St Leonard’s Presbyterian Church was established in 1891. The vision for a worship centre came from a small group gathered at the Coffee Palace on the corner of New St and South Rd Brighton.
St Leonard was a 6th century saint, the patron saint of prisoners. This is symbolized by a chain around the Bible, as represented on an original pulpit fall.
The earliest memorial window celebrates the ministry of the Reverend Hume Robertson (1907-1921). He was a much-loved pastor and generous benefactor who also served as a chaplain in World War 1.
The World Wars Period
Both world wars impacted deeply on St Leonard’s as the memorials in the church testify. Indeed the new church building itself, opened in 1957, was officially designated as a War Memorial Church.
Large numbers of St Leonard’s young people of two generations served their country and many gave their lives. The Gray family whose son Robert did not return, gave the initial substantial donation to start a building fund.
The war effort was loyally supported by the parish as a whole through fund raising, comforts for service people, and food parcels for Britain.
The Post War Boom
In common with many parishes, St Leonard’s expanded rapidly in the post-war years with the advent of the baby-boomers, and consequent population growth in the Brighton district. As well, St Leonard’s was blessed with a young and energetic minister in the Rev. Norman Pfeiffer, who immersed himself and his family in all aspects of parish life spiritual, pastoral, mission, service and sporting activities.
St Leonard’s reached its peak membership of over 700 at this time, and many present parishioners made their first contact with the church during the Pfeiffer ministry.
The importance of the healing ministry as part of the life of worship and prayer was a central focus of the ministry of Norman Pfeiffer.
A weekly service of prayers for the sick in body mind and spirit became established at this time. The stained glass panels on the main entry to the church were placed to celebrate the healing ministry of the church.
St Leonard’s joins the new Uniting Church
The formation of the Uniting Church of Australia in 1977 ushered in a new phase in the life of St Leonard’s. While not all parishioners were happy, the parish voted decisively to join the Uniting Church, although the form of worship initially differed little from the familiar Presbyterian ritual.
St Leonard’s was initially part of Brighton parish comprising several Brighton churches (formerly Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian).
In 1982 a decision was taken to leave Brighton parish and form a single church parish of Brighton Beach.
Were St combines with St Leonard’s
In 1989 Were St Uniting Church (formerly Methodist) chose to leave the Brighton parish and joined St Leonard’s to form a single church parish at Brighton Beach.
Through these events it can be seen that our roots belong to both the traditions of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches directed by the Basis of Union of the Uniting Church of Australia.
The “Now” and looking forward
The whole point of being in St Leonard’s is to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ in worship and mission.
We are excited by this challenge.
Care to join with us?
The three banners in the church represent individuals, families and groups of St Leonard’s.
Church and College
St Leonard’s College beginnings were at St Leonard’s Church. The first school was at St Leonard’s church and the first schoolroom building is now used as the Tennis Club pavilion!
There continues to be close connection between College and Church and this has been continued via the Chaplaincy support provided to the College by the Ministry Team.