Where did we come from
ln 1946 - 47 there were two families who were members of the Churches of Christ who became instrumental in commencing a work in the Penrith area.
Hubert and Margaret Burkhead lived in Penrith and travelled to Doonside every Sunday to attend church there.
Faith and Allan Ellis, with their two children, Deanne and David, lived in Mayfield, (Newcastle), and worshipped at Mayfield Church of Christ.
Due to ill health, Allan Ellis was advised to leave his job at Newcastle steel works and seek employment in the open and fresh air. As a result, the family decided to move to the Penrith area.
Prior to moving, a mission was held at Mayfield. A man called Roy Greenhalgh conducted the mission and he stayed with the Ellis family. They expressed their desire to Mr. Greenhalgh to "set up the Lord's table" when they moved to Penrith.
Upon settling in Penrith, Mr. Burkhead contacted the Ellis family. The outcome of that introduction was the agreement that "the Lord's Table" would be established in Penrith.
The first meeting of the Churches of Christ in Penrith was held on Sunday, 4th April 1948 in a local hall.
The meeting was presided over by Mr Roy Acland and the Conference President at the time. E.C Hinrichson preached.
Those present at that first meeting were:
• Mr and Mrs Burkhead
• Mr Ellis
• Mr and Mrs Genet (who lived at Cranebrook)
• Mr Ward (a Baptist gentleman who lived in the district)
Where 2 or 3 are Gathered
After the service, a meeting was held and it was decided that future services would be held in the home of Mr and Mrs Burkhead in Station Street, Penrith.
Allan Ellis acted as Secretary and Hubert Burkhead as Treasurer.
Meetings continued in the Burkhead home for some time with the help of visiting speakers and students from the Churches of Christ Bible College.
Sometime later, a decision was made to hire the C.W.A Hall in Station Street in which to continue services. On 23rd January, 1949, W.J Crossman constituted the church and dedicated the members present to the glory of God and His service.
The members present were:
• Mr and Mrs Burkhead
• Mr and Mrs Ellis
• Mr and Mrs Genet
• Mr Martin
• Mr and Mrs Callaghan
The fledgling church then sought affiliation with the Churches of Christ Conference.
In 1949, a mission was held in a tent in High Street, Penrith (on the site between the police station and the hotel on Lawson Street). Arthur Baker conducted the mission and Bill Taylor conducted Happy Hour after school for children.
Prayer meetings and bible studies were conducted in the home of Faith and Allan Ellis. During this time, young Deanne Ellis gave her life to the Lord and was baptised at Doonside Church of Christ and became a member of the Penrith Church. This was the first confession of faith for the church.
For many years these faithful members claimed the promise that "where two or three are gathered together in His name, He would be there to own and bless them." There were times when it appeared that God was testing the faith of these people because as one or two would be added, others would move away and it would be a case of a faithful few carrying on the work.
During this testing time, Mr Harry C Gowans was a tower of strength, a wonderful disciple. He travelled from Austral to Penrith every Sunday morning to help and encourage the struggling church. Both Doonside and Austral conducted baptisms as Penrith did not have a baptistery.
Faith in action
The first Sunday School commenced in the C.W.A Hall with nine students. In 1955 it was decided to "go ahead in faith" and purchase land for the erection of a Church.
The land in Stafford Street was purchased from Mr and Mrs Stan Hair.
A portable hut was purchased from the Youth Department.
The first service in this building was held on 16th September 1956 at 11.15 am.
During these early years, the church was supported by many visiting speakers.
Those who came regularly included:
• Owen Wainwright - Doonside • David Rodger - Doonside
• Norm Matthews - Earlwood
• Roy Greenhalgh - (Churches of Christ Youth Department
• Harry C. Gowans - (Austral)
The members then decided to apply for a student minister. The church's first student minister was Don Norling.
In 1961, the portable hut was extended lengthwise, lined, and sealed and a small kitchen was added.
The land on the eastern side of the building was purchased and the existing house renovated and repaired so as to be used as a manse for the church's first full time minister, Allan Webb.
It was during Allan's ministry that the decision was made to build a new church incorporating the old building which was to be used for the Sunday School.
This new church building was built using voluntary labour where possible under the supervision of Henry Mallard.
It was with much excitement, rejoicing and praise to God that the new building was officially opened on 20th April 1963.
Movement through the community
Some other important milestones in the life of the church include:
The building of the Fellowship Hall
This project was again largely completed by voluntary labour. The money for the building of the hall was raised through faithful ladies in the congregation who embarked on an ambitious program of lamington drives! Perce and Marj Wainwright were the driving force behind these lamington drives. They worked tirelessly on these drives for many years. Henry Mallard was the overseer of the building work. The hall was officially opened on 14th February, 1975.
The planting of a new church in 1976 in the lower Blue Mountains
Meetings were initially held in the home of Bill and Vera Bemmer who were members of Penrith Church of Christ, but lived at Blaxland.
The Penrith Church supported the work in Blaxland with prayer, speakers and finance.
The building of a New Manse
Church members began donating to the building fund in 1980. A loan was obtained from the bank and by December 1983, the loan had been completely repaid. The building was carried out under the supervision of John Donnelly. The manse was officially opened in 1982.
The purchase of the property at 154 Stafford Street with the idea of using it for a youth minister when the time arrived for the church to engage one.
The extension of the worship centre in 1985
This extension was provided by Coral and Henry Mallard in memory of their daughter, Juel.
The planting of a new church in Richmond in 1987.
An outreach into Glenmore Park commencing in 1990.
The purchase of 162 Stafford Street with a long term view of expanding the worship centre and redeveloping the church property.