HIGH LIFE: The donated cherry-picker speeds up restoration.
HIGH LIFE: The donated cherry-picker speeds up restoration. DEIRDRE SMITH

Glory days for church

THEY are tasting rooms, antique shops and private homes but few churches in the Granite Belt villages are still churches any more.

That's not the way things are in Dalveen, where a group of dedicated parishioners, friends and even a travelling pair of evangelical renovators are scraping, sanding and sewing to bring St Barnabas Anglican Church back to its glory days.

Gillian McConnell has lived in the district since 2006 and says that apart from Sunday services, there are big plans for the church, such as hosting weddings and christenings. She knows that most churches in the region have been "given up on and sold” but she and the team want St Barnabas to be a drawcard for the district.

A loan of a cherry picker and a scissor lift were the impetus to get the project rolling, and when Gillian's friends who were staying over for the picnic races gave her some money toward the project, things started to come together.

"There was a little bit of paint sitting in the corner of my shed, emptied out my shed,” she said.

"I emptied it out of everything that was usable.”

The church is 116 years old and built from tallow wood, which is in the process of being stripped back, sanded and repainted. But it's a slow project and Gillian notes, "a lot more work than we thought”.

And then John and Spike Newport, of the Jireh Way Ministries, arrived. They live in their van while they do the dirty work of sanding and painting. Spike only signed on the roving ministry last year, when she and John married but he has been travelling around renovating churches for "quite some time”.

"I'm loving it,” she said.

"Little bits aren't the best, there was a wasp nest here and I wasn't sure if I was allergic or not.”

While admitting to getting sore and tired, the project is "fun, helping people who need it”.

As one of five Stanthorpe "daughter churches” - the other four are at Amiens, The Summit, Liston and Glen Aplin - a survey was made by the diocese to see which church was the most viable for restoration. Services are held at 7.30am on the first Sunday of the month.

The team is inspired by the knowledge that theirs is the only church still active in Dalveen but they might have an ulterior motive.

"We'll be buried here after all this,” Gillian said.