Isaiah 54:2 “Enlarge the site of your tent, let the side curtains be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.”
The Tale of a Kingdom
Christine Iacobellis, February 2015
Once upon a time, there was a green pool of water in a far away kingdom called Canning Vale. The water was still and slightly stagnant but it had some minnows, frogs and turtles living in it. The land around was wild where rabbits roamed and snakes slithered. There was even a tiny little house and some abandoned cars!
Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that the water, the land, the little house and the animals would be there for many years, just as they had for the years before. But God had other plans for this land and He sent a family to begin carrying them out. This family could see a glimpse of what God saw. They imagined what beauty the land held and saw how it could be a real hub in the kingdom of Canning Vale and even other kingdoms beyond.
This family saw past the littered car bodies and burnt out shed and saw a meeting place for people who wanted to worship God. With twinkly eyes and big ideas, this family thanked God for a chance to transform and use the gift of the land. The family gathered with others to see the land.
“Look”, they said, “can you see what it will be like when the community comes here and gets to see God in what we do?”
Some said “No, not really, are you mad?” but others said “Yes, I can kind of see what you mean.”
And so together they set about cleaning up, paving, constructing, landscaping and transforming. For many years, the family changed the lives of other subjects and even in other kingdoms further away. They started playgroups for all the young princes and princesses of Canning Vale. They held feasts, celebrations and erected great tents, encouraging others to look to God and live like the great King Jesus. They lent a hand, prayed regularly and took time to know those around them. They did this always with willing hearts and big smiles.
Like all good adventures though, things didn’t always run smoothly. There were times of despair and hardship, but through all the years, the family clung to God. They knew what He wanted them to do and so they remembered the plans that God had for the land. Eventually, the pool of water changed and is today no longer on the land. The animals, minnows and the little house aren't there either. But the story doesn't end there because another, bigger house for God is being built. You see the land was never for any one family, or only the wild plants and animals - it was for all of the community in the kingdom.
The twinkly eyed family are still there. The children have almost finished growing up and are poised to do what it is God wants them to do in either the kingdom of Canning Vale or one somewhere else. The mother and father are also faithfully following God to see where He wants them to go next. But they will stay to be a part of the land and the new work God is doing. Meanwhile, God has now chosen a new little family just starting out to continue to do His work in the kingdom of Canning Vale.
The Billabong Uniting Church Timeline
September 1994 The Uniting Church of WA (UCWA) listed the growing area of Southern River as a priority for the development of a congregation.
May 1999 Lot 282 Campbell Road Canning Vale (1.6 Hectares) was purchased by the UCWA.
February 2000 Rev Mark Illingworth was appointed as the Team Leader for the Canning Vale Faith Community.
7 May 2000 Mark, his wife Deborah and their three children began meeting with three other UCA members in their own home in Canning Vale. Using a Cell Church model this nucleus began to experiment with various ways of gathering and slowly began to grow in number at Sunday worship and mid week prayer meetings. A local community room and Primary School were trialed as meeting places, however this proved unsuitable.
January 2001 Work began to renovate an existing shed on the church property as a future meeting place for the faith community. During this year a playgroup was established which grew quickly and put demands on the facilities at the Illingworth’s home.
December 2001 Although unfinished, the congregation shifted its fortnightly Celebration meetings to the Shed.
February 2002 The Playgroup moved to The Shed at the beginning of Term 1.
July 2002 An Outline Development Plan was rejected by the Environmental Protection Authority and then by City of Gosnells.
August 2002 The Shed was finally finished and approved as a public building.
October 2002 With two Playgroups running by Term 4 2002, two Cell groups, a growing Sunday Oasis kids program and vibrant Celebration gatherings, the time arrived to move from being a faith community to a fully-fledged Uniting Church congregation.
18th May 2003 The Billabong Uniting Church was recognised by the Presbytery of Peel as a congregation and Rev’d Mark Illingworth as the settled Minister of the Word.
October 2003 The first Billabong Spring Festival was successfully run with over 500 people visiting.
18th April 2004 The inaugural congregational meeting was held with 30 founding members. A Leadership Team (Church Council) of 5 members plus the Team Leader were appointed.
September 2004 Another Spring Festival was held with over 700 people visiting the site.
July 2004 A new Outline Development Plan for the large former rural area that the Billabong land is a part of was finally approved by City of Gosnells.
April 2006 The congregation again moved it’s fortnightly celebration gatherings to the local primary school because “The Shed” was full. This was an exciting step to ensure the congregation continued to grow in number in preparation for the building of a larger facility. Unfortunately due to issues around setup, security and shelter, this location proved unworkable.
July 2006 After a year of negotiations a joint Detailed Area Plan was submitted with the neighbours to the City of Gosnells for the development of the church site.
August 2006 A Scripture Union marquee was rented for worship gatherings back on site. The temporary nature of the marquee energised the congregation to move forward into building a new facility.
May 2007 A 10m x 20m second hand white PVC marquee was purchased to replace the hired canvas SU tent.
April 2008 “Oasis House” was demolished at the rear of the site following extensive vandalism.
December 2008 The Detailed Area Plan for Lot 282 Campbell Road was finally approved.
August 2009 A month of prayer, reflection and discussion about the project was held at the congregation. 6 options were considered including do nothing and sell everything. It was agreed to pursue the subdivision into three separate titles.
31st August 2009 The Dept of Education and Training renewed its interest in leasing the land.
March 2010 WA Planning Commission approval for subdivision.
May 2010 10th Anniversary of the Billabong.
August 2010 Advised the congregation that a commitment had been made to complete the infrastructure works by May 2011 and therefore the existing facilities would be removed by the end of December 2010. The end of the shed and tent era of the congregation.
September 2010 The Billabong Property Team was appointed at a Congregational Meeting to pursue the building of The Billabong Community Centre.
October 2010 After five and a half years of negotiation the Department of Education lease was finally signed.
November 2010 Clearing of the rear part of the site commenced. Received agreement from the Livingston Adventist Church for The Billabong Uniting Church to use their facility on Sunday mornings once a fortnight during 2011 while the infrastructure and Stage 1 building works were completed.
December 2010 The “Boomerang” design for The Billabong Community Centre was proposed by Paul Steed as part of The Billabong Property Team.
25th Dec 2010 Final Billabong gathering in the temporary Marquee and Shed facilities.
January 2011 The congregation begins meeting at the Livingston Seventh Day Adventist Church.
20 July 2011 Development Application plan submitted to the City of Gosnells.
1st August 2011 Campbell Kindergarten opens 1 week late in Term 3.
2 December 2011 Infrastructure Works finally completed.
February 2012 Development Application approved by the City of Gosnells.
13th May 2012 Following a series of meetings, The Billabong Congregational Meeting approved the following resolution: “The Billabong Uniting Church approves The Billabong Community Centre Master Plan dated 19th July 2011 as the basis for determining a viable first stage of construction.”
August 2012 The Billabong “Time to Build” Pledge program raising almost $400,000 over 3 years.
February 2013 Rev Luke Williams began as an additional Minister of the Word at The Billabong and Rev Mark Illingworth began 2 days a week on the South East Metro project.
16 February 2014 First service at Campbell Primary School at 4pm.
14 May 2014 The Billabong building contract is signed.
15 June 2014 Church Service on site and the setting out of the building layout using stakes and string.
January 2015 Rev Mark Illingworth finished his placement at The Billabong.
February 2015 The congregation again starts meeting at 10am at the Livingston Seventh Day Adventist Church.
2 September 2015 The keys for the building are handed over.
12 September 2015 The first event in the new Community Centre is the celebration of the wedding of Anneliis Illingworth and Cameron Harries.
4 - 10 October 2015 The new Billabong Community Centre is officially opened by Rev Steve Francis at a Grand Opening Community Festival.
The Billabong Over the Years
2001: The building of the shed
2000 - 2006: The Shed Season
2006 - 2010: The Tent Season
2008: An interview with Mark Illingworth
2011 - 2013: The Hall Season
2014: The Billabong Construction Video
2014: The School Season