4 July 2023
A Mount Dandenong church is celebrating 120 years as the heart of its community.
St Matthew’s Olinda councillor Peter Adams said the church was historically regarded as the centre because it reflected the village atmosphere of its small semi-rural locality.
Mr Adams said the parish surveyed the area five years ago and found that residents, the council and Parks Victoria still saw the church that way.
Villagers built St Matthew’s Olinda in 1903 after two years worshipping from a small cottage where they sat astride planks on raspberry buckets, according to historical records.
The church acquired a hall a few years later and became the social centre of the village, providing activities and community services.
But Mr Adams said attracting new people to the church was a constant challenge now because of the area’s small population, and families and youth’s interests in other pursuits.
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Those included weekend sports such as football and basketball, he said.
Mr Adams said among the ways St Matthew’s reached the community was through its weekly exercise class, and an autumn fair.
“These events bring people on to the church property and then we try to establish a relationship with them,” he said.
Mr Adams said future goals for St Matthew’s included looking at building after-school and holiday programs with the area’s schools, restarting a playgroup, and creating welcome packs about the parish for new residents.
He said the church would commemorate the milestone with a lunch on Sunday 9 July, but it would be both joyful and sad.
“It’s joyful because we’ve had 120 years, but it’s also our vicar Andrew Smith’s last day before he moves on to minister at Panton Hill,” he said.