The following article was on The Bendigo Advertiser website on 12 July 2017. Could be the start of a huge combined effort by the Axedale community:
A progress association president says it is “now or never” for community action to keep an Axedale church from being sold into private hands.
The St Paul’s Anglican Church congregation last met in 2015 and the Anglican Diocese of Bendigo wants it rezoned and sold.
This Thursday the Axedale Our Town Our Future committee will consider stepping in to rally support to keep it in community hands.
The church was build in 1913. In recent times the congregation had diminished until it consisted of just two families, the diocese’ general manager Naomi Fountain said.
Two years ago the diocese and its Axedale Parish made the decision to stop services at the church, which Mrs Fountain described as “heartbreaking”.
“We are very much a rural diocese (and) we work very hard in rural parishes to maintain a sense of community and ministry,” she said.
Mrs Fountain said work had begun to rezone the property for residential use, though plans for a sales date was some time away.
AOTOF president Jennifer Jones said the turnout at a recent public information session showed there was some interest within the community for the church to remain a public institution.
She stressed any action to keep the building open to the public was still in early days, but could involve community groups purchasing it and surrounding land.
It was unclear how much support any plan would have if it was taken to the wider community, though Mrs Fountain said once the property was on the market the diocese would be open to community groups’ interest.
A community purchase would not come without what Ms Jones described as a “huge effort”.
A community committee would most likely be needed to drive fundraisers, grant applications and other work needed to raise money and coordinate any campaign.
Nor were there yet any concrete examples of what the building and grounds would be used for.
“My personal opinion is that it could become a community house or a small community hub,” Ms Jones said.
She said a recent survey had shown a need for space to house the area’s community groups.
“Axedale is growing. There’s lots of young families coming here,” Ms Jones said.