First published August 16

The story begins in 1947 … things were beginning to move on the eastern shore and a group of dedicated Anglicans got together and decided that, as there was a growing number of young families in the area, a church was called for, the nearest one being St Aidans Lindisfarne.

With very poor public transport available it was agreed that an attempt be made to establish a local church. Firstly an old army musset hut was used near the school but this was less than satisfactory so at a meeting of interested people it was decided to try some money-making activities with the ultimate aim of having their own proper church (not a grand structure but one they could call their own).

After many concerts, sales and raffles they had enough money to start looking for some land. Luckily the Congregational Church at 10 Loinah Rd had decided to relocate and they very generously offered their church to the Anglican residents.

This offer was taken up and after much work was eventually paid for completely. Management committees were set up for the management of the church and an agreement arranged with the rector from St Aidans to provide a Sunday service. Eventually the Rector sat in on management committee meetings and formal minutes taken with positions of treasurer, secretary etc.

They managed to accumulate quite a healthy account entrusted to the Diocesan Trust. As the block, the church was built on, was quite large it was decided to subdivide. An agreement was reached with a local developer who built two units on the rear portion, part of the deal was that the developer would provide a new toilet block and fencing.

This put St James in a very healthy financial position, also one of the long-term church members had passed away and left a generous bequest to the church. All up, using the reserve bank’s calculation tables, in today`s values the money was in the area of $100,000. Unfortunately for St James the financial position at St Aidans was rather bad and without the consent of any of the committee or indeed the treasurer, somehow the money was removed from the control of St James and has effectively disappeared.

Since then St James has been the poor cousin of St Aidans with the entire collection going to St Aidans and very little being returned despite parishioner numbers steadily increasing.

We are now faced with the threat of losing the church as well, with the Bishop stopping services ( for a perceived insult ) which in effect allows him to sell without going through normal procedure because the church is “not being used”.

It also has to be kept in mind that the sale of St James was in the planning of the St Aidans Rector (and probably the Bishops) for some time before “redress” was even mentioned. It was apparently planned to use the funds from the sale to reinvigorate St Aidans for a planned change over to “contemporary evangelism”. This move has had the effect of losing a large number of elderly parishioners who were the main financial base of the church.

End result is Montagu Bay parishioners are going to lose both their church (which the Diocese did not contribute anything towards) and the large amount of money they previously had .

*Peter Fleming is 80 years-old; my wife and I have lived In Montagu Bay for over 50 years and been members of St James and St Aidans for about 45 years. We have seen Rectors and Bishops come and go and many churches in Tasmania have been closed in our time sometimes; justified by lack of use .The current situation is different in that the church closures have all the hallmarks of forcing parishioners into larger hubs – the Bishop’s term – so they can be subject to planting and takeover by evangelical interests – the Bishop’s forte. Also what will happen to any money the churches have accumulated? The country people may not attend church on a regular basis but you can be sure that if there is a funeral or marriage the local church will be full. Cattle and sheep don`t have a six day week.

Examiner: Upper house votes to back community in church sale debate