For Howard Benson, St John's Anglican Church at Cooks Hill is more than his place of worship. It's also a repository of his family's history.
Six generations of his family have been parishioners here, stretching back to 1862.
"My great great grandparents lived at Wallsend, he was a butcher, and they brought their four children here for baptism," explained Mr Benson.
Howard Benson's parents were married in this church in 1938, and their funeral services were held here as well. For Mr Benson himself, the church has marked milestones in his own life.
"I was baptised here in 1947, started coming to Sunday school when I was five, and I've been coming here ever since," he said.
This week Howard Benson is not only reflecting on his family's past but the church's as well.
Thursday marks 160 years since Saint John's Anglican Church at Cooks Hill was consecrated.
The sandstock brick building in Parry Street is the oldest standing church in Newcastle.
"In my view, the history has shaped us," said the Reverend Kimberly Sawyer, who moved to the parish from Sydney eight months ago.
"I feel a bit like a blow-in, but on the other hand I am a part of it. And everyone plays a part. We're part of a story."
Indeed, she is part of this church's story: "My husband's grandparents were married here. It's lovely to have that connection."
When the church took shape amid the workers' homes, paddocks and swampy ground in Cooks Hill, it was designed to serve the new mining suburbs springing up around Newcastle. The parish stretched to Wallsend, Lambton and Cardiff, as well as the Glebe and Merewether.
"The baptismal records show there were stonemasons, painters, joiners, and there was a 'gentleman'," Mr Benson said of the early congregations. "But they would have been all working people around here."
At the time of the church's consecration, the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, William Tyrrell explained how the parish would help reclaim this kind of area from "practical atheism".
What the interior of St John's does indicate is that it became an integral part of community life. The building holds touchstones of local history.
In the sanctuary is a stained glass window dedicated to Elizabeth Cook, from the family behind the suburb's name.
In the north transept is an honour roll, commemorating parishioners who served in the First World War.
In the south transept are stained glass windows remembering more recent history. They honour Leeca Laverick and Anthony Atkinson. They were married in the church on October 1, 1994. The couple was killed the following day in the Seaview Air crash.
In 1949, when a local surf swimming champion, Ray Land, was killed by a shark at Bar Beach, his funeral service was held at St John's.
"I think it's about the community having a space to grieve, but also to bring hope," said the Reverend Kimberly Sawyer.
The sum of these moments is being remembered by the congregation and the community, as they celebrate the church's 160th anniversary. On Saturday, a twilight picnic was held in the church grounds. On Sunday, a mass, featuring music composed by David Banney, will be held.
Among those attending will be June Wooden, who has lived all of her 84 years in Cooks Hill and has been coming to the church since she was a child.
"It's a second home, I suppose," Miss Wooden said. "I love the history of it. And I suppose because I've been around for half the length of the time of the church, some of the stuff I remember."
Fellow parishioner Mark Thornton has been attending St John's for only five years, when he and his wife moved to Newcastle, but it holds great significance. His daughter, Winifred, was baptised here last year.
"I often find myself thinking that there's not many places like this around," Mr Thornton said.
"We could go all over town and find spaces where people gather together for all kinds of different reasons, but the fact that St John's has been here for so long in the same way is really important to us. It feels really special."
Jennifer Benson has been attending St John's for 46 years, after marrying Howard, along with his family's history in this church.
"It's a beautiful place to worship," Mrs Benson said. "I think over 46 years, you just think of the many wonderful people who've been here, and we're part of history, and the future is ahead of us."
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