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EVERY cloud has a silver lining, and that certainly seems to be true for Melbourne’s Victorian Spiritualists’ Union (VSU).
It decided reluctantly to leave its premises in the city’s Central Business District after 55 years because its foundations were being shaken to the core, literally, by the rapid residential and commercial development of the surrounding area.
However, the income from the sale of its boutique bluestone building will provide greater financial security for its future.
The Australian church has been continuously serving Spiritualism since 1870 and is already discussing its 150th anniversary in four years’ time.
Its president, medium Lorraine Lee Tet, talked to Psychic News about these important developments when she visited the UK recently for the Georgiana Houghton exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London (PN June and July issues).
The VSU owns the Houghton paintings, more than 20 of which are on loan to the Courtauld Gallery for its “Spirit Drawings” exhibition that runs through to 11 September.
These astonishing works of art have been adorning the walls of the Melbourne Church for much of its existence, and certainly since it moved into the historic, two-storey former warehouse at 71-73 A’Beckett Street 55 years ago.
The area has become Melbourne’s fastest growing district. Fortunately, the building’s unique thick-walled construction helped to protect the Houghton art works and keep them in pristine condition over the years.
But as the erection of skyscrapers and apartment blocks crept ever closer, some of the paintings had to be removed to ensure they weren’t shaken off the walls and damaged by the vibrations caused by excavation work.
The decision to sell and move on was inevitable. The heritage-listed building went to auction in May last year and the church was given a 12-month settlement, allowing it to continue holding services and demonstrations while it found and renovated a suitable new home in North Melbourne.
In the meantime, church services have been held at the VSU branch, at Ringwood East, which was opened some years ago to meet the needs of members living outside the city centre.
The VSU began in 1870 as The Victorian Association of Progressive Spiritualists, founded by William Terry, a prominent Melbourne bookshop and health store owner who was also a respected healer and editor of the Harbinger of Light.
It began with 25 members and quickly became Spiritualism’s hub in the south-east Australian state, attracting many prominent people. Alfred Deakin was its president for many years before taking on full-time political commitments: he served three terms as Australia’s prime minister between 1903 and 1910.
The association merged with the Melbourne Progressive Spiritualistic Lyceum in 1930 to become the Victorian Spiritualists’ Union.
Work on its new property at 135-137 Boundary Road is nearing completion and, says Lorraine Lee Tet, the sale of the A’Beckett Street property and the purchase of a building in a less expensive part of the city has provided VSU with funds for various activities that were not possible before.
As well as being its president she is also a medium. Her psychic abilities manifested as a child when her younger brother, who had learning difficulties, went missing. As the family frantically searched for him, Lorraine announced that he was with friends whom they sometimes visited. This was dismissed because it seemed to be too far away for him to have walked and, besides, how would his young sister know this?
This happened in the days before most homes had telephones, so there was only one way to check. Lorraine walked to the house she had referred to – though she had no idea how she “knew” her brother was there – and that’s where he was. She took him home, much to the relief and puzzlement of her family.
Although she had a strict, orthodox Christian upbringing, Lorraine was always keen to explore other spiritual realities, though she could not do that until she was old enough to be independent. From that time on, she became a regular VSU visitor, gradually becoming more involved in its work.
Her visit to the UK included a meeting with the curators of the Courtauld Gallery exhibition, visits to the College of Psychic Studies, which also owns a book of Georgiana Houghton paintings, and the Arthur Findlay College at Stansted, Essex. She also met with Spiritualists’ National Union officials at Stansted.