Looking back… 100 years ago

From The Australian Christian Commonwealth – July 21, 1916…

A poem from the Rev. O. Lake
(seemingly inspired by Acts 26:12-13 and his own conversion)

“To my distracted life there came a calm
Like that upon the sea at Christ’s rebuke;
I seemed to breathe the sunshine, all the world
Was changed to share the rapturous joy with me
That day stands out, with memory’s best replete,
My day of joyous days, filled out, complete.

The storms since then have thundered round my way,
And days have passed relieved with scanty light,
But I have never lost the afterglow
Of that great day, the heavenly prototype;
Let all the coming years bring what they may,
they cannot memory rob of that great day.

In coming days the floods may rise and roar
And strife may thrust aside the thoughts of peace;
But He who gave me that wide liberty
Can in the fettered flesh the soul release.
In my conversion was the earnest given
Of tearless, sinless, joyous life in heaven.”

Looking Back… 100 years ago

From The Australian Christian Commonwealth – July 14, 1916…

A report from the Conference Executive on Evangelism

“The Conference Executive, at is meeting on Friday evening last, decided upon an AUGUST EVANGELISTIC MISSION, along the following lines :-
(1) That during the month of August all our Sunday evening services be made distinctly Gospel services, preceded by a Prayer meeting and followed by an after-meeting for the purpose of securing decisions for Christ.
(2) That in as many places in each circuit as possible Gospel services e held during the week nights following, such services to be conducted by the ministers of the circuit, in conjunction with the local preachers
(3) That during these missions our people be specially urged to engage in house-to-house visitation and canvass, with a view to inducing and encouraging those who do not attend any place of worship to come to the mission services.”

Spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ has changed a bit in 100 years, but our Methodist predecessors were certainly quite earnest in getting the word out!

Looking back – 100 years ago

From The Australian Christian Commonwealth – July 7, 1916…

Letters from the Front
“Smith Street in Egypt.” by Chaplain Rev. T. C. Rentoul

Captain Gault and I are in neighbouring training battalions in this great canvas city. We unite as far as possible in our work, and our combined efforts are being blessed. In order to reach a large number of fellows who do not frequent the Y.M.C.A halls – of which we have three – we decided to commence open-air services on a couple of nights a week…
On the first night… the soldiers gathered round as curious and yet as shy as colts. Evidently they thought we were going to sell razor paste or mechanical toys, or start a gambling school. When the hymn books came out and a tune was started, one fellow groaned, “Good Lord, it’s religion@” and the crowd commenced to evaporate. But they soon came back. The are attracted by singing like flies to bread and jam (to full appreciate the force of the simile one needs to live in Egypt)

Looking Back – 100 years ago

From The Australian Christian Commonwealth – front page, June 30 1916… (so the language is not what we would use today)

“The Bible leads its student into God’s great out-of-doors. It enables him to find the symbols of spiritual truths in things material. The works of God and the word of god are interpretative of each other. In the lover of nature God finds His best-qualified messenger.”

The author of the article goes on to talk about the Shepherd & His sheep, the vineyard and The Vine pruner, etc.

‘The Australian Christian Commonwealth’ was a weekly newspaper of the early Methodist Church in South Australia, and can be found online at the National Library’s Trove website (trove.nla.gov.au), or print versions can be read at the History Centre.

History writing workshop

Sunday, 10 April 2016, 2 to 4.30 pm
at Church of The Trinity
318 Goodwood Road, Clarence Park

(car parking on site)

This interactive workshop is designed for all those contemplating or already working on recording the history of their local church or other organisation. If you don’t know where to start, have questions about accessing resources, have dilemmas or creative ideas about what makes for good history and/or how to tell your story more effectively, want to know about publishing, or just want to learn from other people’s experience, this workshop is for you. Those who are planning to apply for a UCSAHS grant in 2016 to support their project are especially encouraged to attend.
Amanda James, Senior Community History Officer with History SA will lead this interactive workshop and address questions facing those thinking about engaging with local community and church histories.
No charge for this workshop. An RSVP (to ucsahist@chariot.net.au ) will assist with catering



South Australia led the nation in enacting an Associations Incorporation Act which enabled not-for-profit organisations to gain the benefits of becoming a ‘body corporate” with the liability of the members of the Board being limited to the assets held by the organization.

Prior to that time the options available to charitable, religious and educational bodies were to obtain a private Act of Parliament (as was done in the case of Prince Alfred College). to create a limited company or to form a trust.

Incorporation was widely used in the welfare and educational work of the Methodist Church to establish major projects. By this means the “risk taking” involved did not place an impossible burden on Board Members.


For many years the legal requirements for incorporation were not onerous. The basic requirements were to prepare Articles of Association and register them with the appropriate Government authority for the payment of a nominal fee.

The initiative in establishing an incorporated body could be taken by a group of interested individuals e.g. a sporting club. Alternatively, a “parent” body could take the necessary steps. This was done by bodies such as the Methodist Conference. By proceeding in this way the Conference was able to ensure some measure of control through the appointment of Board Members and by requiring regular Reports and financial statements. At the same time, the incorporated body enjoyed a high degree of autonomy and presented a distinctive image to the community.

Although the parent body’s power to effect major changes to a Board’s policies and programs was rarely used, it remained a powerful tool. On one occasion, the Methodist Conference became so dissatisfied with the working of the Memorial Hospital Board, that it decided to terminate the       appointment of its Board members and replace them with a new Board.

Each body that was incorporated under the legislation was required to keep a separate bank  account and have their accounts audited. Members of the Board were usually appointed for three year terms with one third retiring each year and being eligible for re-appointment.

The legislation has been amended several times, with significant changes taking place since 1985.  Some provisions have been expanded for the purposes of clarity while others have added to the burden of accountability.


Some incorporated bodies have become major institutions and hold substantial assets.

The Adelaide Central Methodist Mission was one of the earlier organisations to take advantage of the legislation.  As its work expanded and new ventures undertaken, the Board found it prudent to establish several additional ‘bodies corporate”.  This occurred during the Depression with the      establishment of Kuitpo Colony for the rehabilitation of alcoholics and homeless men.

Separate incorporation of the new entity allowed the body to establish an identity, separate from the Mission.  In this way the assets of the “parent body” were quarantined, while it continued to influence the direction of the fledgling organisation through representatives of the parent body on its Board. Meanwhile, the Conference maintained its overall oversight through the submission of regular reports and continued to appoint the Board, without becoming legally responsible for its actions.

The creation of separate incorporated bodies with their own Boards gave opportunity for the involvement of people from the church and community with specialised skills and who were committed to the body’s specific objectives. The combination of a separate identity and the participation of prominent people on the Board greatly assisted the public image of these organisations and helped with fund raising and community support generally.


For many years, membership of the Board of an incorporated body was not an onerous responsibility. Only when the National Safety Council of Australia become embroiled in a financial crisis, did it become obvious that the position of Chairman of a “not-for-profit” Board was no sinecure. In that case, litigation initiated by the Commonwealth Bank resulted in the Chairman being bankrupted because of his failure to exercise due care in carrying out his responsibilities. From that time, issues of corporate governance have sent shivers up the spine of board members.

The procedure for appointment and continuation of Board members always constituted a potential weakness in the long-term effectiveness of an organisation. The initiative for nominating board members usually rested with the board, with the actual appointment being made by the parent body or the annual meeting of the “members” of the association. On occasions this has resulted in the “self perpetuation” of particular policies or perspectives. The role of the Methodist Conference in  appointing/re-appointing boards, provided a possibility to inject “new blood” by means of            nominations from the floor. However, generally nominations were “rubber-stamped”. In later years steps have been taken to limit the total period of service and to introduce a compulsory retirement age which has corrected some of these problems.

Incorporated associations have been an important element in the voluntary sector. Their boards have been volunteers, regardless of their professional qualifications or business expertise. With the increased emphasis on corporate governance, board members have found themselves subject to complex and very demanding regulations for which they may have had little preparation. The Act does not prohibit the payment of sitting fees to board members but very few associations in South Australia make such payments.

Several of the Uniting Church incorporated bodies employ hundreds of staff and control annual budgets in excess of $20,000,000. They are among the “top 50” not-for-profit organisations in Australia and are among the largest employers in this State. Legislative pressures may well push such associations towards the appointment of professionally trained boards whose members are compensated for their services. The same pressures have implications for the way board members are appointed and the kind of people who are nominated for appointment. Ensuring a balance between high standards of corporate governance and management practices while adhering to the values of the Uniting Church may well become the subject of worthwhile debate.


Creating a body corporate under the Associations Incorporation’s Act had particular value whenever a local congregation decided to become a “central mission”. In such cases, the local property which was a crucial asset for the emerging mission was controlled by trustees appointed for life under the “Methodist Model Deed”. Trustees at times lacked vision and their ideas were far removed from the plans conceived by the charismatic ministers who pioneered South Australia’s central missions.

When Rev. Arthur Strange took up his appointment at the Archer Street Church in North Adelaide, the congregation had dwindled in size and the trustees were few in number and elderly. Nor was there much scope for injecting forward thinking people by way of new trustees. At that time the   trustees held not just the Archer Street Church but also the former Wellington Square Church (now a TV Studio) with a small group of adjoining cottages together with the Archer Street manse on a double block, just off of Le Fevre Terrace.

While some new initiatives at North Adelaide occurred under the existing Trust system, incorporation opened up a new world of possibilities. When established, the board included new people from outside of the local congregation, such as Sir Shirley Jeffries and Mr. Gordon Brown, who were influential lay leaders in the Conference and prominent in the community.

The advantages of flexibility and autonomy made possible with incorporation are illustrated in the move towards the aged care program at North Adelaide. Strange asked for his Board’s approval to purchase the property known as “Westering” as the first stage of the new venture.    At the time, he did not have the purchase price in hand. The Board asked “Will you be able to raise the money?” When he said “Yes”, approval to go ahead was given. And the money was raised!


Over the years the Conference found incorporation to be a useful tool whenever it became convinced that a new initiative was required. By this means the Memorial Hospital, Resthaven, Epworth Building and the Book Depot, Lincoln College and Westminster School were all brought into being. In each case very little money was available to seed the new venture, and each involved considerable commercial risks. By means of incorporation, each entity became a legal body corporate, with its own specialised Board drawn from the wider church and community. Having their own legal status enabled these fledgling institutions to deal directly with banks and other commercial groups.

From time to time, incorporated bodies have embarked upon projects which required the borrowing of substantial sums of money. Where the lending body required additional security for a loan, the Standing Committee (or later the Council of Synod) took the step of providing a “letter of comfort”. Those organizations which controlled substantial funds could do almost anything provided there was no major conflict with church values. They also enjoyed the advantage of not having to obtain    Conference/Synod approval for building proposals.

The Presbyterian Church used incorporation in the establishment of St. Andrew’s Hospital. Also a number of their local churches were incorporated, while others were vested in the Presbyterian Trusts Corporation, a body set up by Act of Parliament.

Some time prior to the inauguration of the Uniting Church, the Methodist Church had secured the passage of legislation setting up the Methodist Church Property Trust. In place of trustees appointed for life, property committees were appointed for a term and the “inbuilt conservatism” of the trust system was significantly modified.

However this improvement did not solve all the problems faced by emerging “missions” and welfare bodies. The personnel of the property committees was still drawn from local congregations and did not always provide the specialised skills needed to manage innovative projects. For this reason,  incorporation continued to be the preferred option.


One of the last “missions” to be created involved the central church – Pirie Street. This “mother church” of SA Methodism was facing a changing and uncertain future. But decision-making powers regarding its mission were divided between the Quarterly Meeting and the Trust. Through incorporation, one body was charged with responsibility for the formulation of policy and the use of resources. Instead of infrequent meetings once a quarter the new board met monthly. With its new-found autonomy Pirie Street played a key role in the eventual amalgamation with Stow Church into what is today Pilgrim Church. The new structure also facilitated the negotiations and legal steps associated with the compulsory acquisition by the Adelaide City Council of the old church buildings.

It is interesting to note that more than two decades after its inauguration, the Uniting Church has created the possibility for local church government to be in the hands of one Church Council which is then charged with decision-making in pastoral care, finance and property and mission planning.

When the Rose Park Congregational Church was no longer able to maintain its extensive property, a decision was made to hand over the property to the newly created Alexandra Homes Trust Inc. for the purpose of erecting aged care accommodation on the site. In due course adjoining property was acquired and a seven-storey hostel and nursing home built. The Trust subsequently amalgamated with another Congregational aged care organisation to form Eldercare Inc. The Goodwood section of the Presbyterian Dunbar Homes Inc. also became part of the new umbrella body.

A further example of the use of incorporation to facilitate a missional project occurred at another of the historic Methodist churches at Kent Town. The local leadership became convinced that their near-city property was ideally located to establish a congregation-based aged care development. After lengthy debate at local and Conference level, finally Kingsborough Homes Inc was born.

Several ministers played key administrative roles in the early stages of this venture, combining an administrative role with their pastoral responsibilities. In this way, Kent Town Church was able to retain the services of a full-time minister. Later on, Kingsborough Homes became part of the Eldercare operation.


The Congregational Church generally used the Associations Incorporation Act for a different purpose. Aware that the system of local trustees could create problems particularly if retiring or deceased members were not replaced, the Congregationalists expressed their independent spirit by incorporating local congregations. Local deacons managed the property, while their liability was  limited to the assets in their hands.

The legislation which brought into existence the Uniting Church Property Trust included a Schedule of Congregational church properties whose incorporation ceased at incorporation and whose property was automatically vested in the new Property Trust. A similar arrangement applied in the case of a handful of incorporated Presbyterian Churches which had opted to join the Uniting Church e.g. Scots Church.


It should be understood that church organisations are now subject to scores of State and Commonwealth Government legislation and regulation which are additional to the requirements of the Associations Incorporation Act. Attempts to simplify governmental regulations have usually led to more red tape. Unfortunately, this situation is unlikely to change in the near future. Uniting Church regulations are additional to secular requirements and result in a high level of accountability.

Penalties for breaches of the legislation are now substantial. The penalty for making a record of or divulging information as an authorised person to others is up to $10,000. Fraud and misuse of assets could lead to two years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. If that is not serious enough, then it should be borne in mind that Commonwealth Corporations Law now applies to incorporated bodies in this State except for those cases specifically excluded in the State legislation.

Church incorporated bodies were not required to pay award wages to staff until the 1970’s although most did so as a matter of equity. Now only members of religious orders are exempt from industrial legislation. In recent times, some organisations have found it necessary to pay above award wages and conditions in order to recruit and keep professional staff.


The value of incorporation as a tool of mission is well illustrated by comparison with the situation which applied in New South Wales. Institutions in that State were held by the Methodist Trust Association, a body established by Act of Parliament. I understand that the substantial assets of Wesley Mission, Sydney, Wesley College, church departments and other mission properties were held centrally. Central control of assets can be a safeguard against injudicious local decisions, but can also be a cumbersome mechanism which acts as a brake on innovative projects.

Under the current structures of the SA Synod Community Services are overseen by a Commission, which receives annual reports and appoints members.  The ability of incorporated bodies to nominate board members has an inbuilt tendency toward “in-breeding”. This can result in impaired vision! In the absence of any provision for nominations “from the floor” of the Synod the recruitment of “new blood” rests largely, with each board.

The Community Services Commission needs to explore appropriate procedures which will ensure that the vision of our welfare and educational bodies is subject to radical periodic review.

With such a safeguard the creation of incorporated bodies can continue to serve as a useful tool in the mission of the Uniting Church.

Keith Smith 4th July. 2005

I have been greatly assisted in the preparation of this paper by the comments and suggestions made by Rev. George Martin whose direct involvement in the Port Adelaide Methodist Mission has given him valuable insights which have relevance for others who decide to employ this useful tool of mission.


StrathalbynMost of the first European settlers who arrived in Strathalbyn in 1840 were very staunch Scottish Presbyterians.   For several years they held worship services in private homes but – despite the demands of building houses, clearing land, putting up fences, etc. – they determined to erect a church.

In 1844 the first church-school, claimed to be the second Presbyterian place of worship built in the colony of South Australia, was built on the site of the present building.  This served several denominations for over three years.

By 1848 the original church was too small and so began the building of the present St Andrew’s.   The 1848 structure is now part of the nave of the present building.  In 1857 the church was again too small and so the transepts (completed in 1859) were added.   The demand for space became pressing requiring the nave to be enlarged (in 1865) as well as a gallery, the spire and porch being added.

A prominent citizen, Edward Stirling, who had returned to Scotland, was persuaded to donate a bell for the spire.   The bell, which was cast in Sheffield (UK), weighed a tonne.   When it arrived in Strathalbyn, church officials realized at once that it was too heavy for the spire.  Several alternatives were tried but eventually the decision was made in1869 to build a bell tower.

Mrs E J Tucker suggested (in 1895) that the tower needed a clock and so started a subscription list in the community enabling the project to be completed.  The clock faces came from England and the clock was installed by Wendt’s of Adelaide.

The last of the buildings was completed in 1938, when the vestry and furnishings were donated by Mrs Tucker to celebrate 100 years of Presbyterianism in South Australia.

When church union took place in 1977, the congregations in Strathalbyn decided to use St Andrew’s as the place of worship.   In 1981 the building was closed for extensive refurbishing and was reopened on 12th December 1982.

St Andrew’s, probably the most photographed building in Strathalbyn, is on the National Trust Heritage List.

(adapted from text supplied by Evelyn Glazbrook, May 2001)

The Honourable William Parkin (1801-1889) – A Congregational Benefactor

William ParkinWilliam Parkin

William Parkin established the Parkin Trust in 1872 and the Parkin Congregational Mission of South Australia in 1882.

Parkin was born at Glastonbury, Somerset, England on 24th August 1801. By the early 1830s he had settled at Plympton on the outskirts of Plymouth, Devon and on 16th May 1832 married Sarah Mary Carill.

William and Sarah Parkin came to South Australia in the “Recovery” which arrived at Port Adelaide on 19th September 1839. Fellow passengers included James Adamson and his family. Adamson’s eldest son, Adam Adamson, was later one of Parkin’s Executors.


Parkin farmed briefly near Willunga and then opened a drapery in Hindley Street Adelaide on the site later occupied by Miller Anderson’s. By 1852, he had moved to Rundle Street on the site of the Myer store. Robert Stuckey, who was treasurer of Stow Memorial Church from 1873 to 1897, sold the drapery section of his business in Rundle Street to William Parkin and George Williams Chinner in 1852. Chinner was the father of William Bowen Chinner and the grandfather of Norman Chinner who were organists of Pirie Street Methodist Church from 1869 to 1902 and 1939 to 1947 respectively.

By 1858, Parkin was the sole owner of this property which had a 49 foot frontage to Rundle Street. His business prospered and he retired to Plympton and devoted himself to politics. His Plympton house, which originally stood in nine acres of garden is still standing at Lewis Crescent, Plympton North. On 26th February 1878, Joseph Keynes and his wife visited Parkin and wrote “He has a very fine place there”.

Parkin was a member of the House of Assembly (1860-1862), and a member of the Legislative Council (1866-1877). During his “retirement”, he continued many of his business activities: he was a proprietor of the “Advertiser”, chairman of the Wallaroo and Kadina Tramway Company, and a director of the North Terrace-Glenelg Railway line.


Parkin and his wife became members of the Rev Thomas Quinton Stow’s Freeman Street (now Gawler Place) Chapel “on testimony of the brethren” on 29th May 1845. Parkin conducted a branch Sunday School at Magill, walking both ways. He was a member of the building committee for the “Stow Memorial Church”, now known as Pilgrim Church, which was opened on 12th April 1867, and which replaced the Freeman Street Chapel.

Following the death of his wife Sarah on 23rd March 1871, he married on 28th February 1872 Ellen Stonehouse, the eldest daughter of the Rev George Stonehouse who established the North Adelaide Baptist Church in 1848. Parkin transferred his membership to the Glenelg Congregational Church on 30th April 1873 where he continued as a member until his death on 31st May 1889 aged 87 years. There were no children from either marriage.

Parkin is buried in the West Terrace Cemetery (Road 3, Path 18) and his grave has a fine marble monument which was restored in 2001.


Parkin established the Parkin Trust in the Declaration of Trust dated 23rd February 1872 and 4th October 1876 by a gift of one thousand pounds in cash (subsequently increased to eight thousand pounds) and about 4160 acres of land in the Northern Territory valued at two thousand pounds. The Deed of Settlement was signed on 11th October 1876 and the Trust was incorporated on 12th October 1876. The main purpose of the Trust was to train Congregational Ministers, but was not to become operative until the income reached one thousand pounds per annum. This took place in 1909, and Parkin College was established in 1910 at North Terrace, Kent Town.

After the death of his wife Ellen in 1925, additional property in Glenelg became the property of the Trust. His total gifts to the Parkin Trust were of the order of twenty thousand pounds.

Parkin College was amalgamated with Wesley College in 1969 in anticipation of the establishment of the Uniting Church, and now forms portion of Parkin Wesley College. The income from the Trust assists the work of Parkin Wesley College.


Parkin established the Parkin Congregational Mission of South Australia on 19th September 1882 by a Deed of Settlement. A further Deed of Settlement was approved on 14th September 1887. The Mission was incorporated on 13th January 1888. His gift comprised his Rundle Street property with a 49 foot frontage which was valued at approximately twenty thousand pounds. The Mission became operative on Parkin’s death on 31st May 1889.

The main purposes of the Mission were to:

¨ Pay “annuities of five pounds each to twenty poor God-fearing widows…”
¨ Pay “the stipends of Missionaries of the Congregational denomination appointed by the Governors……….the said Missionaries shall travel in the less settled districts of South Australia, that is to say beyond a distance of twenty miles from any now or hereafter existing Congregational Church.”

The Rundle Street property was sold in 1963 for 410,000 pounds, and the funds of the Mission were reinvested.

The available income of the Mission assists the work of the Uniting Church by grants to the Synod of South Australia for “The payment of grants to congregations, the Patrols and other ministries including Chaplaincies”.

The scope of the Mission has been broadened over the years to cover the new frontiers of ministry which include Chaplaincies. At Church union in 1977, the word “Congregational” was removed from the name of the Mission.


Parkin’s original gifts amounted to approximately 40,000 pounds ($80,000), 20,000 pounds each for the Trust and the Mission.

The capital value of his gifts at Church union in 1977 amounted to approximately $1.6 million. (Trust $0.45 million, Mission $1.15 million.)

The value at the end of 2001 amounted to approximately $12.8 million. (Trust $2.7 million, Mission $10.1 million)

The contribution to the work of the Uniting Church in 1978 amounted to $90,000. (Trust $28,000, Mission $62,000.)

The contributions promised for 2002 amount to $660,000, (Trust $120,000, Mission $540,000.) and for 2003 amount to $700,000. (Trust $140,000, Mission $560,000.)
These are major contributions for the work of the Uniting Church from the Trusts set up by one person over 100 years ago and represent approximately 15% of the total Synod budget.

The contributions to the much smaller Congregational denomination prior to the establishment of the Uniting Church in 1977 were very significant.

Parkin did not want the denomination to have direct control of his Trusts. The only control exercised by the denomination, both in the past and at present is in the appointment of Governors. It is believed that this independence has been the strength of the Trusts.


Parkin’s opinions may appear intolerant, but were based on his high ideals and his expectations of the behaviour of other people.

Parkin had a firm belief that those who prospered had a duty to share their prosperity with the Church. This attitude brought him into conflict with many prominent members of the Church and with the Congregational Union which he criticized strongly. In a letter from Plympton in 1877, he declined the honour of chairing the annual public meeting of the Congregational Union and roundly condemned its members for not being as ready as he was to support the spread of the faith.

“If your Committee know what my opinion has been of them…… I think they would have hesitated a little before they ventured to offer so distinguished an honour on me.
…..Sir, I feel a contempt for men who would be inquisitive to know what this one or that one has done, and who shirk their own duty and button up their breeches pockets when asked to contribute a trifle for the good cause themselves.”

The setting up of the Parkin Mission has been very beneficial to the Congregational and Uniting Churches in South Australia. The following extract from “Congregationalism in Australia” by G. Lindsay Lockley based on the diary of the Rev F.W.Cox, 19th April, 1882 is as follows:

“Parkin originally put his projected scheme to the Rev F.W.Cox, the Hon.R.A.Tarlton, the Hon Augustine Stow and Mr J.F.Conigrave.

W.P gave an outline of his history and told us about his nephew whom he hoped to make heir to his property but, seeing the course he was going, he had told him plainly that as God had given him whatever wealth he had and to be used for His own purposes he would not let it go to the Devil’s purposes which could be the case if he left it to his nephew. So now he was going to carry out a scheme for the setting a number of Missionaries at work in the country beyond places where Churches existed….”

If Parkin had not felt as he did, the Parkin Mission would not have been established.


We give thanks to God for the life of William Parkin and for his significant gifts. We hope that others may be inspired by his example.

If we become moved like William Parkin, we can help with the long term witness of the Church. We can make provision in our wills, large or small, for our local congregations or for the wider Church, thus fulfilling “our hope for years to come”.

Brian L Jones
6th July 2002

A prophet of Federation

In 1898 the people of the six separate Australian colonies voted to establish a federated ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ whose centenary we celebrate this year. In the campaign preceding that vote, the South Australian Council of Churches petitioned its member churches actively promoting a ‘yes’ vote. The letter bearing that recommendation was drafted by a Congregational minister, Dr James Jefferis, of the Brougham Place church.

Jefferis received the criticism of the Advertiser for this stance which was, it claimed, “beyond the province of the pulpit”. “If the pulpit had nothing to say at such a moment of national significance,” Jefferis retorted, its ministers would be rightly denounced as “dumb dogs that cannot bark”. It is perhaps no co-incidence that the referendum question received its strongest metropolitan support in the electorate of North Adelaide.

For this and his many public statements towards Federation, Dr James Jefferis has received the biographical title of “Prophet of Federation”. Historian, Dr Walter Phillips, of the La Trobe University in Melbourne, wrote that history which was published in 1993.

jjefferisRev. James Jefferis

[Photograph and the following excerpt are taken from In Stow’s Footsteps: a chronological history of the Congregational Churches in S.A. 1837-1977, by the late John Cameron (pub. 1987).]

“It was the Rev. T.Q. Stow who invited the Rev. James Jefferis to come to S.A. to help form a church at North Adelaide. Jefferis began his ministry in Temperance Hall, North Adelaide in May 1859 and a fellowship was formed in October of that year.

BpBrougham Place Uniting Church, North Adelaide, Sth Australia.

The Brougham Place church was opened in February 1861 and could seat 800 persons. Jefferis filled the church. [He] preached a ‘progressive theology’ and, at a time when many saw religion and science as enemies, he encouraged his congregation to see science and philosophy also as witnesses to God’s truth.”

A prophet of Federation is remembered.

Almost a Pilgrimage

A Visit to some of the early sites of Methodism on the Gawler Plains.

On September 1, 2001, I joined 40 other people who had braved inclement weather to visit some of S.A. Methodism’s historic sites on the Gawler Plains (the tract of land between the Little Para and Gawler rivers).

Burton_CemeteryBurton Cemetery

Burton1Burton Church and Sunday School

After assembling at the Uniting Church’s Freedom and Community Centre, Paralowie, the cavalcade of hired bus and private cars proceeded to where the Primitive Methodist church stood by the side of the Burton Road.

The church cemetery is all that remains of the original centre. There had once been a substantial church building, erected in 1915 adjacent to the original chapel. A memorial stone now marks the spot and the cemetery is at present being restored as a site of historical significance.

Rev Ted Curnow has reconstructed the history connected with the grave-sites and has published an index and biographical material concerning the 143 people who were interred at the Burton cemetery.

William Diment was a pioneer farmer at Burton. Of church interest is the fact that at 61 years of age, he was the first and only layman to become President of the Primitive Methodist Assembly in South Australia, first in 1883 and again in 1885. Probably his 1883 term of office provided a unique situation in S.A. Methodism. His 29-year-old minister son, William Diment jnr, was the Secretary for the Assembly for that year. It must have been confusing for delegates when matters were referred to ‘William Diment’ to know whether it was father or son who was being named.

As this was my first visit to the old cemetery, it called to mind that two sons of the Secomb family from Two Wells had courted and married two daughters of the Diment family. The younger of the brothers was my great-grandfather. I wondered whether the love-story had begun at one of the Anniversary tea-meetings which were such significant district social events in Primitive Methodism, indeed Methodism generally, in that era.

This old cemetery and church-site is cheek by jowl with a new suburban housing development. That would be something the old pioneers would never have envisaged. On the other hand, the significance of the site probably scarcely impinges, if at all, on the consciousness of these latter-day residents.

On to Sturton Chapel

The next port of call was the site of the Zoar Bible Christian chapel. Again, all that remains of this once thriving congregation is a cemetery. Here we are reminded of the particularly zealous ministry of Samuel Keen, after his arrival on the Gawler Plains in 1853. He diligently sought out the settlers, organised them into groups for worship and urged them to build a chapel as soon as possible. The result was, in Derek Whitelock’s phrase, the countryside “speckled with little chapels”. Keen had a penchant for giving the chapels under his ministry biblical names. In Isaiah 15:5 Zoar is named as “a place of refuge”. In his 1857 report to the Bible Christian Missionary Society in England, Samuel Keen wrote of those converted at Zoar during the past year as “twenty who escaped thither for their life”.

sturton_chapelSturton Chapel built 1856

Much of the original farmland in this area, once known as Peachy Belt, has been taken over by the Weapons Research Establishment and Edinburgh Airbase. The Jeffries family, originally from Canada, erected a small chapel on their property known as ‘Sturton’. This chapel was used by the Jeffries family and neighbours, but it always remained a small congregation.

This very small, very plain chapel still stands in reasonably good repair, thanks to the restoration work sanctioned by WRE. With restricted access to the area now applying, we had to have formal permission to visit. This was arranged by Mr Laurie Jeffries, a direct descendant of the pioneer family.

The chapel was built and opened in 1856. Regular services ceased in 1892, but the chapel has been used in more recent times for special Jeffries family occasions. As the latest group to attend, we said a prayer and sang the Doxology to add to the worship that had been offered to God on a regular basis more than 100 years ago.

Angle Vale Methodist Church

At Angle Vale the Methodist church was closed in the 1970’s. The original red-brick chapel still stands but the outside walls are now cement-rendered. The building is in good condition and used as a private home.

This was where Samuel Keen began his South Australian ministry in 1853. After a period of services being held in the homes of the people, this chapel was opened in September 1854, and was named Ebenezer. This is another biblical name, mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:12 – ‘Then Samuel took a stone and set up between Mizpah and Jeshanah and called its name Ebenezer, for he said, “Hitherto the Lord has helped us”.’
The setting up of a stone to mark a sacred place was something done in pre-historic times, long before the days of Samuel. It signified that which could not have been easily toppled. Keen was determined the Bible Christian cause would be on the Gawler Plains for a long time.

“Here I raise my Ebenezer:
Hither by Thy help I’m come.”
Methodist Hymnbook, 417.

(Words from a hymn by one of John Wesley’s preachers, Robert Robertson)

skeenSamuel Keen

Carclew Chapel

With heavy rain about to descend on us, we made our final stop for the afternoon at the ruined Carclew Primitive Methodist church. The first brick building with a three-roomed cottage attached had been built in 1850 on a block given by Jonathon Roberts from the corner of his property, ‘Carclew’, named after the locality where he had lived in Cornwall.

carlew1Carlew Chapel

The building we were looking at had been built in 1870 to replace the original chapel. Although much-abused by vandals, the signs of it having been a fine building were still evident. It still proudly displayed the inscription over the remains of its stately entrance porch : PRIMITIVE METHODIST CHURCH 1870.
Although regular services at Carclew ceased in 1919, the trustees kept the building in good repair, hoping it would be needed again. But it was not to be. After the centenary celebrations in 1950, the fittings and furnishings were disposed of, and the building left to the ravages of neglect. Unfortunately this has also been the fate of the little church cemetery adjoining.

Again the personal links came to mind, as I remembered my great-great-grandfather had come with his wife and two small children to farm on leased land in the area in 1851. Eighteen years later, he purchased land near Two Wells. During the Carclew years, my ancestors had come regularly to the very spot where I was standing, to worship in the Primitive Methodist chapel.

With the rain setting in for the rest of the day, our group had no alternative but to remember briefly and leave quickly.

There would have been others present who, like me, found the occasion was almost a pilgrimage in the original Christian sense of the word.

Kevin Secomb

This article is reprinted from the Society’s Newsletter of October 2001.