As the “old” Bethsalem Rest Home gives way to the new Bethsalem Care aged care facility at Happy Valley, SA, it is thought appropriate to recall its origins nearly 50 years ago. Over those, Bethsalem has enjoyed ecclesial and public recognition of its charming, pleasant, “homely” atmosphere to so many aged and frail loved ones. In remembering the days of old at Bethsalem, the management committee is working assiduously to carry those same qualities of care and Christadelphian ethos to all in the bright new ninety bed facility.

Undoubtedly from the earliest times of the establishment of the Christadelphian brotherhood in South Australia there have been instances of elderly sisters in particular living in distressing circumstances, not unlike those in the first century ecclesias.

A Post-war Need

So it was in the post-war era of the early 1950’s that a move was made to investigate the possibility of establishing a Home for such people in the Adelaide region. On the 18th of April 1951 a committee was set up by the Adelaide arranging brethren, comprising Brethren Bill Nitschke, Dean Horgan, Ron Palmer, Gilbert Hollamby, Bill Gurd, Allan Dangerfield, and Gordon Wauchope (Chairman) and Sisters Jean Wauchope, Kath Horgan and Eileen Gray. The committee decided to proceed with a search for a suitable building, with a belief in the following principles.

  • It is a practical exercise of the ethical teachings of Christ.
  • It could obviate the need for brethren and sisters to avail themselves of charity from other religious Homes.
  • It would provide an atmosphere for inmates impossible to achieve outside the “Truth”. (The term “inmates” shows how the meaning of words changes over a period of time!)

As a sphere of activity, it would provide work in the Truth for many not suited to other tasks.
The continual incentive required to keep it functioning could assist the Ecclesia [Adelaide being the only Ecclesia in SA at that time] to manifest greater zeal in handling welfare cases.
Opportunities would be provided to judiciously present the Truth to guests.
In the early days the Home would depend on a considerable amount of voluntary labour to function, but some paid staff were needed.

The following points were deemed as desirable features to be incorporated into the Home:

  • that it should be a Rest Home for aged or convalescents, but not a Nursing Home
  • that it should be open to others than Christadelphian members (although priority would be given to them). This condition would be necessary to have the Home registered as a “Charitable Institution”, which would be a distinct advantage for obtaining government finance
  • that this Home would be separate from ecclesial control • that guests would pay according to their means but inability to pay would not preclude admission
  • that the Home should be comfortable and sympathetically run so that the inmates could feel that to them it was “Home.”

On the basis of the above principles it was decided to proceed to find a suitable home to commence an Aged Care Facility in South Australia.

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The “House of Peace” at Glynde

After much searching, a meeting was called to authorise the purchase of a property at 404 Payneham Rd, Glynde. It was duly purchased at auction for £7,717 ($15,434). This comprised a large house in about an acre of land. A grant was received from the state Government for £4,000 to assist in the establishment of the Home.

The original piece of land was granted to Walter F Cook in 1885 as building blocks. All other land between what is now Portrush Road and Glynburn Road was market gardens with small cottages. We believe that the original Home was built in the late 1880s. It was added to several times up until it was purchased for Bethsalem, when at that time it contained ten rooms. It was described as a lovely old home, very solidly built with a tennis court in the front. There was also a large mulberry tree near the front door, so large that outdoor meetings could be held in its shade.

The organization was registered as “SA Christadelphian Convalescent and Rest Home Incorporated”, and decided to trade and be known as Bethsalem Rest Home, meaning “House of Peace”.

The first guests arrived on 1st March 1955, there being approximately eleven occupants initially, some permanent and some convalescent.

The official opening of the Home took place on 23rd April, 1955 at 3pm. A Matron (Mrs Beardsley) was appointed and guests received breakfast in bed at 8am. Memorial meetings were held on alternate Sundays and this procedure has continued ever since. We have noted also that there were 304 financial members at the time of opening. Bearing in mind the size of the brotherhood being quite small at that time, this was a tremendous achievement. It is doubtful if that figure has been achieved since.

In the early days the guests were admitted on the condition that if they became sick, the family or friends would have to take them home until they recovered. This demonstrates how things have changed over the years so that now, with the new Home, we can thankfully provide for whatever care is needed until the end of the resident’s days.

Over the years, numerous alterations and additions have been made, so that at the time of the decision to move to a new locality the Home was able to care for 34 residents. During that period, the State and Federal governments have strongly supported us with 2-for-1 grants. There has always been a problem when a resident deteriorates in health to the extent that Bethsalem Rest Home (Hostel care) was unable to provide the care needed and our loved ones would have to transfer to a Nursing Home, with all of its attendant distress upon the resident, family and staff. Several investigations were made to provide nursing care but it was not possible in such a small Facility. The cost was deemed to be unsustainable.

An Answer to Our Prayers

With the change to the Aged Care Act 1997, the Board was faced with the situation of possible closure of Bethsalem, or expansion. No further bed licences were available in the existing eastern location but we have been thrilled to be granted further bed licences in the south. The decision was made after much prayerful consideration to seek God’s blessing in the purchase of suitable land for the development of a larger Facility (90 beds) of a financially viable size. The land acquired needed to be of sufficient size to also accommodate a twentyseven unit retirement village adjacent to the Nursing Home. A nice sense of community has already been established amongst those planning to move into the Village and they have also expressed their wish to integrate and to assist in the Home.

The Happy Valley site is just a few minutes drive from the Aberfoyle Park ecclesial hall and is in close proximity to a large number of families from several ecclesias. After the first ground-breaking day on May 5th 2003, the 5000m2 single storey structure has now reached its first stage of occupation. Even with well-planned project management there was still the frantic last-minute finishing touches to the building and to the landscaping. On August 31st this year the big move-in day arrived, and we’re not sure who were the more relieved to see the well orchestrated move take place without a hitch—the management committee or the residents and their families! So far the overwhelming impression from residents and visitors has been deep appreciation of a bright, pleasant and welcoming new Home, a tribute to the good hand of God amongst us and to the tireless efforts of a wonderful band of volunteers and supporters. If you’re visiting the south of Adelaide, please come and visit us. We’re at 10 Education Road, Happy Valley SA 5159. Enjoy a coffee with us!

It is proposed that an official “Opening Celebration” will be held in March 2005, God willing. This will be an ideal time on the Home’s 50th anniversary to celebrate the manifold blessings of our Heavenly Father upon the development of Bethsalem—a “house of peace”, where we can lovingly care for our elderly folk until their last days, ere our Lord come.