As a volunteer with my local council, I help at the Visitors Information Centre for my area. We are ready when visitors come in to the centre to help them out with brochures and information regarding accommodation or attractions in the area. As part of the volunteer team, every two months we are taken on a familiarisation tour to inspect many of the different venues and places of interest in the area known as The Hills and Hawkesbury.
Last week we had a full day and visited four different places - at three of them we were treated to either morning or afternoon tea and lunch. It was fabulous.
We went by coach to an out of the way place named Ebenezer. It is situated high up on a hill overlooking the Parramatta River and it was here that a stone church was built by Scottish settlers in 1809. Fifteen pioneer families who settled in the area made a huge contribution to the development of the colony in this area in those early days. Now 200 years is not that old when thinking of history but for Australia, it was only 30 years after the first settlers arrived. There were others built around that time around the Sydney area but this is now Australia's oldest surviving church and was the first non-conformist then Presbyterian church in Australia.
Ebenezer means ‘The Lord has helped us all the way’ or ‘Stone of Help’ and is referenced in 1 Samuel 7 and verse 12.
The church began a school in 1810 and pioneered education in the colony. It is the oldest extant school building in Australia.
After sailing for 90 days to get to such a strange place, I wondered what their reactions must have been on arrival in this harsh environment. But hard as it was, they never forgot the Lord who had kept them safe. After worshiping in the open air for 5 years, the work on the church commenced. It was indeed a privilege and an honour to sit on one of those very hard wooden pews and reflect on those families who had worked so hard and sacrificed so much coming to a new country to start a new life for themselves and their families.
What a very special contribution they made and one that we were able to reflect on during our visit to this beautiful little stone church tucked away amongst the gum trees.