ONE parishioner described Archdeacon Frank Hetherington as “the rector, around whom the church didn’t fall down”.
Archdeacon Hetherington will resign as rector of the Holy Trinity parish on April 30, after about 40 years of ordained ministry.
His legacy is the Holy Trinity Church on the corner of Byng and Anson streets which threatened to fall into disrepair but was saved by the determination of the rector, dedicated parishioners and $1 million in repairs.
“I tried to make a loving community of faith in a beautiful historic building,” he said.
During a thunderstorm in Orange “a few years ago” a piece of concrete about 30 centimetres by 50 centimetres fell from one of the tallest roofs of the building and smashed on the roof of the nave, or the middle part of the church, taking with it several slates which had only recently been repaired.
It was the last straw for the archdeacon who could not allow the building to be closed permanently so the Trinity Foundation was formed in 2005 to raise the funds for the restoration
Members went to work fixing, painting, hiring, re-wiring, laying carpet and replacing parts of the church which had rotted with age.
The result is beautiful, yet there are still small jobs to be done before the church is brought back to its original glory, or as close to it as possible.
“It’s a major public building and the public have been very supportive,” Archdeacon Hetherington said.
Archdeacon Hetherington and his wife Marilyn and their children have been posted in Blayney, Coonamble, Narromine and Parkes before coming to Holy Trinity parish in 1999.
He said he decided to join the priesthood after studying commercial law.
“I had a palm cross and I decided there was much more truth in that,” he said.
The Archdeacon said he had some “big moments” in the Orange parish and thought of the funeral of Sir Charles Cutler who was minister for education and deputy premier for 10 years under premier Robert Askin.
He also thought of the funeral of independent member for Calare Peter Andren.
“I got to know him quite well towards the end,” he said.
“But then there is baptising someone’s little baby and marrying young couples.
He said he had “reached an age” where he needed to slow down but could not take the full leap into retirement.
He will stay on as archdeacon at Bishop Ian Palmer’s request.
“It’s always been a struggle and a juggle to do both,” he said.
Archdeacon Hetherington is all but slowing down with a looming graduation on the horizon.
The 65-year-old went back to university to study a course which will allow him to mentor young priests as well as social and community workers and is expected to finish at the end of the year.
He said he had been too busy to think about how his semi-retirement would impact upon him but he was sure when it finally happened he would sorely miss the people and the places he had served.
“I have been part of a parish community in one way or another all my life,” he said.
“They’re a fantastic bunch of people.”
He looked around the nearly finished church and listed all of the renovations the group had completed and said: “I thank God for the people of this place.”
PART of the restoration process included finding bells for the renovated tower and spire.
A bell enthusiast, Ron Shepherd was contacted by Archdeacon Hetherington who set him to work to find bells fit for Holy Trinity Church.
Funds were found and 5, redundant bells were obtained from the Keltek Trust in the UK and three bells, newly cast in the UK were individually donated.
After restoration of the tower and steeple in 2007-2008, the eight full circle bells were dedicated in 2007.
For the first time in Orange on Saturday afternoon of April 26, a peal will ring consistently for two and a half to three hours as a thanksgiving celebration of all Archdeacon Hetherington has achieved, during his 14 and a half years as the rector of Holy Trinity, not only as a restorer but as a most dedicated priest and community leader.
A farewell lunch is also being held for Archdeacon Hetherington at the Orange Ex-Services Club on April 27 at 12.30pm. Contact Leslie at the parish office on 6362 1623.