St John's Soldiers Hill 150 Mon 19th of Jan.

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Aside from the Diocese of Melbourne, the first Anglican Diocese in the State of Victoria, was that of Ballarat. Due to the discovery of Gold, many came to Ballarat, adding vast numbers to the population. As the population expanded, the need for a church also increased.

A meeting was held at the Olive Branch Hotel around 1861, to discuss the building of a church at Soldiers Hill. The first church services were held in a tent and later in a bar-room. Plans were made for a brick building. The official opening service of the new church was held on 19 February 1865.

In 1870 the building had to be enlarged and the sanctuary and chancel were added. The Fincham and Hobday organ was installed in 1891, it is also classified by the National Trust.

One of the most beautiful features of the church would have to be the colourful stained glass windows, including an early stained glass window by the Melbourne firm Brooks, Robinson (1885).

The pulpit is made of Omaru stone with Belgium rouge marble columns, dedicated in 1899.

The church also played an important role in WW1, with the Reverend (Captain) Joseph Best, chaplain to the 39th Battalion, left for the war front in 1916. His letters were published in the parish papers at the time. Whilst at the Western Front in France he was gassed but survived and returned to Australia in 1919.The St. John's Memorial Hall was dedicated in 1918 in memory of the St. John's boys who fought in WW1. St. John's also has an extensive Roll of Honor board.

In 1922 the lynch gate, out the front of the church, was gifted by Mrs Buckley of London (Family of the Buckley & Nunn Firm) in memory of her parents. The English designed gate, included a seat and the inscription: ‘There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God'.

There is much history contained in this church, which celebrates its 150th, perhaps come and have a look for yourself, or join the congregation in their celebration, with a series of special events:

  • Thursday 19 February - a Thanksgiving Service at 7.30pm.
  • Friday 20 February - an all-day display of the church's archive from 10 am until 4pm, followed by a wine-tasting evening with Michael Unwin Wines at 7.30pm at the Parish Centre. $10 per person.
  • Saturday 21 February - 2.30pm a special concert in St. John's (gold coin donation). Dinner at the Barkly's Restaurant at 6.30pm, $35 per person. Limited seating so please book early.
  • Sunday 22 February - Solemn Mass at 9.30am. Preacher and celebrant the Bishop of Ballarat, The Right Reverend Garry Weatherill. Mass followed by a light luncheon at the Parish Centre.

For more information or bookings please call the Anglican Parish of St. John's Soldiers Hill on (03) 53324723

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