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Baptists' Record Of 100 Years
"Our First Hundred Years. The Baptist Church of South Australia." By the Rev. H. Estcourt Hughes. (S.A. Bap- tist Union, Adelaide).
THIS straightforward account of Baptist work and witness in South Australia has been specially written by the Rev. H. Estcourt Hughes to commemorate the South Australian Baptist Union Centenary, which will take place in September, 1933. As a record of a hundred years of local church history, this book is both valuable and inspir ing. The first Baptists to reach South Australia, as far as can be ascertained, were Mr. and Mrs. William Finlayson, who arrived in the John Renwick in February. 1837. Mr. Finlayson came from Scotland as a missionary to the aborigines, and in the sixty years he spent in South Australia performed noble pioneering work. His diary, from which Mr. Hughes quotes, con tains much interesting information about the work of the early Baptists in this State. Another Baptist pioneer was David McLaren, after whom McLaren Vale is named, and who, during his four years' stay played an important part in the civil and religious affairs of the young colony. Each Sunday, Robert Gouger relates in his little book, "South Aus tralia in 1837," he used to preach force- fully to a "a small but very attentive audience" in the Finlaysons' one roomed home. In 1838, It was proposed to form a Baptist Church in Adelaide, but the exact date of the first meeting, atten ded bv thirteen people and held in the Finlaysons' house in Rundle street, where Charles Birks's establishment now stands, is uncertain. For some time services were held in the schoolroom on the North Parklands. and then in Hindley street, where a building was purchased in 1839. Mr. Hughes sympathetically traces the work of the first Baptist Church during these early years. Under the wise leadership of David McLaren much
was achieved, but after his departure dissension crept in, and members drifted apart. Though the pioneers of the Baptist Church struggled bravely in the face of many difficulties, the lack of harmony, especially over the ques- tion of "close" or '"open" membership, retarded their efforts. After several splits and changes of places of wor- ship, in 1858 the services were discon- tinued and the original "close member ship'' Church came to an end. But another Baptist Church move ment, with "open" membership, was now well established in North Ade- laide, and Mr. Hughes describes how the first Baptist Church, known as Ebenezer Chapel, was built in Bower street for the fifty or sixty members. Very early the Baptist faith was car- ried into the country districts, and at Gumeracha the front part of "Salem Chapel," the oldest Baptist place of worship which has been In continuous use as a church in South Australia, still exists. Though the early history of the Baptist Church was somewhat un- settled, in later years, in spite of vari ous setbacks, the work of evangelism has progressed steadily. Sometimes, the author regrets, opportunities have been lost, and he deplores the fact that many of the early country churches have passed out of existence. He pays tribute to the zeal and sin- cerity of all who have worked for the Church; but, he urges, much more is yet to be done. Throughout the book are thumbnail sketches of the different Baptist min- isters of this State, and accounts of the work of outstanding Baptist lay- men, including the late Mr. William Kyffin Thomas, founder of the "Regis- ter," the late Mr. George Fife Angas, and many others.
George Fife Angas