Less than 20 years after the first settlement in Victoria, the village of Kensington was established in 1852 on the road to Queenscliff. In 1885 Kensington was renamed Leopold.
Methodist church services began in homes almost concurrently with the founding of the village; the Wesleyan Methodists were hosted by the Brinsmeads and the Primitive Methodists by the Barkers. William Brinsmead later donated land on the Queenscliff Road, on which a Wesleyan chapel was built in 1855.
By 1900 the Wesleyans and the Primitives had come together, and the Wesleyan chapel was sold to help reduce the debt on the Primitive Methodist church. The debt had been incurred in moving the building to the corner of Ash Rd. and the Queenscliff Rd. from Melaluka Rd., where it had been built in 1860 on land donated by Henry Barker. Although the Primitive’s church was destroyed by fire in 1895, it was insured and rebuilt.
The move to the new site would have been a stirring event for young and old as a rather large building was moved by a team of straining, sweating horses up the long hill in Leopold. (It would have been good to see a church going uphill instead of downhill.)
The church was extended in 1959 by the addition of the Moolap Methodist church building, becoming Yeoman Hall in memory of Miss Yeoman’s 60 years of service to the church. The new addition was just in time for the observance of the Leopold church’s centennary in 1960*, eight days of celebration from October 2-9.
The moving of buildings did not finish with the Moolap move. In 1969, due to the widening of Queenscliff Rd, it was necessary to move the church and hall to its current location on land given by Mr. & Mrs. Cliff Watkins. The opportunity was taken to renovate the sanctuary and add a kitchen, toilet block, glass-fronted narthex and enclosed passageway. The renovation enlarged the capacity from a crowded 70 to a comfortable 110.
In 1976, the Leopold congregation joined with St. Albans Methodist church to form the Leopold-St. Albans Parish, staffed by one minister. A few months later, it became part of the Uniting Church in Australia on June 22, 1977. Since that time, Leopold has been paired with other congregations, most recently East Geelong; however, it is now on its own.
In 2010, on the occasion of the congregation’s sesquicentenniel (150 years), A Journey of Faith: a short history of the Leopold Uniting Church, was published.** On the inside cover the then minister, Christine Moimoi, wrote:
“The community…changed over time from a sleepy backwater to a busy, but smallish, farming community to an ever-expanding dormitory suburb. The congregation here has been a constant during these changes.
“Sectarian differences that once were strong have disappeared into history; Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists became part of the Methodist Church of Australasia, and that community later became part of the Uniting Church in Australia.We have welcomed those who were once Presbyterian, Congregational or whatever! There is now life-giving diversity in our congregation.
“Our predecessors set us an example of resourcefulness and faithfulness that have set us in good stead… Where we have come from invites us to explore the disciplines that grew such faithful people…If we learn them again, and accompany them with the art of discernment and the generosity of hospitality, we can look forward to a fruitful future for the Leopold Uniting Church.”
Over the years the congregation has been served by many fine ministers. See the list here.