Daylesford couple rebuild Scrub Hill church as a community hub

While recent census data revealed we’re increasingly turning our backs on religion, a Daylesford couple is helping to ensure the Scrub Hill community doesn’t lose its church. 

New life: Jennie Wilmoth and Jenni Draper inside the historic Scrub Hill Uniting Church, which has been transformed.  Picture: Dylan Burns.

New life: Jennie Wilmoth and Jenni Draper inside the historic Scrub Hill Uniting Church, which has been transformed. Picture: Dylan Burns.

In November 2015 Jennie Wilmoth and Jenni Draper took over the former Scrub Hill Uniting Church, which ceased running services back in April 2015.

The historic bluestone building was built in 1869 and had acted as a community hub for more than 140 years.   

Over the past 18 months the couple have been working tirelessly to restore the building and the neighbouring Sunday school and have renamed the facility Scrub Hill 1869.  

Ms Wilmoth said the pair were keen to ensure the facility would remain a public asset following its redevelopment.   

“A lot of people drop in and talk about how their grandma was married here and everyone's got a story to tell about the place,” Ms Wilmoth said.  

“A church in those days was the hub of the community and religion was just the excuse because they just wanted to catch up with everyone on a Sunday morning.  

“Buying a church has really meant buying into the community and it’s made us evaluate what we want the church to be.”  

The rejuvenated space has since been used for everything from concerts to weddings and dances, with Melbourne electro-pop duo Oh Pep! performing in the hall in June.    

This Sunday songstress Alyce Platt will join her band The Fish-shop Collective for an intimate performance in the church which houses just 80 sitting guests.   

The couple also plan on offering the space for funerals as well as wider community events such as a farmer’s harvest festival twice a year. 

“It’s taken a lot of hard yakka and a lot of infrastructure has gone into it because when we got into it the mice and bats were pretty entrenched,” Ms Wilmoth said of the church’s rebuild.  

“It’s been a real labour of love and one of the joys of being there every day is the locals we've got to know really well.”

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