S. Silas - Gembrook>
The church was originally built as a weatherboard church in 1905, but was clad in brick sometime in the 1960's. Unfortunately at this time the altar space was 'modernised' so the original beautiful wooden panelling, and I believe a rose window was lost.  Fortunately the actual altar, and the panelling, roof beams and gothic windows in the main part of the church were not touched!

History of the St Silas Church Gembrook
taken from "Forest to Farming" written by Genseric Parker
(A very personal story)

"The second church to be built was the Anglican church, St Silas', in the Main Street in 1905.  It was built by Fred Dyson and Eddie Smith, both of Gembrook, and the materials were bought from James Moore, Timber Merchants and Importers, of City Rd, South Melbourne on July 20th 1905, for the sum of L77/7/-.  The materials included five gothic headed windows with Muranese glass (still present in the church).  The cartage, from the factory to the station and then rail to Gembrook, was 7/6d.  As a link gesture, its pulpit was donated by the committee of the Union church (the first church built in Gembrook - serving all Christian denominations)."
"A number of early families associated with the church have been acknowledged in plaques in the building.  The most interesting is the bell plaque.  It was unveiled in 1948.  Its story involves the Russell family (large Gembrook family).  In the early 1940's Bill Russell and his son Bardie were fishing in Port Phillip Bay when a storm blew up.  They were lost at sea for several hours.  When Bill had given up all hope of rescue he prayed that if their lives were spared from this ordeal he would donate a bell and belfry to his chruch.  Fortunately their lives were saved and the bell tower was duly erected in 1948.  Sadly this historic bell was stolen in 1994*(see note later)."
"I can remember that at one stage the minister used to come up from Emerald on Puffing Billy in order to conduct the 2pm service at St Silas' Church.  If my mother had been called out in her midwife capacity, I would be instructed to meet him at the station at 12.30pm and then take him up to Belvedere to serve him a roast dinner. Old Mrs Neville used to delight in telling the tale of one Sunday at this time when she was the only parishioner in church.  After the sermon, the minister took the collection plate around and she was quite embarassed that she only had threepence to put in it!"
"Even in the 1950's Mr Viney would come up from Emerald in his horse and jinker, picking up parishioners along the way.  A very down-to-earth man, he would make up the sermon as he drove!"
"Like all churches its fortunes too over the years have see-sawed. Following the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires in Cockatoo, an Anglican church was built at Cockatoo.  As it drew larger congregations, a decision was made to put St Silas; up for sale after 89 years.  It was bought by my daughter Judy in 1994 in order that the historic building would not be demolished, and so church services could still be offered."

Bell Tower
Bell Tower
Judy Parker & Tom Marrow with the new bell
Judy Parker & Tom Marrow with the new bell

Centenary Celebrations and restoration of the church bell & tower.

St Silas’ Church of England Gembrook celebrated the centenary of its founding in 2005.
It was built in 1905 by Fred Dyson and Eddie Smith. The materials were bought from James Moore, Timber Merchants and Importers of City Road, South Melbourne for £77-6-0. The materials included five gothic headed windows with Muranese glass.

The church is situated in a prominent position in the Main Street of Gembrook diagonally opposite the community centre and children’s playground. Family descendants of the two builders of the church still live in Gembrook and were involved in the Centenary celebrations

Mr Bill (EAC) Russell was responsible for the building of the bell tower and the story of its origin is fascinating in terms of local history. On a particular occasion Bill Russell with his son aged 17. were lost at sea all night in a small boat in Port Phillip Bay. In gratitude for their survival and rescue he pledged to donate a bell and tower to his local church, St Silas.

The wooden exterior of the church was bricked to assist in the preservation of the building in the early 1960’s. Fortunately most of the interior of the church still remains in its original state, including the wooden beams, wooden beams, wooden lining and Muranese glass.

After the building of an Anglican church in Cockatoo in was decided to sell St Silas church. So Judy Parker bought the church in March 1944 with the purpose of reinstating Anglican services in the community. Judy was able to maintain within the church all the original items of furniture donated by the early families of Gembrook. These include the pulpit which was a gift from the Union Church in 1905; the altar which was a thank offering for peace and a memorial to all who served in the Second World War; the Bishops chair was a gift of the Ladies Guild in 1945; the chalice and paten were given in memory of Charlie Begg; the christening ewer in memory of the death of a baby in the Russell family; the processional cross was a gift from the King family and the font (which was sculptured from limestone in 1881) was donated by the Lorenz/Beer/ Tucker families.

In 1995 a serious theft took place at the church and a number of pews and the bell was stolen.

To celebrate the centenary of St Silas’ the bell tower was restored by engineer Bruno Bartosch and artist Tom Marrow – members of the congregation. Generous funds were made available from the Cardinia Heritage Grant Scheme, an initiative of Cardinia Shire Council established to assist the conservation of public heritage places within the shire.

The new bell was bought by Judy Parker from a Nepalese town of Patan in memory of her many years running a trekking business in the Himalayas, where beautiful bells adorn the shrines in every village.

On Saturday October 1st 2005 following the celebration of the Eucharist the Tower was re-dedicated with its new Bell.

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