This Sunday, July 17th, at 11am, the Welsh Church, a member of the Victorian Council of Churches, will be celebrating their 169th church anniversary (20th July).
The Welsh Church traces its history back to a number of Welsh Calvinist Methodist communities (Presbyterian) that were established on the goldfields where Welsh churches were also established, notably in Ballarat, Sebastopol and Maldon. Welsh miners had gathered for worship at the Collins Street Baptist Church in December 1852 and from 1853 at the Common School in Collins Street, but in 1854 a site at 320 La Trobe Street was granted by the government for the designated purpose of a Welsh Calvinist Methodist Church.
A small chapel was built on this site in 1856, with the words ‘Welsh Chapel’ written in gilt letters above the door. The Welsh language was an important element of church services, as was music and singing. Services were delivered in both Welsh and English.
The present church was dedicated and opened in December 1871, under the Ministry of the Rev. W. M. Evans, to whom the pioneers of the Welsh cause owe much, for it was his zeal, dedication and organising that made possible the completion of the building.
Prior to the turn of the 20th century, English services were introduced to meet the needs of the first generation Welsh Australians. Twice monthly Welsh services are still an important component of the church today, under the leadership of the present Minister, Rev. Siôn Gough Hughes. It is the only Welsh Church in the Pacific Basin that has a minister who conducts services in the Welsh language.
Today, the Welsh Church describes itself as ‘a radically inclusive church, a warm and welcoming worship community situated near the heart of Melbourne. Don’t let the name confuse you, you do not have to be Welsh to worship with us. We were founded over 150 years ago to serve the Welsh People of Melbourne but since then our horizons have broadened and now we see ourselves as a very multi-cultural church, one in which you will find a welcome. We offer a traditional Welsh welcome to all people, regardless of age, sex, orientation, denomination or national origin. Even though most of our services are now in English we still think our Welsh traditions are important. We still hold services in the Welsh Language twice a month, we keep up the Welsh values of hospitality and warmth, preaching and prayer and we have a deep love of music and singing. At least twice a year we hold a Gymanfa Ganu (a singing festival), a service of song in which we sing hymns to the Glory of God in both English and Welsh’.