The Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council is preparing a guide to the history of the Clare Valley which will link online to all the Valley's regional walking tours, such as the tour for Clare, and I have spent a lot of time updating our online tour offering, and would like for it to be both up-to-date and authoritative.
Recently a couple of 'Clare-ites' have mentioned the previous Bethlehem church in Clare, at variously described addresses of Burton Street, Strickland Street and a manse possibly at 53 Gleeson Street, in the same block that the church occupied. That site is now a car wash, and the housing sites are occupied by newer buildings.
Two Lutheran synods before 1966
There were Two Lutheran congregations in Clare in the past.
Historically the Lutheran worshippers in Australia belonged to either a mainstream synod known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia (ELCA, the Bethlehem group), or a more 'orthodox' synod which united other older Lutheran church groups, known as the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia. including the Immanuel Group (UELCA).
1. The 'Immanuel' congregation at Clare belonged to the UELCA synod, and dedicated its first church in Clare in 1953.
This Clare move was actually a transfer of location undertaken by the congregation from Hoyleton 'Ebenezer' church, where UELCA Lutherans based in Clare had previously worshipped.
The decision to relocate was made in 1946.
That first 'Ebenezer' church was erected at Hoyleton in 1870 by the members of the Ebenezer Lutheran Congregation of Hoyles Plain.
A second church was erected there in 1922, while their last service was held on the 5th of January 1947 and the church demolished 2 years later.
A plaque was unveiled at Hoyleton Cemetery on the 18th of September 1988, when this was both the Bicentennial year for Australia and the 150th year since Lutherans had come to this country, and there are over 150 people buried in this small site.
2. The Bethlehem congregation at Clare was aligned to the ELCA synod and began in 1931.
The Bethlehem church building was at Burton St – there is an old newspaper article from Trove about the dedication of a building referred to as the Bethlehem church hall in 1945.
This indicates that there was no Clare church building prior to this point, and that space had been left on the block to build one at a later date, though we can’t find any evidence that they ever did.
The Bethlehem congregation had been worshipping in private homes prior to this.
There is no exact address given, only that it was “situated at one end of the block”. Block number 64 is mentioned in relation to the area where the cars were parking/gathering.
Another 'Bethlehem' Clare church hall was built and dedicated in 1961, a more modern building than a prior hall, according to an article in the Australian Lutheran, the ELCA church paper of the time.
There are no histories written for this congregation, nor does LCA archives appear to have any church council minutes, only those of the ladies guild and Luther society, and some correspondence from 1934-1945.
ON WEDNESDAY MAY 2.
THE TOWN of Clare will be the centre of attraction and rendezvous for the 6th Annual Convention of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia on Wednesday, May 2.
Brief points from the agenda include:—
l. Furnishing of Lutheran Rest Home at Tanunda.
2. Election of delegate for Women's Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations at Canberra in October .
3. Endeavoring to promote greater interest in the work and life of Immanuel College.
At the Afternoon session Rev. Missionary S. Gross, down on furlough from Central and Northern Australia, will talk on the Hermannsburg Mission. Mr. Gross has spent 11 years amongst the aborigines, and is a member of the Art Council that watches over the cultural interests of the Native artists, including the much talked of Albert Namatjira.
Amalgamation into the LCA
After the momentous amalgamation of the two Lutheran Synods in 1966 to form the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA), the Bethlehem church hall building was used as the hall for the combined Clare LCA congregation, until the new hall was built and dedicated in 1980.
In June 1966 the elders of both congregations met and decided to amalgamate if possible, using the UELCA church ('Immanuel') as it had greater seating capacity.
The new congregation was then called St Paul’s.
Blyth Lutheran congregations:
1. UELCA St Petri
St Peter’s (or St Petri as it was known) at 16 Moore St. Blyth,
belonged to the Immanuel Synod and then to the UELCA synod.
Now it is Ian Roberts' Medika Gallery.
This congregation was formed in 1867 and amalgamated in 1966.
There are souvenir histories of
St Petri congregation written for its 75th anniversary (1961) and
the Brinkworth/Blyth (ELCA) parish written on its 25th anniversary (1963).
Blyth Trinity church belonged to the ELCA synod and persists today as the current LCA congregation in Blyth.
2. ELCA Trinity Church
The First Trinity Lutheran church in the district opened in 1881 in a former Wesleyan chapel.
They called their first Pastor in 1879 and obtained permission to worship in the chapel at the Blyth Public Cemetery (built by the Methodists), which they did from 1881 until they built their own first church in the township in 1909.
There is also an LCA archived copy of the combined history of Blyth Trinity church with the St John’s Brinkworth congregation, with their joint 25th anniversary celebrated in 1934.
Blyth Trinity belonged to the Brinkworth (ELCA) parish from 1912 until amalgamation
The 50th anniversary of dedication of Blyth Trinity Church occurred in 1959.
The current church building for Blyth Trinity was built by and for the post-amalgamation combined congregation.
The elders of the two congregations decided at a joint meeting on 11 May 1966 to use the ELCA site and incorporate the bell from St Petri.
The earlier chuch was dismantled and removed.
The new church was dedicated in 1971.
The 25th anniversary jubilee service for Blyth Trinity occurred in 1996.
Trinity Lutheran Church, Blyth, was severely damaged in a storm.
On February 25, 2018, the church held a re-dedication and thanksgiving service to celebrate the completion of its repairs.