O'Rourke family feels blessed in their little piece of heaven

HEAVEN: Susan and Simon O'Rourke feel blessed to have found their slice of heaven. Picture: Marina Neil.
HEAVEN: Susan and Simon O'Rourke feel blessed to have found their slice of heaven. Picture: Marina Neil.

You may say it was divine intervention but for the O’Rourke family of East Maitland it was the best investment they have ever made.

Three years ago Susan and Simon O’Rourke were house-hunting in the Maitland area, looking for something with a little bit of character and some rustic charm.

Tucked away on the quiet end of a suburban East Maitland street was a modest weatherboard property that probably wouldn’t appeal to the wider public.

The former St Barnabas Anglican Church was a great find for the O’Rourkes. The magic happened on Valentines Day 2014. It was a match made in heaven.

“Susan walked in and said I love it, I want to buy it, end of story,” Mr O’Rourke said.

The couple and their two children moved into the church with its detached Sunday school hall at the rear and have never looked back.

This year marks St Barnabas’ 100th anniversary and the O’Rourke family has maintained its foundation stone, which holds pride of place at the front door.

“We bought the church on Valentine’s Day and three days later on the 17th of February marked the Church’s opening,” Mr O’Rourke said.

Many of the church’s features have been retained including the foundation stone, original floor boards and hymn board.

“At one stage it was abandoned and derelict but someone came in before we bought it and gave it a makeover.”

The family is trying to find out more about the church’s history, in particular the people who worshipped there and those who attended its Sunday school. 

“We want to know the personal stories, what it meant to people and who they came here with and why,” Mr O’Rourke said.

He said internet searches had shown that the church was built by the Baker family, who established Bakers’ Brickyard in East Maitland.

Mr O’Rourke understands Mrs Elizabeth Baker was a big benefactor to the church. She found it hard to get across the highway to St Peter’s Anglican Church so donated money to build St Barnabas.

“Apparently there were a few elderly folk who had trouble getting to St Peter’s. We love this place. It is unique and has loads of appeal and character. It’s not a project home or a box on a block. It has history and we love that,” Mr O’Rourke said.