In the bush, churches are a place of worship and community, but more importantly, they're a celebration of life that holds stories spanning across generations.
Even though they've sat dormant for decades, untouched by modern society, their importance still lives on in the memories of country families.
As a number of decommissioned churches find their way onto the market, a new wave of regional renovators have undertaken a labour of love to give these pieces of Australian history a second chance at life.
Meet five custodians from across the state who have poured their heart and soul into a bush church that has certainly stood the test of time.
What started as a novel discussion for 25-year-old Rhiannon Graham turned into a labour of love when she purchased the old Limbri church last year.
While Ms Graham grew up near Tamworth, a short 30 minute drive from Limbri, she had never visited the small village on Swamp Oak Creek until she inspected the church.
"I had always wanted to do something for myself rather than work nine to five, so I did an Airbnb hosting course and started looking for a property around Nundle," she said.
"I actually found the church in the real estate window in town and it piqued my interest."
Soon after, Ms Graham purchased the heritage-listed church built in 1906 and has since converted it into a church house, now affectionately known as Steeple.
"The church wasn't well looked after and required a lot of maintenance but I had guidance from family who are builders," she said.
"It has three bedrooms that can sleep up to six people, a bathroom, simple kitchen and back deck.
"The interiors have also been carefully sourced to ensure the church has a modern heritage feel."
Ms Graham said Steeple had been part of a bigger story, one that would be told to future generations.
"The church has strong community ties to Limbri," she said.
"You never know who may have got married or baptised there so I recognise the social and spiritual values people may hold."
Steeple was first listed on Airbnb during the Tamworth Country Music Festival earlier this year and has been overwhelmingly popular with bookings multiple times a week.
"We have people staying from Sydney, Brisbane or the coast as it is a novelty to stay in the country, let alone an old historical church," Ms Graham said.
"People also use the church for photo shoots to showcase small regional businesses which is amazing."
Ms Graham said she plans to open the grounds and covert the property into a wedding venue where people can stay in the church as accommodation.
The Ark, Coolamon
The Ark came to be very serendipitously more than 18 years ago when Merrin and Phil Glasgow were looking to purchase an old homestead near Wagga Wagga.
However, one Saturday morning, Mrs Glasgow came across an advertisement in the newspaper for something a little different that instantly caught her eye.
Two Methodist churches on the same block of land were up for sale in Coolamon, less than 30 minutes from Wagga Wagga.
Mrs Glasgow said she raced over to the small country town, opened the doors of the church, looked at the ceiling and fell in love at first sight.
"The weatherboard church which we reside in was built in 1904 and most interestingly was moved by horse and telegraph poles to the front of the block where it sits now," she said.
"The brick church, now known as The Ark, was built in the early 1920's and decommissioned in 1975.
"Both of the churches are heritage listed and are of tremendous importance to the local community."
While Mr and Mrs Glasgow own the churches, they instead believe that they are custodians because one day someone else will continue adding to the church's story.
"The Ark has served many roles from approximately 2005 to 2018 as we've done various things with it," she said.
"For a period of time it was leased as a dance studio, we've catered for private dinners as we have a hospitality background and love sharing food.
"It has also held a couple of small weddings and became a dress making studio as I have experience in making couture work for brides.
"However on the cusp of COVID-19 we decided to restore the Ark and convert it into boutique accommodation."
The Glasgow's held a round table with local tradies and a building designer who helped convert the church from start to finish.
"Overall it took about nine months to bring it to where it is now," Mrs Glasgow said.
"Many of the local trades people were thrilled to be part of the project as they had a connection with the church at some point in their life.
"When it came to furnishing the church, we only used antique pieces that have their own individual story."
The Ark officially opened in February 2022 and has been popular among tourists.
"People are coming from Canberra and Melbourne, although we do have a few people who visit family in the local area and want to stay in the church," Mrs Glasgow said.
"The Ark is a place of difference, and I think that is what makes it so appealing to people."
The Upper Horton Church, Upper Horton
When Megan Bayly's uncle purchased the old Upper Horton school house, she always joked that one day she'd buy the church, and that she did.
Nestled in the picturesque Horton Valley, Mrs Bayly, who now lives in Moree, attended the church as a child with her grandmother.
To Mrs Bayly, Upper Horton was home, and the church was part of her family's story.
"My grandmother was one of 12 kids and the church was always part of their lives," she said.
"I didn't want to see it be demolished so when the church came for tender, I put in for it.
"We haven't been able to work out if it is heritage listed or not, but I do know it was moved to the area in around 1925."
When Mrs Bayly purchased the church, there was no running water and it certainly needed a little bit of love.
"We had to re-stump it, and the church didn't have a bathroom or toilet so we've put a long drop in," she said.
"It is still a work in progress, but has become a whole family project."
"One day I'd love to turn the vestry into a bathroom and convert the church into living quarters either for my family to enjoy as a weekend getaway or a potential Airbnb."
While Mrs Bayly's journey to restore the old church has not yet come to an end, she says spending time in the area she calls home has been amazing.
"As soon as I get out to the church I instantly feel better, I love it," she said.
"I'm doing this for my children and potential grandchildren so they still have a connection to the place."
The Old Bookham Church, Bookham
When Tess Julian and her sister purchased The Old Bookham Church they became custodians of a special piece of their family's history.
Located near the Hume Highway in the Yass Valley, The Old Bookham Church, formally St Columba's Catholic Church, has been long admired for its greenstone exterior and a stained glass window which previously sat above the altar.
The Julian family donated the land on which the church currently stands in the early 1900's before it was built in 1910.
Ellen Julian, Tess' grandmother also commissioned and shipped the exquisite stained glass window from Europe as a gift in memory of her husband.
Almost a century later, Ms Julian and her sister converted the church into boutique accommodation and a nearby shop into a cafe for tourists and the local community to enjoy.
"When COVID-19 struck I moved back to Bookham to get away from Sydney so my sister and I renovated the church and it was so much fun," she said.
"During the renovation we didn't tamper with the fundamentals as it is locally heritage listed.
"The church is extremely important to the Bookham community and they have been really supportive."
The Church mainly attracts people travelling from Sydney to Melbourne or Wagga Wagga to Canberra, however some tourists just come for a weekend getaway.
"There is an outside area with a fire pit and barbecue as well as a big yard that is pet friendly," Tess said.
The Church at Tantawangalo, Candelo
One might say it was fate that brought Marie and Simon Partridge to the doorstep of The Church at Tantawangalo, Candelo, in 2018.
Mrs Partridge always wanted to purchase an interesting building to convert or do something with and when she saw the Tantawangalo church listed on an online real estate page the rest was history.
"I'd seen a few churches online and showed them to my husband, but the said to find something closer to the coast," she said.
"Nearly two weeks after that, I noticed the Tantawangalo Church online and it was near where we planned to spend Christmas on the Far South Coast.
"So I said why don't we go a little further and check out the church, and we did, but we thought a huge number of people would bid for it at auction and we wouldn't have a chance.
"In actual fact, we were successful and I had to phone my mortgage broker to tell him that I bought a church."
Soon after everything fell into place for Mr and Mrs Partridge, the church conversion to boutique accommodation began.
"The church was in really great condition as it was only decommissioned a couple of months before it went on the market," Marie said.
"My husband Simon did most of the conversion work when we didn't need licenced trades.
"It was also really important for us to respect the building and not change it too much."
The Tantawangalo Church had the same caretakers for 60-years before Mr and Mrs Partridge purchased the property so it was very well loved by the community.
"Candelo is a small town so people had weddings, christenings and funerals and their family events orientated around the church," Mrs Partridge said.
"The church was built in 1905 so we tried to be as respectful as possible."
Mrs Partridge said that converting the church was no small feat.
"Some people who buy rural churches think that it is going to be a cheap and easy option for a house, but what they quickly find is that it is not that easy," she said.
"You think it is going to take you less than 12 months, but in actual fact it will take you two years as you have to redo all of the electrics and the churches generally don't have any running water."
Many of the people who visit The Church at Tantawangalo have never been to Candelo and Mrs Partridge said they will drive an extra couple of hours just to stay in a church.
"It brings people into the community, and we get to employ local people as well so it is a bit of a win for everyone."