St Swithun’s Pymble is named after an English bishop, Swithun of Winchester. He lived in the 9th century and was the first Lord Chancellor of England. We are the only Anglican church in NSW with the name ‘Swithun’.
The congregation was initially formed as a branch of the parish of Gordon. The first service was held on 14th July 1901, with 50 adults and 30 children gathered together in Pymble Community Hall, a building erected by members of the Pymble family.
In 1920 St Swithun’s became a parish in its own right. The first church building, a little wooden hall, was built on land sold to the church by the Pymble family. All church services were held there until 1940 when the new stone church building was completed. The parish soon planted a new branch church: Christ Church St Ives.
The population of Pymble grew significantly after World War II and these were the days of a huge Sunday school and very large Confirmation classes. This growth led the parish to acquire and erect new buildings and (more recently) engage staff to assist the rector. Before the War, the rector’s only assistant was a catechist who came to help on Sundays. The assistance of an office secretary and a ministry team did not come about until the 1980s.
From the beginning the contribution of lay men and women has been vital: running the Sunday school, assisting with the preaching and leading services, and financing the new buildings and land purchases. One important feature of the congregation has been the above average attendance of men. Another feature, rather unusual in the Diocese of Sydney, has been the opportunities women have enjoyed to lead services and preach.
Mission has always been integral to the life of St Swithun’s. Mission to the local community has included teaching Scripture at the local primary school, and holding missions. Many members were involved in the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade that gave great impetus to the life of the congregation. St Swithun’s youth groups have nurtured numerous young men and women who have gone on to become cross-cultural missionaries, ordained clergy and lay church workers.
Music has grown more important at St Swithun’s over the years. The church installed a beautiful pipe organ in 1989 and the choir has grown in strength in a period when many other choirs in Sydney have declined.
Pastoral care has always been a priority in the parish, whether from the rector of the day, or from congregational members to each other, and, most recently, from designated staff.
The Bible likens God’s church to a building, not one made out of sandstone but rather living stones – people! Over the years the people of St Swithun’s have experienced growth, challenges, blessing, earthquake and renewal. Our building may now be heritage-listed but the people who meet there remain as we always have been: a collection of ‘living stones’ still being fashioned by our heavenly Maker.
If you’d like to know more about the history of St Swithun’s, copies of the book Living Stones: St Swithun’s Pymble by Marcia Cameron are available from the church office.