Early Baptisms in Sydney

Brother Everitt in an article entitled Reminiscences of the Truth for Forty Years in Sydney stated that:

“About the time of the Maori trouble in New Zealand, Bro. Sinclair, refusing to take up arms, came to Sydney.  Finding a body of Campbellites meeting in a hall in Elizabeth Street (now occupied by the Sandwich Catering Company), he went to them with the truth that he had learned and expounded it unto them.  Two of his hearers became impressed, and the result was that they expressed a desire to obey it.  Now I will take a little from the records.  These are a few items of information dating from this time:–

August 6th, 1864: Bro. Rooke, in his diary, states that on August 6th, 1864, he was immersed into the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins by Bro. Kirke.  Bro. Rooke also immersed Bro. Kirke at the same time.  These were the two brethren who were impressed with the fact that they had not been baptised into Christ, and it was their earnest desire to obey the command of baptism.” (The Shield, May 1904, page 91)

The Historical Record of the Sydney Central Christadelphian Ecclesia (2010) gives the date of the baptisms as 24th July 1864.  The Brother Sinclair mentioned is assumed to be the same one who emigrated from Scotland to Queensland in 1861 and again lived in Queensland from 1869.

Subsequent baptisms listed are:

Mrs. Margaret Rooke, Mr. Joseph and Mrs. Martha Sutton – 13/11/1864.

Mr. James March and Mr. Charles Jones – 20 or 28/8/1866.

Mr. George and Mrs. Jane Gordon – 11/8/1867.

Mr. John Stanborough – 3/5/1868.

Mr. Peter and Mr. Archibald Graham – 12/7/1868.

Burrawang

Soon after these early baptisms in Sydney, the Gospel of the Kingdom found a home in Burrawang.  Burrawang (or Wildes Meadow) is a small village 15 kilometres east of Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands, and about 140 kilometres south of Sydney.  The Gospel came to the village with the baptisms of John Shore Hawkins (1819-1888), his wife Sabina Hawkins (1814-1894) and their son Frederick (1848-1936) on 10/1/1869.  Twelve Lectures (Christendom Astray) was the means of their conversion, leading to their baptisms in Sydney.  By 1871 there were eight members in the ecclesia.

Sydney Ecclesias

From 1864 to 1883 the Sydney ecclesia met in various places:

  • the home of Brother Rooke (Gipps Street)
  • Temperance Hall
  • Oddfellows’ Hall in Sussex Street
  • New Temperance Hall
  • Masonic Temple, Clarence Street

In 1883 a second ecclesia was formed in Balmain, but by 1884 it re-joined the central Sydney ecclesia.  In 1885 a new ecclesia commenced in Redfern, and in 1890 it moved to Leichhardt.  In 1893 the central ecclesia met in Albert Hall at 413 Elizabeth Street.  In 1893 there were three ecclesias: Albert Hall, Fairfield and Leichhardt (meeting in the Town Hall, Norton Street).

The ecclesia(s) grew to 20 members in 1873; 31 in 1880; 50-60 in 1882; 70 in 1883; and 90 in 1890.

Sadly, between 1885 and 1896 there were several divisions and reunions between the ecclesias.  The differences included:

  • Responsibility to judgment.
  • Only allowing baptisms of people 20 years old or older.
  • Refusing any non-baptised person to be present at the memorial meeting.

When Robert Roberts arrived in Sydney in November 1895, he described the ecclesia thus:

“The ecclesia in Sydney, meeting as one body in fellowship at Albert Hall, numbers 106 brethren and sisters – which cannot but be regarded as a somewhat satisfactory and rather wonderful state of things in view of the various divergencies that have sprung up since the introduction of the truth some thirty years ago.  There are three other smaller bodies claiming the Christadelphian name: one separated on what is called “the age question”: i.e., the contention of some that faith and obedience are not saving under 20 years of age: a second denying light as the ground of resurrectional responsibility: and a third standing aloof on some personal misunderstanding.” (The Christadelphian, 1896, page 254)

The first ecclesial hall, known as Regent Hall, in Regent Street was opened in 1912.

Sydney Domain

Open air preaching was undertaken in the Sydney Domain from at least 1893 and continued to at least 1971.

The Spread of the Gospel

Ecclesias were established in various country towns, often when brethren moved for employment.  In some cases, the ecclesia did not last for very long as members moved on to other places.

Wagga Wagga

Brother E. Bott and Brother James Bott were baptised in Sydney in 1872.  The first brother in Wagga was, for a short time, a Brother Bott, who travelled to Beechworth in 1873 to baptise the first four brethren there.  In 1873 he was living in Queensland.  In 1898 Brother and Sister Payne moved from Sydney to Wagga.  They returned to Sydney in 1915 having immersed some 24 individuals over those 17 years, leaving an ecclesia of 25.

Cootamundra

Brother McKinley (or McKinlay) moved from Sydney to Cootamundra in 1881 and baptised John Malloy that same year.  In 1883 Brethren James Molloy and W. Gibson moved from Cootamundra to Sydney.  In 1907 a Brother and Sister Cathcart were members of the small ecclesia.

Wollongong

Brother and Sister McKinley moved from Sydney to Wollongong in 1883.  In 1885 Brother George Smart from Sydney baptised Robert Paterson.  Brother McKinley introduced the truth to him 12 months earlier.  There were six members in the ecclesia in 1886.

Newcastle

In late 1884 Sister L. Barton wrote to The Christadelphian:

“I have been here since May, and at first was quite isolated, but now I rejoice in the company of some brothers and sisters in the one hope, at Lambton(about 5 miles from here).  It is to give a short sketch of our work at Lambton that I now write.  The new Lambton Ecclesia at first, consisted of bro. and sister Fred Mogg, bro. and sister H. James, (recently from Ipswich, Queensland), and the writer; to-day we received into fellowship, Mr. James Boardman.  Upon the arrival of the brethren some three months ago, he became very interested in the truth, and diligently investigated to see if what we preach as the gospel is really true.  The result of his study proved the falsity of current theology, and the truth of the position maintained by all Christadelphians.” (The Christadelphian, 1885, page 142)

The Newcastle ecclesia was based in various suburbs over the first seven years—Carrington, Adamstown, Lambton and Hamilton.  By 1895 there were 49 members meeting in Lambton.

Albury

The history of the Albury ecclesia has been published by Brother Milton Richardson with substantial research by Brother Ian Hyndman.  The ecclesia began in 1886 with the arrival of Brother Daniel and Sister Rebekah Pogson from South Africa.  The first baptism was of George Dinsmore in 1886, who became the driving force in the ecclesia until his death in 1930:

“Brother Pogson, late of South Africa, writes: “I left Queenstown, Cape Colony, Africa, some eighteen months ago, and have been in several of the Australian colonies as well as Mauritius.  Sister Pogson has been here six months, and the place is a little better than Africa at present.  We have found no Christadelphians nearer than Melbourne (190 miles distant), but have heard of some at Beechworth, about fifty miles away.  I have distributed what books and tracts I had with me, and several are interested.  One, G. W. DINSMORE (tailor), formerly Church of England, put on the sin covering in baptism on Sunday, the 17th inst.  We break bread at my house.  Brother Dinsmore has had a quantity of books from Melbourne, and is active in circulating them.”” (The Christadelphian, 1887, page 90)

Brother Robert Roberts visited Albury in 1895—the first of six visits up to 1898.  He describes the ecclesia as follows:

“There is a small ecclesia of about 12 persons in Albury, meeting in an upper room, on the other side of the road, opposite brother Dinsmore’s shop.  Brother Dinsmore used to be a bandmaster, and has musical taste in addition to appetite for intellectual and spiritual things in general.  At the meeting he not only presided and gave out the hymn, but then left his seat and sat down at a portable organ and led the singing.” (The Christadelphian, 1896, page 250)

Tintenbar / Newrybar

Tintenbar is 10 kilometres north-west of Ballina, between it and Byron Bay.  Newrybar is a further 9 kilometres north.  In 1891 there were at least three members in the ecclesia, and in the following year there were seven.  Brother George Gardiner lived in Tintenbar.  Nothing more is heard of this ecclesia after 1896.

Gordon

In 1891 there was an ecclesia of 11 in Gordon, a town about 18 kilometres north of Sydney.  It is now a suburb of Sydney near Pymble on the Pacific Highway.  Most of the members were from the Sydney (Albert Hall) ecclesia.  Brother J. W. Etherington described their beginning:

“Our meeting room at first was brother Macnamara’s bark hut, about 10 ft. by 8 ft.  He being a benedict [a newly married man] we used his bedstead and clothes chest for sitting accommodation.  But our brother Williams took pity on us, and has erected a small room, which is more comfortable, in which we break bread and endeavour to instruct, strengthen, and comfort each other.” (The Christadelphian, 1891, page 438)

Albion Park

Brother McKinley was in Albion Park in 1892.  Albion Park is 23 kilometres south of Wollongong.  There was one baptism in 1892 and three in 1893.

Millthorpe

Brother and Sister James Pearce lived in isolation in Millthorpe from 1893.  Millthorpe is between Orange and Bathurst and is about 250 kilometres from Sydney.

Blackheath

Brother Arthur Lee lived in Blackheath in 1894.  Blackheath is between Katoomba and Lithgow in the Blue Mountains and is about 115 kilometres west of Sydney.

Broken Hill

The Broken Hill ecclesia commenced in 1899 with seven members—Brother James and Sister Ada Broadbridge, Brother Arthur E. and Sister Harriette G. Wallace, and Brethren James McKenzie, Pliny Lee and William Lund.  All had been baptised in Adelaide over the previous 11 years, Adelaide being much closer than Sydney.  Over the subsequent 21 years, 59 baptisms occurred in Broken Hill.

“Broken Hill (N.S.W.)

Greeting in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, from all in the ecclesia at Broken Hill.  Just a few lines to let you know of our existence as an ecclesia here, that other brethren may, through the medium of THE SHIELD, know also.  Our meeting for breaking of bread is held at the house of Bro. A. Trenberth, Sulphide Street, off Thomas Street, at 11 o’clock.  We are also delivering public lectures at Tait’s Masonic Hall, Beryl Street.  These are advertised in the paper.  It is now eighteen months since we formed the ecclesia here.  At that time there were six of us.  Since then we have been added to by arrivals from Adelaide and also by two immersions.  We have a fair average attendance at our lectures, and there are some interested and, I think, willing to let the truth speak for itself.  Therefore I am hoping that before long I shall be able to record the act of obedience of some who have stepped into the marvellous light of the gospel.

I enclose a list of our ecclesia at present, and any further additions will be made known to you:– Brethren J. B. Broadbridge and wife, J. McKenzie and wife, A. Trenberth and wife, P. Lee and wife, H. Howe and wife, Scrimshaw and wife, W. B. Lund, Sisters Scrimshaw (sister-in-law of Bro. Scrimshaw) and Broadbridge (mother of Bro. Broadbridge).

W.B. LUND.

care of A. Tonkin; Kaolin-st., off Thomas-st.”

(The Shield, 15 August 1901, page 160)

Broken Hill is about 515 kilometres from Adelaide and about 1160 kilometres from Sydney so the ecclesia was effectively in isolation.  The ecclesia closed in 1970.

Suburban Ecclesias

As the number of brothers and sisters in the Sydney area increased, suburban ecclesias commenced.  This also created the opportunity for more widespread preaching of the Gospel.  The following are the earliest suburban ecclesias and their dates of commencement:

  • Hornsby 1924-1931
  • Eastwood/West Ryde 1926/1951
  • Lakemba 1932
  • Hurstville 1932
  • Chatswood 1937
  • Granville 1939
  • Campsie 1941