Celebrating vibrant faith & gracious hospitality

History

The 20th Century was just a few years old. Canterbury and Surrey Hills were burgeoning young suburbs on the outskirts of Melbourne. Housing was encroaching on the open paddocks. Clusters of shops were being built around the railway stations in Canterbury Road and Union Road. Schools were expanding. Lawyer and politician Robert Beckett, a dedicated Methodist, saw the need for a church to serve the growing community around the Highfield Road area and decided to do something about it. He gave a block of land for a church at the corner of Highfield Road and Rupert Street (now Prospect Hill Road). The year was 1911.

The First Church - 1912

The following year on August 4th 1912 a timber church was opened on the site. The young church had 33 members. There were 15 families associated with the new 'cause'. It was the beginning of the Highfield story. Robert Beckett was not only a man of vision but also action. He was born in 1862 and came through the depression of the 1890's as a successful lawyer with a strong commitment to the church. He was a class leader at Surrey Hills church for many years, in the days when the John Wesley concept of small groups, or classes, of church members meeting regularly for self-examination was still strong. His contribution to the life of the Highfield Road church set a pattern for the scores of dedicated lay people who have followed him in the ninety or more years since that first building was opened.

The original church cost £450 and was made of timber. Its vestry still stands behind the Sunday School main hall and abuts the eastern boundary. The main part of the original wooden church was transferred to Springvale circuit in 1958. The opening service on that winter's day in 1911 was conducted by three ministers, Rev Henry Bath, Rev D.J. Flockart and Rev John Thomas. The first minister to have oversight of the Highfield congregation was the Rev T. Dickson of Surrey Hills church.

Sunday School started in that first year with nine boys and twelve girls under Mr W. J. Walker and within five years had almost quadrupled. In October 1917 there were 117 on the Sunday School rolls. In those early years the church grew rapidly - like the community it served. It also reflected the issues which dominated community life. The First World War took its toll and the Honour Roll, which is on the north eastern wall of the church still, commemorates those who saw service.