Bible Schools have been for such a long time part of our Christadelphian landscape that our familiarity could minimise their important contribution to our spiritual life and to that of our children. One brother has said that there have been two things that stand out in factors that led to his family accepting and walking in the Truth—daily Bible readings and interstate trips to the Bible School! In looking back in appreciation for the many helps that our God has provided for us and our children, Bible Schools feature very largely in the positive contributions.

The concept of a Bible School did not originate in Australia, but many years ago brethren, particularly in North America, saw the value of such an institution, where families could gather to study the Word of God together, and find companionship with those of like mind.

Early Days

It has been the pleasure of the writer to have been associated with the first four Bible Schools held in Australia. Magnetic Island, off the coast of Queensland, was the site chosen for the first two Bible Schools. Just a few kilometres from Townsville, it was somewhat remote from the southern States, but with its balmy autumn weather and its sub-tropical beauty it certainly was an attractive setting.

This was not its only attraction, as it afforded a unique opportunity for brethren and sisters in farflung outback Queensland to come together with those of like faith who travelled great distances from the southern States, and from ‘far off’ New Zealand.

Lives Changed Forever

It was an exciting time as this was a new venture, a new experience for Australian ecclesias. It was the year 1962, the School scheduled for the 20th–27th of May; the study leaders, Brethren Perce Mansfield (Haggai), Jim Mansfield (Jonah), Basil McClure (Philippians) and John Martin (Numbers). From that point of time Bible Schools have been operating for forty two years, still providing essential spiritual food and heart-warming fellowship.

There were approximately 120 brethren and sisters at that first School; the facilities were adequate, if somewhat ‘spartan’ compared to present day standards. Brethren and sisters were housed in separate dormitories, whilst the meetings were conducted in a marquee, hired for the occasion. Such were the climatic conditions that the sides of the marquee had of a necessity to be rolled up to provide an adequate circulation of air.

In those times the Question Time was a lively forum, as many of those in attendance heard expositional concepts from the Word for the first time. There was an air of expectancy, and subsequent enthusiastic response to the studies that is rarely matched in these materialistic days. In the main, those in attendance were people who lived simple and uncomplicated lives, who thrilled to the opening up of the Word.

For those of us who had travelled from centres where there were larger ecclesias, well served by brethren who could expound the Word, the impression made was profound. To see brethren and sisters respond as they did, to listen to their impressions as to how the experience had changed their lives forever, to see the fervour and zeal that was generated was in itself an inspiration. Friendships made at that school are as strong today as they were at the end of that week.

One such unforgettable moment came after the Bible School when we went atop Castle Hill which provides a spectacular view over Townsville, with five or six brethren of the same age as myself. We had built up a considerable affinity during the week of the School, but now they wished to discuss some significant differences between us. Imagine how we felt, when in the ensuing discussions we learnt that they had never heard of the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith!! Not that they were fundamentally wrong in their view, but wished clarification on some issues where their lack of opportunity for “iron to sharpen iron” had left them somewhat uncertain on detail.

Experiences similar to this have been repeated over the years as brethren and sisters gather to learn and to discuss the Scripture, and have returned home enriched with Biblical information and cemented friendships.

From this beginning there were three more Bible Schools held before, by the grace of God, we were able to purchase our own facility at Rathmines. Details of those three Bible Schools are as follows:

June 9th–16th 1963 Magnetic Island

Leaders: Brethren Jim Mansfield (Ruth), Lindsay Colquhoun (Habakkuk), Keith Cook (Tabernacle) and John Martin (Judges)

May 9th– 18th 1964 Tallebudgera

Leaders: Brethren Perce Mansfield (Revelation), Tony Newton (Ezekiel’s Temple) and John Martin (James)

May 8th– 17th 1965 Tallebudgera

Leaders: Brethren Jim Mansfield (The Life of the Lord), Ted Spongberg (Job) and John Martin (Kings of Israel).

May 8th– 17th 1965 Tallebudgera

Leaders: Brethren Jim Mansfield (The Life of the Lord), Ted Spongberg (Job) and John Martin (Kings of Israel).

During August 28th to September 5th. the same year, the first Bible School was held at the new venue at Rathmines and has continued there ever since. Now instead of the one School we have three a year; still the attendances often exceed expectations, underscoring the importance of this God given opportunity for our people to congregate around His Word. May this have God’s blessing until “he comes whose right it is” to conduct the greatest Bible School of all.