Pastor Claude and Elva Fingleton are all smiles after the official dedication of the Cathedral of Praise.
Pastor Claude and Elva Fingleton are all smiles after the official dedication of the Cathedral of Praise.

Cathedral of Praise celebrates anniversary

HE STARTED out in the 1970s with 20 people in his Rockhampton congregation.

But this year Pastor Claude Fingleton is celebrating not only immense growth with a 1000 strong congregation, he is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Cathedral of Praise in Carlton St, Rockhampton.

It was 1975 when Claude arrived in town and took over a church of 20 people in Little Musgrave St.

After three years the services were moved to the old Municipal Theatre to accommodate the already growing numbers within the church.

With plans approved by Council for expansion of the Little Musgrave St site, Claude believed they would need somewhere even bigger than what plans allowed, so board members went back to the drawing board.

After attending a conference in 1979 in Korea, the pastor there inspired a vision in Claude's life for what could happen in Rockhampton and that further inspired the search for a new location.

The search led them to a block of land on Carlton St, which had little surrounding development at the time and was considered to be on the outskirts to town.

The church bought the land, initially buying four hectares and ending up with nearly eight hectares in the deal in 1980, and in November 1982 the Cathedral of Praise facility was opened.

"The tremendous unity of the people for the vision of what we were doing was remarkable," Claude said.

Despite being considered a visionary for his congregation, even Claude admits he had no idea back then of the direction the church would head in, with both a growing church population and the addition of a school.

"When we secured the land and built the church we were not thinking of a school at all."

But in 1986 Claude described how he was impressed with the idea to start the school, and thus was born Heights


The school started in 1989 with 29 students in Year 1 to 4 but today there are 800 students, in kindergarten right through to Year 12.

An important part, Claude said, of the running of the school was in values and principles it stood by and that parents knew they were sending their children to a school that was developing a nurturing culture, where learning came alive.

"It is all Christian based, centred around the values of Christianity."

Students are not only children from members of the church, but also those from different religious denominations and non-church going families too.

"We did not build the school just for the children of our fellowship. We wanted to build a school that was a blessing to our community."

As the church has grown, Claude has been joined by a team of pastors, including his wife Elva Fingleton, Ivan Westbrook, Greg Frost and Chris Russell.

The church itself has also undergone changes over the years, including the inclusion of youth and children's programs, a seniors program, and the recent addition of a "coffee shop" inside the building for church members to get together socially before and after church services.

"When I came to Rockhampton it really was a traditional Australian congregation. Today our congregation is multi-cultural."

The church is also involved in community events, and raised more than $37,500 at their Central Queensland Family Fun Day and Relay for Life events.

"It is all about us showing that we are reaching out to our community, and we care about our community."

They also took out the prize for best float in the Stockland Rockhampton annual Christmas parade, something they have done many times.

This weekend's events include their annual Christmas musical hitting the stage, a free event open to the community.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary the church invited special guest speakers to talk at church services in November, including James Weidner, director of Charity Dream Shanghai that provides surgical care for abandoned babies with cleft lip and deformities.

Claude admits he is thrilled at what has been accomplished in those 30 years, including recent renovations and extension to the church building, bringing it into the 21st century.

"It still amazes me what we as a fellowship of people have been able to accomplish together."

He described the 30 year milestone as an exclamation point in an amazing time.

"Even though I have been the catalyst as a leader, I have had the privilege of leading an incredible group of people who are united with the vision of what it is that we believe that God wants us to do with our fellowship."

"For us, God's love for humanity is real and we want to represent him in a way that honours him and brings him glory." Claude admits he will always continue to see what needs to be done within the church.

"It has been an amazing journey for us, and I don't think that journey is finished."

Christmas Service

When: December 25.

What: Christmas Day Service

Time: 8.30am for one hour

Where: Cathedral of Praise, Carlton St, Rockhampton.

Everyone's welcome.

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