Historic rural churches are quietly disappearing. A combination of drought, bushfire and recession is affecting congregations.

Story + Photos Ian Kenins

The Goulburn Valley Highway slices through some of central and northern Victoria’s prime agricultural land. But about 15km out of the pretty township of Yea there’s a different scene.

“A lot of people stop because it’s just this lovely little white church nestled in the greenery,” says the Reverend Canon Eden-Elizabeth Nicholls, the local ute-driving Anglican priest better known as Mother Eden. “I’ve had people say they break their journey here and have a walk around, then sit on the steps to have a quiet moment or a prayer.”

The 121-year-old Christ Church is in the farming district of Molesworth, a two-hour drive north-east of Melbourne. In its early days the tiny timber chapel hosted weekly services, as well as weddings, baptisms and funerals for the region’s sheep and cattle farmers. It now hosts just three services a year, although Mother Eden is hoping to extend that number once the COVID-19 crisis is over. “I feel it’s important for country areas that can’t afford to have a minister to have a church’s presence,” she says. “They’re a place of prayer, of assurance and hope, especially in these troubled times.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #134

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2021