Our History

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Our History

The Story of St Mark’s

The his­tory of St Mark’s Lutheran Con­gre­ga­tion at Mount Barker has been recorded not for all to read, rem­i­nisce, and relax, but rather to help us to remem­ber how beau­ti­ful God has been, to rekin­dle zeal and deter­mi­na­tion shown by the found­ing mem­bers in estab­lish­ing this con­gre­ga­tion and finally to reach out in a man­ner never seen in Mt Barker before.

The head­ing “A Ven­ture in Faith” is not just some­thing picked out for the occa­sion but it seems to empha­sise the spirit upon which this con­gre­ga­tion has grown since 1958. A few quotes would be in order:

IN FAITH … The peo­ple of Hah­n­dorf decided to hold ser­vices in Mt Barker (an area even in 1958 not par­tic­u­larly sym­pa­thetic to the “Ger­man” church).

IN FAITH. Land was pur­chased and the church hall built with­out any seem­ingly fea­si­ble way of pay­ing for it.

IN FAITH. The mem­bers decided to hold a 3 month Ven­ture in Faith pro­gram which is still believed by many to be a real turn­ing point in the spir­i­tual growth of the con­gre­ga­tion.

IN FAITH … The manse and Sun­day School rooms were built to meet the needs of the area.

IN FAITH … Mem­bers decided to build their own church at a time when the cost of such a build­ing seemed beyond resources.

IN FAITH … A Pri­mary School was estab­lished to fur­ther cater for the spir­i­tual and social growth of the young in the community.

In all these exam­ples and many oth­ers not men­tioned the suc­cess or accom­plish­ment of them was not the result of efforts or organ­i­sa­tion of mere peo­ple but “To God Be the Glory”. He in His own time and way granted His blessings.

The con­gre­ga­tion has grown from a child of the mother church “St Paul’s” into adult­hood. Will we now accept all the respon­si­bil­i­ties and chal­lenges that lie before us and per­haps even think of estab­lish­ing our own daugh­ter church in the future? Will we con­tinue to “Ven­ture in Faith”, in that God’s ways are not always our ways, but that what­so­ever we plan to do in the future, we will remem­ber the words in Romans 12:11, “Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord”.

A Ven­ture in Faith

The Lutheran Con­gre­ga­tion at Mount Barker began as an out­reach from St Paul’s con­gre­ga­tion in the neigh­bour­ing town of Hah­n­dorf. Mount Barker was one of the old­est towns in the Ade­laide Hills, the cen­tre of the first spe­cial land sur­vey under­taken in the coun­try dis­tricts of the colony of South Aus­tralia in 1838. It had con­gre­ga­tions of most of the major churches: the Church of Eng­land, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Pres­by­ter­ian, and Bap­tist, all within a few blocks of each other near the cen­tre of the town, and with a num­ber of com­fort­able double-storied homes set on estates, and its streets lined with plane, oak, and elm trees, it was a very ‘Eng­lish’ town.

The Lutheran Church, on the other hand, was cen­tred over ‘Wind­mill Hill’ in the old­est Ger­man set­tle­ment in the state, Hah­n­dorf, where there were two active con­gre­ga­tions. Here ser­vices were con­ducted in Ger­man until the sec­ond World War, and it was not until after this that Mt Barker could be con­sid­ered as a mis­sion­ary field by the Lutherans.

On Sep­tem­ber 16th 1957, St Paul’s, Hah­n­dorf mem­bers had an Evan­ge­lism and Stew­ard­ship evening where films were shown on how to spread the Gospel. A lengthy dis­cus­sion fol­lowed and this group of men decided to take some action. Two areas were con­sid­ered as fields ripe for devel­op­ment, Bridge­wa­ter and Mt Barker. (Bridge­wa­ter at that time was con­sid­ered to have the greater poten­tial.) These men can­vassed the areas and realised that ser­vices should be organ­ised to which they could invite contacts.

1st Ser­vice Founders Room, Mt Barker Insti­tute, Sun­day 15/12/1957.

Three months later, on Sun­day Decem­ber 15th, the first ser­vice was held at Mt Barker in the Founders Room of the Insti­tute, attended by 50 peo­ple. Mrs V. Wit­twer served as organ­ist and Pas­tor C.J. Pfitzner led the ser­vice. Ser­vices con­tin­ued there and although atten­dances were small, they showed that there was the pos­si­bil­ity of expan­sion. Offi­cials of the S.A. Dis­trict were not impressed with a new field open­ing with­out the nec­es­sary approval and a dep­u­ta­tion from the Home Mis­sion Com­mit­tee (Pas­tor F.W. Stolz and Brother A.G. Pfeif­fer) came early in Jan­u­ary 1958 as a result of the report fur­nished by Pas­tor Pfitzner.

At a duly con­vened meet­ing of the St Paul’s con­gre­ga­tion, Hah­n­dorf, on Jan­u­ary 19th 1958, the fol­low­ing res­o­lu­tion was passed unan­i­mously: “That this con­gre­ga­tion sup­port the move for expan­sion in the Ade­laide Hills and ask the Home Mis­sion Com­mit­tee to pro­vide help for the Pas­tor of the Parish”. After con­sul­ta­tion with Pas­tor Pfitzner the Home Mis­sion Com­mit­tee decided that a Pas­tor be called to serve the cen­tres at Mt Barker and Bridge­wa­ter. In due course a call was sent to Pas­tor L.P. Doecke of Mur­ray Bridge, who was serv­ing the Lower Mur­ray Mis­sion Field. He accepted and was installed as assis­tant Pas­tor at Hah­n­dorf on March 16th, 1958. A house at Stir­ling was pur­chased at a cost of $7100 (£3,550) and was ded­i­cated as a manse a week later.


The Founders Room of the Mt Barker Insti­tute was not very con­ducive to wor­ship and per­mis­sion was sought from St Andrew’s Pres­by­ter­ian Church to hold ser­vices on a reg­u­lar basis and this was gen­er­ously agreed to. On June 1st 1958, after a ser­vice con­ducted by Pas­tor L.P. Doecke, a meet­ing was held by those present to decide whether to form a con­gre­ga­tion. Pas­tor C.J. Pfitzner, who had been recently elected Pres­i­dent of the S.A. Dis­trict UELCA, appealed to those present to ask them­selves whether they “ought not align them­selves with this move­ment, which was surely a God-pleasing one”. They then voted to form a con­gre­ga­tion, and became foun­da­tion members.

It can be seen from the list that the Lutheran Church was no longer a ‘Ger­man’ church, for there were a num­ber of peo­ple with Eng­lish names here, and all spoke Eng­lish. These mem­bers also con­sid­ered a con­sti­tu­tion for the new con­gre­ga­tion and decided that all mem­bers, both male and female, over the age of 18 be enti­tled to vote. The new con­gre­ga­tion was called St Andrew’s, and had 29 con­firmed mem­bers and 51 souls.

At the begin­ning, Sun­day School was only held on Sun­days when there was a ser­vice, but it was soon con­sid­ered to be more desir­able to hold it every Sun­day. Fif­teen chil­dren attended reg­u­larly at this early stage and the first teach­ers were Mr Reg Gal­lasch, Mrs Wag­net, Mrs Betty Sickel and Mr Mil­ton Page.

By Novem­ber 1958, the new con­gre­ga­tion had a cru­ci­fix, can­dle­sticks and com­mu­nion ves­sels, all donated by mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion and a mem­ber at Hah­n­dorf. These fur­nish­ings are all still in use. One mem­ber donated a Devo­tion Book to be given to the first adult to be con­firmed (this is believed to be Bill Hoare, who was con­firmed that Novem­ber), Hymn books for the use of vis­i­tors and the offer­ing plates were also donated by var­i­ous families.

Pur­chase of Land

Dur­ing the first cou­ple of years from the found­ing of the con­gre­ga­tion, mem­bers and offi­cials looked at many blocks of land in Mt Barker for a suit­able one on which to build a church. As Pas­tor Doecke wrote in a Parish Messenger,

“we have inspected many sites and sights, prices are con­sid­er­ably higher than expected but after another inspec­tion by higher church author­i­ties in the near future, we antic­i­pate a ‘full steam ahead’ movement.”

Even­tu­ally, land was pur­chased on Decem­ber 10th 1959, on Albert Road run­ning through to Howard Lane. It was bought from a Miss Davis for £1,250 and included an old house which Mrs Davis and her sis­ter vacated in the mid­dle of 1960. (It was sug­gested that this old house be used for the Sun­day School.) A sim­i­lar block cost­ing $1,000 (£500) was also purchased.

Nego­ti­a­tions were under­taken by offi­cials of the UELCA, S.A. Dis­trict, and mem­bers of Mt Barker con­gre­ga­tion did not at first know of the pur­chase. High hopes were enter­tained for the site, and it was said in the Messenger,

“The remain­der of the prop­erty lends itself ide­ally for a Hall, Church, ten­nis courts, swim­ming pool and any­thing else con­sid­ered nec­es­sary by Amer­i­can stan­dards for a suc­cess­ful church unit.”

How­ever, it was later found to be unsuit­able. On Feb­ru­ary 2nd 1961, Pas­tor L.P. Doecke received a let­ter from Mrs Coral Stephen­son, offer­ing land on Ham­p­den Road, her prop­erty ‘Brier­lea’. She esti­mated that the prop­erty could be divided into five build­ing blocks at $1,000 (£500) per block. It was an excel­lent site, over­look­ing the town, and it was pur­chased dur­ing 1961. The Albert Road blocks were sold some­time after 1962 for the sum of $4,000 (£2,000).

Ade­laide Hills — Bre­mer River Parish

In Novem­ber 1959, Salem and Call­ing­ton con­gre­ga­tions decided to offi­cially join Bridge­wa­ter and Mt Barker con­gre­ga­tions to form the Ade­laide Hills-Bremer River Parish.

Pas­tor Doecke, who had worked hard to have a church built at Mt Barker, accepted a call to serve at the South Kilk­er­ran Parish. He wrote in his Annual report in April 1961:

“After very seri­ous and anguish-filled con­sid­er­a­tion we felt con­strained to accept the sec­ond call sent to us from the South Kilk­er­ran Parish. Although the three years have only just elapsed, I hon­estly felt that a new Pas­tor would be able to do more suc­cess­ful work, par­tic­u­larly amongst the peo­ple liv­ing at the two Hills cen­tres. The foun­da­tion has been laid, and it should not be long before the ben­e­fits are seen, even in a remark­able way.”

These words proved to be prophetic.

Pas­tor G.E. Prove of Kingaroy, Queens­land, accepted the call and was installed on Octo­ber 8th 1961. He con­tin­ued to live in the manse at Stirling.

Hav­ing come from the trop­i­cal warmth of Queens­land, the cold of Stir­ling must have come as quite a shock. He reported in the Mes­sen­ger for August 1962 that he grate­fully received loads of Mallee stumps from some mem­bers at Call­ing­ton. He also found that he had not lost the art of split­ting the stumps dur­ing 14 years in Queens­land, where mallee roots are unknown.

Church Hall

The con­gre­ga­tion also worked hard at the task of build­ing a church. A Church Build­ing Fund was set up and spe­cial col­lec­tions were taken up for it. Brother Tom Scott allowed mem­bers to cut wood on his prop­erty and sev­eral suc­cess­ful work­ing bees were held and the pro­ceeds from the sale of the wood was added to the Fund. In addi­tion a sum of $2,000 (£1,000) was allot­ted at Gen­eral Synod and $4,000 (£2,000) was made avail­able through the Church Revolv­ing Fund. By Decem­ber 1961, plans for a church hall had been com­pleted and ten­ders were being called. In Jan­u­ary 1962 the ten­der of G. O’Malley of Charleston was accepted at a cost of $11,096 (The hall was stage 1 of a three stage project, stage 2 being the manse, and stage 3 a church. At this time it was decided to change the name of the con­gre­ga­tion because there was already a St Andrew’s in Mt Barker, and it was changed to St Mark’s Lutheran con­gre­ga­tion. The foun­da­tion stone of the hall, red gran­ite with pol­ished let­ter­ing, was laid on August 5th 1962.

Fur­ther Buildings

In 1963 Mr O’Malley ten­dered a price of $800 (£400) to build the toi­lets but this was deemed too costly. It was decided to sub-contract for this job. The need for toi­lets became fairly urgent as some time in stormy August, two mem­bers had to tie the old ‘Potato Privy’ down before “She blew” as one mem­ber put it. The ‘privy’ was trans­ported weekly from a Nairne potato patch for “urgent use only” by the mem­bers. Late in 1963 the toi­lets were com­pleted at a cost of $1,092 (£546) and opened debt free. The Ladies Guild and monies from a fete met the nec­es­sary expenses.

Late in 1963 it was decided to relo­cate the manse since the one at Stir­ling was at the far end of the parish and this made a lot of extra travel nec­es­sary. Mt Barker, as the geo­graph­i­cal cen­tre of the parish was con­sid­ered most suit­able for a new site, and it was resolved to build a manse on the exist­ing block in such a way that if nec­es­sary, later on it could be sold with­out caus­ing any inter­fer­ence with the plans of the con­gre­ga­tion. At a meet­ing in April 1964, the mem­bers decided to accept the ten­der of the May­fair Build­ing Co. of $11,100 (£5,550) for the erec­tion of a manse. The archi­tect, Mr Norm Dro­gemuller, said that the price included a lockup motor garage, heaters in lounge and study, kitchen cooker, var­i­ous cup­boards and book shelves in the study and a rain­wa­ter tank. When the Stir­ling manse was sold, the money would be chan­nelled towards the Mt Barker manse. The con­gre­ga­tion was already heav­ily com­mit­ted finan­cially, but they decided to go ahead with the project in faith, with the help of the other con­gre­ga­tions in the parish. On Sep­tem­ber 27th, Pas­tor L.W. Auricht, Chair­man of the Home Mis­sion Com­mit­tee, offi­ci­ated at the ded­i­ca­tion of the manse.


Dur­ing 1974, atten­dances at ser­vices were good and over­crowd­ing was fairly fre­quent. A Build­ing Com­mit­tee was appointed to have suit­able plans drawn up for a pos­si­ble exten­sion of the church build­ing. In May, plans were pre­sented to the con­gre­ga­tion to extend the church hall by about 40 feet, and to add a vestry, at an approx­i­mate cost of $6,500 plus $2,900 for the vestry. The plans were accepted, in prin­ci­ple, on the con­di­tion that suf­fi­cient finance could be raised. A goal was set for $6,000 in gift money and $6,000 in match­ing deposits from the Lutheran Laymen’s League (i.e. repayable loan money). By Octo­ber, $2,917 had been received in gifts and promised money, and $1,750 in LLL deposits. A deci­sion was then made that the build­ing exten­sion be deferred until the AGM in March 1975, “due to the present eco­nomic cli­mate and lack of cash gifts”.

At the AGM in 1975, the build­ing ques­tion was left to the Church Coun­cil to keep under con­stant review. At this stage, the poor con­di­tion of the tem­po­rary Sun­day School rooms was brought to notice. A few months later, the urgent needs of the Youth Fel­low­ship (atten­dance: 35) were brought to the Church Coun­cil. The youth needed a hail which was not also the wor­ship sanc­tu­ary. These prob­lems high­lighted the urgent require­ment for fur­ther build­ing, but called into ques­tion the ade­quacy of the plans for church hall exten­sions to meet these needs.

In Sep­tem­ber, the Rural Mis­sion Com­mit­tee, who reg­u­larly gave the con­gre­ga­tion a small sub­sidy, asked for rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Church Coun­cil to meet with them, to dis­cuss the ques­tion of extra build­ings. The Com­mit­tee asked the rep­re­sen­ta­tives to inves­ti­gate these questions:

Does the con­gre­ga­tion believe it has a mis­sion for the Lord in Mt Barker?

Does it see scope for growth?

Then the Com­mit­tee asked them to ascer­tain the build­ing require­ments of the con­gre­ga­tion over the next ten to twenty years. In answer to these ques­tions it was found that over the pre­vi­ous five years, bap­tized mem­ber­ship increased from 250 to 380 (52%) and con­firmed mem­ber­ship from 142 to 260 (45%) The Mount Barker com­mu­nity was also pro­jected to dou­ble its pop­u­la­tion of 3,000 over the next ten years, so again there was poten­tial for mis­sion growth.

The archi­tect Mr Nor­man Dro­gemuller was con­tracted and he drew up sketch plans of a sep­a­rate church build­ing to seat up to 300 per­sons, which would cost about $90,000.

On Novem­ber 3rd, 1975, the con­gre­ga­tion decided to go for­ward in faith and have detailed plans and spec­i­fi­ca­tions drawn up. At this time Mr Colin Schultz was appointed Chair­man of the Build­ing Committee.

On June 20th, 1976, the ten­der price of $98,150 sub­mit­ted by Mr T. Sheldrick was accepted. The builder also con­tracted to pro­vide the sanc­tu­ary fur­ni­ture of lectern, pul­pit, font and altar for $3,000 and stained tim­ber pews for just over $8,000. Build­ing com­menced on July 5th and the Foun­da­tion Stone was laid a month later. By Sep­tem­ber the walls were topped, but progress was then slowed by a short­age of men to work on the steel fab­ri­ca­tion for the roof. This put the build­ing sched­ule three weeks behind.

In Novem­ber an Elders meet­ing did not believe the build­ing could be com­pleted by the dead­line, but the builders assured them that they would fin­ish on time. Less than three weeks before the dead­line, the roof-decking and gird­ers were fin­ished. Then, just ten days before the open­ing, the builders found that the acoustic tiles could not be fit­ted into the main ceil­ing, so a sprayed-on plas­ter ceil­ing was sub­sti­tuted. The ten­sion increased when the car­pet ordered from Eng­land couldn’t be unloaded from the ship due to a wharf strike. The car­pet, for the aisle and sanc­tu­ary, even­tu­ally arrived the day before the open­ing and was laid on the Sat­ur­day night.

Twenty three weeks after build­ing com­menced, the new church was ded­i­cated on Decem­ber 12th, 1976. The fan-shaped build­ing was unique and impres­sive. It could seat 200 peo­ple in the nave and an addi­tional 100 in the narthex and cry room area. The cream exter­nal brick har­mo­nizes well with the church hail and manse, while the inter­nal ivory brick, green car­pets and nat­ural tim­bers pro­vide an atmos­phere of warmth and seren­ity so desir­able for wor­ship life. The total cost of the whole project includ­ing fur­ni­ture, fees and prepa­ra­tion of the large car park area, came to $125,000, which was $1,000 under the pro­jected cost, and for this the con­gre­ga­tion was thankful.

Pipe Organ History

An Organ Com­mit­tee had been formed in Decem­ber 1975 because they believed a stronger organ would be needed in the larger space of the new church in order to give clear lead­er­ship to the singing. They inspected all the organs avail­able in SA, includ­ing elec­tric organs and second-hand pipe organs. In Sep­tem­ber, the mem­bers of the com­mit­tee made a week­end visit to the Con­gre­ga­tional Church in the Mel­bourne sub­urb of Kew to inspect a good second-hand pipe organ.

The organ was orig­i­nally built in 1889 by Mr Alfred Fuller for £850. At this time the organ was a three man­ual instru­ment. In 1921, the con­sole was moved out from imme­di­ately under the organ pipes, to the front choir stalls. Long wooden track­ers were added to the action. With the pass­ing of time, these track­ers made the play­ing of the organ increas­ingly dif­fi­cult. Through­out the years the organ has been noted for its excel­lent tonal qual­i­ties. In 1960, the church dea­cons and mem­bers at Kew, decided to have the organ rebuilt. The con­tract was let to the firm of Hill, Nor­man and Beard of Mel­bourne. Much of the mate­r­ial of the old organ has been incor­po­rated into the new instru­ment. The spec­i­fi­ca­tions have been con­sid­er­ably altered with the pur­pose of mak­ing the organ much more effi­cient and effec­tive. With electro-pneumatic action, the instru­ment has proved to be suited to recital work, as well as for nor­mal ser­vices of wor­ship. The cost of rebuild­ing the organ at Kew in 1960, together with addi­tional pan­elling work, alter­ing of choir stalls and installing three phase motor and blower, was approx­i­mately $6,400.

The organ was pur­chased for the price of $2,750. The organ would, how­ever, have to be rebuilt, includ­ing the instal­la­tion of new com­po­nents and this would cost $9,500. The organ was rebuilt at Mt Barker by Mr Ross Waters of Ade­laide, and it fin­ished up with most of the orig­i­nal 856 pipes and the same rich, res­o­nant sounds. The floor space used by the organ was greatly reduced and a new facade built of nyotah tim­ber. It was ded­i­cated on Novem­ber 19th 1978 by Pas­tor Ever­ard Leske..

In 2011 a major ren­o­va­tion was under­taken by Mr Richard Lar­ritt with the man­u­fac­ture and fit­ment of a solid state switch­ing sys­tem. rebuild­ing of thumb pis­tons. new key con­tacts and wipers and a new power trans­former /rec­ti­fier. The appeal to fund this work $16,000 was fully sub­cribed in a short time.