In the Beginning ...
The Church of Christ in Cheltenham had its origin in two beginnings: one in the northern end of the district and one further south. On his arrival from Scotland, James Keir commenced a communion service in his home on the Nepean Road. The meeting alternated between the Keir home and the home of Thomas Walker, who had come from Chester, England, the area around their home becoming known as Chesterville. By 1859 the group-which included such other names as Allen, Brough, Cameron, Fairlam, Holdsworth, Le Page, Meeres, Monk, Organ, Penny, Perry, Potts, Sears and King-had built a small chapel near the corner of Wickham and Chesterville Roads. During 1858, a group had also begun meeting in the Charman family home on the corner of Charman and Balcombe Roads. Names associated with this group included Bodley, Charman, Fisher, Hayes, Hilliar, Judd, Moysey and Ruse. In 1860 they built a chapel on the corner of Charman Road and Patty Street. It was enlarged in 1866 and it became the meeting place of the two groups when they came together around 1870.
Five years later the church was ready to expand further. Feeling a little removed from the centre of the district, they began meeting in the Mechanics' Institute (Nepean Road) on Sunday evenings. They were able to buy land near the corner of Chesterville and Nepean Roads, and erected a new brick chapel on the site in 1878. This chapel, of course, continues to be an integral part of the life of Southern and was one of the three worship venues for the 150th Anniversary celebration in 2007. The official opening of the chapel on 8th December 1878 was reported as "the largest religious service ever held in Cheltenham". On Monday 9th December 1878 over 500 people attended a dinner at the Mechanics' Institute which was followed by a public meeting in the new chapel. The chapel opening also marked the commencement of the ministry of Mr. G.B. Moysey.
As the Church continued to grow, so various improvements and additions were made to the buildings. The Pine Street Hall (as it has become known) was built for the Bible School in 1902. The foundation stone was laid by Mrs Tuck, wife of R.W. Tuck who served in leadership of the Sunday School and Church for over forty years. The ‘E.T. Penny Memorial Hall' was erected for the kindergarten in 1920. The front of the chapel was remodeled in 1956 in time for the centenary celebrations. Another hall for the children's ministry was built in 1958, and the Ray Barnett Christian Education Centre was opened on 29th April 1962. Significantly, this auditorium was incorporated into the building of the new complex in 1997 and was the third of the venues used for the 150th Anniversary celebration. In 1967 a Carillon was installed in the church tower in memory of Mr Fred Deane. The section housing the V.C. Stafford Library (now used to house the church archives) was added in 1968 to link the chapel with the Pine Street Hall.
The 1970's and 1980's, with people such as Rev. Dr. Gordon Moyes and Rev. Gerald Rose as Senior Ministers, saw significant growth in the life and mission of the church. This development was significantly supplemented by the amalgamation of the Cheltenham, East Bentleigh and Hampton Street Churches of Christ in 1993, and a comprehensive new facility was designed and built to accommodate the ever-increasing activity of the amalgamated church. It was opened on 30th November 1997.
Our Community Heritage ...
From its very earliest days, the church has been prominent in the local community. The names Moysey, Brough, Le Page and Charman are not associated with the history of the church alone, but of the whole community. Significant church initiatives have included the establishment of Chesterville Retirement Village in 1976 (with Pine Lodge and ‘Stage 2' added in 1978), which the church managed on behalf of Chesterville Nominees until 2003 when the church became owner/manager of the entire complex. In March 2016, the Village was sold to Churches of Christ Care (Qld) to enable appropriate resourcing and development for the future.
The church initiated a range of community education programs from the 1970's: the School for Continuing Education became Cheltenham Leisure and Learning in 1978 and was incorporated into Bayside Learning in 1979. In 1986 the Cheltenham Neighbourhood House opened in the Red Brick House on the corner of Chesterville Rd and Pine St, changing its name to Cheltenham Community Education and Activity Centre when it moved into the new facilities in 1997, and then to Cheltenham Community Centre in 2008. Today, CCC is a very busy Neighbourhood House, incorporating Child Care, Literacy Education (including ESL), Computer and Lifeskills classes.
Southway Counselling Centre commenced in 1997, offering the community high quality counselling at low cost. Celebrating 20 years of service provision in 2017, Southway has plans for further expansion in the near future. Mary Dewberry has been Southway Director for all those 20 years.
The LifeStreams Spirituality Centre began under the ministry of Jenny Georgiadis in 1999 and is an exciting venture that seeks to make resources in wholeness and wellbeing accessible to the community. 2017 will see a significant development in the provision of Spiritual Direction at LifeStreams.
The Pastoral Care ministry of the church has always been extended into the wider community. Since the early 1970's pastoral care and worship services have been provided at the Kingston Centre, and today the pastoral care team takes worship and communion to other ‘external' sites including Chesterville Retirement Centre and Cheltenham Manor.
For more information on the history of Southern Community Church of Christ, download our booklet here.