Guide to the Pioneer Memorial Window and to Gifted Items on the Church Property

Early Methodist Church

Wooden slabs at either corner, with a small brass door knob are part of the very early Methodist church on the Canberra plains. ‘On 26th September, 1868, The Queanbeyan Age carried this advertisement:

‘Tenders for the erection of a SLAB CHURCH at CANBERRA will be received by the undersigned, until 12 o’clock, noon, on Saturday, the 3rd proximo. For further information apply to Edward D. Madgwick, Wesleyan Minister.’

Tenders were submitted and that of Messrs. Cooper and Taylor accepted for the erection of a small church at Canberra on a portion of land generously given for the purpose by Mr Peter Shumack, sen.

The new Canberra Church, built of slab boards with a bark roof was officially opened on 7th February, 1869. The Queanbeyan Age of Thursday, 11th February, 1869, described the ceremonies at some length.

‘Last Sunday afternoon a small slab chapel just erected at Canberra for the use of the Wesleyan denomination was formally set apart for religious worship. The Rev. E.D. Madjwick conducted divine service on the occasion, and preached an appropriate sermon. The congregation thronged the building. 

On Tuesday, in connection with the event a tea meeting was held in a paddock contiguous to the Church….About 80 persons sat down to a capital repast…After tea the company formed themselves into a public meeting, Mr Peter Shumack in the chair…This place of worship which has long been needed in the locality is built on land adjoining the main Yass and Queanbeyan road within sight of both the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches.’

Numbers fell off with the building of a new stone Presbyterian church beginning in 1872. At this time the number of small farmers settling in Weetangera was growing. The nearest church was 5 miles away. Under the ministry of Rev. Charles Jones, who was stationed at Queanbeyan in 1872, a religious revival took place in Weetangera. Worshippers gathered in the Shepherd’s Hut where sheep were shorn by hand and the shepherds lived. But this building was proving inadequate for the growing numbers of those who desired to join in public worship. Steps were therefore taken to transfer the Canberra Methodist Church to Weetangera.

All the slabs forming the walls…were marked in roman numerals by the local Weetangera schoolteacher ...Ewan Cameron. This allowed each to be put back in a corresponding position when the building was re-erected at Weetangera. The roof, which had been made of stringy bark, the universal building material in the district at this time, effectively protected the worshippers from the storms of the Canberra winter until it was replaced by galvanised iron during the renovation commenced on 12 March 1900.

Regular services were conducted in the church until May 1952. By this time most of the farmers had moved away because the land had been resumed by the Government and plans were well advanced to use it for the houses and shops of Canberra’s new Belconnen suburbs.

In March 1955 it was decided to demolish the historic old church. The land where it stood for over 80 years is now a memorial cemetery marked by a commemorative cairn into which the outside door handle of the church has been set. It is still freehold land held in the name of the Methodist Church.

Six of the wooden, hand cut, wall slab boards and the inside brass door handle of the historic Canberra Church were permanently erected in….National Memorial 

This memorial to the early Methodist pioneers of Canberra was unveiled by Mr Clyde Kilby who was baptised in the old church on 2nd June 1901 and maintained a keen interest in it until it was demolished.’ This extract is from ‘Living Stones’ by James S. Udy. 

top of page

Memorial Hall

The Methodist Church General Conference Committee, meeting in Sydney on 14 January 1929, decided to go on with the erection of the School Hall on the Methodist site. At the next Methodist Quarterly Meeting on 4 February 1929

‘reports of representatives to the Canberra Central Committee and the Council of Co-operation were adopted. These showed that a School Hall to cost 5,000 pounds is to be proceeded with on the Central Site and that the scheme of co-operation is to commence forthwith.’

Later in the year the School Hall on the Central (present day) site was commenced. Simmie and Co. of Canberra was the successful tenderer. The building, which comprised a main hall and a kindergarten hall, together with classrooms, kitchen and toilets was promised for occupation during March, 1930.

At this time three churches in Canberra were working co-operatively, the Methodists, the Presbyterian and the Congregational. There were united services, rostered ministers and services and the Methodists had deferred building a church, which had been planned as a large Gothic building, on their site and the Presbyterians built the church on their site and the Sunday School was built on the Methodist site. Minutes from the Canberra Co-operative Council in 1929 showed the spirit and practicalities of the time . . . ‘the services to be held in the (Methodist) Hall shall be known as the Co-operative Services of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational Churches of Canberra.’ 

Central Methodist Hall was opened on 3 May 1930 by the Methodist President-General, Rev. Frank Lade. The F.L. on the stone in the wall just outside the front door marks the occasion. The stone was brought to Canberra from John Wesley’s Chapel, City Road, London. 

The other stone, marked E.L.V., was unveiled by the resident minister at Canberra, Rev. E.L.Vercoe. This stone ‘linked the new building with the first Methodist Church built in Australia. 

As the (Presbyterian) church had not yet been completed, it was planned to be finished 12 months later, the three churches conducted services in the new hall in rotation according to an order of service agreed among the ministers and probably for the first time in history the Congregational Hymn Book was used exclusively in the Methodist hall in divine worship in which ‘the members of the three denominations will join without any distinguishing features.’ 

It was indeed 22 September1934 before the Church of St Andrew - the Cathedral Church - was opened. Despite there being much careful groundwork done by the three churches, indeed the Congregational Church in Canberra voted for unity, the Methodists began to speak of greater co-operation rather than union and the Presbyterians wanted a united fellowship while retaining all denominational rights for the clergy and members. Sadly the move began to be away from unity and it would the 1960’s before the dream was revived. 

In spite of war conditions, the twenty-year-old plan to build a church on the ‘central site’ was revived in the closing months of 1943, however it was not until 1949 when the Rev. W. Whitbread arrived in the circuit as superintendent, that a special meeting was called to prepare a blueprint for Methodist advance in Canberra. 

By 21 October 1950 the local Methodists had decided to request the Consultative for authority to launch an Australia-wide appeal for the development of Canberra Methodism. It was further agreed to arrange for the launching of the appeal at a public demonstration in connection with the General Conference meetings in May 1951 and to endeavour to have appointed a Commissioner to visit the States in connection with the appeal. 

top of page

Wesley Centre

At this General Conference, the Rev. Walter Whitbread was appointed the Commissioner. In 1954 the General Conference extended the time for the appeal and endorsed the Memorial aspects of the church to be built. It was also decided that the complete block be known as the

‘Methodist National Memorial Church and Youth Centre. It is intended that the church should honour the pioneers and leaders of Australian Methodism from the earliest days.’

The task for the Commissioner involved travelling Australia by car and plane and convincing a sceptical public of the benefits and philosophy behind the need to raise 75,000 pounds – a large amount for a project they may never see in a city whose ‘raison d’etre’ was highly questionable at that time. The National Capital was still struggling to be an established and clear concept in the national psyche. For his young family also, this was a long period of absence which made Walter Whitbread’s commission particularly onerous. It is a testament to his persistence and success that still today visitors from interstate and overseas come to see the church and to attend services and frequently say that they had known of National Memorial from its’ earliest days.

The architects for the building were Mr Norman W. McPherson, and Associate, of Sydney. The builders were Messrs. Burrows and Lowes, of Canberra. It was most fitting that Mr Charles Davis Burrows was the successful tenderer as the Burrows family were very active in the church and still retain that involvement through daughter Bunny Blumer. Bunny remembers her mother telling about the day they put the spire on the tower. Mr Burrows rang her at home to tell her they were about to place the spire onto the tower and she ran up to the church still with her apron on, as they lowered the spire into place. The finished result is described as an 83 foot high square tower surmounted by a finger spire above which is a 6 foot cross.

The Church is a cruciform shape and built of weathered brick. The motif for the church is an 18 foot rough concrete cross on the outside of the large window in the west end of the church facing Capital Hill. At this stage the church and the Sunday School were separate buildings as seen in the photo. 

Further building took place with the development of the Memorial Fellowship Centre – now known as the Lancaster Hall - and adjacent rooms and the Piper Kitchen. Building commenced in 1960 and the Centre was opened on 26th May, 1962 

The Centre was completed in its full form ahead of the scheduled time in the original master plan because of the particular concern of the local Canberra Methodist Community. Seeing the growing need in this city, members of National Memorial Church at a meeting in 1960 agreed that they would meet the additional cost involved so that the main buildings could be erected forthwith. It was at this stage that the structures were welded together. The cloisterway joined the church and the original Sunday School, and the new Fellowship Centre joined into the stage end of the Wesley Hall. There are clubrooms above the link. 

Lancaster Hall is the main feature of that development. Named after Walter Lancaster who was Treasurer of National Memorial, the 114 feet by 64 feet hall has a brush box floor and has various markings for basketball, volleyball and badminton. Flanking Lancaster Hall are changing and shower facilities, a storeman, tennis room, crèche and the Piper Kitchen.

In the angle between Wesley Hall and Lancaster Hall, the WJM Campbell Memorial Sound Shell was erected and named after a local outstanding Methodist layman. William ‘Will’ Campbell was the first local preacher to conduct a service in the new church. Over the years there was limited use of the sound shell for carols, the occasional concert, and it was briefly proposed to be converted into a library. However it was the least used part of the development.

top of page

Wesley Uniting Church 

In 1977 at the time of Church Union the Church became known as Wesley Uniting Church.

The latest building development began in 2001 and was completed, opened and dedicated in September 2002. This involved the removal of the cloister way, the opening of the western wall to make a new entrance and above it a balcony to seat 60 people, the construction of the Wesley Music Centre, the creation of a link that joins the Music Centre to the new front door and around to the new and multi-purpose foyer. An administration block was added and the carpark reconfigured. This has opened up a variety of new outreach opportunities as well as the benefits to the church community, the foyer in particular has created an environment in which to welcome people into the church community, to hold meetings, and give a place to sit and chat, have coffee and for children play in safe surroundings.

 The entire complex has many, many uses and functions. The list has included:

Church of Australian Methodism

The Church of Australian Methodism was opened and dedicated on 19 November 1955 by the President-General, Rev. Dr R.B.Lew ...

... ‘in the presence of almost overwhelming crowds of worshippers. In addition to the local people and folk from the immediate surrounding district, there were present representatives of every Australian State excepting Western Australia, and the interstate visitors participated in every phase of the celebrations.’  The Methodist, 10 December, 1955.

The Five Piece Pewter Communion Set was a gift from NSW. It was used regularly in the earliest Australian Methodist services in Sydney Cove from 1815. They were the property of the Rev. Samuel Leigh who came to Sydney Cove, sailing from Portsmouth on 28th February 1815 and arriving in Port Jackson on 10th August 1815 on the ‘Hebe’. He was received by Governor-in-Chief Lachlan Macquarie with less than enthusiasm as the Governor felt he needed teachers and not missionaries and certainly not from other than the Anglican church. However Leigh softened the opposition by undertaking not to create religious dissension through his work, and obviously his subsequent behaviours were acceptable to both the Governor and the Rev. Samuel Marsden who supported and assisted him from then on.

These cups and plates were used at occasional communion services at National Memorial. They now remain as a display only.

top of page

Historic Letter was also given by New South Wales.

This letter which was written in 1818 by Samuel Leigh and Walter Lawry, to the third missionary appointed to N.S.W., is giving him advice to assist his preparations for the voyage to the Colony.


New South Wales,

May 1818.

To the Missionary appointed for this Colony,

Very Dear Brother,

Tho’ altogether unknown to us we think it a duty which we owe to you to drop you a few lines by way of advice and direction with respect to your preparation for your voyage to this Mission.

In preparing your outfit, take care to be supplied with a good stock of thin clothes, else you will never be comfortable in this hot climate, and get your coats and breeches or trousers made very loose as you will break them to pieces here. We who have tried this country find that the London fashion of tight garments will not suit N.S.W. since those which we brought from England did us little or no service.

Be sure to be provided with a great quantity of Baragan (? Barathea) or something very thin and at the same time very strong for riding in. And we should be glad if you would bring a supply for us also, to the extent of a half a dozen prs pantaloons each. We would thank you to bring us 12 Yds. Of Oil-case-cloth, to make us cloaks, for the rain pours down in this country in such torrents as is not known in England.

As to your voyage the following is a list of articles very desirable and necessary. Several thin jackets and trousers for tropical parts,two or three prs thin shoes, a little box of Carpenter’s tools, some nails, screws, crooks and thin boards for your accommodation in your cabin, a set of taylor’s tools ( you may smile ) a set of good brushes, a good atlas of the world, several black silk handkerchiefs, a strong book case or two, a selection of 40 or 50 choice books for your cabin, two small trunks are enough for your cabin, send the rest below. Good Portable desk. Table and wash-hand-stand in the same, a few bottles of rum, 4 or 5 pounds of wax candles, lamp, and snuffers, some red and black ink, a pair of 12 inch globes very desirable ( if you are rich bye them, if poor never cease begging till somebody gives them you. Microscope, telescope, and thermometer, several blank books for journals, sermons, essays and then some tracts and other little books for distribution aboard, a Close-stool, Bureau and Sopha which in sickness is a great comfort.

All the above articles you will find very necessary and if one of them is wanting you will feel for it.

The friends in London especially the Committee will suggest any other article of comfort.

As to your manner of proceeding aboard ship, we found it best to live like men belonging to another world never interfering with the business of the navigators, which is sure to be resented. 

Conform to their customs and manners as far as conscience will allow, and always appear satisfied, walk much on the quarter deck for your health, and get up early in the morning. 

Be assured that GOD who has sent you will guide you over the wide sea and that your brethren will rejoice over you on your arrival with exceeding great joy. The prospects of good are blooming and your hands shall have full employ.

Wishing you the same prosperity while on the sea which we experienced and a prosperous and quiet voyage, We remain

Dear Bro’ Yours most tenderly and affectionately,

Samuel Leigh

Walter Lawry’

This letter was addressed:

To the Third Missionary appointed

For New South Wales

To the care of Mr Wm. Temple


The Pulpit, which is made of cedar was presented by Victoria. It stood in the Methodist Church, corner of Collins and Queen Streets, and was occupied by the first ordained Methodist Minister in Victoria, the Rev. John Orton who visited Melbourne from Hobart in 1836 and then Minister of the Collins Street Church in1841.

After the sale of the Collins Street Church this pulpit was stored in West Melbourne and then received by the Graham Street Trust in 1860, when this church˚ was erected.   Port Melbourne Methodist Church, Graham Street. 

The Pulpit Bible was donated by South Australia. It had been in the Gawler Place Chapel since 1838 and was later read from the pulpit of Adelaide’s famous Pirie Street Church for over a century. On the cover are the words in large gold letters:

Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Gawler Place, South Adelaide. 1838.

The fly leaf now reads:

This Bible, dating from 1838, was used in the Gawler Place Chapel and Pirie Street Church, Adelaide. It was presented to the National Memorial Church, Canberra, by the S.A. Conference and Historical Society as a memorial to the pioneers of S.A.

S.A. Methodist Conference

D.J. Howland,



Crockery and Historic Documents were a gift from Tasmania. The crockery  was made in about 1830 for Hobart’s Wesley Church and depicts the historic Church in Melville Street, Hobart. Historical.documents include the programme for a watchnight service on New Year’s Eve 1901, a souvenir programme of the church’s centenary celebrations in 1920  and the original crown grant of Davey Street Church site. This latter document, a parchment measuring15 x 25 inches, was:

  ‘enrolled and recorded in the Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land the twenty-first day of March, 1853.’

The photograph is of the Davey Street Church.

A Ceremonial Trowel was donated from Queensland. It was presented to Mrs J. S. Turner who shared in the laying of the corner stones of the Neil Street, Toowoombah Wesleyan Church on 14th August 1877. The foundation stone was set by the Governor of Queensland Sir Arthur Kennedy.

The Jarrah Cross, was originally presented by the Hardy family, which was the earliest Methodist family in Western Australia. The Hardy brothers and families arrived on the ship Tranby in 1830 and being accredited Methodist Local Preachers, immediately commenced Services of Worship under the shade of Jarrah trees  in what is now known as the Shopping Mall, Central Hay Street, Perth. They built the first Methodist Chapel and requested the Wesleyan Missionary in the Swan River Colony.

The wording of the accompanying document:

‘An altar cross presented by Rev. J.A.Wilson

President Western Australian Conference on 28th April 1974

This cross is made of wood from the original home of the Hardey Brothers. They were the first Methodist family to arrive in 1827 in W.A.. Both were local preachers and between them they established the first regular preaching service under a jarrah tree in Hay Street.

The cross was recently discovered during the demolition of the Chapel adjacent to Wesley Church in Perth.’

The letter of that first missionary, Rev. Smithies, presented with this plaque, testifies to the commitment of the Hardy family. The cross was formed by the Hardys from the beams of their home on the Maylands Peninsula. The home was destroyed by fire in 1834.

The long, descriptive letter written on 19 January 1843 to the General Secretaries of the Methodist Society in London describes not only the beginnings of Methodism in Western Australia, but gives a glimpse of life in the early days of the Swan River Colony.

‘Perth Swan River W.A. January 19th/43.

Rev Fathers & Brethren,

According to promise in a former letter, I now forward a view of our Mission Premises, as taken by a friend of our cause J.Austin Esq. who has kindly   presented it to the Wesleyan Missionary Committee for their acceptance and use, and with which I also furnish a few particulars relative to the use of the work of God in this place, and also some notice of our native school.

As far as I can gather from our friends here, the work of God (tho now small ) commenced in the following manner. In September 1829 a few Wesleyan friends the Messrs Hardeys from Lincolnshire, (the elder brother of the Rev S. and Edward Hardeys now missionaries in India) Messrs Brownile, Leach, Huttons, Johnsone & Clarkson Jnr from Yorkshire; embarked at Hull on board the ship Tranby, bound for Swan River, and arrived here in Feb 1830. Some few months elapsing while their lands were being marked out; and Fremantle our Sea Port being their residence for a time, they felt it to be their duty to endeavour to make themselves useful. A wooden building which consisted of three rooms, and which contained as many families, and which was brought out by the Messrs Clarkson, was at once converted into the use of a Methodist Chapel; and here divine service was performed every Sabbath day by the Messrs Hardeys and Leach all Local Preachers in England. In the course of a few weeks Mr Brownile and Leach left for Van Deimans’ Land, the latter of whom became as a Home Missionary in that island, laboured very acceptably in our connexion, and eventually died happy in the work. After this the remaining friends who were farmers left Fremantle for the Peninsula Farm a place about 4 miles above Perth and pleasantly situated and about 16 distant from Fremantle. Here they held religious services alternately at the different houses, among themselves every Sabbath evening. Some of the friends suggested that they should hold Public Service in Perth and Mr Joseph Hardey waiting on the Governor Sir James Stirling, received at once his promised protection in any endeavours to do good. For some twelve months preaching was observed in Perth under the shade of some large trees and it is hoped not in vain. The Messrs Hardeys leaving for the York district, preaching has been discontinued for two or three years. In January 1833 two or three more Wesleyan friends arrived here in the ship ‘Signet’ viz  Mr Lazenby and Mr Barnard Clarkson Snr who had been a Local Preacher in England for 35 yrs, and a gentleman well known in the history of Methodism in the neighbourhood of Market Weighton and Howden in Yorkshire, who led a useful and pious career during the short time of his labours here and eventually died in the York district and was buried in the solitary bush and whose grave I have seen and wept over the remains of one whose labours and benevolence are well known. Mr Lazenby being an artizan took up his residence in Perth and finding a few who had been members of Society in England viz the Messrs Huttons, Inkpens & Lockyers, it was suggested that they should at once commence a prayer meeting in Perth which was held at Mr Huttons and likewise a class meeting which was held at Mr Lazenbys. In 1834 the friends were desirous of erecting a place of worship and after several meetings resolved that a substantial brick building should be erected which should serve as a School and Chapel. In June it was opened for the above purpose. Every Sabbath evening public service was conducted by Messrs Hardey and Clarkson and Lazenby, no doubt to the benefit of many. The old Chapel was enlarged in 1836 and now forms the present native School House. It should be mentioned that this building was erected as private property and has within the last year been sold to the Wesleyan Missionary Society, the value of which has however been given towards the erection of the new Mission House. T he little band continued to meet together in the fear of God amid discouragement within and without till the year 1837, when they applied to Your Committee for a Missionary labourer among them. After some delay the Committee appointed the Rev. M. Longbottom to the Swan River Station. He however was long detained at one Port and another on his way from India but eventually he was wrecked on the Coast to the Entrance of Adelaide South Australia where he providentially arrived and remained. In 1840 your present Missionary arrived in this part of the Missionary field and found a few who truly feared God, and who rejoiced at our arrival and thanked God and took courage. During this year the friends agreed to erect a more commodious place of worship and accordingly they gave liberally, and begged for the object, and chiefly among themselves raised about 700 pounds, which with some aid from Governments here they have erected a new brick building, nearly 60 feet by 34 feet. In less than one year it was completed, pewed and opened on January 2nd 1841.The cost was one thousand three hundred pounds. The services too being interesting and well attended, and nearly 30 pounds subscribed on the occasion. It will contain about 400 in pews with, a small debt on it. The regular congregation about 250. We have now two Local Preachers Messrs Hardey and Lazenby and several other efficient and reliable helpers in one school and tract distribution. It may be safely asserted that the friends connected with the Wesleyan cause here have considerably contributed to the establishment of the Colony, and especially to its Moral Character, and but for them at the present day its to be feared that notwithstanding there is a Church, and Chaplain and ordinands, that iniquity would over spread the land. Those connected with your Society have more or less, in different parts of this colony, exerted a corrective and wholesome moral influence; and now the fewest yet not least in moral worth and religious enterprise; the average number of hearers is 25. Members in Society 38, Scholars in our Sabbath School 80. At present the call of God is (as in our fathers days) opposed but it’s a good sign. When Sin and Satan rage, and foes unite and friends forsake then the Lord arises and maintains His cause. O Lord arise and ride on prosperous and take all and subdue and succeed.

A copy of the report of our native school is now being sent to the Governor and Home Council, with the account of it as appeared in the Gazette. I  (will give it) in another letter, which will accompany this.

I am dear Fathers and Brethren,

Yours etc.,

J. Smthies.

PS. In a letter dated the 13th January I advised the drawing of Two Bills on account of self and the native Mission and drawn in favour of G Shenton & Co No 14 value 200.00 pounds and No 15 value100.00 pounds as stated in this letter I trust that considering the means which are now within our reach, we shall not want to call upon you for much at the end of the year. It is now near midnight and these must leave early in the morning.

I am Sirs Yours most effs. JS.

The original of this historically very significant letter was held in the London Archives of the British Methodist conference until 1974. It was sent to National Memorial for inclusion in the Pioneer Memorial at the request of the West Australian Conference. It therefore provides an additional link between National Memorial Church, Canberra, and the home Conference, from which all the early Methodist ministers were sent to Australia.

top of page

Items of interest, gifts and commemoration throughout the building and grounds

Stones:  Throughout the grounds there are stones, rocks and bricks of significance.

Stones from the doorway of St Johns Anglican Church in Parramatta have been donated. The historical import is that the stones paved an entrance to the Church which was used by children from the Methodist Sunday School nearby, over a long period of years.

Handmade bolts, nails and bricks from the St Johns property have also been received.

There was a gift from the Methodist Centenary Church of North Parramatta of timber from an early communion rail and some convict made bricks.

There is a stone from the Castlereagh church built into the National Memorial Methodist Church. The significance is that there is the strong belief that this in fact was the first Wesleyan Chapel in the Southern world. It certainly was the beginning in Samuel Leigh’s sense of a church community in Australia, having come from Sydney town after a day’s ride and being immediately accepted as a fellow family member of a Christian community.

Two original pews from Parramatta Centenary Church are at present in the foyer.

Memorial Gifts made at the time of the opening and dedication of the church in 1955 were:

  • The pulpit, in memory of Sir George Shaw Knowles, C.B.E., M.A., L.L.M. a foundation member of the church, was presented by Lady Knowles, George, Jean and Mervyn and Mr  S. Knowles;
  • The Lectern, is a gift of Mr J.D. Chettle and his daughter, in memory of Mrs C. Chettle who died 16th August 1954;
  • The Communion Table is the gift of Mr J.A.R. Thompson, of Brisbane.
  • The painting of Christ, and Communion table in the Youth Chapel (also referred to as the Side Chapel) are the gifts of Mr and Mrs W Lancaster in memory of their son Stephen Lancaster who was a foundation member of the Sunday School and who died 25th March, 1948. The mural, measuring 5ft by 3ft is entitled “Come Unto Me” and depicts the humanity and divinity of our Lord. It is after Hoffman, by Ainslie Roberts of Adelaide and dated May 1955.
  • The Communion rails are the gift of the Boorowa Circuit;
  • The Frontals of the Communion Table are the gift of the Architect, Mr Norman W. McPherson.
  • The embroidered Drape for the Communion Table is the gift of the Rev. George A. Wheen and Mrs Wheen.
  • The Carpets at that time were a gift from the Wesley Ladies’ Aid.
  • Almsplate and Youth Chapel vases were the gift of the Methodist Church of India.
  • Retable vases were a gift of the builders, Messrs Burrows and Lowes.
  • The Pulpit Hymnal was the gift of the Honourable Norman J. O. Makin, M.P. of South Australia who was the Labour member for Hindmarsh, was Speaker of the House of Representatives and had been Australian Ambassador to the United States of America. (For more information on Norman Makin’s time in Parliament, we have an album of his press clipping in the archives)
  • The Lectern Bible on the reredos is a gift of Bishop Ivan Lee Holt, of the Methodist Church of America. The inscription reads;

“ To the Methodists of Canberra,

I am happy as the President of the World Methodist Council to present to our National Church in Canberra the Pulpit Bible.

May God’s blessings rest on you and your Church!

Ivan Lee Holt.        October 31, 1955.                 St Louis.U.S.A.”

  • Portrait of John Wesley by Frank O. Salisbury.
  • White Linen Cloth for the Communion Table, from the Indian Methodist Church in Fiji, on which is crocheted a pattern including poinsettia leaves with the words “One Fold and One Shepherd’’  in Hindi and English.

The Youth Chapel also known as the Side Chapel, as this is a side chapel within the church, is used for services of worship during the week and for baptismal and small wedding and funeral services.

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. 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 Cummings Windows, at either side of the mural in the Side Chapel, symbolically represent the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion. These windows were installed by Mrs A.E. Cummings in memory of her son Frank Walter Cummings, Royal Australian Air Force who was killed over Scotland on 19.11.1943, and her husband Albert Edward Cummings who was station master in Darwin at the time of the Japanese bombing raids and who died 17.1.1946. Friends of Lillee Marie Cummings (1900 to 1982), Alf Crowley and Bern Hawkins, added a plaque to her memory to that for her husband.
  • The third window in the side chapel has the dove, lute and hands and a plaque:

“In loving memory of Bert Miller, Died 4.10.1966. Presented by his wife and family.”

  • Also in the side chapel is a Christening Font, which is in memory of Flight Lt Lindsay Knowles RAAF, who was killed in action in Libya on the 22nd November, 1941. Inside the wooden case is a cup –

‘The Alexander Cup, 800 Yards Championship. The Canberra Swimming Club. 1934. Won by L Knowles.’  

Somehow a very fitting cup for christenings. It had been used in Wesley Hall previously.

  • At the right front of the side chapel is a large wooden chair which has a brass plate inscribed:

“ Canberra Methodist Church

This chair was presented by

 The Hon. N. J. O. Makin. M.P.

Speaker of the House of Representatives

On the opening of the Central Hall

May 3rd,1930.”

  • Sri Lanka Lamp. In the Side Chapel is a heavy ornate brass oil lamp with candlesticks, presented to the General Conference of the Methodist Church of Australasia in 1975 by the Government of Sri Lanka as a symbol of gratitude for contributions from the “Methodist Million” appeal to that country. An amount exceeding $500,000, was given by Australian Methodists to the Improved Seed Project in Sri Lanka.
  • The Pulpit Bible (RSV) in the Side Chapel is inscribed:

“Presented in Loving Memory of

John Leslie Hampson

1892 – 1982

by his daughters

Yvonne M Scales / Celine M. Hampson

And their families

Thanks be to God.”

top of page

In the Church

In the church tallow-wood was used for the floor, bleached alpine ash for the pews, polished silver ash for the communion table and rails, pulpit, reredos, lectern, prayer desks and the organ and choir stalls and English oak for the organ console.

Hand-carved woodwork in the church is the craftmanship of the Otto brothers from Holland. At either corner of the Communion Table surround is 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, symbolising the unity of fellowship of Australian Methodism. Linking the coats of arms are carvings of wild flowers of Australia.

Four carved panels surmount the reredos, beneath a beautifully carved, simple wooden cross. The fact that it is an empty cross signifies Christ’s victory over death. Prior to World War 2, the Australian Methodist church architecture seldom featured the cross. Indeed, it often eschewed it vigorously as it was considered either ‘High Church’ or ‘Roman’. But the prominent use of the cross in ‘Methodism’s Cathedral Church of Canberra’ signified a radical change in the thinking within Australian Methodism concerning the prominent use of the cross on its buildings.

The panels are extremely detailed carvings, which depict the birth, the baptism, the crucifixion and the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

  • To the left of the Sanctuary is the organ, a memorial to the ministers and laymen of Australian Methodism. It was donated by their children. On the console is carved a harp, symbolising music. The organ is an electro-pneumatic instrument, built by  Messrs George B. Fincham and Sons of Melbourne. It has been augmented, enlarged and updated. See enclosed leaflet for a fuller description.
  • The Pulpit. As with the organ, there have been changes to the pulpit to give more versatility to the Sanctuary, for larger groups, concerts and pageants. The solution was an engineering masterpiece as the inscription implies:

‘ The vertical movement of this new version of the Knowles memorial pulpit was made possible by the gifts of David Bardwell. The concept of this moveable pulpit was conceived by Bill Minty (completed in 1992) as a service of love for his Lord.

Windows in the Church

Commencing from the minister’s right:

1. Within the Sanctuary is a window to John and Charles Wesley, the founder of Methodism and the Writer of Hymns respectively.

‘In memory of John Ernest Edwards 1890-1958.

Clerk of the Senate.’

This was installed by Mrs Edwards and her son, in memory of her husband who was for many years prominent in the church life particularly as Secretary of the Trust.

 2. The crescent window over the door to the Music Centre was presented by the Smith family in memory of their parents. Leon Russell Smith 1891-1974 and Nora Lilith Smith 1895-1982.

 3. Above crescent window is the Page Memorial window installed in the northern wall of the nave which, in pictures represents four phases of the life of Christ. This window was installed by members of the Page family, as a tribute to James and Annie de la Force Page (James was headmaster of a Wesleyan School in London, and as a pioneer assisted in organising the educational system in Northern New South Wales); Charles and Susannah Page, pioneers of Sunday Schools on the North Coast of New South Wales); Rodger Page (distinguished Methodist Missionary to Tonga); and Sir Earle Page (surgeon, educator and statesman)

4. Lower window is dedicated to Graham Howitt Wilkinson A.O., 1927-1996. Graham was Editor at the Canberra Times, was a member of Wesley congregation and Chairman of the Board at Mirinjani Retirement Village. His wife Muriel had the window installed in his memory.

5. Above is a window dedicated to the memory of Aileen Scott Walsh 1919-1986. More details need to be found.

6. Walter and Bernice Whitbread. Dedicated Superintendent, Minister and Commissioner for Building this Church from 1949 to 1955.

Ministry - Service - Music

A Gift From The Family

7. The Wheen window is above the Balcony over the main entrance. It was presented by the children and grandchildren of the Rev. George and Mrs Ruth Wheen and dedicated on July 27th 1980. The children were Helen and Tony Griffin and their children Karen, Bruce, Douglas and Hugh, and Mandy and David Wheen and their children George, Rosemary and Stephen.

The window was designed and executed by Warren Langley and was a ‘contemporary depiction of a Christianity firmly based in reality and passing upwards into the abstraction on one’s belief.’

8. The Gumley window is appropriately complimenting the Whitbread window opposite as the two families were bound in friendship and service to the church and community, and marriage! The accompanying plaque reads:

‘Ed and Madge Gumley

Loyal Members and Benefactors of this church for over 50 years.

Generosity - Dedication - Music

A Gift from the Family'

9. This window has been donated by Chaplains of the Australian Armed Services. It commemorates over 100,000 mostly young, Australian men and women who gave their lives either in defence of their country, or to help re-establish peace in other countries.

                  Lest We Forget.

10. Still outstanding:  information on the window above in the tower.

11. On the ministers left, in the Sanctuary is the window given by the Bunting family to commemorate the life and service of Bill who was in the choir and very much a part of the Wesley community. The symbols used are King David, St George and St Paul.

top of page

Other donated items in the Church

There were other items donated that may not still be in evidence.

Amplification unit, installed in the church tower, was donated by Mrs Thomas Burton, in memory of her husband who had been chauffeur for the Governor-General.

  • Records turntable equipment, installed also in the tower, donated by Mr and Mrs Stephen Taylor, in memory of their parents.
  • A sound reinforcement system from the pulpit presented by Mrs Athol Kilby in memory of her husband, who after many years in office at Wattle Park Church and Sunday School, retired to live in Canberra and attend church here. During 1976 this system was improved and brought up to modern standard.
  • Rock fountain, installed on the front lawn by Mr Herbert Jones, works foreman for the building of the church. There seems to be no further reference or photographic record of this structure, which must have been removed in some of the subsequent development.

top of page

Safe Place Statement

The Uniting Church in Australia believes that all people are made in the image of God, and as such we accept every individual regardless of race, age, creed, sexuality and gender. 


Wesley Uniting Church
Street: 20 National Circuit, Forrest, ACT 2603
Postal: PO Box 3217, Manuka, ACT 2603

Church Office Hours:
Mon - Fri, 10:00am to 1:00pm
phone: (02) 6295 3680
Click here to email us

Search our Website


We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we live, learn and work, and pay our respects to the First Nations Peoples and their Elders, past, present and emerging.

Subscribe to our Wesley Uniting Church Newsletter

We will email you the Church Notices, Order of Service and upcoming Events

Follow Wesley Uniting Church on Social Media