For more than 150 years St John’s Church has served the community of Epping and district. The first Anglican service in Epping was held on 23 August 1863. It was held in the Church of England Denominational School in Campbell Street, where Epping Railway Station is now situated. Epping was a rural village set in the midst of farm land at this time. Little is known about the early congregation except that there is a report that they were summoned to worship by a bell hung on a gum tree.
The need for a church building was soon apparent but the original site in Campbell Street was considered too close to the creek and a new grant of land was given in High Street. Here a bluestone church was built in 1869 and was known as St John’s. The location of St John’s became the catalyst for the relocation of the Epping Civic Precinct away from the creek. To the south of the church the offices of Epping Roads Board were built and later became the Shire Offices (now Epping Police Station). Across Church Street to the north was Epping Primary School.
The building was constructed of local bluestone (quarried about a kilometre away in Cooper Street). A sanctuary and vestry were added in 1937.
St John’s was connected with churches in Preston and Reservoir in various combinations until it became a separate parish in 1960. The new parish included the suburbs of Thomastown, Lalor and Mill Park as well as Epping and all the territory north to Donnybrook Road.
Post World War II migration brought many British immigrants to Thomastown and Lalor. In response to this a church was built in Thomastown in 1965 and the parish became known as the Parish of Thomastown/Epping. St Paul’s Thomastown developed into the main centre of the parish for some years.
Demographic changes (especially non-British migrants moving into Thomastown and Lalor), the commercial development of Epping, new housing estates to the north of Epping and improvements in transport led to a refocussing of the parish life in the 1990s. St Paul’s Thomastown was sold in 1998 and a new church and parish complex was built in Epping, the new building being opened in 1999.
The new St John’s, designed by architect Alan Nance, included a modern space for the celebration of the liturgy and facilities for social and community activities. A semi-commercial kitchen was provided for the parish catering guild, Miracle Meals, which for a couple of decades from 1988 was a major fund-raising activity of the parish. The bluestone building, now with a heritage listing, was refurbished as the parish hall. A child-care centre was built facing Church Street in 2007 and provides both a community service and an income stream for the parish.
THE PARISH NOW
The name of the parish was changed in 2008 to The Parish of St John the Evangelist Epping. “The Evangelist” means Gospel writer and is an acknowledgement that the patron saint of the parish is the writer of the Fourth Gospel.
The congregation of St John’s is now characterised by great ethnic diversity and a wide range of ages. The activities of the congregation are described elsewhere on this website.
The Vicars (Parish Priests) of the Parish of Epping (or Thomastown/Epping) since the formation of the parish in 1960 have been: Gary Prince, Murray Richter, Len Blair, John Northfield, John McIntyre, Nigel Wright, Barry Browne, Ken Lay and Margaret Hartley.
Further information about the history of the parish can be found in a book published in 2009, Epping Rising: an account of the Anglican Church in and around Epping, by RW Hartley. Copies are available from the Parish for $20 (plus postage & handling). See "Contact Us" .