A Short History of Christ Church, Strathalbyn
THE EARLY DAYS
On the recommendation of Robert Cook, an agricultural adviser, the original survey of the 4,000 acres which were to become the town of Strathalbyn was carried out in 1839. Soon after this, land grants began to be made, a good proportion of the earlier ones being taken up by the Scots settlers. Three of these settlers, the Rankine brothers, were considered to be the first, and it was Dr. John Rankine who gave Strathalbyn its name. Another of the original Presbyterian settlers was Edward Stirling whose son, Lancelot, was later to become one of the main forces in the growth of the Anglican church in Strathalbyn.
The Southern Australian newspaper of February 10th, 1843 reports that, before that time, “little or nothing was grown” but that there were now “herds, crops and several comfortable stone dwellings” and more “comforts and conveniences of life” in the town.
The need for the establishment of places of Christian worship was being felt because the paper also reports that the most notable of proposed buildings was a “commodious building to be erected to serve the two-fold purpose of a church and schoolroom.” It is unknown who was specifically responsible for this, if it was in fact built. The first Presbyterian Church was built in 1844, and also in the 1840’s the first Roman Catholic services were held at Long Valley. The Primitive Methodist Chapel, later to be for a few years the Anglican Parish Hall, was in use by 1859.
The first report of “Episcopalian” (Anglican) services being held, was a mention by Dean Russell at the laying of the foundation stone of Christ Church that he had taken services in Strathalbyn in 1856 in the Primitive Methodist Chapel. For some time members of the Church of England were to rely on visiting clergy from Adelaide or from Missions not far away, and the frequency of services was by no means regular until 1861 when Bishop Short reported that the monthly services were being conducted by the Rev’d. J. Fulford and the Rev’d. B.T. Craig. The Observer of December 6th, 1862 mentions these and explains that they were being held “in Mr. Bosisto’s Auction Room”. Mr. Bosisto’s rooms were used for some time, but later in the 60’s services were being held regularly in the Court House. Services it appears were held in the room below the two storey part of the Robin Hood Hotel, in the Mill Store and after 1867 in the Court House.
In 1865, the Rev’d. Henry Howitt was sent on a missionary tour of the district. He lived in Echunga, stayed until 1867, and held services at Strathalbyn “in the big room in the hotel”.
It would seem that in 1868 the Strathalbyn congregation became disorganised. However, early in 1869 the Bishop reported that “at Strathalbyn the congregation has been reorganised under Mr. C.G. Taplin, a theological student, who gives services also at Macclesfield and Echunga”. The congregation remained “organised” and Mr. Taplin remained in the Echunga Mission area until some time after he was actually ordained in December 1869.
PLANNING TO BUILD
No doubt the desire of many members of the Church of England to establish a place of worship was spurred on greatly at the generous gift by Mr. Archibald McLean of the land on which Christ Church now stands. Mr. McLean’s generosity and Christian kindness was of some stature as he was a member of the Presbyterian Church and also, it is understood, gave a second parcel of land to one of the other denominations in the town.
On Monday, August 27th, 1869, a good number of the members of the Church of England met in the Court House and thus began their “active exertion with regard to the erection of a place of worship in Strathalbyn” (Southern Argus September 4th 1869). Mr. Taplin presided and “a numerous building committee” was elected to take “the necessary steps towards an early commencement of the building upon the very eligible site.”
At the same meeting it was decided to immediately arrange an amateur entertainment evening to be held during the following month, the proceeds to go to the building fund. Amateur entertainment evenings were a regular and popular activity in the early days and over the ensuing decade or two, many were to be held to help raise money for various church projects.
The full report of that evening given in the Southern Argus of September 25th, 1869 gives a charming description of an enjoyable and varied evening’s entertainment including songs, glees, instrumental and vocal duets, humorous sketches and readings. Dr. Blue, a lay-reader, and Mr. J. Bryan were among the performers. Mr. Bryan was Strathalbyn’s brewer and three of his children were later prominent in the Christ Church choir, his daughter becoming the choir leader. Two months later a similar and equally successful concert was held at Langhorne Creek. The enthusiasm which is reflected in the accounts of these evenings continued unabated through many functions the church people initiated to help build their place of worship.
With all this going on, the people were also called upon to help maintain a minister among them since Mr. Taplin was to stay in the area after his ordination. At a Vestry meeting on Sunday December 18th 1869, the Strathalbyn congregation undertook to find 60pound for the ensuing year as their portion of the stipend. It was probably this dual goal which caused the ladies to meet early in 1870 to organise a bazaar in aid of church funds. The bazaar was in fact held over until after the foundation stone of the church was laid and realised 92pound.
On Monday January 17th a meeting, chaired by Revd. C.G. Taplin, was held in the Court House “to consider the advisability of making a speedy commencement on the proposed church.” It is obvious from the report in the Southern Argus that not all at this well-attended meeting were convinced at first that a “speedy commencement” was advisable, at least not until after they had held the bazaar. However, trust and hope won the day and the Building Committee was asked to have working plans and specifications drawn up on a plan prepared in September 1869 by Messrs. Wright, Woods & Hamilton. Mr. Taplin was to communicate with the Bishop about the necessary arrangements for the laying of the foundation stone.
It should be made clear that these first plans were not the ones finally agreed upon. Had they been used, Christ Church would be a huge building, double its present size, with a nave seating 240 persons and a magnificent tower and belfry crowned with a spire.
The date for the laying of the foundation stone was set for February 25th 1870. The foundations, as in the wisely revised plan, were put down by Mr. R.C. Trenouth, who also raised a good quantity of bluestone for the purpose of proceeding with the building.
THE FOUNDATION STONE IS LAID
Friday, February 25th 1870 was a windy and dusty day, but the large congregation and many townsfolk were undaunted and, according to the Southern Argus of March 5th, “several hundreds were present to see Lady Edith Fergusson, wife of South Australia’s Governor, lay the foundation stone.” Also present were Bishop Short, the Governor Sir Jas. Fergusson, Dean Russell, Archdeacon Marryat, the Revds. W.A. Clayfield and C.G. Taplin.
As Lady Fergusson declared the stone laid, the Bishop said “In the faith of Jesus Christ we place this foundation stone in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.” After the church choir had sung an anthem, the Bishop addressed the assembled crowd on the subject of “Spiritual Liberty”. Dean Russell also spoke. Almost 100 of the company then adjourned to the Primitive Methodist Chapel for afternoon tea. Later, at 6.30pm, there was a crowded service in the Court House at which the Bishop preached on Titis 2, v 11-13 and Baptised several young people. The collections for the day totalled 32pound 2shillings.
It is interesting to note that Christ Church has its own time capsule, because on that day a bottle was placed in a cavity under the foundation stone. It contains several coins of the Realm, copies of The Southern Argus of February 19th, the Register of the 25th, the Advertiser of the 25th and a piece of vellum on which is written a statement of what took place. It also lists the important personage present, names the Architects, Messrs. English & Rees, and records the church Trustees, Messrs. H. Ferguson, F. Miller and H. Prince.
IN THE BUILDING
Work proceeded for the building of the nave and the tender of Mr. Trenouth was accepted for the erection of the walls. It was decided to leave work on the roof in abeyance until the plans had been altered in such a way as to save a good deal of expense. Money was obviously a big problem at this stage, but the church members were still active in their efforts to finance the completion of their building and another concert was held in July. Plans were also made to hold an Art Union competition later in the year. The prizes for the latter numbered 150 and when it was eventually drawn in January 1871 it realised 80pound.
In September 1870, the tender of Mr. James Kennedy for the roof, floor, windows and doors, etc., was accepted. He was instructed to proceed with the roof at once and the other parts as soon as the money became available. The roofless church, so isolated from most of the town, must have resembled a ruin, and was probably an embarrassment to the few ardent fund raisers who had been working for the building since 1869.
It should also be noted that services began again on September 25th when the Revd. A. Honner began his association with Strathalbyn by conducting two services in the new Court House, now the main room in the National Trust Museum. Concerts and a Bazaar had been held there in Colman’s store, opposite the Mill, and at Langhorne Creek.
Among the people who worshipped at the Court House while they waited for their church to be built was Joseph Elliott, founder of the Southern Argus, Mr. Watson the Postmaster, Mr. Bryon the Brewer who was a keen singer and Francis Miller the Chemist and his mother and sister. As Mr. Bosisto the Clerk of the Council allowed services to be held in his rooms, it is possible he was also a member. From Milang came the Landseers and Dunks and from Langhorne Creek Mr. West Erskine M.P., Mr. Potts, Mr. Mansbridge, the Birretts and Cleggetts and others. Mr. Jacob from the tannery at New Hamburg was a great supporter although his wife was a Roman Catholic. Dr. Sinclair Blue had been a leader and after his death in 1865 his son William carried on the tradition on his return from Cambridge in 1868. William Blue’s sister Christina arrived in South Australia n 1858 and in her diary describes the theatricals that raised money for the church in 1869and the great bazaar.
J.L. Stirling was not living here but supported the church in its fundraising efforts, having joined the Church of England while at Cambridge.
The Southern Argus on May 9th 1871 notes that the completion of the building was fast approaching, the plastering completed and the floor about to be laid, but progress slowed. When the seats and other fittings were under construction, in late September, the Bishop was approached about the opening. Apparently the Bishop had great difficulty in rearranging his movements to be present, so it would seem he asked the people to go ahead. The indefatigable members of the Committee were at last to see the climax of all their efforts.
As the day approached, a sad note crept into the atmosphere. It was announced that Lady Fergusson was critically ill. As it happened, her funeral was held on the same day as the opening of the building of which she had laid the foundation stone.
THE OPENING OF THE CHURCH
“My house shall be called the house of prayer” – Matthew 21, v13 was the text of the Rev’d. Honner’s sermon at the opening service on the morning of Sunday, October 29th 1871. The church was crowded for both the morning and evening services. The evening service was, according to a report, “of a more mournful description” this being out of respect for the memory of Lady Fergusson. The reading desk and altar rail were draped in black and the music and hymns were “appropriate to the sad occasion.” Lay Edith’s “fine example to all true Christians” was eulogised in Mr. Honner’s address.
The church at the time had a wall straight across the east end, an altar in the centre with a simple cross and candlesticks.
At a meeting of the congregation the following evening, chaired by the Rev’d. Honner, the chairman, in supporting a hearty vote of thanks to the Building Committee said he knew of no committee that had ever worked so hard and that this was an instance of what earnest, hard-working men could do when they all pulled together. The building had cost 700pound. At the same meeting moves were made to form a Sunday School.
Mr. Honner continued to conduct services. The Bishop soon made up for not being able to be present on the opening day. He came to Christ Church on Sunday, November 12th, accompanied by Canon Dove, and again on Sunday, November 26th, when he conducted both morning and evening services, baptising five children at the latter service.
THE COMING OF THE FIRST RECTOR
Early in 1872, in his report to Synod, the Bishop said: “It is gratifying to me to be able to report the completion of a spacious church at Strathalbyn, to which the Rev’d. F. Slaney Poole was unanimously invited by the congregation. It forms the head station of a large missionary district, comprising of Wellington, Langhorne Creek and Lake Plains. I am thankful that this widely scattered agricultural district, as well as the important town of Strathalbyn, have been placed under the charge of an energetic and capable minister.” Mr. Poole, who came to Strathalbyn from Mount Gambier, was to have a stipend of 225pound per annum and it seems that he was required to find his own horse and pay house rent.
Services were now held at Strathalbyn each Sunday – this being possible with only three centres, but this must have had to be modified eventually as before the first Rector left in August 1874, he had added services at Milang, Point McLeay, Meningie and Finniss. Being the first resident priest, and having this vast area to almost “pioneer” on horseback, it is little wonder that writing some years later of his work here, he said, “It was not an unusual experience for me to Baptise whole families”.
At his first Vestry meeting it is noted that the Sunday School had 25 regular scholars and eight teachers. There was also discussion about fencing the church and making a proper approach to it, also the desirability of providing a font.
The first marriage conducted in Christ Church was celebrated on April 18th 1872 between Miss Susannah Castle of Long Valley and Mr. Emmanuel Sleep of East Wellington.
In September 1873, the furnishings and fittings in the church were completed when Mr. W.L. Marchant presented the font we see in the church today. It was carved from the best quality English bath stone by Mr. Laycock of Adelaide. The Slaney-Poole’s first son was the first child to be baptised using the new Font.
FREE OF DEBT
By the end of 1873 the various expenses involved in the completion of the building and fittings had grown to a total of 1,000pounds. The congregation were anxious to liquidate the remaining debt of 300pound, so an ambitious bazaar had been organised towards which the ladies had been working assiduously for almost a year by the time it was held in March 1874.
The rather staggering amount of 420pound was raised, more than sufficient to clear off the debt. Goods left over were worth a further 150pound and the final profit was 500pound.
SIX YEARS WITHOUT A RECTOR
The Rev’d. F. Slaney Poole was called to the incumbency of St. Paul’s, Adelaide, and left in August 1874. The initial flourish in the life of the parish was then to move to somewhat fluctuating circumstances for six years. The reasons for this are clear. At this stage there was a temporary exodus of farmers because large areas in the north and in the south-east were opening up. Productivity in the Strathalbyn area had dropped (there were no fertilizers then) so the farmers were off to greener pastures. The Southern Argus states: “The town passed through a period of depression through the exodus to the northern areas”, and this situation must have affected the church’s income so much that it was unable to support a Rector.
Many lay-readers stepped into the breach, and the Vestry Record Book shows the names of Messrs. G.M.Turnbull, F.Tothill, W.S.A.Blue, H.Ferguson, J.S.Sangster, A.W.Rogers, J.W.Elliott and T.P.Whittington as acting in this capacity. Occasionally a supply Chaplain could come from Adelaide, but clerical services were infrequent except for two years, (June 1877 – June 1879) when the Rev’d. H. Bevis, a Mission chaplain obviously resident in the area, was able to conduct services in Strathalbyn almost every Sunday.
The situation was finally alleviated in September 1880 with the coming of the Rev’d., later Archdeacon, W.J. Bussell as Rector.
GROWTH AND CONSOLIDATION
William Bussell was an old scholar of St. Peter’s College. He was a hard working dedicated priest under whose hand the church in Strathalbyn, and the parish as a whole, grew steadily and surely and during his 15 years incumbency he endeared himself to all. Perhaps the best tribute that could be paid to him is the fact that he came here from pioneering work in the South-east and went from here to open up new mission work on the River Murray for 17 more years. He travelled over a large district, like Rev’d. Poole, and services were held in the Oddfellows Hall at Langhorne Creek and in the Schoolroom and Institute at Milang. He founded the River Murray Mission with the Steamer Etona, built in Milang and called Etona because much of the funds to build it were donated by Eton College in England. Know as ‘the Floating Church’ it was the only church available to people living along the river Murray, serving the people for baptism and marriage. Many women along the river were introduced to the Mothers’ Union.
Early in 1886 the Rectory, a substantial dwelling, was built and this happened at almost the same time as the building of the church at Finniss. During the same incumbency there was also a church built at Meningie and another mission began, centred at Callington.
There were in all six assistant curates to William Bussell. Ill health forced him to take 10 months leave and go to England in May 1892, but he returned in good health and worked indefatigably until November 1895 when he took up his new mission post. While in England he was given some magnificent altar plate and the font ewer by relatives of Mr. W.L. Marchant to bring back as memorials to Mr. Marchant.
The farewell function for the Bussells was also an occasion of welcome for the new Rector, the Rev’d. Alfred Wheeler.
The new Rector was a talented musician and composer, a keen pastor with children and apparently a fairly fiery preacher. The church choir naturally flourished during his incumbency. At occasional specials festivals some of his own compositions were sung. Christ Church also had its own Cricket Club at this time.
Two improvements to the building now took place. Firstly, in March 1896 coloured glass windows replaced the clear glass of the original windows and this served to remove the atmospheric coldness. Secondly in 1897, the permanent vestry was built. This was dedicated by Archdeacon Morse on October 19th 1897.
It was inevitable that Alfred Wheeler’s musical talents would lead him further afield, and in July 1899 he resigned as Rector on being appointed Precentor and a Minor Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne.
He was succeeded two months later by the Rev’d. H.H. Whyllie whose popularity as a genial natured person and a lover of manly sports came before him to the parish. It was during his incumbency that the Apse, part of the original plan, was added to Christ Church, a gift, although anonymous at the time, from the Milne family in memory of William Bussell’s mother and his sister Miss E. Bussell. It was built by Mr. A. Caldwell of Strathalbyn and dedicated by Dean Marryat on 2nd April 1903. William Bussell himself added the brass Communion rails to the gift.
It was about this time that Mrs. Marchant gave the beautiful altar cross and candlesticks and Mr. and Mrs. H.H. Butler gave a solid silver chalice and paten.
THE CHURCH CONSECRATED
At 11.00a.m. on Saturday October 31st 1903, 32 years after its opening, Christ Church was Consecrated. Participating in the imposing ceremony were the Rector’s Warden, Sir Lancelot Stirling; the Registrar Mr. G. Grundy; the Rev’d. P.W. Wise who preached; Dean Marryat; Rev’d.’s C.S.Hornabrook, J.Warren, J.Coates, and the Rector H.H.Wyllie. The choir of St. John’s, Adelaide lead the singing.
Later, during this incumbency, Mr. C.L.A. Whyatt took up the duties of choirmaster in a most zealous way. He was also a churchwarden and Mrs Whyatt, as well as being organist for a time, was a member of the choir for over 50 years.
FURTHER ADDITIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS
Early in 1905, the former Primitive Methodist Chapel, now the Scout Hall in Chapel Street, was purchased as the Anglican Parish Hall and Classroom.
It was probably in 1906 that Mr. and Mrs. R.S. Smyth gave the lovely stained glass window depicting “Faith”, set in the northern wall of the nave near the pulpit. It was given in memory of four of their children who sadly predeceased them. Thirty years later the Smyth’s own memory was made permanent in the beautiful chair in the Rector’s stall.
Early in 1909, H.H. Wyllie accepted the offer of the incumbency of Robe, and on January 15th the Rev’d. E.H. Bleby came as Rector. However, Mr. Bleby’s stay was a short one as in 1910 he felt compelled to accept a call to be Rector of St. Paul’s, Poultney Street, Adelaide, where as Canon Bleby he became a well known figure in Adelaide life.
He was succeeded by the Rev’d. T.P. Wood, who came from Laura in May 1910 and stayed for 16 years.
In 1911 the whole congregation mourned the early death of Jack Butler and in September 1912, on Sunday 22nd, two beautiful stained glass windows in the Apse depicting The Annunciation of The Blessed Virgin, were unveiled in his memory by the Rt. Rev’d. C. Wilson, Bishop of Melanesia. The windows, situated behind the altar, were given by his family and made by H.L. Vosz & Co. of Adelaide, the decorative part of the windows resembling those in St. Peter’s Cathedral. A large brass plate on the wall above his usual pew, records his services to the church.
Early in 1912, having in mind the erection of a church hall and schoolroom, the church sold the hall in Chapel Street to the Foresters’ Lodge.
After some spirited planning, and partly funded by the sale of the Chapel Street building, the foundation stone of the Schoolroom was laid on October 25th, 1912, by Sir Lancelot Stirling and it was not long before the Schoolroom was completed and in use.
Archdeacon Bussell come to Strathalbyn on Sunday November 13th, 1913 to unveil and dedicate the new reredos. It had been presented by the Milne family in memory of Lady Milne the mother of Lady Stirling. Made of Australian blackwood it was beautifully carved by Miss Francis, an Adelaide artist who had been teaching the young ladies of Strathalbyn for some years. At the end of the war these pupils carved the war memorial plaque which hangs above the Vestry door. Various brass plates were added to the walls as the congregation mourned those who did not return.
T. Percy Wood’s long incumbency in Strathalbyn was marked by these many additions to the beauty of the church, by the building of St. Mary’s church at Milang, the building of the schoolroom, the completion of the Finniss church and by his active involvements in many community affairs. During the First World War he offered his services as a chaplain and was absent from the parish for two years, 1915 to 1917, during which time the Rev’d.’s A.W.B.Everitt and R.A.Campbell, respectively, acted as locums.
On May 28th, 1916 a further lovely stained glass window was unveiled and dedicated by Archdeacon Bussell. The window’s figure depicts “Charity” and is a memorial to Lady Way, formerly the wife of Dr. W.A.S. Blue and given by her relatives. Its position in the Southern wall of the chancel, next to the plaque in memory of her sister in law Christina Blue, fittingly overlooks where the choir seats originally had place – the music of the church had been dear to Lady Way during her many years in the parish.
The hymn board is in memory of little Gwen Winterbottom who died suddenly in 1916.
Percy Wood was the father of two well known artists, Noel and Rex Wood, both born in Strathalbyn and he was a great supporter of the R.S.L.
The Rev’d. T.P. Wood became Rector of Gawler in May 1926 and he was succeeded by the Rev’d. Harold Woolnough who was inducted on August 12th of that year by Bishop A. Nutter Thomas. When Harold Woolnough died he was described by the Bishop of Adelaide, Bishop Reed, as a humble cheerful and devoted priest. He served as Strathalbyn’s Rector for 13 years and his going was deeply saddened by the death of his wife only weeks before they were due to leave this parish for Norton Summit in 1939. The panelling, with the picture, by the font, commemorates her time here. During his time here, St. John’s Church was built at Langhorne Creek.
In April 1931 a kitchen was added to the schoolroom, due largely to the generosity of Miss C. Borrett who also at that time gave the handsome pulpit in Christ Church.
THE MEMORIAL TOWER
In mid 1932 in his 83rd year, Sir Lancelot Stirling passed to his rest. All his life he had been a great servant of the church he loved. He was a member of the SA Parliament for many years and a true pioneer of his home town. At a public meeting in Strathalbyn it was decided that the most fitting memorial to him would be a tower on the Church, and so by public and private subscription Christ Church’s 50ft high tower was built, the interior at the entrance panelled with Manchurian Oak and a granite tablet inscribed and fitted outside. The tower was dedicated on March 19th 1953 by Bishop Nutter Thomas who preached on Judges 9 verse 51: “…… here was a strong tower in the midst of the city ……”. The memorial tablet was draped with the town flag until it was unveiled by Lady Stirling.
Archdeacon Bussell had also entered his rest the year the tower was dedicated, and in 1937 Lady Stirling and her family gave the Sanctuary Lamp in memory of the late Archdeacon. The congregation also erected a brass plaque listing Rectors of the Parish in the Archdeacon’s memory. Mrs. Bussell, the daughter of Bishop Harmer, was prevented by illness from being present at their dedication on January 1st 1937.
Harold Woolnough was succeeded by the Rev’d., later Archdeacon, M.C.W. Gooden on July 4th 1939. Cecil Gooden brought to this parish many excellent gifts, not least of which were his way with children, his keen sense of humour and his prophetic concern for the future of the church. He also served as a Chaplain to the army camp at Woodside during World War 2 and was succeeded in 1944 by the young Rev’d. John Bleby, who came, with his wife Mary and two small sons, from the parish of Millicent. Mary revitalised the Mothers’ Union while in Strathalbyn.
During his time at Strathalbyn major alterations were made to enlarge the sanctuary with wooden communion rails and standing candlesticks installed as a memorial to Mr. George W. Montgomery, and his wife Martha, George being one of the pioneers of Christ Church as well as a church warden and lay reader.
After Lady Stirling’s death, it was decided to call for subscriptions to purchase a suitable bell for the tower. The bell was cast in England and after installation here was dedicated in October 1950. It weighs 8cwt, is 35 inches across the base and cost 420pound. Lady Stirling had been a devout worshipper for more than 50 years, and Presiding Member of Christ Church Mothers’ Union for 46 of those years. Lady Stirling was instrumental in establishing the Mothers’ Union branch at Christ Church at a time when it was not yet established in Adelaide.
When the Bleby’s, with four sons, moved to Gawler in October 1951, the Rev’d. R.F. Steele with his wife Elsie succeeded as Rector of Strathalbyn. Late in 1955 it became evident that the original roof on Christ Church was beyond repair and a new tiled roof was installed at a cost of about 400pound. The inside of the church was also painted and the carpet installed. It was Elsie that started the Ladies Guild.
After six years they left for Col. Light Gardens and the Rev’d. Phillip M. Connell, from Streaky Bay, became Rector in 1957. He and his wife Gladys served the parish humbly and faithfully until the end of 1968. Their young family increased by two sons and a daughter during this time. In spite of this, Gladys presided over both Mothers’ Union and the Guild at various times and also worked with St. John’s Ambulance. The family moved to Balaklava in the Diocese of Willochra.
In September 1969 during the incumbency of the Rev’d. Peter Atherton, this parish, together with 24 others, became part of the the Diocese of The Murray, and new ordinances united various churches with one Parish Council and one Treasurer. The first Bishop was The Right Rev’d. Robert Porter, OBE who was enthroned at Murray Bridge on April 16th 1970.
Finniss Church was sold in 1971 but the historic church of Meadows was now included in the parish. Pattie Atherton began her long involvement with drama during her stay at Strathalbyn and a melodrama celebrated the church’s 100th birthday.
The next incumbent was the Rev’d. George Christopher, who came from a parish in Sydney with his wife Margaret and stayed until his retirement. They were the first to occupy the new smaller Rectory.
The Rev’d Peter Simmonds followed in 1985 until 1988. His wife Sally was noted for her creative ideas for fund raising.
In August 1989 the Rev’d Alex Bainton was inducted. He and his wife Cheryl saw the town’s population grow with many changes. In 1991 the church grounds were altered, with a major residential area opened on the east and the vestry and parish hall were renovated. This was helped by a legacy from Mrs. Vera Robilliaird. Among the changes in Christ Church was the greater involvement of the congregation in services, the use of Lay helpers with the Eucharist, a strong Choir and liaison with other churches in the town.