Freestone wins fight to keep parish alive
THE rededication of the Freestone Uniting Church has become a symbol of hope to the small town's residents.
Since Reverend Ansie Liebenberg arrived in Australia to become the Warwick Killarney Uniting Church leader, she said she's had to fight to keep the Freestone parish going.
"I arrived from South Africa in 2016 after the church had celebrated 150 years and in the celebration brochures there had been notice it would be shutting down due to a dwindle in numbers," she said.
"I think the church was waiting for me to shut down the parish but I wouldn't do it."
Recognising Freestone was a majority farming town, she sat down with community members.
"We changed it to 2pm on the Sunday and that was a better slot for farming people to take a break and gather and it seemed to work," she said.
"All the other churches left Freestone but we managed to stay open."
But with the building falling into disrepair, Reverend Ansie had her work cut out for her.
"At that point, it was falling apart, "she said.
"So in 2018 when it was the beginning of the drought, we decided that we need to remain there as a symbol of hope for farming community that it is not a place forgotten and that we do care."
Armed with little money, the community stepped in anyway they could to help finish the job.
"We had people from Freestone who weren't even part of the congregation stepping in to help," Rev. Ansie said.
"In February last year the vision was cast and we secured some funding and farmers, people who weren't even in the congregation stepped in to help and we re-did cladding, restored windows and the roof."
Last Sunday the church was rededicated to the public and Reverend Ansi said it looked as beautiful as the day it opened 155 years ago.
"It's so beautiful, and on the day we had people come to the church who had been married there or went to Sunday school there," she said.
"It would have been pretty sad to see another building empty from the drought, but there's a past to this church and there will be a future."