The Toowoomba Chronicle reports…
“A strange tale of friction between two Christian ministries in Toowoomba has emerged following the establishment of the city’s first mosque.
In a nutshell, a Christian church was renting its building from another ministry for 14 years until it was sold to make way for a mosque.
Former tenants Westside Christian Church have accused former landlord, Lifeworks Uniting Church, of selling the building from beneath their feet.
Westside pastor Reverend John Solomon acknowledged that, in a legal sense, no wrong had been done – his church had been operating without a lease for the past four years.
However, he was critical of the short timeframe allowed for his ministry to find a new home after 14 years’ tenancy.
“It was a complete surprise. We were advised fairly late in the process that the church was to be sold to help the Uniting Church fund its new ministry emphasis out in Glenvale,” Rev. Solomon said.
“We continued operating in the good faith that we would be advised if we needed to relocate.”
When a contract was signed by the Islamic Society of Toowoomba, Rev. Solomon said Westside was given until next April to move out.
“Then the April settlement date was brought right forward and we had to find a new place, quick smart,” he said.
Rev. Solomon also criticised the Islamic Society for “turning up to look through the place without our permission” – on one occasion, during a wedding rehearsal.
“I’ve had phone calls to my private number from very angry people late at night, blaming us for selling the church, property prices dropping and things like that,” he said.
“Unfortunately, they have seen our sign on the fence and naturally assumed we were the owners.”
Rev. Solomon said he still supported the Uniting Church’s ongoing endeavours to expand but was critical of the process.
“They were within their legal rights to sell the place…” he said.
“But what’s gone on around that, in concentric rings, has seen quite a few concerned citizens.
“Whether it was a mosque or a doctor’s surgery probably doesn’t matter.”
Westside Christian Church now operates from Groom Park Hall.”