To illustrate the point of God’s hand at work in our midst within living memory, we have made reference to the resurgence of spirit generated in the post-war years of the ‘50s and ‘60s in suburban Adelaide. This was not unique to Adelaide: in fact the point can be made from many centres around the globe. It is illustrative only, yet the exhortation is universal for any longstanding ecclesia to remind themselves of faithful service done as unto the Lord by their forefathers and, in reflecting upon their rich heritage, to resolve to continue and expand upon such worthy foundations.

The hand of God clearly directed the outcomes of World War II and, subsequently, the formation of the state of Israel in 1948. It was a dramatic vindication of Bible prophecy and provided an ideal opportunity for gospel proclamation to a community recovering from the recent effects of war.

Post-War Outgrowth in Adelaide

Many young brethren had made a stand for their conscience and had faced the rigour of military tribunals. One brother was challenged by the three man military tribunal seated at a flag-draped table: “Doesn’t this flag mean anything to you”? To which he respectfully replied, “Yes, sir, it means more to me than it does to you—it means religious toleration!” Their testimony and accompanying consistent lifestyle secured their exemption, although they still had to endure the hardships of being put onto projects of “national importance”, such as building the Alice Springs to Darwin road and producing charcoal for the gas-driven cars and river steamers. We must also not forget the hostility meted out to young sister-wives by grieving families who had lost loved ones in the war.

To the modern generation it is hard to describe the feeling of closeness and fellowship that the war years engendered. In hard economic times it can be described as being a ‘bonus’ to be able to get to the meetings and to enjoy fellowship with others enduring similar hardships. There was a determination to stand together, to uphold the standards of the Truth and to preach the gospel. Towards the end of the war, the young people began to involve themselves in the work and gave it drive and impetus. From this desire to work effectively in the vineyard came three new lightstands for the Truth. It was a pioneering work which expressed itself in a strong commitment to ecclesial service.

The amazing events surrounding the establishment of the state of Israel gave rise to a discernible push for preaching in and around Adelaide. From the late 1800s to 1949 the Adelaide ecclesia (the “Temple”) had grown to a flourishing body with over 500 members. With the customary pattern of Sunday appointments, Wednesday Bible class and monthly Saturday evening devotional and Scripture study class, many young brethren were looking for more opportunities to stimulate faith and fellowship. The Gospel Extension Society endorsed a three month program of lectures in the Rechabite Hall, Bower Street, Woodville appealing to all members interested to carry the cost of £30! To know the then secretary, Brother LJ Colquhoun was to know his meticulous attention to detail and his winning ways of gathering support for the cause.

A circular dated 14/8/1949 concludes: “The main benefit from this effort will be derived by those who work to make it a success. It is a responsibility but also a pleasure for those who do it ‘as unto the Lord’. Results are not very important when we realise that regardless of the attendance of visitors it will provide another lampstand for the Truth and will give us all something to do ‘For Christ’s Sake’.”

Significant observations! This was a brave new venture: a catalyst for several well-known families in our midst today to experience the thrill and sacrifice of time and effort to ensure success. Three thousand leaflets were distributed for the opening lecture given by Brother J Mansfield (Sydney) to the topic, Christ’s Return—the Only Hope for the World. The opening lecture attracted eighty members and twenty-six visitors. The following lecture given by Brother AC Dangerfield was on the subject Is War with Russia Inevitable? Today we would give the same gospel addresses, but it is questionable whether they would be supported with the same zeal and commitment.

The Rechabite Hall lectures provided many opportunities for the young brethren to be involved. News sheets entitled Current Events in the Light of Bible Prophecy were prepared and posted out to the growing number of contacts, featuring a news update and announcing topics and speakers for forthcoming addresses.

The first lampstand to be established as a direct result of these initiatives was formed at Woodville in 1952. A small group of ‘Central’ brethren from the Franklin Street ecclesia joined with others from the Adelaide Ecclesia to meet at the Rechabite Hall on the basis of the BASF and after being formally constituted became known as the Woodville Ecclesia.

Young People’s Classes

A Sunday School was soon established at Woodville and in 1953 a young people’s class was formed. This class attracted young people from north and south of Adelaide and soon became known as the Suburban Young Folk’s Class. Again, in the providence of God, the same year saw the enthusiastic support given by many young people to the Second Youth Conference held at the “Central” Guesthouse in Victor Harbor. This spiritual and fraternal uplift should also be placed in the context of the excitement generated by what became known as the “Rose Park Class”. It had been felt by some that a class was needed in the eastern suburbs and Brother Max Eakins readily made his home available. The class rapidly expanded, necessitating a renovation of a large rear shed suitable for the 100 or so young people who attended. Brother HP Mansfield led the class into the early ‘60s when Brother J Knowles took over the leadership. It can be said that this particular class generated an enormous enthusiasm for Bible study, an appreciation for appropriate dress and behavioural standards and a desire to take up the developing opportunities in preaching, lecturing and young people’s classes. Running parallel with this, and complementary to this class, was a Sunday School senior class led by Brother J Martin held in the Adelaide ecclesia. It is not insignificant that those young brethren involved in those classes, whose hearts and minds were galvanised into Bible study in the ‘60s are themselves carrying the mantle of ecclesial leadership and service in many ecclesias today.

Elpis Israel Cottage Classes

Looking back over 55 years ago we should note with profound respect the far sightedness and determination of the brethren and sisters, ably led by Brethren LJ Colquhoun, James Mansfield (sen) and HP Mansfield who charged the GES work with enthusiasm and drive. We acknowledge our indebtedness to their labours in the spirit of Paul’s commendation (1 Thess 5:12,13; 1 Tim 5:17). In addition they set up and led Elpis Israel classes in many homes over the city. These innovative classes turned to the rich resources of our pioneer brethren for inspiration to be sure of their foundations when, at times, it was sadly lacking. Some of the classes were eventually merged into ecclesial Bible classes whilst others maintained their original format for many years. It is not an overstatement to observe that the ‘core’ of those who supported those classes became key foundation families involved in establishing the new lampstands.

Another initiative rapidly gained acceptance in this expanding and exciting period—verse by verse Bible marking. Led by Brother HP Mansfield, the study of Zechariah was held in the home of Brother Wilbur and Sister Gwen Wigzell. Newly acquired wide margin Bibles were soon carefully (and colourfully!) marked up with pen and coloured inks and later with Rapidograph pens following the guidance of verse-by-verse notes. Uncle Perce became fondly known as ‘verse-by-verse Perce’, but it is doubtful whether a more valuable form of personal Bible study has ever been practised in our times. Could it be said to be a ‘lost art’? It may be sadly neglected today but it nevertheless was a weighty contributor to the dynamic atmosphere of the times.

Lightstands in the North and South

There is no question that what had happened at Woodville gave rise to a desire to extend the gospel proclamation further afield. In 1953–54 about thirty brethren and sisters took up leafleting, lecturing and contact follow-up work in the northern Walkerville area. A trailer-borne model of a world globe with prophetic signs displayed was driven through neighbouring streets; car roof racks carried signs and amplifiers were used to draw people’s attention to forthcoming gospel addresses. A growing number of contacts indicated that by 1957 the formation of a northern ecclesia should be proposed. Approximately forty brethren and sisters became the foundation members of an ecclesia meeting at the Rechabite Hall on Main North Road. After an early change of location, the fledgling ecclesia and Sunday School decided to purchase a hall in Pulsford Road, Prospect, becoming known in July 1960 as the Enfield Ecclesia. Land was purchased at Clearview and a new hall opened in March 1967, but still retaining its original identification.

In a similar fashion the Cumberland ecclesia in the south had its humble yet dynamic beginnings in late 1952 when another group of brethren and sisters started a lecturing effort at Progress Hall on Goodwood Road, Cumberland Park. This new venture was enthusiastically taken up by a group of young and old brethren and sisters working hard and with God’s blessing achieving promising results. As many will testify, the use of hired halls (in this case the Buffalo Lodge) does have its drawbacks, with urgent calls at times to “clean up” from the previous evening’s activities! In July of 1955 the Cumberland Park lecturing effort had generated a sustainable support base to become known as the Cumberland Ecclesia with fifty-one members. In May of 1961 the ecclesia saw the culmination of many months of hard work by many families in constructing their new hall further south at Colonel Light Gardens, though still retaining the name Cumberland. A welcome feature of this period was the two-week ‘special efforts’ conducted at Woodville and Cumberland, attracting large numbers from the north as well as from the south.

Public Challenges

The hand of God again provided a wonderful succession of opportunities to widely witness for the apostolic faith. The Billy Graham crusade came to town! A special preaching effort was held in the city Majestic Theatre and on the 7th of June 1959, Brother HP Mansfield challenged the beliefs of the crusade. The earnest contention for the Faith showed in stark contrast the pernicious fallacies of the crusade compared to the compelling logic and power of the Scriptures. Many earnest discussions were held with those of the public shaken by the fearless testimony. Six follow-on nights were held in the back hall of the Temple with a totally packed hall on each occasion.

In a few short years another opportunity arose with what became known as the Mansfield-Lee debates. Conducted in 1962 in the Unley and Hindmarsh Town Halls the debates with Mr DE Lee of the American Church of Christ were held over six nights with a huge following from the brotherhood. The blustering showmanship of the American evangelist fell to pieces by the sword of the Spirit Word. The apostolic faith was vindicated and proved so exciting that many could hardly wait for the next encounter. The records of those debates still hold the aura of the power of Scripture properly understood proving an irresistible force when challenged.

International conflicts and religious issues raised in the media have always provided opportunity to witness. The six day Arab-Israeli war was immediately seized upon to highlight the Divine hand in preserving the nation of Israel and of our unwavering stance on prophecy. The war and the capture of the Old City electrified the ecclesias. Many local efforts were held and in early 1968 a city Town Hall effort brought in excess of 150 visitors.

Town Hall lectures were a high profile witness for Bible Truth and one of the most memorable was in August 1967, that of Brother Maurie Stewart of California: a fluent, dynamic and appealing speaker who related so well to the interested friends. One can never forget the effect of Brother Maurie throwing out a long roll of quotations down the aisle to graphically illustrate his claim that hundreds of verses in the Bible taught the return of Christ to the earth.

In 1973 a public challenge was made to the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The press of the day commented upon the ‘holy war’ that erupted as the brethren and sisters rallied with extensive leafleting, newspaper advertising, signs on car roof racks and a public offer for $1,000 for proof of an immortal soul in Scripture. The offer still stands! An audience of about 500 attended with about 200 visitors following closely the scriptural argument presented by Brother Frank Abel of Canada.

Open air preaching has taken several forms, including on the beachfront at Semaphore and on the lawns at Elder Park during the visit of Brother Ron Abel. Whilst of limited noticeable impact, the stimulus provided for the young brethren speaking left an indelible impression and some baptisms came from this work.

Conclusions

This ‘thumbnail sketch’, whilst admittedly brief and far from a detailed catalogue of events, does portray something of the spirit of the times in the South Australian brotherhood experiencing an unprecedented period of growth. The review covering the period after the war and into the ‘60s does not pretend to cover all aspects of a multifacetted work. We are aware of many individuals and several projects that are not covered in this overview, but that which has been highlighted should serve to illustrate the wave of excitement felt by a generation whose hearts were alive with the wonder of keen Bible study and vigorous gospel proclamation. We are the richer for that generation’s labours amongst us. They laid down for us noble traditions in a work ethic and level of commitment that we do well to admire and emulate.

The world has changed and we are another generation, yet if we can share the same vision, the same enthusiasm to read with understanding the Word of our God and to witness for its veracity, then we will feel comfortable in the company of a remarkable collection of people when our Lord calls us together. Today we can seize hold of opportunities just as they did. We can enthuse each other by our own personal Bible study, complementing the vigorous exposition of the Scriptures from our platforms. We can contribute financially and with physical support to the many worthy ventures that serve well our community. We can encourage our young people to pick up the mantle of dedicated service to the God who so evidently created a wonderfully rich heritage for them to treasure and promote.

As the apostle Paul concluded after his first campaign, in this overview we have but “rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). It is our hope that “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).