St John’s Church, Merbein will close in June.

TWO of Sunraysia’s oldest Anglican churches will close in June.

St John’s Merbein and St Luke’s Irymple will no longer hold services for parishioners, who have been told they will have to travel to St Margaret’s in Mildura.

Northern Mallee Anglican Archdeacon Michael Hopkins said the restructure of the region’s Anglican churches was due to dwindling staffing numbers.

“It’s difficult to provide a priest to all the centres, we’ve been talking to the congregations over the past 12 months to see how we can operate effectively,” Archdeacon Michael said.

He insists that all members from the three congregations are supportive of the merge.

“The parishioners made the decision collectively, and they came to this decision themselves,” Archdeacon Michael said. “In fact it was St John’s that initiated the conversation in the first place.”

Built in 1921, St John’s Merbein is one of the town’s oldest buildings, as is Irymple’s St Luke’s, which was established in 1926.

While it’s still unknown what the future holds for the historical churches, the stain glass windows from St Luke’s will be installed at St Margaret’s, while the St John’s sanctuary will also be moved to the Mildura church.

Around 40 people attend services at St Luke’s and St John’s weekly, and Archdeacon Michael says the merge will strengthen the region’s Anglican congregation.

“They are older groups who want more vibrancy and when we all come together it will reinvigorate the community and take the base congregation to more than 100 people, which is exciting,” Archdeacon Michael said.

He said if the communities didn’t agree to merge the congregations, the churches would have been restricted to monthly services.

“Everyone has articulated that they will be attending St Margaret’s, and some members have said they will drive those older worshippers who don’t drive,” Archdeacon Michael said.

“These congregations have been hugely generous in making decisions to cease worship and join St Margaret’s Mildura, it has not been easy for some.”

St John’s Merbein’s final service will be held on Sunday, May 21, at 10.30am, while the final service at St Luke’s Irymple will be on Sunday, May 28, at 9am.

St Margaret’s Mildura will hold a service to celebrate the merger of the three congregations on Sunday, June 4, at 9.30am.