Orchard Photo History


Elizabeth’s baptism photo November 16, 2019

– Rod –

The platform from which everything was and has been derived, whether it was the planning, the training, the outreach  programs, the name, and the personnel has originated from an unswerving belief in the power of  prayer and the providential care of God.


Late in 2012, Rod was asked if he would consider planting a church in the Docklands precinct, 2klms west of Melbourne’s CBD. After some time of consideration he accepted the call. In February 2013,  he reported back to the Conference President, Pastor Wayne Stanley, (after doing a thorough demographic study of the City of Melbourne which included Docklands), concluding that a more profitable field to plant a church would be Melbourne’s CBD, due to the population density,  ease of accessing public transport, carpark options and the long term growth forecasts. Permission was given shortly after.

However at this point in time Rod was alone, and needed to build a team around him, and with that in mind he started to advertise for Sabbath keeping Christians (of any age) who would like to be trained as Bible workers.  The end result intended to be, they would work beside Rod in establishing a church presence in Melbourne’s CBD. He interviewed a number of people, some were suitable, some were not,  but by the end of April 2013, six people aged from 25-65 commenced the Bible worker training.


– Brett – core member from the beginning, always faithful in his witness.

Training was held every Wednesday night at the North Fitzroy Church for four months.  In these 90 minute sessions, Rod trained the team how to give

Barry and Dennis committed to God and the Church

Bible studies, how to deal with objections, how to gain decisions for Christ, and how to lead small groups, along with materials that he had prepared which were done as homework. Each member of the team also completed a spiritual gifts inventory. At the conclusion of each session the participants would enjoy a good meal together, which capped off the Wednesday night experience.

During this four month period of training, Rod was able to get to know each person reasonable well and to rightly adjudge if they would be suitable for the arduous work of church planting, while at the same time be sensitive and wise enough to minister to people who one would not commonly come in contact with in the suburban church setting, such as people living on the streets, drug addicts and the multitudinous weirdos abounding the laneways, allies and garrets of inner Melbourne.  To put it bluntly, Rod was after individuals who did not judge from  appearances, but saw in each person someone for whom Jesus Christ had died and was a potential candidate for the kingdom.


Donna (middle of photo) great wife and wonderful worker for the Lord, always cooking for the church weekly luncheons she is a blessing to all.

                                                                            THE TEAM

Dennis and Hannah were tireless in the early years working with Pastor Rod, with early morning starts and sticking up posters with Hannah’s homemade glue around the Melbourne CBD and University

After this rigorous evaluation four people remained – Barry Watts, Brett Terry, Bernie Robinson and  Hannah Andrykanis.  On August 11, 2013, Rod with his team (which also included Rod’s wife Donna and Barry’s wife Karin) began a full evangelistic series in Melbourne’s CBD.   Material was also videoed leading up to series to be used as handouts for the attendees.  He with the team ran five sessions per week over 22 weeks. Mark Kocur brought in the audio equipment and the programs were presented at Melbourne Central on Swanston Street opposite the State Library. Each week  around 20-25 interests attended, with church members from other Melbourne churches supporting the team.  On a weekly basis Rod and Hannah would mail out nearly 100 dvd’s to people who had attended the earlier sessions, but could not continue for varying reasons. The DVD’s gave the team an excuse to keep the lines of communication open with the interests.



In the beginning it was “any shelter” will be a blessing though the costs were exorbitant in the CBD


Hannah and Dennis on one of those freezing cold Melbourne mornings 7am outside Flinders St, handing out flyers.

  In October of the same year, Rod and the team began looking for a venue in the CBD, in which they could commence Sabbath worship services;   however it was very difficult, when people found out they worshipped on Saturdays. Doors which were wide open to others were closed to Rod and the team. As they entered December 2013, everyone realized they needed to find a place to worship, but nothing was opening up. This meant that after the evangelistic series, which was scheduled to finish mid-December, Rod would have to run another series to keep the contacts alive.

After taking a two Christmas break over 2013,  Rod commenced a four part archaeology series  at the Melbourne Town Hall on Swanston Street.  The hired area had no audio visual equipment and so it was a continuation of more heavy physical lifting, which the team had been forced to endure since August.  Nevertheless, this new series gave them an excuse to re-contact some of the interests that had cooled off,and some came back. That series commenced the second week of January 2014.


Donna always working hard – much loved and much appreciated

Home Luncheons have become a way of life for the Orchard through the years

A venue suitable for worship (on Sabbath afternoons) was found at the Arrow on Swanston, just within the limits of Melbourne’s CBD and so The Orchard, Melbourne Central City Church, was born and commenced worship in a basement area on February 2014.  However, while the venue got the team out of a tight bind, the location was not without its difficulties – 1.Parking was nearly non existent, 2. Public transport was a challenge and  3.There were stairs to navigate, not really a big problem normally but when the sound and audio equipment is having to be set up each week, it became quite tiresome.

                                                                    THE GROWING TEAM

The  core team had grown to now  also include  Claude Goddard , Dennis De Gregorio  Dennis’ wife Marlyn, and Paul Reech who were all committed and eager to help.  By necessity  worship was on Sabbath afternoons as the Orchard was  dependant upon musicians from other churches for music, who were busy themselves on Sabbath mornings in their own home churches.  As a result there was a good variety of visiting musicians which proved to be a wonderful blessing.  Meity Mandagie also joined the team, and opened her house up for small groups which met on a weekly basis for a time.


Fateful Dennis and his wife Marlyn when we were at Vic Uni opp. Flinders Street Station

Packing Orchard Show Bags for the Body Mind Spirit Festival at the Exhibition buildings at the Docklands

Claude has been a part of the Orchard from the early days, blessing us with his teaching and preaching skills


                                                                                                                                      THE FIRST BAPTISM

Rod and Paul before they took the long walk out into the frigid waters of Port Melbourne at low tide for Paul’s baptism.

  In 2014 a well educated young man came into our midst – Paul Reech who had committed himself to the Orchard earlier in the year.  Paul through Bible studies with Rod made the decision to be baptized, and it was on a cold windy Friday evening as Sabbath was about to come in, that Paul followed the example of Jesus Christ and was fully immersed beneath the frigid waters of Port Melbourne. Paul’s baptism is especially precious to all the Orchard team as he was the first to be baptized into the fledgling city church, and now teaches and preaches at the Orchard, and is greatly loved and admired for both his contributions to our church, and also his achievements in his professional career. 




                                                                                                                               THE ORCHARD RELOCATES

Lunch at Victoria University sometimes the kindly security guards allowed us to stay till 2pm.

Preparing for another Orchard outreach adventure

In July 2014 The Orchard relocated to Victoria University on Flinders street, opposite Flinders Street Station, with plenty of cheap onsite parking.  It was a much better location as far as public transport was concerned, but the hiring costs were  exorbitant, making it financially impossible to hire it out for more than 4 hours at a time.  Working behind the scenes at this time, but certainly very important to Rod was Henry Ponco created our first website (theorchardmelbourne.org.au) and was responsible for our video production.  Our Face book page soon followed (https://www.facebook.com/theorchardmelbourne7).

However it was a very difficult location due to the four hour hire limit of the facility which cost us $550. By September 2015 we were supporting ourselves, it was challenging and difficult but all contributed financial to keep the Orchard going in those early days.            



                                                                                                                     OUTREACH METHODS IN MELBOURNE’S CBD

The Orchard set up stalls at Festivals, ran group Bible studies at Victoria University during the week. Revelation seminars of Bible prophecy,” “Wars and Rumours of Wars,” “Its Happening Now” “Our Day in the Light of Bible Prophecy” archaeology programs presented by Pastor Rod, along with vegetarian programs, Creation Series (presented by Claude) and Revelation seminars through the CBD, along with other methods of outreach.  Bible studies were lead by  Dennis, Hannah, Brett and Claude. It was not unusual for Dennis and Hannah to meet with Rod at 5am in the city, to stick up posters, to distribute advertising flyers for our programs outside of Flinders Street, Flagstaff and Melbourne Central Stations.  Tens of thousands of pieces of literature have been distributed over the years, along with hundreds of religious interest surveys conducted by Rod, Dennis  and Hannah.


Max (left) is the patriarch of The Orchard still amazing all of us with his energy and enthusiam

In 2014, Michael, Michaela, Jake, Jesse and family (Koronui’s)  joined the Orchard team suddenly bringing an infusion of musical talent.  The Orchard people attending church each Sabbath afternoon hovered around thirty,  and on one memorable Sabbath afternoon fifty five attended.  However, it was recognized that while people were coming to The Orchard on Sabbath afternoons,  they were primarily committed to their home churches which worshipped Sabbath morning.  Further to that, apart from the main team which had grown to around 15 (with Paul Reech, Josephine Bonjui, Mark and Magdalene Yang and Max Beach and Wanda).


             SABBATH MAY 3, 2014

Afternoon church at the Orchard, Vic Uni

One of the stark realities in offering an afternoon worship program, was that churches can get support from Sabbath keepers who would be otherwise committed to their own home churches in the morning.  The same was true of The Orchard , and while there were some Sabbaths when the numbers hovered around 25-30, at times they drifted into the 40’s and on one memorable Sabbath, 55 people attended.  However, under the cold hard light of day, we recognized most of those people were primarily committed to the churches they attended on Sabbath mornings.  While the core groups was committed week in week out, there was no guarantee that you see others from one Sabbath to another.   In light of this  Rod and the team made a decision that the Orchard would  move to a morning worship program.  The Orchard then had its own musicians and it would reveal who was truly committed to the city church plant.  The time change commenced on  Sabbath May 3, 2014, with Sabbath School at 10am and the Main Church Service at 11:20am.  Predictably, many people were never seen again due to commitments in their own home churches, yet the Orchard still had around twenty people worshipping on Sabbath mornings.


Mark, Dennis, Magdalene, Caroline, Josephine, Natalie packing envelopes on Sabbath afternoon at the Orchard



The Orchard has continued to minister effectively in Melbourne’s CBD with many people doing Bible studies and attending seminars, however because of the transitory nature of city dwellers people have come and then relocated elsewhere.  However, one thing which  has made the Orchard unique among many churches in Melbourne is the genuine warmth of friendship as people come among us.  Many people have said it feels “like a family,”  people are not judged just accepted for who they are, as was Christ’s example during his three and a half years of ministry.


                                                         THE ORCHARD’S TWIN FOCUS

Josephine joined the Orchard in 2014 and has been a wonderful support to Donna and Karin as soon as she arrived.

The Orchard has had a twin focus since its inception.  In-reach and outreach. In relation to in-reach, we have always been zealous in involving new people into  church life.  We identify a person’s  giftedness and then get them to work as quickly as possible, whether it is preaching, leading Sabbath School classes, greeting, taking Bible studies, involvement in the hospitality ministries etc.


The Orchard ladies led by Donna and  Karin have from our beginnings, supplied lunches that are truly memorable  feasts.  Josephine has  become the third key lady making up that worthy triumvirate making Orchard Sabbath’s lunches a memorable occasion with the assistance of Magdalene and Carmen. Sabbath home lunches have also proved to be a great blessing, further strengthening the congregation, and special thanks going to Lubinka Bretts’s wife. The Orchard  dinners, brain storming sessions, film nights, invited guest speakers for in-reach and outreach, and other socials including our home lunches and Christmas home lunches have bound us strongly together, yet still retaining the openness to welcome new people into our wonderful family.



                                                                               474 FLINDERS STREET

Sabbath Home lunches are a treat enjoyed at the Orchard, famous for Rod’s quizzes

One of the great challenges for the Orchard has been finances.  For many years the Church was able to meet its lease obligations with Victoria Uni, but not without some pain.  It seems as we reflect back over those years it has almost been miraculous, that a small church could meets its rental costs but it happened and we are grateful to God for that.

Nevertheless in 2016 (from a suggestion from Karin) we were greatly blessed with our present location we now occupy.  At 474 Flinders Street we are opposite the Melbourne Aquarium, with onsite parking, easy access by tram.  People continue to come and go as circumstances impact their lives, but the Orchard team is stable, and for that we are all thankful to God.


Faaiuga far right, beside her Elifasa and Karen in middle wearing pink traditional dress


We are very blessed with the lovely families and individuals who the make the Orchard their home church.  In 2017 the Sopi family came and liked what they experienced and have decided to stay.  Such a beautifufl family with Elifasa, Faaiuga, One, Karen, Norrie and little Karen helping out with the music and leading the children’s Sabbath School.

Pastor Rod and Karen in the chilly waters of Port Phillip Bay


One of the great high days at the Orchard is when we witness one of our attendees having given their hearts to God, enter the waters of baptism. Sometimes it happens in a church font and others happen at the beach as was the case when Karen followed the example of her Lord Jesus Christ being baptized as He was.

It was followed by food, fellowship and singing, all in all another great day at the Orchard.

After the happy event and the family has presented Karen with a lei the traditional Polynesian garland of flowers



Some of the family members who came with the rest of the Orchard church family to witness the baptism of Karen as she more fully commences her walk with the Lord 🙂

A few of our visitors chose to stay back late after lunch to chat with the Orchard folk, which typically happens each Sabbath when many have left after enjoying a hearty meal.









Dennis was surprised that we remembered his birthday, but their are certain milestones which should not be overlooked particularly when they precede the same milestone by the church Pastor. Happy 60th Dennis, your appearance belies your years.






The Orchard
Seventh-day Adventist Church Melbourne

Level 12, 474 Flinders Street (Access via Highlander lane), Melbourne CBD.

E: [email protected]
Ph: 0422 603 941