In 1906, Manly Baptist’s first meeting was held in a private residence in Victoria Parade in Manly. Folk continued services in various places until the need for a permanent place of worship arose. They finally heard of some land in William Street, and purchased it. The foundation stone of the present building was laid in 1917. For a long time, the church was bustling – with open-air prayer meetings, enthusiastic evangelism, a couple of hundred children in Sunday School, and more and more people being saved. But eventually, Manly Baptist grew small, and decided to close. They were followed for 20 years by a more experimental church community called Small Boat Big Sea. It too closed in 2019. Almost two years ago, Manly Life Baptist, planted about nine years ago as a Baptist NewStart church, inherited the old building.
Amazingly, when Manly Life started, it also began in an apartment on Victoria Parade. The church rented different spaces – seven different buildings in seven years (including at a high school which would at times move them out of the theatre and into the library…so not ideal stuff!). The growing church was at the whims of whoever owned the building, and longed to have their own space. So, the closing of any ministry at Manly Baptist was fortuitous. Although the building was beautiful, it was quite run down when Manly Life arrived. With the Association’s help, they’ve been able to revitalise the facilities with new carpet, paint and lights, and a new kitchen, stage, courtyard and foyer. The space is now beautiful, which pleases lead pastor Tim Giovanelli who says: “If you’re going to invite someone to church, it’s like inviting them into your home: you want it to be really comfortable for visitors.”
Since they got to a size where they just needed facilities in order to run their different ministries, Manly Life’s new home came at a perfect time. “It’s given us flexibility to do a lot more. And through that the church has just grown.” Tim says. “I think we’ve gotten a bit more rooted into the community, and that allows for us to make local connections…In a place like Manly, there’s no land for sale; you can’t build a new building – you either rent forever, or you inherit a church. So it’s great that the denomination is wanting to see their buildings get used for healthy ministry…It’s been a great story of renewal and rebirth: What was a pretty dead church now has hundreds of people there every Sunday. We’ve been running a thing called PlayTime during the week and we’re now getting families come from that to church. The facilities are alive, and the community connection has started to bear fruit.”
And the church have not been selfish with their beautiful space. “I was approached by a local butcher about using the venue. He offered to pay but we were happy to give it to him for free, because we want the community to use the space,” Tim shares. “He put on this great night with regenerative agriculture expert Charles Massey (from Cooma Baptist), and it’s led to another community forum night coming up. I don’t know if these things lead to people beating down the doors the next Sunday – but it is that constant building of being gracious with our facilities. Our heart is that we continue to foster those relationships and invite the community into our space…making that connection between being an alive church, and being integral in the heart of Manly.”