Heavenly retreat seeks approval

Key characteristics of the church, like the pulpit and cross, remain today.

By Jess Baker

A quaint 106-year-old church at The Summit has been transformed into heavenly holiday accommodation and could soon be open to guests.

Seventh-generation Granite Belt resident and owner of the church Rosemary Chapman submitted a material change of use application to Southern Downs Regional Council on Thursday 8 July.

She proposed that the church, which is also her home, be used as short term accommodation for some of the year.

Located at 9 Church Road at The Summit, the 54 square metre church was built in 1915.

In its more than a century of existence, the church has hosted innumerable Sunday services and wedding ceremonies – the first wedding in 1916, and the last in 2005.

It was a much-loved church for many years, but attendance depleted over time and its owners – the Uniting Church – eventually decided to sell.

Rosemary said she purchased the church at auction in 2018 after it was decommissioned in 2017, immediately realising her and the historic building were a match “made in heaven”.

“In October I stepped inside, keys in hand, and promptly fell through the borer-eaten floor,” she said.

“I had a fair idea of what shape she was in … but I will admit it’s been both a daunting task and a complete labour of love to bring both of us back to life over the last three years.”

Rosemary converted the church into her own private home in 2019 – replacing the floor, windows and roof, and even building a mezzanine for a bedroom.

But when the restoration was complete, she felt the church should be opened up to others once again.

“It’s been an incredible journey to get it to this point and an absolute joy really, because I love doing things with my hands,” Rosemary said.

“And to have taken something back from the brink of ruin to something truly beautiful, I think is just too beautiful not to share.”

The church has been renamed Mia Chiesa – Italian for ‘My Church’ – in a nod to Rosemary’s roots in Thulimbah.

It features many meaningful pieces donated by local families over the years, such as a cross from 1982, a cast-iron clawfoot bath from 1915, and doors from 1941.

The church’s lounge room is filled with 1950s-style furniture from a farm near Warwick, and its bedroom is illuminated by light that streams through leadlight glass windows.

Rosemary said when she moved back to the Granite Belt in 2018 at nearly 60 years old, she was looking for a way to rebuild her life.

“I restored the church from the ground up and I restored myself from the ground up,” she said.

She said if the application now before Southern Downs Regional Council is approved, holidaymakers and locals will be able to experience the charming church for themselves in no time.