetery, with the oldest grave dating back to William Beaven, of Brush Creek, in 1887.
"It's just a wonderful community here," Cynthia said of Yarramalong. "People work really well together and there's a lot going on."
The community also looks after the Wyong Creek Hall, built by residents in 1914, and its old school last year become Darkinjung Barker College, a primary school which is achieving amazing results for young indigenous children.
To find out more, go to yarramalongvalley.com.au.