St John the Divine Anglican Church’s 80th birthday

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St John the Divine Anglican Church members Neil and Roslyn Phythian invite the community to attend the fete at Burnett Heads.
Burnett Heads Anglican Church members Neil and Roslyn Phythian

The community is invited to enjoy the festivities of a traditional community fete at the St John the Divine Anglican Church in Burnett Heads next month in celebration of the church’s 80th birthday.

St John the Divine Anglican Church is tucked away, just a stone’s throw from the ocean at Burnett Heads and holds a lot of memories for the seaside community.

Church members Neil and Roslyn Phythian said the birthday celebrations were held every five years and it was always a community affair to highlight the history of the church.

Neil said Burnett Heads local Betty Reid was born one year before the church was built and she had an extensive history including pictures of the church in the early day that would be displayed during the fete.

“Betty may be the only one who has such a long history of the church and she likes to share it,” Neil said.

“I think it’s very important that people support our fete and also support the church here at Burnett Heads, churches focus on community nowadays and not so much on their own congregations.”

Neil said the support from fete would also help secure the future of the church for another 80 years.

A chance to look through the history

Neil said in the 1930s Burnett Heads was a small fishing village on the south bank of the Burnett River, which consisted of men’s cottages and fishermen’s holiday homes.

He said the attraction of the coastal lifestyle and the possibility of growth in the area made the area the logical place to expand the Anglican Parish of Bundaberg.

Mr Christie Mittleheuser donated a block of land near the coast for a church to be built, although it remained vacant for some years until 1939 when Rector of Bundaberg the Reverend Harold Osborn decided it was the ideal location for the church, named for Saint John the Evangelist.

Neil said it was determined not to build a wooden building on wooden stumps, which was the usual construction for country churches in those days, and that’s when Cordelia, wife of Rev Osborn, sketched a building of an English Tudor design on a base of basalt rock with the intention of creating a structure possibly unique in Australia.

St John the Divine Anglican Church at Burnett Heads
Burnett Heads Anglican Church

At the time volcanic rock was abundant in the area, and was a cheap material for the building's base while also being a salute to the Kanakas who had laboured in the district, so it was decided and the foundation stone was laid on August 6, 1939 by Lord Archbishop of Brisbane J W Wand.

“We celebrate this with a birthday every five years and invite all of the community to come together for the event,” Neil said.

During the fete people will have the chance to look inside St John the Divine and check out the original furnishing including kerosene lamps that were installed as there was no electricity at Burnett Heads when the church was first erected.

“These are the same lights that lit the original Christ Church in 1878,” Neil said.

“We light them now on special occasions such as when we hold the Christmas Carols at the end of the year.”

Neil said the church was also listed on the local heritage register.

Community affair for all

Roslyn said there would be a variety of stalls from community groups and Burnett Heads State School and kindergarten at the fete.

“The Uniting Church is having a cooking stall and the CLAG Ladies will have a craft stall,” Roslyn said.

“The kindy is doing a bottle stall and the school are doing meat tray raffles and there will be a plant sale. Really there is much that will be on offer.”

The fete will give the community a chance to come together and there will be plenty of activities for the whole family.

Roslyn said there would also be community displays of old lantern collections, a history book of the Parish and vintage cars.

She said there would also be an iced cake raffle by St John the Divine Ladies Guild and a meat tray raffle by Burnett Heads State School.

St John the Divine Anglican Church at Burnett Heads will is a free community fete and will be held on 3 August from 10am to 2pm.

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