The Bendoc Union Church known as an ecumenical Church was built around 1900 on a site donated by Norman Cameron, a district farmer and one of the original Trustees and held its first known service on October 4, 1903.
In 1852, Rev. Clarke, a travelling parson periodically called at Bendoc and Delegate to conduct services. In the 1870s, Rev A Brazier of Bairnsdale made visits on the rare occasion when the Snowy was not flooded. The Rev Samuel Percival, Church of England, and the Rev Colin Creig, Presbyterian of Bombala also made occasional visits at this time.
During the 1890s a community church with a shingled roof was built by Andy Brant. This church (Bendoc Union) is still in operation today, but now has an iron roof. The guarantors were Hamilton Reed, William George Sellers, John Johnston Nichol and Norman Cameron. The land was given by Norman Cameron and Jane Cameron, his wife, turned the first sod. His daughter, Kate was the first organist, and also worked the gold letters on black drapes for the alter. The first minister was the Rev Stapely.
Union, or multi-denominational churches are relatively rare in Victioria. The Bendoc Union Church is a simple timber bulding constructed of local hardwood including sawn hardwood weatherboards. A projecting vestry faces the steet. The original shingle roof has been replaced with corrugated iron, and only part of one of the finials (original crosses) remain.
The barge board detail and elaborate entry doors with hand-forged hinges are of interest. Internally. the church is substantially intact. The walls are whitewashed sheet metal nailed to studs. The ceiling is of ripple iron and features vent grilles which have been hand punched in a simple decorative pattern.
The church still operates as a Union Church with the building held in trust for the local farming and town community. Today it is used by Anglicans, Presbyterians and Catholics.
The Bendoc Union Church is historically and socially important as a rare and perhaps unique surviving example of a Union Church still used for its original purpose and still owned by a community trust. It is an important manifestation of a remote rural locality’s response to community needs and continues to serve in this capacity.
The Bendoc Union Church is of architectural importance as a vernacular church building reflecting available materials and local craftsmanship. Only the western doors and the decorated barge boards have any pretensions and the hand-punched ceiling vent grilles are of architectural interest. The use of sawn hardwood weatherboards is unusual in the wider Victorian context but typical in the East Gippsland region with its timber resouces. The high degree ofintactness of the building adds to its significance.
- In 1927 confimation ceremony was held for Jean and Hilda Guthrie.
- In 1936 Olga Miles (Mrs E Jamieson) and Dick Rodwell were prepared for confirmation by Rev Brodie, the minister in charge of the Parish of Delegate and Border Districts and confirmed by Bishop Blackburn of Gippsland Diocese.
- April 12, 1947, the first to be married in the church were Linda Jackson and Bob Turner
- September 10, 1988, last wedding to be married in the church were Michelle Joy Jamieson and Christopher John Marshall.
- December 1998, christening of Janine Jamieson. Parents Raymond and Cleo Jamieson.
Since 1991, various work projects have been undertaken to repair and restore the church building with the support of the Bendoc Progress Association (BPA). This work has involved re-stumping, replacing some weatherboards, painting all the weatherboards and other external parts, eradication of white ants, repainting the foundation and securing floor boards, fixing new gutters and down pipes and generally weatherproofing the building. The interior of the church has been repainted and new carpet laid. Most of the labour for the work on the church buildings was carried out by volunteer members of the Bendoc community. Many of those involved are active members of the BPA.
In excess of $14,000 raised by private donations and fund raising activities was spent on the purchase of materials for carrying out the repairs and restoration work. The Bendoc Progress Association received a grant in excess of $25,000 from Heritage Victoria to complete the renovations of windows and doors and structural repairs to walls.
Centenary Celebrations for the Bendoc Union Church
(Article by Patsy Manning, published in the Bombala Times 8th October 2003)
The celebration of Bendoc Union Church’s one hundredth birthday on October 5, 2003 was an overwhelming success. The service was attended by almost 150 people, who all managed to cram into the small church.
The Ecumenical service was taken by representatives of several Christian denominations. Reverends Robert Dummermuth and Malcolm Scott (Uniting Church, East Gippsland Remote Area Ministry), Rev. Peter Llewellyn (Anglican Parish of Southern Monaro), Fathers Brendan Hogan and Jim Erskine (Roman Catholic, Parish of Orbost and Sale Bishop’s office).
Playing the old pedal organ was Hilda Oliver (nee Ottery) of Lucknow (Vic), who has strong ties with Bendoc. Representatives of families well known to Bendoc were at the service and the afternoon tea that followed. They came from as far a-field as Sydney, Melbourne and the coastal areas as well as more locally based folk from Bendoc, Delegate, Tubbut and Bombala.
Retired Biship Owen Dowling (Frank Dowling’s grandson), Mrs Jean Hepburn (nee Guthrie) and Linda Turner (nee Jackson) cut Sheryle Tom’s magnificent cake, a replica of Bendoc Union Church.
Jean was the most senior person present on the day and was confirmed in the Church in 1927. Linda was the first bride to be married there in 1947, and Bishop Dowling’s grandfather was a well-known member of Bendoc’s community for many years and an active member of the Bendoc Progress Association Inc.
Most people stayed on for the afteroon tea in the Bendoc Memorial Hall and the heavy downpour of rain from a sudden spring thunderstorm did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.
There was an impromptu concert from several well known local singers – Jim Hepburn, Danny Bowden, Carmel Stevens and Kitch Jamieson with his sisters Heather Jones and Beverley (“Soph”) Stokes. This was an unexpected surprise to most people and added to their enjoyment.
Thanks are due to so many people for the success of Bendoc Union Church’s Centenary celebrations. To the many volunteers who gave so much of their time to prepare both the church and hall, the Ministers and Priests, to Sheryle for the cake, to the singers, to all you folk who came back to Bendoc for this special “one-in-a-lifetime” ocassion. We say “Thanks”