St Nicolas' Anglican Church has a rich history of proclaiming Jesus as Lord in Coogee. Much of this history was compiled by parishioners Bibbi Stocks and Trevor Brignell in 1987, in the book The Centenary History of St Nicolas Anglican Church Coogee: 1887/1987.
As the population of Sydney continued to grow in the late 1800s, it was determined that the community of Coogee required a place of its own for “Divine Worship and Christian teaching”. The land upon which the church would be built was purchased in 1885 for £600.
Mrs Barry, the wife of the Primate of Australia Bishop Alfred Barry, was asked by the committee setting up the church to select a name for the parish. She chose to name the church St Nicolas, after the 4th century Bishop of Myra, who had a reputation for giving to others out of generosity and kindness — as well as being known as the historical figure of Santa Claus!
Rev William Greenwood led the parish of Coogee from 1897 after arriving from England the previous year. He followed the request of the local Dean “to go to Coogee and know neither one party nor the other, but preach the Gospel to them.” He did this at St Nicolas for close to four decades, preaching in both Coogee and Malabar (walking between the two services!).
On the Friday evening of the 5th August 1905, following choir practice, St Nicolas’ was engulfed in flames. It took less than an hour for almost the entire building to be destroyed. As Stocks and Brignell wrote,
“The one essential feature of successful fire-fighting - good water supply - was sadly lacking and the flow was so poor that only one jet could be used and this had little effect. Within ten minutes the front wall had collapsed, the roof had fallen in and the flames leapt unopposed into the air for considerable height.” (Page 12)
In 1905, a Fincham organ was purchased. Originally installed in the Christ Church Pro Cathedral, Newcastle, the organ was built in 1885 in Richmond, Victoria, by Australia's premier organ builder, George Hannan. Explore more information about our beautiful organ.
The next years of the new century saw the population along the eastern seaboard increase, and the Parish was divided. St John’s was established in Maroubra and St Luke’s was formed in Clovelly. By 1937, St Nicolas’ had established five churches, four rectories, three church halls and six Sunday schools.
The church continued to grow between 1936 and 1965 under Rev Arthur Wade, and later under Rev Trevor Griffiths. Considered the “active years” of St Nicolas’, this period saw St Nicolas’ have 300 Sunday school enrolments, 17 Sunday school teachers and a large Youth Fellowship group, as well as the Young Women’s Group, the Mother’s Union, the Ladies Guild and a “very enthusiastic” church choir.
In 1987 the Church celebrated its centenary.
In 1998, the current minister, Rev Craig Segaert, commenced his position in Coogee. St Nics’ Playroom was established in 2003 under the direction of Mrs Annie Segaert. While it started with only 12 people, the playroom - considered the best in the eastern suburbs - grew to have over 100 children, spreading across two days to allow for growth. The children and their families could play, eat morning tea, listen to a Bible story, sing Christian songs and complete craft activities.
Following its success, St Nics' Playroom finally closed its doors to make way for an ambitious project to build a Christian preschool on the site of the existing church halls, as a way of sharing the Gospel to the community of Coogee.
St Nics’ Christian Preschool opened towards the end of 2017 and has been growing as a ministry to the community of Coogee. For more information on the beautiful, purpose-built and authentically Christian preschool, go to the website.
As we reflect on our history, we also look to the future. Where will God lead us over the next years? Will you join us in sharing the good news of Jesus with Coogee?