The Wesley Uniting Church Forest was built as a memorial to the work and witness of pioneer Methodist people throughout Australia and in 1977 was proud to become part of the Uniting Church in Australia. Contributions towards the erection of the building came from every State and Territory of the Commonwealth and from the Methodist Churches of Great Britain, the United States of America, New Zealand, India and Fiji.
Within two years from the time the appeal for funds was launched enough money was in sight for the architects, Norman W. McPherson and Associate of Sydney, to be appointed and later the tender of Burrows and Lowes, of Canberra, to be accepted for the building of the Church.
The Foundation stones of the church were laid on May 15, 1954, by the then President-General of the Methodist Church, the Rev. Dr. G. Calvert Barber, representing Australian Methodism, and the Rev. Dr. W.E. Sangster, General Conference Cato Lecturer, 1954, representing Overseas Methodism. Above the foundation stones is a tablet which bears this inscription:
Built upon the foundation
Apostles and Prophets
the Chief Corner Stone
The church was opened and dedicated to the Glory of God on November 19, 1955, by the then President-General of the Methodist Church, Rev. Dr. R.B. Lew.
Constructed in weathered brick, the church is in lofty cruciform. The square tower is 83ft. high and is surmounted by a finger spire above which is a 6ft. cross.
The motif for the church is an 18ft. rough concrete cross on the outside of the large window in the west end of the church, facing Capital Hill, where the foundation stone of the Capital itself was laid in 1913.
The worshipper, on entering the church, is at once conscious of atmosphere.
Timbers used are tallow-wood for the floor, bleached alpine ash for the pews, polished silver ash for the communion table and rails, pulpit, reredos, lectern, prayer desks, organ and choir stalls, and English oak for the organ console. The ceiling is of mottled green acoustic board.
Hand-carved woodwork in the church, comparable with the finest of its kind, is the craftsmanship of two Dutchmen, the Otto brothers. At either end of the Communion Table are carved representations of wheat and grapes symbolising the bread and wine of the Holy Communion. The retable carries carved replicas of the coats of arms of the Commonwealth and the six States. Linking the coats of arms are carvings of Australian wild flowers.
Four carved panels which depict (i) the birth, (ii) the baptism, (iii) the crucifixion, and (iv) the resurrection and ascension of Christ, surmount the reredos, beneath a beautifully proportioned wooden cross.
Traditional frontals displayed to accord with the several seasons of the Christian year are provided for the Communion Table. An embroidered drape in white and gold, symbolising the holiness and love of God, is superimposed always on the appropriate frontal.
The organ is a memorial to ministers and lay folk of Australasian Methodism and is almost entirely the gift of their children. It is an electro-pneumatic instrument, built by Messrs George B. Fincham and Sons, of Melbourne, with two keyboards and pedal, thirty-seven stops and seven hundred and seventeen pipes. There are two separate organ chambers, one for the Great Organ and one for the Swell Organ, both of which are fitted with shutters.
During 1974, the fine 3 manual Hunter organ from the then Burwood Methodist Church Sydney was purchased by Mr. John Bathgate, a member of Wesley Congregation. Parts of this organ are being added to the Fincham organ. The work is being carried out by members of the congregation. Also, in 1977-78, new ranks of pipes were purchased from the firm of Gustav. S. Bier in Germany to form a third or positive organ.
At the time of the production of this book, seven new ranks have been added to the Fincham organ with adds another 522 pipes to the organ. It is hoped that another 1,000 pipes will be added to conclude the scheme which will make the organ one of the finest available.
The Pulpit stands on the left-hand side of the Sanctuary, and the preacher enters it directly from the Prayer Desk. It is in a sufficiently raised position to emphasise the high responsibility of the preacher in declaring the Word of God to the people.
This is a side chapel within the Church, which is used for services of worship during the week. Baptismal and small wedding and funeral services. Dominating this beautiful little chapel is a 5ft. by 3ft. painting of Christ, after Hoffman, by Mr. Ainslie Roberts, of Adelaide. This mural, entitled "Come unto Me," depicts the humanity and divinity of our Lord—the feet firmly planted on the earth, His Humanity; the fine circle about His head, the sign of perfection, His divinity; Jesus, Human and Divine. This beautiful picture, with the Communion Table beneath it, is a memorial to Stephen Lancaster, a foundation member of the Sunday School. They are the gifts of his parents, Mr & Mrs. W.V. Lancaster.
Superimposed on the front of the Chapel Communion Table are the Greek letters Alpha (the beginning) and Omega (the ending), and through each letter is a cross to indicate to the worshipper that there was "a cross in the heart of God before the wood was seen on Calvary." Also carved and superimposed at the centre of the Communion Table between these two letters are a circle and a cross as a reminder of the universal and ecumenical love of God.
The fine wooden font in the church matches the prayer desk and pulpit.
The font in the chapel is in memory of Lindsay Knowles, who was lost in air combat in Libya, and was formerly used in Wesley Hall.
For information on activities, groups and services please visit us on: https://www.wesleycanberra.org.au/