Prior to 1978, the area now known as St Clair - Erskine Park was rural land within the boundaries of the Parish of St Marys with the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Great Western Highway at St Marys. In 1978 the Lands Commission of the NSW Government began to develop and sell blocks of land in what is now known as St Clair. This was followed by the release of land in Erskine Park forming two new suburbs within the St Marys Parish.
A plan for the future
In 1979 the first houses were built at St Clair. By 1980, four families from St Clair attended church at St Marys and had established the first home group in the St Clair area. Three of these began to have discussions together with the ministry group at St Marys to formulate a plan to bring the gospel to St Clair and establish an Anglican presence on the estate.
A 10 year plan for the area entitled the "St Clair Plan" was finalised and circulated in March of 1981. In September of that year John Saddington, curate of the St Marys church, relocated to a rented house in St Clair. As yet all formal services were held at St Mary Magdalene church.
During 1982-3, six adjoining blocks of land were purchased on the current church site in St Clair. This purchase was only possible because the St Marys parish sold the curate's house in St Marys and a block of land in Erskine Park.
Building a presence
Building of the current Minister's house in St Clair then commenced with much of the work done by members of the parish. The Venerable Walter Newmarch dedicated the building for Christian ministry on the 25th September 1983. John and Maggie Saddington with their family were the first to live in the new building. Regular weekly services started on the 23rd of October 1983. A combined service was held at St Mary Magdalene once per month. Before other Sundays, John and Maggie packed away the entire contents of their living room, including furniture, and set up for the Sunday service. Then after the service, they could restore their living room. A tent was set up for Sunday School. During 1983 it was suggested that the proposed church should be called "The Anglican Church of the Risen Christ".
During 1984 the building up of the housechurch went on. By March, 36 people were meeting in the housechurch. The combined services with St Mary Magdalene were reduced to quarterly. Three wardens were appointed from St Clair to the St Marys parish council. During this year the building of the current garage was made possible due to donations, and this building was used for the Sunday School.
During this period, St Matthews at West Pennant Hills gave financial support towards the salary of John Saddington. On the 17th of October 1985, approval was given by Vision for Growth to provide a grant of $200,000 and also a non-interest load of $75,000 to construct the church building in St Clair. Vision for Growth was set up by the Sydney Diocese to raise and distribute money for church planting in new suburbs.
Ten years later, due to on-going financial problems at St Clair, the Sydney Diocese wrote off the remaining portion of the Vision for Growth loan. The Wardens at the time wrote "We are keen not to presume upon others generosity - so we intend, as we are able, to be a parish that returns to others the generosity extended to us."
Due to the larger scale of the building, work such as foundations, steel framework and brickwork was done by a builder. Still much of the work was carried out by the church members including all of the electrical installation.
On completion, Archbishop Robinson opened the church building on the 7th of December 1986. From that day onwards, regular church service has been held here.
Becoming a Parish
By 1988, thoughts had turned to becoming a separate parish of our own. A letter from the St Clair wardens to the Archbishop in August proposed that St Clair be made a provisional parish. The following reasons were given for the change:-
- The number of members with links to St Mary Magdalene was now minimal and the freeway resulted in a sharp division of St Clair from St Marys.
- If St Clair were a parish, a minister would be at St Clair for a longer period than a curate, giving greater stability.
- It would allow St Marys to use its limited resources on its historical area.
- It was considered that St Clair would be financially viable.
At the end of 1988 John Saddington moved to be the Minister at Avalon and Wayne Presbury was appointed Assistant Minister of St Marys with special responsibility for St Clair. The church was informed in October that the Synod had approved that St Clair should be made a provisional parish operative from the 1st November 1989. Wayne Presbury was appointed curate-in-charge of the newly formed Provisional Parish of St Clair.
Up to the present
Since 1988, the church has gone on with its highs and lows. In May 1997 Stephen Hooper replaced Wayne Presbury as Minister. For most of the period since 1989, an assistant minister has worked alongside the minister. This was made possible by an annual grant, first from the Home Missionary Society and then from the Western Regional Council. The Assistant Ministers over the years have been Barry Costello, Denise Nicholls, and Richard Heape. However, by the end of 1999, the Western Regional Council felt that they could no longer continue the grant at the same level and so, in 2000, Scott and Debbie Tarrant were appointed as Student Ministers to work on Sundays only. They were the first of a series of student ministers. However since the end of 2013, financial shortfalls, have resulted in the minister being the only paid member.
While the church was still meeting in the minister's home, Peter and Terry Blowes became our CMS link Missionaries. We have been supporting them throughout their entire ministry in Argentina.
In 2006, Stephen Hooper was replaced by Gary Haddon as minister. With Gary and his wife Julie, the church saw seven years of great growth. Julie was very involved in the launching of the Junior Jivers ministry which is a great outreach to the non Christian mothers of the area. It was a time of great sadness when the Haddon family bid farewell in January 2013. But there was happiness as well to see them go and fulfil a lifelong term serving in Chile.
The current minister, Scott Blackwell with his wife Debbie started to serve at St Clair in May 2013. During his time here, Scott has assisted with the planting of a Sri Lankan congregation, now being categorised as an International Service which meets on the second Saturday of every month at 6:00pm.
As a footnote, which Minister was in such a hurry, he put out buttered bread for the Lord's Supper? I'm not telling.
Colin Smith. May 2015.