More than 150 years of frequent change and almost unbelievable natural disaster will end on April 24 with the closure of All Saints, Anglican Church, Lawrence.
All Saints, a tiny rural church, and one of the oldest of its kind in the diocese, was moved from one parish to another during its long history while parishioners watched their loved church destroyed on three occasions by huge cyclones.
This rare and painful series of events may be unique within the history of the diocese.
A “farewell service” will be held on April 24 in recognition of generations of ministry and worship at All Saints and to give thanks for the faithful service of Clarence Valley residents.
The closure of All Saints is part of a major restructuring of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton which covers are area from Port Macquarie to the Queensland border and west to Dorrigo.
Under the parish restructure, worship and ministry will be centred on Grafton Cathedral working in a network of parishes including Maclean and South Grafton.
“While church closures are matters of concern for those who worship there, closure does not mean that ministry will cease,” a diocesan spokesperson said today.
“Instead of maintaining the existing buildings for small congregations, all parishes across the Diocese will be encouraged to rethink their ministry to current members and the greater community.
“This may mean that ‘doing church’ will look different in the future than what it does now.
“Lawrence, in terms of regular congregations, is one of our smaller churches.”
A short history tells the extraordinary story of church life at Lawrence:
By 1865 Lawrence was growing at a more rapid rate than Grafton; a church was built and opened on December 8, 1868.
Only six weeks later the biggest cyclone ever to hit the town blew the church over and destroyed it.
Nine months later the church was up and running again and the Reverend Charles Curry became its first full time clergy person.
A parsonage with five rooms and a verandah was added in 1873.
More poor fortune continued when Lawrence was outgrown by neighbouring Maclean, the church fell into disrepair and the residence was sold.
In 1900 All Saints became part of a new parish, Mid Clarence, embracing Maclean, Lawrence and Brushgrove.
Three years later parishioners and local residents built another church.
More change occurred in 1974 when Lawrence became part of Maclean Parish and, five years later, history repeated itself with another cyclone striking the town and almost wrecking All Saints for a third time.
By 1980 the church had been painstakingly repaired and rededicated.
More change occurred for Lawrence Anglicans in 2012 when they found a permanent home as part of the Cathedral Parish in Grafton.
It is fair to say that generations of pioneer courage and ongoing community faith maintained a church presence in the town for 154 years and continues today.