An Historic Overview
by Alan Pickford

Methodism in Bowral

Local history records that the arrival of the first resident members of the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist churches coincided with the establishment of the township of Bowral in 1863. Primitive Methodism, a branch of Wesleyan Methodism, was started in England in 1811 by evangelical enthusiasts Hugh Bourne and William Clowes.

Original Wesleyan Methodist church-1864 (Click on photo for larger image)Original Wesleyan Methodist church-1864 (Click on photo for larger image)on photo for larger image)
The Primitive Methodists conducted their mission and outreach from a site on Bong Bong Street, on which part of Springett’s Arcade is now located. The first church was a converted store, originally owned by a Mr. Terry. The second church , a weatherboard structure built on an adjoining block, was opened on 20 December 1885. It was in regular use until after union with the Wesleyans in 1902. The final service in this building was held on 1 November 1903. Benjamin Short was the preacher for the occasion. In 1905 the church building was moved forward to the building line and, for a time, became the office of The Four Mails newspaper, the forerunner to the Southern Highlands News.

The 1st Bowral Methodist Church building shown on the grounds of Annesley Girls School (click on photo for a larger image)

The 1st Wesleyan Methodist Church building shown on the grounds of Annesley Girls School (click on photo for a larger image)

Wesleyan Methodist Church

The formal ministry and mission of the Wesleyan Methodist Church first was conducted from meeting places on the western side of Bendooley Street, opposite the present day Uniting Church Centre (former parsonage – 1884) on a site currently occupied by Oxley Mall. The first church, (pictured above and right) was built in 1864. This building was replaced in 1881 by a new church (photo below), and the original building was moved to Annesley Girls School on Wentworth Avenue in 1925. A Sunday School was added in 1891, and these building served until the present church building was added in 1926. Further buildings and amenities were added over time to make the complex what it is today, a vibrant worship and community centre.

2nd Wesleyan Church – 1881 (Click on photo for larger image)

2nd Wesleyan Church – 1881 (Click on photo for larger image)

Union between the Bowral Wesleyans and the Bowral Primitive Methodists dated from 1 January 1902, the date on which the Methodist Church of Australasia was constituted.

Methodist Circuit Affiliations

Bowral congregation was originally included in the Berrima Circuit, formed in 1864; renamed Nattai in 1872; renamed Mittagong in 1876; and finally renamed Bowral in 1888 when, by division, the Robertson Circuit was formed. At union, Bowral Wesleyan and Bowral Primitive circuits were amalgamated in 1902. In 1915 the Bowral Circuit was divided again to form the Moss Vale Circuit.

Interior, 2nd Wesleyan Church (click on photo for a larger image

Interior, 2nd Wesleyan Church (click on photo for a larger image

Congregations associated with Bowral at various times were Kangaloon (1864-1888), Mittagong (1864- ) and Moss Vale ( – 1915). In 1975 Kangaloon was again connected to Bowral. This arrangement resulted in one ordained minister serving a pastorate of three congregations; namely, Bowral, Kangaloon and Mittagong.

The Uniting Era

Bowral, Kangaloon and Mittagong were among the many founding congregations to form the Uniting Church in Australia on 22 June 1977. Most Presbyterian and Congregational churches also joined this union.

Bowral Methodist Church – 1926 (Click on photo for a larger image)

Bowral Methodist Church – 1926 (Click on photo for a larger image)

For administrative purposes, the congregations of Bowral, Kangaloon and Mittagong were placed under the oversight of the Illawarra Presbytery, whose area mainly centres on the south coast region.

On 1 November 2000, with the approval of the Presbytery, Mittagong separated from the Bowral and Kangaloon congregations, and became an autonomous congregation. It was also decided that Kangaloon would be designated as a “preaching place” in the combined Bowral/Kangaloon congregation.

1926 interior of the current church building (click on photo for a larger image)

1926 interior of the current church building (click on photo for a larger image)

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