All There Is of Me by Keith Horne
ALL THERE IS OF ME
Keith Horne OAM
|All there is of me, Lord,
All there is of me.
Time and talents, day by day,
All I give to Thee.
All there is of me, Lord,
All there is of me.
On Thine altar here I lay,
All there is of me.
|. . .|
|For time and for eternity,
Take all there is of me.
P R E F A C E
On the 6th October 1982 I received a letter from Graham Chapman on behalf of the Historical Society asking me for some biographical detail. I never seemed to get around to putting on record my story I always seemed to have other things on my agenda that seemed to be more important.
Now, fifteen years later and at age seventy-three years I have committed my story to paper. In doing this I have experienced a great deal of pleasure as memory brought back some of the places and people who figure in my story. In remembering them I realize how truly blessed I have been
The title "All there is of me" is the words of a song I grew up with. It has figured in some of the most important events in my life, including the occasion on a Candidates Sunday in 1942 when I gave my life to God for ministry.
The story of course is my story, but it is in fact only half of the story. The other half is my wife Gwen who was not only the girl I fell in love with fifty years ago and the mother of two boys of whom I am truly proud, it is the story of my partner in life and in ministry and my best friend. Without her willingness to support me, set me free to minister and to give myself to others the story would have been very different.
SUMMARY OF THE YEARS OF MINISTRY
My father was born in Yorkshire and came to Australia a few years before the First World War. Like his father before him, and his older brother, he worked in the woollen mills near a little town called Marsden not far from Huddlesfield. At fourteen years of age he went to work and for the first year he spent a half of each day at school and the afternoon at work in the mill. Dad had an older brother Joseph and a younger sister Edith and the family must have found it hard to understand his decision to leave England and travel to Australia. Dad was twenty years of age and was sponsored by an uncle who was a farmer in the Kingaroy area of Queensland.
He sought and found employment in a woollen mill in the industrial city of Ipswich, just twenty-five miles west of Brisbane. Ipswich was the heart of coal mining and woollen industry and he went to work in the North Ipswich mill. In the city centre and opposite the Ipswich Railway Station he found accommodation in a boarding house and it was there he met my mother who was one of the domestic staff in that establishment.
My mother was oldest member of a family of ten children. Her father was born in Australia in 1863 and was everything I thought a pioneer should be. He had his own bullock team at sixteen years of age and spent many years either dragging heavy logs out of the ranges near Cunningham's Gap to the Ipswich sawmills, or taking supplies out to the far west and back-loading bales of wool. In later years he worked as a fettler with the Queensland Railways. They lived for many years on a small farm near Ipswich and later they moved into the city where work could be found in the railways, mines or mills. They were hard days for the working class and yet there was something special in the bonding and support that each gave to the other.
Grandma Thorne was born in Germany and came to Australia as one of the many German settlers of the last century. Her parents settled in the Laidley area and the names Hummrich and Krisanski are still to be found in that district. They were farmers in Germany and they were farmers in Australia.
I never ever met my grandparents in England, but I have fond memories of my mother's family. I can remember stories my grandad told when we visited them and I can remember vividly this sun dried old man, who carried very little weight, had a grey moustache, and smoked a pipe. He loved to sit on the front verandah of their cottage in a rocking chair and told vivid stories of his days as a bullock driver. He worked hard in his garden until the day he died in mid-eighties. This humble gentleman would never have guessed that on his passing the City fathers had the flag on the Town Hall fly at half-mast in tribute to one of its pioneers. Grandma was also a hard worker and reflected her German background. She was a strong lady and also a great storyteller. We sometimes stayed for a short holiday with her parents and I have never forgotten the soft feathered mattress and pillows of the bedroom, the farm life with its horses, pigs and cows. And most of all the warmth and love of these good people with the lovely, if sometimes humorous German accent. My father and mother married in the Central Methodist Church in Ipswich and shortly after Dad accepted an appointment with a woollen mill in Hobart. In a day when very few people moved beyond their own State's boundaries this was quite a move, Ipswich and Queensland to Hobart and Tasmania. After a few years there they moved again to another woollen mill and this time it was in Geelong. Mum was thirty-three years of age when I was born and Dad was thirty-five. I have no memories of Geelong and just a few vague memories of Newport in Melbourne where Dad moved to yet another woollen mill. When I was five years of age Dad accepted a position as the Foreman/Manager of the Gippsland Woollen Mills in the Gippsland town of Sale. Dad had left school at fourteen years of age and had worked in woollen mills all his life. He had completed a course of study with ICS (International Correspondence Schools) known sometimes as the "working man's university". He was a specialist in the carding and spinning process and in the event of breakdowns he was inevitably called out to effect repairs. He was the "blue collar" member of the management team with responsibility for the actual production. I can remember how his face would light up with excitement when he ran a finished piece of woollen serge or blanket through his fingers. Dad was "wedded to the mill" and in spite of a five and half day working week, he would go out to the mill every Sunday morning to just to check that everything was all right. This meant an inspection of every part of the mill from the boiler room through to the weaving department. As we grew older my brother and I would often go with him. When the mill was in action it was noisy and for a small boy the movement of the spinning mules on their fixed tracks was a little bit scarey. But on Sunday morning it was quiet and the not unpleasant smell of wool and oil and machinery was quite special. My brother Arthur had been born in Newport and for us childhood carries the heritage of loving parents, a dad who was never out of work, even through the depression years and a country town that was big enough with its population of almost six thousand people to provide good schooling and shopping and all the support systems of the day, plus a pleasant rural surrounding. When we arrived in Sale our furniture had not arrived from Melbourne and we boarded with a Mr. and Mrs. Fred Adamson for a few days. They were keen members of the Salvation Army and my brother and myself were enrolled in the Sunday School. My mother had been an active member of the Methodist Church in Queensland and my father was Anglican, but not active. As we grew older and went to the Meetings at the Salvation Army on Sunday nights both Mum and Dad would also attend, although in the wintertime Dad would often stay home and keep the fire going in the lounge/dining room. Both Dad and Mum encouraged us and the Officers of the Salvation Army came often to our place for dinner. We would attend any special events at the Methodist Church. As we grew older Arthur and I attended afternoon Sunday School and a morning Directory Class, a kind of Catechism Class) and Morning Service and then Sunday night for the Evening Service. There was a good spirit between the churches and each Sunday School would attend in force the Anniversary of the other three churches (Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist Churches). Whenever there was a special on at any of these churches by way of concerts, or slide evenings with a visiting missionary we would be there. I have always been comfortable in other churches and I think my ecumenical spirit had its beginnings back there.
Most important Arthur and I also had freedom most strict Christian parents never allowed their children. We went to the local picture theater as boys almost very Saturday night, usually in the company of another boy. Our parents would get together, chat and supper in each other's home a couple of Saturday' nights a month. I went caddying at the Golf Course every Saturday after I turned twelve. I carried a full bag of sticks for eighteen holes and I received one shilling and sixpence. In the winter I also sold score cards at the gates of the football ground for another sixpence. Mum made me save at least one shilling. With the rest,we went to the pictures on Saturday night (6d. plus 1d. tax) and had the threepence to spend at interval. During the week we attended a children's activity at the Salvation Army on Friday nights. We went to the Junior Rechabite Lodge on Tuesday evenings. This had the ritual of an adult lodge in a milder form and there was always a games activity to follow the thirty minute meeting. Saturday morning would find us trying to play golf on the Catholic Church's sports ground where they had few holes and rough greens. We went out with three sticks between three of us and would share these whenever we had to make a shot. The McAllister and Latrobe Rivers meet on the outskirts of Sale and often on Saturday mornings we would go over to "an island" and the bush to play and explore. Every now and then we would take a bike ride of twenty-five miles that went from Sale to Maffra to Stratford and back to Sale. A nice triangle that was often used for official road cycling events. Pleasant memories of Friday night shopping, Sunday walks, an open fire and crumpets on cold winter nights, pet cats and a security my brother and I, as would be expected of children, took for granted. We were not only loved we were encouraged to be our best and give our best and while Mum and Dad were generous they were not extravagant. There was a security in our home because Dad had a good job. Dad was a heavy smoker all his life and he also drank, and the latter led to the only confrontations I can remember between my mother and father. Mum was totally opposed to alcohol and while Dad never drank for months on end, there were times he broke out and became quite drunk. Often this was associated with his work. The mill would employ lads in their early teens and before they gained an adult wage they were made redundant and sacked. Dad had a real sense of justice and compassion and this was something about which he could do nothing. But there is no doubt he took it deeply, because these were young men who had come to work with him straight from school and they had worked with him and Dad was a compassionate and caring man.
I attended the Primary School in Sale and then in Year seven I went on to the Technical School until I was sixteen years of age. I would have stayed on for another year, but the War came in 1939 and Mum wanted to go back to Queensland where all our Australian relatives lived. I think this would be the first house shift motivated by Mum. Dad was quite happy about the idea but as things worked out it did not go as smoothly as that. We sold up and moved to Queensland in January 1940. Dad was to follow a few months later but this was not to be, because Australia was now at War and the woollen industry became one of the essential industries manufacturing blankets and material for uniforms. Dad had to stay in Sale, where he boarded until the middle of 1942 when I went into the Army and he was allowed on compassionate grounds to join Mum in Queensland. He was able to come up for a holiday at Christmas in 1940 and 1941.
Not many people traveled beyond their own State in those days. However, every second year from the time Dad and Mum had moved south they went home to Queensland and that meant that for the period of the school holidays of almost six weeks we had a northern holiday. Dad could only stay a couple of weeks because of work commitments and always returned earlier than Mum and Arthur and myself.
Interstate travel and tourism was not the big industry it is today. I remember when we were about to board the Spirit of Progress, then the glamour train of the Victorian railways, that a handful of children were gathered together by a photographer from "The Argus", one of Melbourne's newspapers, taken to the engine and photographed for the front page of the paper. The caption read "Young travellers head north".
I was almost sixteen years of age when we left Sale. There is no doubt that those formative years of childhood were enhanced by the stability and security of a good home, loving parents and the stable life style a country town like Sale could provide,
There are incidents that have stayed in my memory over the years such things as falling in the local lake at five and being pulled out by my mother. Seriously damaging my left eye playing "cowboys and Indians" and spending two weeks in the Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne. I had my seventh birthday in that hospital. Playing in an old quarry that was also the town rubbish dump and my brother coming to grief on a slide we had made and having sixteen stitches in the cut to his arm. Because I was older brother I was told I should have been looking after him. But my brother was much more daring than me and I could not have looked after him even if I had tried. Dad getting into trouble with Mum because he bought me two ice creams, one for each hand. I also remember my father letting my brother and myself on occasion roll cigarettes for him. He was a heavy smoker and rolled his own cigarettes from "Capstan Ready Rubbed Fine Cut Tobacco". When, as I often went to sleep on Sunday night in the church service I would have my head on Dad's lap, and I still remember the pleasant smell of fresh tobacco that had come adrift in the pockets of his suit. Strange as it may seem I never ever smoked, although in later life my brother did and the health of both Dad and Arthur was very much effected in their older years by smoking. Dad was a generous, caring and compassionate man. He was not only good at his work he gave much more to his work than could be expected. He was not physically robust and in his fifties smoking and the effects of wool dust on his lungs created some very serious respiratory illnesses. In his Yorkshire accent he often told us boys when undertaking a task to, "Stick it son even if it kills you". There is no doubt that for my brother and myself this has been the way we have approached every task.
Mum was also a compassionate and caring lady to whom people seemed to be drawn in time of trouble. She was physically stronger than Dad was and her motto was "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well". She also had a stability about her that meant home was a place of security and happiness. The strong spiritual values of Methodism were reflected in her own life and she had a "do good to all and see good in all" attitude to life and people. She had strong views about drinking and smoking and yet each week when Mum did her weekly shopping she bought Dad's supply of "Capstan Ready Rubbed". When I received my first Bible, a neat red leathered covered edition, she wrote in the flyleaf "Do good, be good and God will always be with you". In every sense of the word our home was a mixture of "dust and deity". There is no doubt it made for a happy and stable, open and accepting environment in which Arthur and I grew through our childhood years. When this is linked with parents who never knew a thing about psychology, yet their attitude of unconditional love and acceptance, their encouragement to give your best to every undertaking and when you did not always achieve what you hoped for, knowing that having given your best that was all that mattered. All this provided a solid base for later life. And so we left Sale and set out for Queensland.
QUEENSLAND AND THE TEEN YEARS
Ipswich is a big city and being wartime and with the heavy concentration of troops in the area, the big airforce base at Amberley, there was a solid demand for housing. Dad had just a few years before bought the house my grandparents lived in at East Ipswich. They had been renting the house and the owner had decided to sell it and this meant Grandad and Grandma and Mum's three younger brothers who were still at home would have had to move. So Dad bought the house not intending to ever live in it. But live in it we did. One of Mum's younger brothers (Jack) went into the Airforce. Frank went into the Army and Fred got married. The house had three bedrooms and a sleepout. So it was my grandparents lived with us until they died. The move to Queensland was not as dramatic a move as it sounds because over the years we had been to Queensland on four or five occasions and stayed for almost six weeks each time. We were back with all the family connections on my mother's side and with Mum being the eldest of a big family their were plenty of relatives. Ipswich was a big city and because of our links with the Salvation Army back in Sale it was to the Salvation Army my brother and I went. Instead of the small, often struggling, cause in Sale, we found ourselves involved in what was possibly the largest congregation of the Salvation Army in Queensland. Two bands, a large Choir (Songsters), very big Sunday School and instead of being the only teenagers as we were in Sale, a very large teenage group with many activities. It was a warm and friendly group of people and we found our home there without any problems.
I had to find work and went out looking for a job and was about to start work with a garage for ten shillings a week. When Dad heard this back in Sale he wrote straight away and said "no way" to those conditions. I applied for a job in the office of panel beaters (Bart Molloy). Mr. Molloy had several little businesses as a sideline to the panelbeating. Among these was an AMP Agency and I would collect the monthly payments people were making on Industrial Policies, and work in his poultry business which meant dressing poultry for a shop in the city centre. He lived in a house with a large piece of ground at the top of Limestone Hill and his poultry sheds were there. I remember delivering dressed poultry to Berry's Small Goods business in Nicholas Street. I would load a wooden banana case between the handle bars of my bike and head down the very steep hill on the road that ran through the parklands and up the next hill to the city centre. How I never came to grief on that section down the hill I will never know.
After eighteen months I applied for a position in a mixed business on Warwick Road, Ipswich. Mr. Tom Johnson owned the business and his wife and daughter and a niece (the two girls several years older than me) worked the store. Part of it was a grocery section and I would go out and collect the orders, make them up and then do the delivery. To get this job I had to have a driving license and for about four weeks I worked with a man who drove a small truck shifting sawdust from a sawmill at Kruger's Saw Mill. They specialized in making handles for axes, garden implements and sawn timber. Mr. Johnson had just taken delivery of a Ford Utility and the license was to enable me to drive this vehicle for the deliveries. But before I ever got near the wheel of that Ford, the Government impounded it for the Army. To do the deliveries Mr. Johnson hired a carrier in the City. He had a draft horse and cart. I went along with the old fellow who owned the horse and cart to do the deliveries It was a come down and my pride was further dented when I had sit up on the cart while the horse plodded the delivery round. It was further dented by the fact the horse was continually "breaking wind", particularly on the hills. But I enjoyed the job and liked the Molloys, and the Johnson's were great people to work for. I only had the job about twelve months when I was called up for service in the Army at eighteen years of age.
The almost three years I had from leaving school and going into the Army were happy years. I found my place in the Salvation Army and played cornet in the Junior Band. It was during this period that at age eighteen, I made my decision to go to the Salvation Army's College in Sydney to train for the Ministry. This was something I had felt was my calling for some years and while I did not intend to go to College until I was a little older, I knew this was what I had always wanted to do.
A few months after my eighteenth birthday I went into the Army for military service. The first few months were spent in the big Army centre of the outskirts of Brisbane at Enogerra. This was the typically hard initial course of infantry training. After heavy days of various training and marches we often would be taken to the Brisbane wharf to load ammunition onto troop ships going north to New Guinea. At the end of the course I was sent to another course at a school that had been taken over by the Army. It was next to the Brisbane Cricket Ground and the grandstands had been partially closed in and turned into sleeping quarters. End to end on the terraced grandstand and on straw palliasses we slept. On conclusion of the course I was to go to Wagga (NSW) to a unit of the Field Engineers, but at the last minute I was sent to Wallangarra on the Queensland Border and the 1st Australian Tank Battalion. This Unit was later absorbed into the 2/1st Advanced Workshops and I found myself in the Transport Office and riding a BSA Motorbike. There were two bikes, the second bike was a bike that had been impressed by the Army, a Matchless OHV, and it had been painted khaki and was a slick machine. I nearly lost my license when the Military Police reported me for speeding. When I turned nineteen I joined the AIF and this meant a medical examination at my request to upgrade my B1 pass because of the impaired sight in my left eye to A class. My number was QX61459.
The 2/1st were part of the 7th Division and had just come back from the Middle East. There was a lot of frustration in the Unit because it had been decided to base it in Queensland, because its heavy equipment was not suited to the tropics of New Guinea. I worked hard in the Transport Office and when leave actually came around I had a few days extra. This was a one off because the CO on hearing about it felt it created a precedent and this was not Army policy. I enjoyed my years in the Army and I had applied for transfer to a Unit more likely to go overseas, this included the Military Police, but like the rest, this was turned down. As the War was obviously coming to a close many soldiers in Australian based units were frustrated at Army life. It was at this time, late in 1944 that the Salvation Army made contact with me to see if I would come into College to train for ministry. I said "yes", but not until the end of the year. Within weeks I was paraded to the CO's office and told that I was to be released, but not for another three months. This had been at my request and on December 22nd 1940 I was released from military service. Strangely it was my unit in the months that followed that went to Japan as the part of the Occupation Army. If I had known this was going to happen I am sure I would have deferred the time of my entry to College. But as things have worked out I am also convinced that what did happen was in the long term best. If, as I felt, God was calling me to ministry, and "all things work together for good with those who love God". There is no doubt College in 1945 was right and best for me.
TO COLLEGE AND MINISTRY
In the few weeks I had at home since my discharge from the Army and going to College there was an explosion in a coalmine at Woodend on the outskirts of Ipswich. Four or five men were trapped below the surface in the explosion caused by an excess of gas in the mine. Apart from the Mines Rescue Team, fellow miners, police and some close members of the families of the men trapped below, the public were kept away from the pithead. The Salvation Army was the exception and immediately organised a canteen that served hot drinks and food around the clock for the men trying to clear the shaft. I was invited to be part of the team sent to staff the canteen. For two nights we were there before the bodies of the men were brought to the surface. They were long nights as families waited and fellow miners stood helplessly at the pithead wanting to do something and unable to do anything.
There was still gas in the shaft and the ventilators were not working. Finally they went in and later the bodies were brought to the surface. To experience the helplessness and frustration and since the emotions of miners and the families for was a stark introduction to human hurt and pain. In later years when I have thought about that occasion the words "being there for others" took on special meaning in my pastoral ministry. So often we are called into situations where we are helpless to do anything or say anything but, "I care."
In the first weeks of January 1945 I met with five other Queenslanders at South Brisbane Railway Station and with our various families there to say "Goodbye", the train pulled out and we were on our way to The Salvation Army's College in Sydney. There were twenty-two students in the 1945 intake but only six of these were men. This was of course to be expected with the country having been at war for more than four years. For me that was a very special year.
The programme and philosophy of the College left no doubt in the minds of students what ministry was all about. There was an intensity in the programme that developed personal discipline and whatever giftedness students had. Monday afternoon from lunchtime through to teatime was the only freetime. Lectures and Group work filled the days and four evenings. Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and evenings, and all day Sunday was spent in field work. I spent six months at Newtown an industrial suburb and six months at Bexley a middle class suburb. Every Thursday night the College was responsible for an open-air meeting in the city and a service in the Congress Hall. The influence of the Principal (William Leeds) was most significant in my life. He was a tall Scotsman who had been brought out from England to be the Principal of the College. His dedicated "give all to God" approach, his warm Scottish accent captured me even more and underlined for me that ministry was a total commitment and "time, health and talent presenting" was the least that could be expected.
The College had the authoritarian structure that is at the core of the Salvation Army administration and at times I found this hard to handle even in the College.
The War finished that Year (1945) and I was in Sydney for the victory celebrations. I played in one of the bands taking part in the Victory March through the heart of Sydney. In December I was commissioned in a moving service in the Sydney Town Hall. That year General George Carpenter the first Australian born international leader of the Salvation Army came to Australia and conducted the Commissioning.
Appointments were announced at the Commissioning and none of the students had any idea where the appointment might take them. Some students would be appointed to the social work and others to field work. So there was some nervous anticipation as each student heard where his or her appointment would be. For me it was to Roma in southwestern Queensland. Every student would do another year of study and training externally and work with another senior Officer. My partner as the senior officer was Phil Richards. Later in the year we were joined by a married couple whose task it was to establish a mobile ministry for the far south west of the State with Roma as the head quarters. I spent most of my time in Roma, while the others moved out to places like Charleville, Tambo, Augathella and in the senior officers case right out to the Northern Territory border. The events that would ultimately bring me into ministry with Churches of Christ were such that it is hard to believe it could happen, but happen it did. When the mail train arrived with us on board at 5.30am one Tuesday morning the only person at the station to meet us was the Church of Christ minister, Lyall Wylie.
He was a warm and open person and knew more about the Salvation Army in Roma than the new Officers did. It seems that in the previous few years the relationship between the "Army" and the Church of Christ was close and supportive. The Church of Christ was a strong work, while the Salvation Army's work in Roma was not strong, although it was a strategic centre for the whole southwestern operation and received solid financial support from the western community.
Lyall and Bess Wylie became good friends and I found myself going to the Senior Endeavour of the Church and some of the young people from the Church supported us in our Saturday night open air meeting. Lyall left Roma for a ministry at Inverell and I was invited to preach on a number of occasions at the Church in that interim period while they waited the arrival of Vic and Doris Parker.
Vic came from Woolwich College and was one of the most enthusiastic, dedicated and hard working ministers I have ever known. We "clicked" from the very beginning and the enthusiasm and warmth and evangelistic earthiness of Vic appealed to me and caused me to question some of the authoritarian structures of the Army. I had already had some "brushes" on issues where I felt the programme and use of resources was inhibiting my style of ministry. The freedom of Churches of Christ, and the ability of the minister to work with his Board of Officers and use their resources in a way that best met the needs of the congregation made sense.
The autonomy of the local congregation and the freedom it gave the church to be the Church was something I felt very comfortable with. This, plus the place of the sacraments in the life of the Church were issues I had to face and work my way through. Vic and I had many long talks and baptism and the Lord's Supper were no longer issues I could dismiss. I had to be true to the inner urging of the Spirit and to what I was feeling, and make a decision. This was not easy, because it was going to mean stepping aside from everything that had prepared me for ministry; loving people in those formative years of my life in Sale; the people who loved me and had encouraged me in Ipswich and who were so happy when I made the decision to go to College to train for ministry; the time in College and the bond I had established with other students who with me, were being shaped for ministry; the congregation in Roma who had come to love me. I had just completed my external year of study and probationary work in the field, and there were those who had the expectation that I would do well in ministry. There was my family, and while I knew I would have their love and support, they would be anxious on my behalf. But I was unsettled and no longer as confident as I had thought I was. More than that, I knew deep down that there would always be a struggle with the freedom to do what you felt was best and right in a situation only to find that authority and structure had precedence. These things had never troubled me before, but neither had I ever been in situation where I was responsible for the direction and style of the local church's ministry.
So it was I resigned my position in the Salvation Army. They of course did their best to keep me. I went to Brisbane to meet with leaders and to my family in Ipswich, but I declined the invitation to go to Sydney to meet with the leader of the Eastern Territory. Even though the future had a big question mark over it I felt at peace in the decision I had made. I returned to Roma and was baptised in the Roma Church of Christ by Vic Parker in April 1947.
Churches of Christ in Queensland were about to have their Annual State Conference and I went with Vic and Doris to the Conference. I went to the East Ipswich Church of Christ on the Sunday prior to Conference because it was near to my parent's home. I did not know it, but the President of the Conference that year was Les Burgin. When he found out who had been brought as a visitor to his church he not only took a personal interest in me, he initiated moves for me to meet with the Minister's Placement and Advisory Board. They put this young Salvation Army Officer through a rigorous time of testing and checking my integrity, sincerity and suitability for ministry. It was agreed that I would go to either Glen Iris or Woolwich College for twelve months, but that if a call came to a Church in the meantime I would be free to accept it. I also embarked on a reading programme supervised by Les Burgin and commenced some external studies from Glen Iris under the supervision of Les Snow (Victoria) on the History and Message of Churches of Christ. This provided a clear picture of churches of Christ. Les Burgin was very much the traditionalist and Les Snow and the course from the College was more liberal and ecumenical. A call did come from a group of churches on the western fringe of the Darling Downs. Sixteen Mile Creek, Wambo Creek and Wallan Creek decided to form a circuit. Nine years before they had tried to do this but it had not developed further. Now they were ready to try again. The Minister's Advisory Board agreed and it could well be that they thought, "He cannot do any harm out there and if it works it will be a plus." I accepted the invitation and on the first Sunday in May 1947 I commenced my ministry in what was to become the Chinchilla Circuit.
In the couple of months prior to this a friendship, one among many I had enjoyed with many of the young adults in the Roma Church suddenly focused on one person in particular, Gwenda McIntosh. What started out in the few weeks before as a touching of hands, to holding hands as we hiked back in the dark from a programme in somebody's home, in the next few weeks blossomed into an engagement. I was scared stiff as I reached out to take her hand that night because there had never been any indication from either of us that there was a mutual attraction. I was scared stiff in case she pulled her hand away or, worse still she laughed and the others became aware of what I had done. But she did not do either of those things. Within weeks we were engaged and a few weeks after that I had left Roma to become the minister of a circuit of churches two hundred kilometers away. We only saw each other for a couple of days on about three occasions during the next year, but we wrote two or three letters a week to each other in those twelve months.
So, the new circuit got itself a Minister and not only that, but a Minister who was engaged to be married. Gwenda was well known in the churches of the circuit because she was not only an active member of the Roma Church and one of its organists, she was also well known because of her involvement in the Western Downs Christian Endeavour Union. Our engagement was also well received by the churches because its seems they would have preferred a minister who was married. I was at least engaged and twelve months later we were married.
WAMBO CREEK--SIXTEEN MILE CREEK--WALLAN CREEK
The circuit of churches was made of truly rural congregations. Each of these places was a district with no town or village. They had all been settled in the first years of the new century i. e. about 1902. The farmers who took up land in the Wambo Creek and Sixteen Mile Creek districts had come from the Wimmera in Victoria. It was a time when the whole of that area was covered with prickly pear. The government sold the land at a bedrock price on the condition that the purchaser would clear a certain amount of "pear" a year. It was also heavily timbered with brigalow trees. It was an almost impossible task and involved using poison sprays and other hazardous methods. When the "cacta blastus" insect was introduced from South America the "pear" was completely wiped out. The brigalow timber was easily removed and the result was useless land became very valuable farming land. Dairy, grain growing and grazing was well established when I arrived. Some of the district around Sixteen Mile was more suited to sheep, and Wallan Creek was very much larger properties with grazing and wheat growing. With Chinchilla as the centre, Wambo Creek was about 23 kilometers south of Sixteen Mile Creek further south and Wallan Creek 110 kilometers west. Looking back on the logistics of the appointment it was such a simple procedure. The churches had never had to arrange the appointment of a minister before and I had never had to negotiate a ministry, this meant that a lot of the basic conditions that were taken for granted in the established churches in the State evolved during the next six years of my ministry in the Circuit. I went to board with Les and Marj Holt, who had four children, Shirley, Muriel, Victor and Edwin. The farm still had large areas of brigalow scrub and the main source of income was the dairy herd, pigs and a few calves. Les was the Secretary of the Wambo Creek Church and had become Secretary of the Circuit. Not that the latter appointment made much demand on the Secretary, in fact, in the six years I was there there was never a Circuit meeting of the three churches. Most decisions were made by the Wambo and Sixteen Mile who had a quarterly meeting. The Circuit had no funds other than the account from which the Minister's salary was drawn. Each quarter a key person in each church would contact and collect from each person in the congregation their quarterly pledge to the ministry. The Holt family was warm caring family and for the next twelve months this was my home. I had a small room on the back verandah with a single bed, small table and chair and a screen across the corner for the wardrobe. I became involved in the Wambo Creek Cricket Club and on weekends would help Les in the dairy after we got home from Cricket. Usually this was in the dark and by the light of lanterns. My transport for that first year was a bicycle. Trips to town when needed was either on the cream truck that called three times a week in the summer and twice a week in the winter or with the Holts when they went to town. It was a large area to cover and I was determined to make the new circuit work. I worked the Wambo and Sixteen Mile Churches on a fortnightly programme. On Monday morning of week one I would set out on the bike and peddle down the road out to the Condamine Highway on which the Sixteen Mile Creek Church was built. I visited every farm along that road on the first day, whether they were Church members or not. On the first night (Monday) I would stay with Mrs. Powell and her two sons Harold and George. The next day I would move off along the highway and visit every farm, until, sometime in the late afternoon I would turn off the highway and peddle along a track across one of the properties and stay night two (Tuesday) with Roy Clark and his wife Mavis. They had three children Owen, Eula and Barry.
On Wednesday morning I would conduct Religious Instruction at the Millbank School, a tiny one-teacher school. Then it was pedal on to Kogan a small saw milling village. Visit some people there (again not church members) and conduct a class at another one teacher school. I was by this time back on the Condamine Highway (unsealed) and a short distance from Kogan was the home of Ron and Eva Holt and their little family.
I would stay for tea and the early evening with them and then in the dark peddle the twenty-three or more kilometers home. This meant getting back about 8.30-9.00pm on Wednesday night. I carried with me my pyjamas, clean underwear and toothbrush, and class materials for the schools. For the rest of the week I usually visited people within the immediate area, of the Holt's home. I would also go into Chinchilla, to visit people in Chinchilla and the hospital. Gwen's sister Beryl lived in Chinchilla and Stan had a tyre retreading business in the town. Friday I went to the Hopeland School for Religious Instruction and worked on my sermon, and at night went to the Christian Endeavour meeting.
The second week was almost the same as the first only this time I worked the week from home and visited the Wambo Creek School. In the evenings, some time after tea, I went to my room and worked on assignments or reading programme.
Every sixth week I went for a full week to Wallan Creek. This meant getting into town with the "cream truck" and catching a goods train out to Drillham. I arrived the first time in the dark of early evening, to be met by Charlie Roberts who had a small saw mill north of the town. It was a timber truck without any cabin and my bike and case were tied on the tray and we drove out twenty-five kilometers north of the town to his parent's home. Mr. and Mrs. Richard Roberts were a lovely couple and Charlie their eldest worked the small saw mill and Fred worked the property with his father. They were lovely, old fashioned, salt of the earth people. From there I worked the district much the same as down the Chinchilla end of the circuit. The only service they had was in various homes and about twelve or fourteen adults attended. All related to the descendents of one of the two brothers who had come to the district early in the century. Richard's brother had been in the first student group at Glen Iris, but never went into ministry. He had been drowned at Southport a few years before I went to the circuit.
The group was in many ways isolated from the community other than for business. During the war years the men of military age had all appeared in the Miles District Court as conscientious objectors and this was not a popular stance in a rural community. There had also been some unfortunate conflict on the issue of baptism, in fact the position of some of the key people in the group was that of "baptismal regenerationists". The communion was a "closed table". From this group three went off to train for ministry, Ken, Merrick and Ruth. When I told them I planned to visit the district, they wished me well, but they were pessimistic about the reception I might receive. But I did make the visits and every six weeks there was a group of people who looked forward to my coming and with whom I had a meal. I started a service in the community hall on Sunday afternoon, and including the members of the church about twenty-five adults would attend. Most of the group was thrilled about this and the service continued every six weeks for the six years I was with the circuit. I stayed at a different home on a rotation basis. When Charlie was married this meant one of four homes. Mrs. Roberts (senior) was a widow and a talented pianist and a very gracious lady and she, or, her daughter Faith played the piano at the services
On the Monday morning I would return to Chinchilla and to home with the Holt family. I was usually tired out from visiting and pushing my bike around some very rough and isolated places I had also stayed up talking with my host family.
People looked forward to the visits and my host family took the opportunity to raise all sorts of theological issues, including those that were somewhat contentious.
Sundays at the Chinchilla end of the circuit meant a morning service at Wambo Creek and an afternoon service at Sixteen Mile Creek. On Sunday nights I started a Bible Study Fellowship in the home of Ted and Muriel Trebilcock, a young married couple in the Church. Each Sunday night about twelve or fourteen young people came together and I enjoyed this tremendously.
Wambo Creek building was small and well off the main road on the property of Edwin (Ted) Flett. It was inadequate for the congregation and at an Annual Meeting a decision was made to build another Chapel, still on Mr. Flett's property on land he gave to the Church, but on the main road at Hopeland. Later in the story I will describe how the church was built. During that year a Sunday School was started at Kogan. A fellowship group commenced meeting in Chinchilla. The plans for the new Church at Hopeland were settled. The Community Service at Wallan Creek was commenced and five schools were receiving regular visits from me. The youth programme was becoming established. As the year ran out and we moved into 1948 Gwen and I set a date for our wedding in March. This was well received by the churches, for now they not only had a pastor, they also had one with a wife. But it raised the question where will he live and how will they travel about? The purchase of the car and the building of a house for us were major steps forward for the churches. The initiative for this was with the Wambo and Sixteen Mile Churches and to their credit these projects went through with a minimum of fuss and total lack of "red tape."
Gwen and I were married in Roma Church in March 1948 as planned by Vic Parker. The car had been purchased and the circuit insisted that I should have it for our honeymoon. So it was that after the service and reception we took off on our honeymoon. Our first night together was in a little hotel in a very small town at Condamine, about 140 kilometers east of Roma. It was in fact the only settlement on that long road until you reached Kogan. So it was on Sunday morning we drove through Kogan, where we had a Sunday School, on our way to Ipswich and then a week at Cooloongatta and some time at State Conference. The car and the house were big events in our lives.
OUR FIRST CAR
It was an all-male Board of Officers who met to discuss the provision of transport for the Minister and his wife. After some discussion and I was part of the discussion, they came up with the proposal that the Church would purchase a motorbike and sidecar. They went home happy and for me a motorbike was better than a bicycle. I wrote to Gwen to tell her the news, but the matter did not stop there. When the ladies of the Church heard of the proposal they insisted another meeting be called and the decision to purchase a motorbike be rescinded. There was no way they would have their Minister's wife carted around on a motorbike. So the week after another meeting decided to purchase a car.
The car was a 1930 Plymouth Roadster. It had been up on blocks for a few years during the War because of petrol shortages and men folk being away. It had wire-spoked wheels and a "dickey seat" and was in excellent condition. I was given one pound a week for running expenses and a church member who had a garage undertook the responsibility of servicing and repairs. It was that car that made possible the incredible spread of ministry over the next five years. Services were held in places as far away as Tara in the south, Pelican in the north and Dulacca in the west. My visitation programme became more effective and efficient because I no longer had to depend upon other people for transport, or, use the bike. Dalby back to the east was a large town and the circuit in co-operation with the church at Toowoomba established a new congregation. Eric Hart and I doorknocked the whole town. We had a six weeks Mission with Lloyd Jones. The mission was held in a large tent on some vacant land near the centre of the town. The end result was small congregation of people willing to be the foundation members of the new Church. In the first year, until Wal Jarmyn, a graduate from the COB came as the first minister the preaching was carried by some laymen from Toowoomba and the Circuit. Being only one-hour drive from our Manse, I undertook the Pastoral visitation. An old church building from Tannimarel (near Warwick) was shifted to Dalby and with voluntary labour became the Chapel. The church in Chinchilla was commenced about the same time and meetings were held on a Sunday night in the CWA Rooms in the heart of the town. Later we bought a house on a double block of land, shifted the house to one side of the block, sold it and built a Chapel on the remaining block. All of this was initiated by the circuit and in particular the financial support and guarantee of Edwin (Ted) Flett. Ted was a farmer, who had inherited his father's farm and had a philosophy that simply said, "God owns my farm." I have a personal story I will tell later of how this good man helped Gwen and myself not long after our first son was born.-
OUR FIRST HOUSE.
Where will they live? That was the question that led to a joint meeting of the key members of the Wambo Creek and the Sixteen Mile Creek churches. The Churches were about ten miles apart and possibly because Wambo Creek was the largest of the churches and to make sure Sixteen Mile Church felt part of the decision about the location of the house they looked for a spot somewhere between the two churches. Such a place was found. Ern Holt had an old one roomed dwelling on his land. He offered it to the churches. It was one of those buildings you see dotted across Australia that housed a family when the district was first opened up. It had no verandah, a front door and back door, stood on stumps about two feet off the ground, had never been painted and was made of cypress pine. This timber was native to the district and softwood that was knotted and split easily as it aged, but it was also white ant resistant. The latter being very important in that area.
Working bees and a plan drawn up on a few pages from a writing pad, plus a special offering in the churches to raise the money to extend the dwelling.
The single room became the living room. A bedroom was added and a verandah back and back and front. The front verandah had a small room that was to serve as a study. The back veranda had a small room that served as a bathroom, a small back porch and the rest a small kitchen open to the original room that was now the living room. A 1500-gallon tank to catch rainwater was added with a tap to the kitchen, but not to the bathroom. A wood burning stove with small cupboard beside it was added. No phone, because the district had a party line and the Board knew that any call to a manse would be easy pickings for the few eavesdroppers of the district. No electricity because it was not yet laid on in that district. Farmers had engines and twelve-volt battery systems. A small shed for the car with a lean to for the laundry i. e. galvanized tub and bench. A simple toilet was built about fifty yards from the back door--one that required a weekly chore of digging a hole in the field next door and emptying to contents of the pan.
The house was situated back from the road about 70 yards and the nearest neighbor was Ern and Rita Holt, on whose farm the house had been built, lived about half a mile away. We used their phone when we needed to phone out and we collected each day for the next five years our milk supply. Food supplies and mail came via the cream truck, twice a week in the winter and three times in the summer. We had a box at the gate and bread and mail was deposited there as the cream truck roared through. The house was painted and was cosy. When Graham was born two years later another room was added. Later again it was upgraded for my successor and then soon after the minister moved to live in the township of Chinchilla--18 miles away.
Through my entire ministry Gwenda has been more than my wife and the mother of our two sons, she has also been my partner in ministry. Those first years in the circuit were happy years. For the first two years Gwen often went visiting with me. But after Graham was born Gwen stayed home most days except for those occasions when farmer's wives insisted she come with me. The big difference between visiting farmers and people in the urban area in those days was that the country visiting often had a social aspect as well as the pastoral. When Graham was born Gwen spent a lot of days and some evenings by herself because I had gone to Dalby or Pelican and did not get back home again until late into the night. It never ceases to amaze me how this town girl adapted to the country. Often I would come home and find a lamp burning and Gwen in bed, and often the front door wide open.
It was also a time and an area that had quite a lot of snakes. One summer I killed six big brown snakes around the house and a blacksnake in our bathroom. One day we heard a slithering sound in the ceiling and even though I assured her it must be tree snake and harmless Gwen was not convinced. For the next week she came visiting with me. We had our plagues of mice, dry months and our plagues of frogs in the wet months. On one occasion I put my Sunday suit on a chair in front of the stove to dry out. In the morning the shoulders were eaten. Next night I set two water traps in the kitchen and trapped over a hundred mice, and in the study I trapped another forty or more. We had slept through it all because the only mouse proof room was the bedroom. The trip to Wallan Creek every six weeks was easier with the car and gave us a bit of independence. Graham seems to have spent a lot of his first years either sleeping in the car on our way home from some meeting, or going to sleep in somebody else's bed where we were having a meeting.
The trips back from Wallan Creek were often made on waterlogged black soil roads. To keep the car going forward Gwen on one occasion got out and pushed. She refused to drive and let it slip into a ditch. The result one day was taking her into her sister's home after such a trip absolutely covered in mud thrown up by the spinning wheels.
In the wet season we were often stranded on our side of the river for a week or more. Usually there was some warning and this meant stocking up with groceries. The cream truck still made its rounds, but it meant unloading on one side of the river and re-loading on the other side after rowing the cans across the water.
If there was an emergency in Chinchilla I would have to go across this flooded river with the cream cans. The boat would have water up to the gunwale and the man rowing it would let the torrent sweep us along and with some hard rowing bring us in further down the stream on the opposite side. Even in those days passengers were only taken if the emergency was great enough to warrant it.
Over the years of ministry I have had a more than usual involvement in various building programmes of churches and youth camps, never one that went as smoothly as the building of the new chapel at Hopelands. Wambo Creek Church had its building well off the main road and between the homes of the Flett and Davis families. It was a small building near a pretty dam and not far from the Flett family home. The building was small and inadequate and being on private land away from the main road not well located even for the 1940's. At the yearly meeting of the Wambo Church the Treasurer Mrs. Fred Davis read her financial statement direct from the exercise book she kept. It showed a balance of ninety five pounds i. e. $180 in decimal currency. My salary at the time was Three Pounds or $6 per week. As soon as Mrs. Davis finished reading her report the Chairman, Mr. Edwin Flett, with his strong voice said, "Brethren and sisters I feel ashamed! Ashamed to think that so much of the Lord's money is sitting idle in our account. We need to do something about it. I move that we immediately forward fifty pounds to the Home Missions Department and with rest set it aside to build this new Chapel that Brother Horne has been urging us to build." It was seconded without discussion and carried. A plan was drawn up that involved shifting the Wambo Creek Chapel to a site on Mr. Flett's land fronting the main road at Hopelands. Two farmers with a little building experience and neither members of the church were to be asked to supervise the erection of the new building. Ivan Hindle drew up a rough plan and agreed to supervise the building programme. Then came the problem how to shift the old chapel from its site near the dam to the new site on the main road where it would become the back hall of the new building. I suggested we drag it across to the new site on a sled and with a tractor. We "borrowed" two telephone poles waiting for the Department to erect and with "Wallaby Jacks" lifted up the chapel, dragged the poles under the building, stabilized the poles and then attached Mr. Flett's McCormack W9 tractor, the then "state of the art" tractor. Nothing moved! We added his old steel wheeled McCormack and still no result. We sent for Bill Davis and his also very large tractor and only after we had added Gil Holt's tractor and Bob McGuire's would the sledge move. It was dragged across the paddock and down the black soil road to its new location. With voluntary labour and under the supervision of the Hindles and with the help of the McGuires the new chapel was added. When it was painted and beautiful unstained wooden pews were purchased from Toowoomba and I had sign-written the notice Board it was ready for the opening. The Conference sent Bill Giezendanner, the Home Missions Secretary out to the opening, no doubt to encourage the young enthusiast who was the Minister. The size of the congregation and the obvious standing the churches had in that community was a minor shock to visitors from the city. It was no longer three little country churches unable to support a ministry, it was a Circuit that had come of age. Bill Giezendanner urged me to stay with the Circuit, because it was obvious that people were responding to my ministry and the churches had a mind to grow. The next year I was invited to share with Conference what was happening in these western churches. My presentation came during the Home Missions Report and while the Circuit was not a home mission Church, it was indeed a Church with a mission. The report was well received and the applause of the Conference indicated that my ministry was also accepted and appreciated. It was only two and half years before I had attended my first Conference and met with the Advisory Board. We had many visitors to our little house. The first visitor was Principal E. L. Williams who had come to Queensland to visit some of the churches on behalf of the College. There was a mistake in his travel plans and instead of coming by train he came in a borrowed car. We came back from town wondering what had happened to him, only to find him already at our place having a cup of tea from the thermos he had with him. In the few days he was with us I took him to visit some of the key families of Church. He was a most relaxed man talking theology or some new method of farming. The farmers loved him. We were a little embarrassed that he had to sleep in the single bed in the unlined study on the front verandah. But we need not have been worried, he was not only a gracious gentleman he was perfectly at home with us.
Missionaries, itinerant evangelists and others "going west" heard about the circuit and over the years we had many visitors stay with us. Most of these added colour and interest to the church's life and were great company for us. On one occasion I invited Mal Leask (Boonah Church) to be our guest speaker in a weekend mission. Mal agreed to come only if he could bring his wife and children. Poor Gwen, I said yes, and they came with five children including a very sick infant they were fostering. We gave the Leasks our bedroom to share with two of the children and borrowed beds for the front veranda and Gwen and I slept in the study on a narrow single bed. The ladies of the church were wonderful and flooded us with cakes and biscuits and eggs. Mal was a great speaker and it was all worthwhile. Eric Hart the minister of Toowoomba was another visitor for a similar programme and it was this visit that established a deep friendship we had. Yet another visitor was a missionary I took for an early morning shoot. We brought home a wallaby and were not too keen on eating it, but after he said, "If missionaries can eat monkeys we can eat wallaby" we did. We enjoyed the rissoles and our Border collie dog had some of the rest. Tennis for Gwen (a game Gwen enjoyed), cricket for me in the summer, and shooting with the garage proprietor in the winter were part of our recreation. Although shooting is something I would never do these days.
The social event was the "tin canning" newlyweds received sometime after the honeymoon. These were hilarious events and the callers went to all sorts of trouble to keep it a surprise. We were determined we would not be caught and because we did not go to bed as early as many farmers did we thought we would be safe. When it did happen, it was a social event for the district. The "tin canners" came from two directions and assembled well back along the road and when the time was ripe and all the cars were there they came on us en masse from two directions. With them came outdoor lighting and piles of food and children and adults. There must have been over 100 people who descended on our house. It was during our first year of marriage that Fred Stow from the Youth Department visited us. Fred and I just "clicked". He invited me to come as a leader to the Christmas Camp at Caloundra This was to be the beginning of an association with Camping, youth work and Christian Education that went from 1948 to 1956 in Queensland and right on through to 1983 in South Australia and Victoria. I had a significant role to play in the establishment of the first Minister's Fraternal in Chinchilla. A move that lost the circuit the financial support of a significant member of the Wallan Creek Church. But others in that fellowship quietly covered that shortfall, although the member concerned let me know he disapproved.
Life was busy. Chinchilla and Dalby Churches were established and the new Hopeland Church provided facilities for programme previously not possible. Regular visits to Pelican, Tara and Dulacca, schools and pastoral care meant the car was always out and about. I used to purchase my petrol in forty-four gallon drums. The allowance I was receiving was not meeting the cost. Reluctantly I raised the matter with the Circuit Committee. These good men were embarrassed that I was struggling to meet what were Church costs. They took over entirely the running expenses and gave me a modest raise in salary.
At one meeting of the Circuit I presented my quarterly report and it was enthusiastically received. Upon my completion of the report the Chairman stood and with some emotion in his voice invited the other Board members to stand with him and sing the doxology. That spontaneous expression of appreciation and affection only served to "fire me up" even more. I learned from way back that words of appreciation and encouragement draw more out of people than the alternative. My salary was adequate and being paid quarterly we had to open a cheque account with the bank. Gwen's budgeting kept us on the right side of the ledger. At times when we needed something and had to look at the balance in the chequebook, it was surprising that unexpected gifts, often anonymously from members came through. One such story is what follows.
MONEY IN THE BANK
When Gwen and I were married my salary was Two Pounds Ten shillings a week. This was less than the basic wage, but I would not have been the only minister on such a salary. The Conference had not in any State developed "a recommended minimum" and in some States in particular salaries were often low. Gwen had managing a small mixed business in Roma when we married and her wage was twice that of the man she married. But, it is surprising how you can budget and make the income you have meet the need when you have to watch how you spend your money. When Graham was born my wage had gone up to Three Pounds a week, and that meant that when we had to meet something beyond the budget it was not always possible. I had gone to the Bank in Chinchilla to check out on my balance because we needed some extra money. We had a cheque account at a bank into which the Circuit once a month paid my wage. So it was on this day I walked into the bank and asked the young man at the counter for my balance. He went to the records and then handed me a slip of paper with an amount of almost Sixty Pounds written on it and I knew we had something more like Six Pounds in the account. When I asked the young man to check again he said, "Oh no Mr. Horne that is right." I protested saying something about knowing what was in my account. To which he responded by saying, "A Mr. Flett came and put more than Fifty Pounds into your account." On hearing this, the Teller told the young man that he had breached a confidence and that information had been meant to be confidential. Mr. Edwin Flett was a farmer and the son of one of the two pioneer families of the Wambo Church. No better off than most established farmers in the area, but a generous Christian man who lived by a simple rule of using what God had given wisely and well and where possible to help others less fortunate.
I knew he also lived by the rule "never let your right hand know what your left hand is doing" and he had meant his gift to Gwen and myself to be anonymous. I waited two weeks and then one night after a mid-week Bible Study we were the last to leave the Church. He got into his Chev utility and was about to pull out when I went to him and said, "Mr. Flett, I know you wanted to keep your gift to us confidential, but I have to say thank you, you will never know how much you have helped us." Warmly and gently and I suspect choking with a little emotion he replied, "That was nothing big. I was in town the other week and sold five pigs at the sale. On the way home I thought that preacher of ours works very hard and he hasn't got a pig to his name. So I just went into the bank and deposited the cheque into your account!" Then with a catch in his voice this good man said, "Brother, giving my money away is the easiest thing I do for the Lord . . . I just wish I could do other things for him as easily." And with that he slipped the Chev into gear and left for home . . . but his spirit and his attitude touched a young minister and influenced him more than he ever knew.
I always went to the Minister's Retreats (Study Camps) and these were held every year in a country church. The ministers were billeted out to host families and we met in the church for sessions and lunch and tea. In my fifth year in the circuit I stayed in the home of C F "Charlie" Adderman MHR with two other ministers, Eric Hart and Fol Morgan. Fol had been brought to Queensland as the Conference speaker and the lecturer at the Retreat. One morning Eric asked me to go for a walk with him. We strolled around the farm and very soon he talked about his concern for the youth ministry in Queensland. He suggested I think about this because in his mind I was the right man for the job. I had never thought of this as a field of ministry and what is more I never even thought I would be considered. Eric had a high profile in Conference and had both the respect of the churches in Queensland as well as considerable influence and what he shared with me was something I could not dismiss. But, I was able to put it on the "back burner" and lose myself in the work of the circuit. Later that year an invitation came from the Youth Department to become Youth Director for the Queensland churches and I declined the invitation. The time was not right in my thinking because the Chinchilla congregation was ready for a move from the CWA Rooms where it was meeting into a property of its own. This meant buying land and erecting a Chapel and if the Circuit was to go ahead with the project somebody would need to be their to enthuse them and support them. I told the Department the time was not right, but if I was in fact the right person the opening the right time would come. Twelve months later the invitation came again and I had to seriously think about it.
Concluding a ministry is never easy, especially when that ministry has been happy and effective. The Circuit was no longer the cluster of little independent churches, it was a Circuit with strength and standing in the community. But to us it meant more than that. This was my first ministry and these people had become "my people" and to them I was "our Pastor". We had come through a period of growth and development and in the process discovered identity and purpose. Our house was still humble and inadequate but it was our home. Graham had been born here and we were a family. Most of all neither myself nor more especially the churches had even considered and end to the ministry. We loved those people and they loved us.
But this invitation had come as both a challenge and a real call from God. If this move by the Department was so important to the development of its youth programme and I was the one they felt they needed, I had to say yes.
One night after a mid-week Bible Study Group I spoke to Ted Flett who was not only an Elder, but also a key man in the Circuit. I told him what had happened and the call I had received and my decision to accept the invitation. I asked him to announce my decision to conclude my ministry with the Circuit and leave three months later in time for the Department's Christmas Camp. He did not say much because I suspect it had all come as great shock. So it was that on the next Sunday to a packed congregation and as the President of that service, he made the announcement. He went on to explain how I felt this was what God wanted me to do. Then emotion took over and this good man who "wore his heart on his sleeve" said what he was feeling. He expressed his disagreement with my decision to leave and his anger at the Department who was taking me from them. There were other things he said and filled with emotion he found he had to leave the platform. There was stunned silence in the congregation and the service was left without a leader. I had to step in and shepherd the service through to its conclusion. Gwen and myself went to the door and filed through just too stunned to say anything. Gwen and I drove home and while I was hurting for those good people who had become so special to us, I felt at peace within myself about the decision. When we arrived at the gateway into the Manse we found Mrs. Powell and her two boys Harold and George waiting in their car. Harold came over and said, "Mr. Horne we don't want to lose you either but we wanted to say we love you and wish you well."
Our farewell meeting was a real community affair held in the Hopeland Church. The shock had passed and the decision had been respected and accepted and we were the recipients of a lot of love and good wishes. It is interesting to note that the Circuit not only became a significant supporter of the Youth Department, and the young people going to camps among the largest local church groups. Ted Flett, who had had such an influence on me and given so much support during my six years with the churches became one the most significant and generous supporters of the Department. So three months after the announcement we were on our way to Brisbane and a new ministry.
It was toward the end of my ministry in the Chinchilla Circuit that I met Bob and Shirley Clymer. Bob had come from Woolwich College to be the Minister of the Roma Church. Although he was 120 miles west of me he was my neighbour on the western side of the Circuit. When I went into to Youth Department I invited Bob to come to camp as a leader. This was the beginning not only of a lasting friendship but also saw bob involved in Department Camps in Queens Land and later South Australia for many years.
YOUTH DEPARTMENT AND SUNNYBANK CHURCH
As things developed the Youth Committee was going to have a problem finding the money for a full time appointment and suggested that to start with we have a part time ministry with a Church. Sunnybank was that Church. It was a small congregation on the fringe of the southern suburbs and the "fruit and vegetable Bowl" of the City. A cluster of houses on the railway line surrounded by these little farms, a pretty outer suburb. Sunnybank wanted to grow and have a full-time ministry but over all its years had never been able to do that. On the back of the block of land on which the Chapel was built they agreed to build a manse. This solved a problem for the Youth Department in terms of finding a house. The house was well built of timber and asbestos, but very small and quite basic.
Two bedrooms, lounge, kitchen and a small study on the front verandah. They did not have the money to build a toilet so we shared the one toilet that stood by itself between the Chapel and the house. This was embarrassing at times and lasted for about two years until Gwen's parents, now in Brisbane and retired, installed septic and we had their outdoor toilet ("dunny") shifted over to our place. The chapel was pretty, but very small and it had a small hall built along one side of the chapel and a small vestry at the back. The baptistry was under the platform in the chapel and only opened when there was a baptism. I could never understand how it was that for a denomination that made so much of baptism, so few Queensland churches featured the baptistry in their church buildings. In the Chinchilla Circuit the baptisms were all out doors. Either in Flett's dam or the creek at Sixteen Mile. If a baptism was held in the winter out west it was freezing. Here at least we lit a copper in the back yard of church to take the chill off the water. For almost five years the partnership between the Department and the church was to continue. There was a small office in the heart of the city that was staffed by a group of very keen young adults who worked in the city. It was only open at lunchtime each day, but it was from that little office all the duplicating and mailing went out to the churches. Every year I directed the Camps at Caloundra and the addendum included in this story is material I provided for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Caloundra Camp. I went away to Magnetic Island every year and conducted a Camp for the young people of the northern churches. This meant being away for over four weeks because I also visited the churches at Townsville, Charters Towers, Mackay and Rockhampton.
At another time in the year I would make a visit to Bundaberg, Maryborough and Gympie and I took the studies at some Maryborough camps. The rest of the churches with the exception the Western churches of Dalby, Chinchilla Circuit and Roma were within a few hours of Brisbane. I bought a water-cooled Velocette Motor Bike and this served me well for the first eighteen months. Then with the help of my good friend Mr. Flett I was able to buy an Austin 10 Sedan. This served me well for three years and ultimately carried us south to Adelaide.
The Church had several gifted laymen who filled the pulpit in my absence. But Gwen was the person whose warmth and competence meant that when I was away she became the key person in all. She was not paid of course, but without her I could never have achieved what I did in those years. Camps grew and the property at Caloundra was developed and a Camp built on Magnetic Island. I conducted Teacher Training Courses and some short missions as well as after school programmes called "Happy Hours" to develop Sunday Schools. In those years we held Sports Days, a Swimming Carnival in the Valley Baths and out of a small Rugby League Competition we started with the help of Harry Horne (no relative of mine) a policeman and a member of the Albion Church established the United Churches Rugby League Association. I was deeply involved in the Council of Christian Education on a State and Federal level these were busy years for the Department.
At the Church things were also moving. The congregation was growing and the building had to be extended and the youth programme was really exploding.
Sunnybank Church was growing and quite a few people came into the fellowship who had not had any previous involvement with Churches of Christ. Because nearby Coopers Plains had a housing development, especially but not exclusively, planned for migrants. Several splendid families were among these new members. Others came because the Sunnybank area was becoming a most desirable area to build a house. With both the Church and the Department things were moving forward and both Gwen and I were working very hard. Without the support of some splendid laypeople what happened would never have been possible. The Department had a group of young adults working in the city, lunch hour after lunch hour they would be found in the little office we had. Keith Hack, Diedrie Fox, Bill Hovard, Gail Neal, Dulcie Wyllie, Kevin Ludgater just to name a few were all competent young people in the workplace. On the Church level Bill Woff and Ray Sampson were to young married men who were always going the "extra mile" in the Sunday School and youth programme. Ian was born during the early years of our ministry in Sunnybank. With Graham it was a country hospital and an early morning drive into town for his birth. With Ian it was the City and possibly just as well because tests showed Gwen was O negative and I was A positive. While things went well, Gwen had a lot of monitoring not available in the country. I had become deeply involved with the Queensland Council for Christian Education and served for a few years as Secretary. But the greater involvement was with our own Federal Board of Christian Education based in Melbourne. I went to all the Director's Conferences and a deep friendship developed between Viv "VC" Stafford and myself. I was proud of the fact that in Queensland we had a 100% support of the Austral Graded Lessons. This was no mean achievement because many people in both Queensland and NSW viewed anything from Melbourne as "liberal". It was a day when dramatic changes were being made in curriculum and these changes were not always well received by teachers.
On the Camping level I had a policy of bringing a small team of ministers to the Camp to take the studies and devotions while I took the responsibility for the running of the programme. Ron Graham and Bob Clymer and Stan Vanham were all regulars at the Camps and formed with myself the core of the leadership team. The time was coming when both the Church and the Department were going to take the step into a full-time appointment.
In those days Ministers and Churches were expected to give each other three months notice if a ministry was being concluded. I knew that both the Department and the Church each wanted me to accept a full-time appointment. I was not comfortable about saying "yes" to either party to the rejection of the other. There were also some personal considerations, the most significant being that we had both been working at an incredible pace for almost eleven years and were naturally tired. We had two small boys and neither had seen as much of their Dad as we would have liked. Gwen was wonderful through all these years an her willingness to keep things intact on the homefront had been even more demanding in the dual appointment of Church and Department. I had developed through my involvement in the Federal Board of Christian Education some friendships beyond the State of Queensland. One of these was with Geoff Whiting then Youth Director in South Australia. No doubt through a suggestion from Geoff the Church at Cowandilla invited me to become their Minister. This invitation had tremendous appeal about it and it also meant that I had to make up my mind about my immediate future in Queensland. So it was that after some serious thought on our part and some talking the situation over with a few key people in Queensland we accepted the invitation to Cowandilla.
A further consideration was that I was the incoming President of the Queensland Conference. In view of my decision to conclude my ministry with the Department and the Church I asked the Conference Executive to release me from the presidential commitment. They were disappointed, but very gracious and understanding. As things were to work out the Church was able to make the most of the development taking place around it where small farms and market gardens were giving way to a fine suburban development. And the Department with David Mansell developed further, particularly in the area of its camping programme. Later with the coming of Alan Male it developed even further. Jack McCormack became the first full-time minister of the church. For us the next three or four months were a mixture of feelings. We had built some very deep friendships within the Churches and the Department. Our farewell from the Church was at the Sunnybank Church and the Department farewell was at the Ann Street Church. With a large section of the gathering in the Ann Street Church being made up of young adults I had come to know over eight years of camping it was both a sparkling and emotional event. Two carloads of young people "The Ann Street Angels" trailed us in overloaded cars out to Sunnybank. They were pulled up by the police, but released to follow us after explaining to the police they were "only farewelling their minister". Looking back over the almost eleven years I had been in ministry with churches of Christ there had been some significant achievements. The churches at Hopeland, Dalby and Chinchilla had all been established in new buildings. The Circuit was a no longer a cluster of little congregations out west. They had become a Circuit with standing in the brotherhood. Caloundra Camp was a well-developed and valuable resource, the Camp at Magnetic Island had been established with the drive of the Beale family and the encouragement of the Department. The Youth and Christian Education programme was well established and growing. Sunnybank Church had expanded its property and had moved into a full-time, totally self supported full time ministry. We had been blessed and enriched beyond all of this by the warmth and love of so many people. When we "went south" I felt that one day we would return to Queensland the richer for our experience in the south. Over the years I had many invitations to come back to Queensland but the timing was never right and although for many years people saw me as "one of theirs" I never went back to a ministry in the place I had had my beginnings. I have often thought about the achievements of those years and more important, what were the influences and factors at work over the years since this previously unknown and untried young minister had commenced a ministry with churches of Christ. Among these influences and factors I would have to list at least the following.
1. I have never had any doubt about my calling to ministry and more than I realized at the time the influences at work in my life had moulded my approach to ministry. To give God your best and to be your best for God was a message I heard for as long as I can remember. When I went into The Salvation Army College this was re-enforced to a point where "time, health and talent presenting" were not only the words of a song used at our graduation, it was a way of life. I remember writing in my diary back in those years the words of CT Studd, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."
2. Then there was the influence of my parents. More than they perhaps realized "to give your best to anything you undertake" and "To stick it son even if it kills thee" (Dad's word coloured with a Yorkshire accent) were more than words, they also were a way of life.
3. I am also fortunate that I married well. Gwen came from a fine Church family and had no illusions about what it would mean to be a minister's wife. Over all the years Gwen not only supported me and encouraged me, there were times when she became the "unpaid" other half of the team. The first years were a bit rough and ready but she made a very humble house into a home.
4. Then there were the people who encouraged and supported me in the local Church and also at Conference level. It is only this year (1997) that I learned how it was I was invited to go to Christmas Camp as a leader. It seems that Harold ("HEG") Greenwood who had been one of the panel who had interviewed me when I first met with the Advisory Board and had asked some searching questions. When he saw how things were shaping in the new circuit suggested to Frank Hunting (Minister at Ann Street and leader of the Christmas Camp) he invite me to come to Camp as a leader. Harold thought it would encourage "the young fellow who was new to our churches". They contacted Fred Stow of the Youth Committee and he made the contact with me.
5. In the first few years I was exposed to a reading programme that was very much the conservative "old paths" position of churches of Christ. Later I came to know and develop friendships with Eric Hart (Toowoomba), Ron Graham (Ann Street), and Viv "VC" Stafford (Federal Board of Christian Education). This enlarged my whole concept of ministry and freed me to what is a more "liberal" position on many issues of faith and practice. I will be forever grateful for these men and others like them who became firm friends in those early days, e. g. Jim Wright, Frank Langford, Bob Hilford, Vic Parker and Bob Clymer just to name a few more.
6. I already had a an ecumenical outlook even though I did not use that word to describe a capacity to be at home with God's people regardless of denomination. This came without doubt from my parents who taught me to respect people of other denominations. I have always felt comfortable with other Christians and in other churches. Over the years I was to become deeply involved in inter-Church councils and activities but I soon learned that when the we 'officially' come together to discuss the issues of unity and co-operation more often than not we find ourselves defending a theological stance or denominational position to a degree that the final outcome is not what it might have been. In my visitation programme I regularly called in on non-members of the Church of Christ, simply because they were isolated and had no visiting clergy. This enhanced the image of my own Church, and it also developed some very special friendships.
7 I have been called a workaholic and I have no doubt this is true. But I have truly enjoyed my ministry and never thought of it as a job. Sometimes on reflection I suspect that my sense of consecration and commitment drove me to make unreasonable demands on myself, and I did need a wise and often strong word from Gwen to remind me of other responsibilities. In part I also suspect that I was driven by a determination that the trust of the Advisory Board and the congregation that called me were not mis-placed.
8. Both Gwen and myself are organized people and this flowed through into the planning of each week. I have no doubt that this is a most important in any job and in particular Ministry. Minister's are really one of the few people who plan their as they please. Back in the early fifties I found myself with two graphs on which each week I recorded the "Attendances" and "Number of Visits made". I enjoyed visiting but realized that it was so easy to neglect this ministry under the excuse of more pleasurable but less important "busyness".
Looking back on the practice of keeping graphs and records I have tried to establish my motives. In part it was a carry over from the days in College. Each Wednesday afternoon we all went out to do door to door visiting in the Corps (Churches) in which we were doing our field work. We did this in pairs and were expected to make reports. These reports included "Number of homes visited?" "Number you were able to enter?" "Number of occasions spiritual conclusion" i. e. discussion or prayer. We also spent Saturday afternoons and Sundays in these. There was a mid-week meetings and services on Sunday. The necessity to keep records helped develop accountability and heighten the importance of this outreach ministry.
I followed this practice all through my ministries even though the style varied in later years. When I made reports to a Board Meeting they included these statistics, including attendances and communicants. Without doubt it was a personal discipline and helped me keep a check on what I feel are the priorities of ministry.
I have been blessed in that visitation and contact with the unchurched and people of other denominations has not only come easy and brought me a lot of pleasure.
I have never ever had a "them" and "us" approach to people. It may sound simplistic, but I am convinced that if we see other people as much members of the "human family" and the Church as "one body" experiencing "unity in our diversity", we are free to act and relate together without having to first justify the action. To me it is simply "accepting people as they are".
9. When I first came into churches of Christ I was supported in a reading programme to familiarize myself with the movement. This also came easy because I had always enjoyed reading. In those early years of ministry I discovered the books of Lesley Weatherhead and his approach to ministry and his capacity to make theology address the hurts of mankind and address the questions ordinary people were asking captured me. I then was introduced to Harry Emerson Fosdick and E. Stanley Jones and without doubt these shaped my approach to ministry. Over the years George Buttrick, Ralph Sockman, Georgia Harkness found their way onto shelves. Much later Bruce Larson and Keith Miller were to add another dimension to my style of ministry. Later as my pastoral ministry coloured my approach to preaching and my involvement in pastoral counselling developed, I undertook reading and courses to develop these skills.
10. Eric Hart helped me immensely as a young minister to develop my pulpit ministry. Gwen and I stayed with Eric and Madge on a couple of occasions and Eric's forward planning of his pulpit work and the manner in which he compiled his resources and ideas appealed to me greatly. I started planning my preaching programme in advance and compiling resource material and ideas. This meant the final drafting came together much more smoothly.
11. Over the years my preaching style was to develop more and more a pastoral style. This was particularly so when I went in later years to Doncaster and then to Marion. I remember being invited to take a morning session with the final year students at the College. Dr Bill Tabbernee the Principal and also a member of my congregation introducing me to the students said "Keith Horne is my minister and he is a pastoral preacher". I have no doubt this all started back in those first two ministries in Queensland. For me it meant addressing as warmly and openly as I could the day to day real life and problems people in my congregation were facing. I felt quite strongly that if what I had said on Sunday was not going to help people on Monday, then I had failed them.
12. I have also been able to carry people and causes forward on the enthusiasm I brought to any project or programme we were considering. I am sure that when we have shown that we care about them, and we work hard on their behalf, people not only accept the programme they support it, even if they are not always sure of the details. My preaching was described by one journalist who came to services on occasion with his wife, although he was not then a member, as an "effective use of the negative dynamic". In trying to work that one through I felt it could only mean that I never glossed over difficult situations but rather faced them head on. At the same time there was always a ray of hope and a win through if we never lost hope, hung in and worked hard. To me it was like a Captain of a leaking ship and in a storm saying, "Pray hard and pump even harder and we will get this ship into port."
The first eleven years in Queensland will always be the foundation blocks for the ministry of the next thirty to forty years of ministry. So that leaving Queensland was to leave behind a part of our lives that has always held a special place in our hearts.
We set out for South Australia in our "Austin 10" late in April 1957. Graham was six years old and Ian two years old. The car was full of the essentials for the journey, and all the rest had been sent on by an interstate furniture removalist. The space between the front and back seats had been packed with luggage and the overlay of a couple of blankets meant the boys had a platform on which to travel. We stayed a night in Sydney with Lyall and Bess Wyllie (Lyall had met me at the station when I went to Roma eleven years before). Television had just come to Sydney and we went down to see it working in a shop window. People would stand at these retail outlets often seeing little more than the test pattern. Then on to the south with a stop over night in the car not far from Albury, across the top of Victoria to Bordertown where we stayed a weekend with Frank and Beryl Langford. Frank and Beryl were close friends from the days he was minister at Kedron in Brisbane. Then on to Adelaide to be met at the "Toll Gate" by Neil McLean, the Secretary of the Cowandilla Church. We were in Adelaide!
Cowandilla Church was one of a group of churches in the western suburbs. It had been established by Mile End Church in 1922, and when I went there in 1957 it had just concluded a nine year ministry with Trevor Robinson. For years the Church had met in an all-purpose building across the back of the property. In the latter part of 1956 they had erected a new chapel that was the first of the building boom of new churches in the Adelaide of the 1950-60's. It was an attractive contemporary style and the Lance Brune was the Architect.
Syd Matthews had conducted a three-month interim ministry with the Church prior to my arrival in the first week of May. We lived in the Manse next door to the chapel and while not a large house it had three bedrooms and a sleepout, a comfortable lounge and an eat-in kitchen. It was the first time in 10 years of marriage with a wood stove in the kitchen Gwen had an electric stove and we had hot water in the kitchen and bathroom.
The congregation was mainly working class tradesmen with only one or two in their own business and a handful of white-collar workers. It was a church ready to go forward. The new chapel was the biggest undertaking the Church had ever made and the second must have been the decision to bring a minister all the way from Queensland. There was a strong youth work that represented the 'baby boom' of the post war years. The teenage group was very strong and it is interesting to note that most of these were either employed in white-collar professions or attending TAFE or University. The Sunday School was well led and over 200 pupils. There were strong Boys and Girls Brigades with both junior and senior sections operating and a Boy's Brigade Bible Class at 8.30am every Sunday morning where the study each Sunday was taken by the Minister, who was also Chaplain of the Company.
Gwen and I slipped easily into the new appointment. The congregation was a warm and caring group of people and they responded to my style of ministry.
The attendances at services grew and three new pews had to be purchased to comfortably accommodate the evening congregation. For me this was the first ministry where I was not working a circuit of churches or sharing my time with a Conference Department. All my energy and ministry was focused on that congregation and its auxiliary programme. I went to the Boy's Brigade Camps, teenage programmes, the local primary school and two technical schools. There was a mid-week prayer and Bible Study Group that was my responsibility. I found myself pursuing the same style of pastoral programme as I had in Queensland, visiting people in their homes and making myself readily available to the people.
At the first Annual Meeting, usually a time for reports, and a lot of talk about the finances of the Church. At this meeting there were four major decisions taken with a minimum of fuss. The Hall (previously the Chapel) was to be repainted; a new stone fence to be built across the front of the manse to match the stone work on the chapel: an electric sign one of the first in our churches to be erected; and three new pews to be purchased to accommodate the increased attendances. Many members could not believe that these decisions could be made so smoothly in an annual meeting. But all of this indicated something more important; the Church was happy and excited about its future. I was happy too. I felt that this would be a long-term ministry for me. But this was not to be. My good friend Geoff Whiting, who was the Youth Director for the SA Churches decided to leave the Department and go to the USA to pursue further studies in Christian Education and undertake a doctorate programme in that field. I had already been invited to the Christmas Camp and regularly attended and participated with my own young people in the ACYF and WDCYF monthly programmes sponsored by the Department. I was approached by the Department to take the role of Director and promptly declined the invitation on the grounds that I was happy at Cowandilla and it was unthinkable to even consider the proposal having only been with the Church for twelve months.
I suggested three other names of people I felt could do the job, but all of these people declined and the Department was back to 'square one'.
South Australia was a strong Department and strategic in the federal scene. Gordon Stirling just a few years before had been the Director and the whole State, not just the Youth Department, was really moving forward. Gordon had been joined by Eric Hollard in the role of Home Missions Director and this was without doubt the beginning of what many call "the golden years" for South Australia.
Another contact was made with myself and other key people in the Conference were now involved. They stressed the importance of the appointment to the State and I suspect that there was some concern that the good work of Gordon Stirling could easily be lost with the wrong appointment.
I finally agreed to let the proposal be put to the Cowandilla church members on the condition that:
Eric Hollard (President of Conference) and Geoff Whiting came out to put the proposal to a special meeting of the Church. They had already met with the Board and Elders and the final decision was left to the church.
The hall was packed to capacity and I suspect every family was represented. It was meeting charged with emotion and my only participation in it was to respond to a question in which I said I would only conclude my ministry if the Church felt that in view of the wider good they would release me from my commitment. The meeting chaired by Don McDonald finally accepted a motion "That with regret the Church would release Keith Horne to undertake the role of Youth Director for South Australia."
Six months later Don Smith came to Cowandilla from Victoria and for the next three years had a splendid ministry. He was to also leave the Church in response to a call to become the Home Missions Director in Victoria. A position he held for over thirty years. Of all the responses I have known churches to make over the years, what Cowandilla members did in that meeting was the most generous and selfless expression of brotherhood of them all.
Our membership stayed at Cowandilla for the next ten years. I was only at services on rare occasions, but for Gwen and Graham and Ian, Cowandilla was their Church home. With the strength of its youth work it was a great time for the boys to be at the Church. Graham attained the Duke of Edinburgh Award through Boy's Brigade and Ian received the Queens Medal Award.
The Department was without doubt the strongest and healthiest expression of youth ministry in our Australian churches. When I went into the Department Office in the Conference Centre, Gawler Place, I had as my Secretary Petrea Hoskin. This young lady was in her first job after leaving High School. She had a warm personality and blossomed in the job and without doubt her personality and giftedness enhanced the Department's image in the Centre. So I not only "inherited" a good secretary, the Department also had in Petrea a tremendous piece of "PR" in the front office. As was to be expected with such an attractive person, a man came into her life in the person of Peter Johnson from the Unley Church. Peter was a plumber by trade and one of the most naturally gifted persons I have known. He has a lot of natural talent, leadership skill and a capacity for hard work. It was at a time when Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF) was developing as the youth movement of our churches. We brought together a group of talented young people and established the "Flying Squad". They visited churches and conducted programmes and we regularly produced from the Department programme ideas for the local Church programmes. Blue blazers with a pocket emblem became the "official dress" of the group.
CYF Conferences that brought together six key young people from each State were held every year. The first and the largest of the National Youth Conventions was held in Adelaide. We hired the Thebarton Town Hall and had the use of the Mile End Church situated next door for a week. This was an incredible piece of logistics with luncheons, studies, and lectures and evening rallies culminating in what was going to be an open-air programme in Elder Park. However it rained on Saturday night and Sunday and we had to contact all the ministers and secretaries in our churches to change the venue. It was a frantic effort that brought more than 1500 people to the final rally. As was to be expected the romance between Peter and Trea led to marriage and while Trea stayed on in the Department for awhile we had to find somebody to take her place. Dawn Chivell was a very active member of the Unley Church and deeply involved in its youth programme and the Sunday School.
She was holding a responsible position as a Secretary to a manager in the AMP.
I made an appointment to see Dawn over a cup of coffee to talk about the possibility of her leaving the AMP and coming to the Department as Secretary.
This dedicated young lady with a wealth of talent and skill had as well an understanding and knowledge of the churches in South Australia. This was to be expected, as she was the daughter of Jack Chivell the Conference Secretary.
The coming of Dawn into the Department was the beginning of a new era. The Department had gained more than a Secretary, Dawn became deeply involved in the delivery and planning of programmes in both the Department and the local churches. We had gained another team member. Dawn gave everything to the position and her working hours stretched far beyond the normal office hours. We were able to engage some part time staff to do some of the routine office work
In the next years the programme of the Department literally exploded. Seminars, Teacher Training, Leadership Courses, Monthly Youth Rallies, Annual Scholar Drives, Special Interest Groups, Adult Education, Resource Materials and an explosion in youth camping came with such regularity that we produced an Annual Calendar of events for the Churches.
What follows indicates something of the breadth of the Department's Programme.
CAMPING exploded! At Easter we had to notify the churches when the Registration Forms would be released. Longwood Camp would fill within the week with approximately 140 young people attending. As well as this the Department conducted an Easter Camp at Barmera for another 80 young people. One year I led the Camp at Balaklava (that included a camp out in the nearby river bed. Jack Chivell led the Camp at Longwood and Bob Clymer led the Camp at Barmera. Christmas Camp was in my mind the major camping programme and always had 140 + attending. This group had some fine young people and went for five days. I always felt this was the programme that had time to develop relationships, programme at depth and offer a variety of other learning experiences.
The programmes were also fun events and the leaders and campers worked hard to make the camps sparkle. There was a core of people I invited to camp after camp in a leadership role. Bob Clymer, Maurice Coombs, and Eric Hollard were regulars. At every camp other ministers were invited and I usually had 3-4 leaders beside myself. We were blessed with some gifted campers. John Halbert, John Mathieson, John Turner, John Hall (music) Chester Scultz (music) gave me great support. Dawn Chivell was deeply involved as well as a group of girls, mostly, but not all who were also key people in the Youth Choir. Longwood Camp had some significant building additions, the most spectacular piece of work was the Chapel, built mainly by voluntary labour. Redcliff Camp went into a building programme, Barmera was extended, Point Sturt established and also Balaklava. The District Conferences owned three of these camps, but the development of these was enhanced by the support and backing and programme needs of the Department. The decline of the camping programmes meant that Balaklava, a basic and relatively low cost development was not proceeded with.
TEACHER TRAINING AND SUPPORT was a major feature of the Department. The fifties and sixties was the time when the "baby boom" started to make demands on the whole education system, including the Sunday School. There were more than 10,000 scholars and over 1400 teachers who looked to the Department for support. Each year we had a Weekend Conference for Superintendents a Scholar Recruitment Programme, Teacher Training Seminar, and Conferences. We were regularly going to churches for one night sessions and often Saturday Conferences.
We had a very close working relationship with the Federal Board of Christian Education and brought Viv Stafford and Marj Deane to the State for some of the weekend programmes. This was a time (i. e. the sixties) when the curriculum was going through major changes and these were not always well received by the Sunday Schools. We found ourselves acting as "trouble shooters" for the Board.
We were able to keep our lesson materials in all of our schools with a few exceptions. I attended the Annual Board Conferences where each State was represented. The outcome of this was to be seen in the production of curriculum, Camp Studies and later material for Adult Education. In these Conferences State differences would surface and create intense debate. NSW and in part Queensland were committed to importing material from the USA and in particular our Independent Churches. It was part of a bigger problem in which Independents and the Church of Christ (USA version) were trying to make inroads into the Australian churches. South Australia and Victoria were often at odds with NSW and Queensland. But we maintained a working relationship and today (the 1990's) it is hard to believe these things could have happened. A major discussion and difference in the sixties was the decision to link with the Joint Board (Uniting Churches). This led to a major debate on the floor of Federal Conference where the decision to jointly prepare material was carried.
I figured in the debate that day supporting the Federal Board.
It was a motion that generated a lot of feeling and the President of the Conference called for a division with non-voting attenders staying in the middle seats of the Town Hall. Some years later in 1984 when the decline in Sunday School enrolments had fallen dramatically and the sales of curriculum material was no longer sufficient to financially support the Federal Board, the Board faced a crisis. A special meeting of Directors was called at Caloundra and the proposal for the Board to come under the wing of the Victorian DMED was carried. I was at that time Chairman of the Federal Board and with Don Smith (DMED Director) flew to Queensland to chair the meeting. Strange as it may seem these were big issues in that day and for different reasons some opposed the move to locate the Board in Victoria. But it was the only State with the resources and personnel to carry the Board. In the years since then the relationship between the States and the degree of co-operation and participation in Board productions has been splendid. Although it must be said that the production of curriculum is no longer the "big burner" it was. Schools are using material from a variety of sources including the Joint Board with which we still have some editorial input. In South Australia we sponsored a Teacher Training Course that had an enrolment of teachers in excess of 400 teachers. The material was prepared by the Department with the support of some very competent people in the teaching profession. I had a long association with the Federal Board of Christian Education, with the exception of the four years I was with the Home Missions Department in South Australia, lasted from 1953 to 1984. For the 13 years I was at Doncaster I served as Chairman of the Board. Richard Lawton was the Director when I went to Doncaster and then some years later Ian Allsop became the Director.
YOUTH PROGRAMMING was a major feature of the Department with a monthly rally (ACYF) in the city centre each month. We used a variety of halls for the meetings. Grote Street, Arts Theater Union Theater and Willard Hall. The final programme in December was held in Her Majesty's Theater which before its face-lift had two levels of seating above the ground floor. The building seated approx. 2000 people and the programme was of such quality that every year it was near to capacity audiences. The programme was open to young and old and became the end of the year feature event in the churches.
TEEN AND TWENTY MISSIONS were held for a number of years in the Adelaide Town Hall. We brought gifted speakers from interstate to feature in the programme. One of the most popular was Hayden Sargent from Queensland. Hayden had been a minister and then moved into TV and radio and was one of the most gifted communicators I have ever known. Out of this came a move to have a Rally once a month on a Sunday Night after evening services in the Adelaide Town Hall. The programme started at 8.30pm and finished at 10pm. We tried to make it a programme with appeal to the young people and it worked. One of the groups we used was called the "The Christian Travellers" led by Steve Cotton. It was a four piece "rock" where the boys not only dressed well (don't forget so did the "Beatles" in the sixties) they were gifted young men and could perform. Some older people who brought teenagers often did not appreciate the volume (although that was also modest by today's groups. But this group and some talented artists from around Adelaide made it a most successful programme. It became obvious that to lift the quality of the ACYF programmes we were going to have to spend money. Not only did the Department have to operate in a fairly tight budget, I also had a personal conviction that programmes if possible should at least cover their basic expenses. So it was that the publicity for ACYF carried a 2/- (two shillings) entry charge. Within the month I had a strong letter from a key person in one of our churches expressing great concern that the Department was " charging for the gospel!" All of this was in a day when churches did not take Sunday night offerings and the advertising for most tent mission carried the message "all seats free". I handled it all right and there was no more "flak".
However it was back there in the sixties that the policy of charging some admission to special programmes developed and is now taken as a matter of course.
SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS were established to meet a variety of needs. Among these were:
STUDENT SUPPORT for the young people who were pursuing tertiary studies either at University or Teacher's College. Each year we had a dinner at the beginning of the first term on one or two occasions this was at the University.
We used the occasion to assure them of the Church's encouragement and support and to inform them about the Christian groups operating within the University, e. g. EU and SCM.
PERIMETER CLUB was a dinner meeting in the Epworth Tea Rooms where we featured a speaker who addressed social issues and other topics of special interest. What followed was an open discussion.
SPRUNG CLUB was in fact a "single's group" that focused on older singles who had outgrown some of the programmes that were attractive to teenagers or young adults. This group functioned for many years as a social activity. I remember attending two camps under canvas in the Flinders Ranges.
ADULT EDUCATION became an important aspect of Christian Education and in the main it was built around the American concept of the Sunday Morning.
A number of churches attempted to establish the programme that meant changing the Sunday Morning time of morning worship. This created some problems because it meant moving from the traditional 11am Service time to a 9am or 9.30am Service with morning tea to follow and then the All Age Education Programme. Prospect did this very well but I am not sure the congregation understood the philosophy of the programme. So much so that when they had a change of minister to one who was not supportive of the programme it died. In another Church the idea of change threatened a major division and was abandoned. We were not ready for these changes that the Baptist Churches in the Eastern States had more readily embraced. We moved to a different approach that focused on a mid week gathering. This was more comfortable for the churches and raised another problem. Where do you find material suitable for adult groups? We were fortunate that at that time Dr Desmond Crowley a member of our Edwardstown Church was the Director of Adult Education at Adelaide University. I approached him to help us and for the next year, or more, we produced a selection of studies, many of which were written by Des Crowley himself. He had always been involved in the Church and was one of those gifted laymen whose had a solid understanding of theology and Biblical history. I enlisted other ministers to write some studies and with Des edited the material. This continued until Des went to Sydney to be the Director of Adult Education. By this time the Federal Board and the Joint Board were beginning to produce study guides. Today of course there is an abundance of this sort of material. We produced hundreds of sets of studies on various subjects for use in the churches. The Department used to publish a four-page centre supplement in the monthly South Australian state paper. When the States were asked to abandon these independent publications in an effort to make the 'Australian Christian' a national paper South Australia did this even though the 'Christian Echo' was one of the few financially viable Church papers.
The Department continued to produce a four-page monthly newssheet for the youth groups of the churches. There was a volume of activity generated in the Department that was quite incredible. We were blessed indeed that some years before Dawn Chivell had accepted the invitation to become the Office Secretary. Dawn had an incredible capacity for work. She was not only able to organize an office, her creativity plus the relationship she developed with key people in the churches and her own involvement in teaching and youth leadership in the Unley Church was invaluable. We worked well as a team and the Department was blessed indeed to have had at this time such a dedicated and gifted person on its staff. Dawn was not only an office administrator she was also a person whose presence and giftedness was expressed in the churches we served. To free her from the routine office work of duplicating and collating and packaging and copy typing, and there was plenty of this generated in the office, we employed part time help. For three days a week Mrs. Billett of the Kensington Church was employed.
People often refer to the fifties and sixties as the "golden years". There is no doubting that Churches of Christ were "pace setters" in the wider Church scene.
In 1964 the year I was President of Conference we had 24 churches with a communicant figure between 1-200. Faith and Baptism additions that year were 418. There were 9553 scholars and 1535 teachers in our Sunday Schools, 1099 CYF members, 244 YPCE, almost 4000 in children's programmes (mainly Boys and Girls Brigade) 2683 in sports teams. Ten (10) new churches had been established and some fine buildings erected; 6 or 7 other churches moved from all purpose halls into new chapels, (e. g. Cowandilla, Flinders Park, Colonel Light Gardens, Enfield, Kensington, Croydon etc); Country churches like Bordertown, Naracoorte, Port Pirie and others had major building development including new chapels.
The reasons for this outstanding development are many: This was the explosive development common to the all of Australia in the immediate post war years. The "baby boom" and the mushroom like growth of new suburbs and the fact that in South Australia the Housing Trust built houses for private sale as well low income families. Alex Ramsay the Chairman of the Trust when a new development was about to be released called the representatives of the Churches to a meeting where all denominations declared their interest or otherwise and then negotiated for locations trying no too close to another Church. The land was always sold to the churches at "book value" which was in itself a great concession. At times I felt this easy access to land almost seemed as if the leading of the Spirit and the choice of land was dependent on where was the next Trust development.
I wonder what difference it might have made in the long term if we had had enough "faith" to investigate some of the available private development. This would have been more expensive in the short term but possibly meant some better location of facilities in the long term. The issue was not as simple as that because the other factor was the mentality of the day where we thought in terms of local shopping as against the regional thinking of today. Schools both Primary and High Schools were also located much closer to each other and in recent years we have witnessed a selling off of many of these properties, because schools face the same problems as churches i. e. a change in the age structure and an acceptance of regionality in which car parking and easy access mean that people will travel as far to worship as they do to shop or find employment.
Another factor was leadership. There is no doubt that when Gordon Stirling came to South Australia in the late forties he was the "kick start" the State needed. A few years later Eric Hollard came "home" from New Zealand to become Home Missions Director. Eric had a passion for evangelism and church growth. It was largely his leadership that brought a lot the upsurge in new Church development. Both of these had the support of committees made up of people with a wide range of skills and standing in the secular world. Later John Chivell became the Conference Secretary and Albert Jones became the Director of Social Services. When I became Youth Director in 1957 the Conference had four full-time Department leaders.
The Conference Centre was in Gawler Place and as well as office accommodation there was a well-stocked bookroom. With the office staff there were eight full-time staff in the Centre. The relationship between Jack Chivell, Eric Hollard, Albert Jones and myself was very special. We were a team and the sense of togetherness and spirit of co-operation and commitment to mission was something to which the churches across the State responded. We travelled together to the Country Conferences, which in those days were extremely active and important gatherings. The Centre was a place on which key people of the churches were continually calling. Weekends saw us out among the churches in a wide variety of activities. There was a homogeneous feel about the Centre and the churches and the ministers that was most exciting. Without doubt the relationship between the Department leaders, the churches and the ministers was unique to South Australia and something very special. When I came to South Australia the Ministers met every second Monday morning in Grote Street Hall and the feeling of the meeting was akin to what I think a meeting of insurance salesman might be who were keen to share the successes of the previous weeks. There was a great spirit of encouragement and support for each other, as well as a commitment to mission that was exciting.
The Centre was a place where key people, including ministers, came freely and often.
There was amongst the Ministers and with the churches a level of trust, encouragement and mutual support that I think was unique. In those days each of the Departments had an Annual Offering and it was from this source that most of their financial support came. On the Monday morning after the offering had been received I remember how many of the ministers would phone in just to tell us the level of the offering. We would phone some of the larger churches and by noon we had a fairly accurate picture of how well the offering had gone. I mention this because I think it reflects the support the Departments received from the ministers.
The contribution volunteers made to the Youth Department's programme was incredible. The chapel, cooks quarters, igloo (canteen/tool/shed) and development on the lower area down near the pump house were all completed with voluntary labour. Bill Heath (plumbing) Doug Forbes and David Whyatt (electrical) gave many hours of work. But so also did many "handymen" who came to the working bees. I had a photo of people like Alan Jessop (GP) pushing a barrow of concrete; Gabe Bywaters (MP) spreading concrete, and a group of Ministers like Perc Whitmore, Ted Sanders, Bob Clymer, Jack Maxted and many others who gave hours of work. Builders like Neil Bright and Jim Follet and Jim Bartlett were generous in their support. But the work of people like John Mathieson, John Turner, David Whyatt and Graham Jones, while not officially builders were gifted handymen who would tackle almost anything. Even as I write this I am aware that Graham Jones is still heavily involved in the property development and maintenance. (1997)
Camps were self-catering in the fifties and sixties and finding cooks was not always easy. On the eve of my first Christmas camp we lost our cook. I had nowhere to turn and asked Gwen (my wife) who had never cooked for a camp and, bless her heart, she said "Yes". There were over 130 young people coming to that camp! With the help of people like Ruth Greenwood and her husband Bill they did it and did it well. For the next ten years at Easter and Christmas Gwen took the responsibility of menus, orders and the kitchen. In these years people like Jim Moore and Bob Solly worked with her in various camps. But most of all Gwen will be forever grateful to David Whyatt for his support. When everybody had left at the end of a Camp David still stayed with Gwen and myself to do the final chores. Then we would head home with bags full of dirty tea towels and tired out. Gwen did this at Christmas and Easter for ten years. We took Graham and Ian with us to every Camp and they slept in the hut with their mother. They grew up going to every Easter and Christmas Camp. Graham was about eight and Ian four years of age. It would be so easy for children in a setting like that to be a problem, Gwen and I did our best to see this did not happen. People like John Halbert and Maurice Peacock and John Mathieson and Trevor Parr and others like them became role models, and being able to go to Camps with us I suspect for the boys was a plus.
The story of this period could never be told without some reference to the Youth Choir. Earlier in the year I went from Cowandilla into the Youth Department the newly formed Youth Choir presented its first opera in the Unley Town Hall over three nights. It was an incredible event and the success of this presentation was enough for the choir to stay together right through until the late seventies. The man behind it all was Albert Glastonbury and he became the conductor in those first years. John Hall was the first pianist and some of the best young people of our suburban churches, many of whom were also campers, formed the core of the Choir. When Albert retired John Hall became the conductor and later John Mathieson. During these years the choir presented annually a G and S Opera. I can remember how anxious we all were to see the review in the "Advertiser" the morning after the opening night. After the presentation of "The Gondoliers" Harold Tideman wrote some thing like this " . . . the audience was treated to a sparkling performance that would have delighted Gilbert and Sullivan."
The climax of the operas came in the early seventies when the Choir took Her Majesties Theater for a one-week performance. But there was more to the Choir than operas. It was featured at the first National Youth Convention (Adelaide) and a few years later in Sydney. State Conferences, Teen and Twenty Missions and similar events found this talented group performing. Every year the Choir went by bus to Bordertown on the June long weekend and I went with them. A concert in the Mundalla Hall, services on Sunday and a picnic on Monday made this a special event in the life of the southeast churches I went with them and acted as compere of the concert and preached on the Sunday. In fact I gave all the support and encouragement I could to the Choir because it was more than just a choir for people interested in singing, it was a fellowship, as much as any Camp or local Church programme. Talents of all kinds were discovered and released and many of the members were the key people in many other programmes, both Department and local Church. They raised significant amounts of money each year and without this the development of Longwood Camp would have been inhibited. In the seventies Roy Arnold became the Conductor but key people in the choir were aging and the Church scene was changing dramatically and the days of the Choir came to an end. It had been almost twenty years since the first presentation in the Unley Town Hall under the baton of Albert Glastonbury.
Youth programmes were exciting and innovative in the Sixties and it is hard to believe that in those days we never hesitated to hire buildings like the Adelaide Town Hall, Thebarton Town Hall, and Her Majesty's Theater for special programmes. On one occasion we hired on a Saturday night the entire sixth floor restaurant of the Cox Foys Building for a Gospel Cabaret.
Redcliff Camps at each year had been held ever since Gordon Stirling was Director. But in the sixties we planned this Camp prior to the opening of the first term at University. It was a very basic facility. A small dorm for the girls, a small kitchen with a dirt floor "lean to" that was draped with canvas to protect it from the elements.
Tents in the sand for the boys and two toilets that were shifted around the sand hills and relocated over a new pit. This camp became very popular and with a capacity of about forty campers was held over six days. The campers came from the Eyre Peninsular churches and the city (about a one third/two third ratio)--Jim Wright came with me a study leader for many years. Swimming, water skiing, spear fishing and night netting of the beaches, plus a trip to Port Lincoln and surrounds made it a very attractive programme. When the time for property development came and a toilet block and new main hall/kitchen were erected the programme became a little easier to run, but was no more attractive in drawing young people to the Camp. Various ministers from the West Coast were invited as leaders. I led the Camps and the Department also planned the programme. Jim Wright and myself were long time friends and when I finally was able to get him to come as a leader he added another dimension to the programming. Jim loved the sea and sports and was a splendid study leader. Together we generated a lot of fun and sparkle in the Camp.
But changes were coming in the total Church scene. In the mid sixties the emerging theology right across the international scene was confusing to both the laity and the clergy. The traditional Church and its future were being questioned. The traditional understanding was being questioned. One of the more moderate was Bishop Robinson's "Honest to God". A book that became a best seller, captured a lot of media attention, and raised questions that needed to be asked in the twentieth century. Other writers raised issues that were even more unsettling. This period also gave birth to the "hippie culture" and in other ways this also challenged traditional values. One of the most devastating events of the sixties was the war in Vietnam. Apart from the question "Should we have ever been involved?" was the lottery type approach where eighteen year olds were selected if their marble came up. The streets of conservative Adelaide became a place of conflict with the police and demonstrators. Graham our eldest son was at University and his major was in politics. He was involved in these demonstrations and I remember walking down from the Grote Street Centre on the afternoon of one particularly nasty clash.
The sight of broken placards and police cars and confusion at the North Terrace-King William Street intersection was most distressing. Our son was in there somewhere. Graham never arrived home until well after dinner. When he came in he was terribly angry and upset. I will never forget the calm way in which Gwen with all a mother's love got him to have a shower and she got his dinner ready. After we had talked he went back to the city to join a group at parliament house. Gwen and I went to the next demonstration just to be some moral support. It was a moving event to see these mainly young people moving down the street singing "All we are saying is give peace a chance". A well dressed elderly man standing near us became fed up with the drunken abuse of a nearby spectator and calmly stepped off the footpath and joined the march. I was an ex-serviceman and did not hold a pacifist position, believing that sometimes war was a lesser of two evils.
But I have always respected the position of those who took a pacifist stance.
It certainly is not an easy choice when national emotion is running high. In the case of Vietnam I felt that the government's decision to put conscripts into a war like Vietnam was indefensible. So I found myself counselling young men for whom the possibility of their "marble" coming through in the ballot was a real issue. I did this even to the point of going to court in defence of one young man.
The churches were not prepared for the social upheaval of the late sixties.
Ever since the war years the nation had prospered and financial support of tertiary education and job opportunities had been taken for granted. So had our comfortable position as churches in the community, especially in South Australia where the Church had always been a respected, and Adelaide was not called the "city of churches" without obvious reasons. But the "baby boom" was in decline. For the first time Sunday Schools were showing a drop in enrolments and with the decline of their Sunday Schools most churches were rapidly losing any contact they had with the non-churched. Youth ministry was becoming a more difficult area of programming and the influence of the rock culture, greater mobility and the media (TV) were all beginning to stretch the relationships between teenagers and their parents. Some younger ministers were reflecting the new theology and raising social issues, different styles of worship and pastoral ministry, and the hostility of members and the resistance to change meant that in this period (i. e. late sixties-early seventies) we lost some of our finest young ministers. Many of them went into secular fields and built for themselves successful careers in the media and public service and social field.
I felt concerned about what was obviously happening because with the position I held in the Department I had built a good relationship with many of the younger ministers and I was now finding myself having to counsel them or shepherd them. Many ministers of my age group and beyond had no idea what were the issues that so many of these young ministers were struggling with. To better acquaint myself with the issues I enrolled in an "Introduction to Sociology" course sponsored by WEA at the Adelaide University with George Sharman as the lecturer. Then I enrolled at Parkin College (Congregational) one of the more liberal theological colleges in South Australia to take a course in "Contemporary Theology".
Dr Paul Trudinger (later Union Seminary USA) the lecturer. The class was for final year students and had been open to any interested ministers. I found myself coming to terms with the issues raised in the books of Thomas Altizer, Harvey Cox, Joseph Fletcher and Ronald Gregor-Smith and others. I felt it helped me to understand what the issues were and hopefully help some younger ministers.
Every two years I attended the Biennial Conference of the ACCE and this also kept me in touch with the changing scene. I enrolled in courses with Dr Joseph Fletcher (Ecumenical Institute USA), Group Life Laboratory, Marriage Guidance Course for professional workers and several others. The breadth of my reading programme expanded considerably during this time.
In 1968 Eric Hollard decided to conclude his ministry with the Home Missions Department and accepted a call to become the Minister of the Glenelg Church.
Eric and I had been very good friends and we had worked together on a number of projects. His decision paved the way for another exciting development with me accepting an invitation to become Home Missions Director and the Christian Education Department calling Charles Dow to be its Director. Charles and I had formed a friendship some years before when I stayed with Charles and Jean while I was attending Federal Conference in Western Australia. Charles had represented Western Australia at the Federal Board Conference that preceded the Federal Conference. We were two men marching to the same drumbeat. The two Departments of Home Missions and Christian Education started to work even more closely with each other and this was reflected in the programmes and support we could offer the local churches. Charles and myself could "throw the ball" to each other and work freely and easily in what had once been the exclusive territory of either Department I still went to camps and Charles conducted Church Life Seminars helping local churches establish mission goals and use their resources more effectively. We had several meetings of both Departments to develop a closer working relationship. We were well on the way to developing what the Victorian Departments did several years later, and that was to bring the resources of both Departments under one umbrella that embraced mission and education and Church development. But this was not to be because Charles' wife Jean became ill and finally underwent surgery for cancer. Jean died in the year following the surgery and with her death Charles had to re-assess his ministry. He had two children Peter and Robyn who were in very early teens and this meant that Charles would could not be the father they needed and stay in a job that made so much demands beyond the usual "9-5" of other occupations. Gwen and I became deeply involved with Charles and Jean in those last sad months that preceded Jean's death. Jean was a gifted lady and one can only guess what might have been if she had been spared to us.
Charles decided that for the immediate future he would have to seek employment other than Church ministry. I was able to introduce him to Bernie Masters in the Education Department and this ultimately led to him being appointed to the Wattle Park Teachers College as a lecturer. Charles had gained a BA degree in Australia and then went to study in the USA where he gained his MA degree.
The Christian Education Department appointed Gerald Rose as the new Director. Gerald was a South Australian who had completed splendid ministries at Port Pirie and Kilburn prior to going to Lower Hutt in New Zealand for yet another very fine ministry. He was a hard working minister who had been working in some exciting youth programmes in Kilburn and more especially Lower Hutt. He was well qualified for the job both by experience and education. He was also more avant-garde in his approach to youth programming and social issues and this was to bring a new dimension into the style of camping and youth programming.
Dawn Chivell continued to work with the Christian Education Department and this meant that I was without office backup. Gwen once again stepped in took over a lot of the routine office work of the Home Missions Department. This was an unpaid appointment but it freed me from some of the routine tasks for a greater involvement with ministers and churches. There were eleven churches receiving financial subsidies from the Department.
It is interesting to note that in the years I was associated with the Youth Department its name changed to Department of Christian Education. This was a development of the sixties, and South Australia was the last State to make the change. In every other State the change created some problems by way of debate in State Conference. There was obviously a reluctance to change the name because the title "Youth Department" held for many people some happy memories and for other people their was a fear that perhaps the new Department would not be as committed to young people as it had been. By way of compromise several States had to combine both "Youth" and "Christian Education" in their title. In South Australia we had no problem when we finally presented the motion for a change of name to Conference. I am sure this was because I had for years used the term "Christian Education" and people became so used to hearing it the move for a change of name was readily carried. There were two lessons for me. One was that even simple things like a name are important to people because of what they represent. And two, if we are doing what we were set aside to do and we take time to introduce a new idea or concept to people and not force change, people will adapt, or more important, even embrace a new concept. If there had been a bit more of this in the late sixties and early seventies when the Church when there was so much theological ferment and evaluation of long held traditions, I suspect the Church would have come through the period with less scars.
Home Missions opened up different dimension of ministry for me. Apart from the Home Mission churches and the locating and planting of new churches, the other churches looked to the Department for help with their programmes. Eric Hollard had conducted mission programmes in some of the churches and his PR work in raising over and above support from individuals in various congregations was a significant factor in the planting of new congregations in the fifties and sixties.
While I preached in these churches I did not run missions as such, but developed two other programmes. Church Life Conferences in which a congregation brought together its leaders and key people evaluate their programme, discover their opportunities for mission and develop mission goals and a strategy for achieving these goals. These were well received in some cases were the springboard for a move forward into more effective ministry.
The other programme was Planned Giving programmes (Stewardship) and this while eventually most effective in the churches that conducted a programme did not come easy for some churches. There was a feeling about that South Australian churches "wouldn't have a bar of signing pledges." In part I suspect it was a re-action to the success of these programmes in Victorian churches. Finally desperation drove some churches to having a programme.
Several churches had an evaluation of their giving pattern and found that approx. one third of the congregation were giving about eighty per cent of the offering. Others were just not meeting budget. The first programme was with the church at Colonel Light Gardens. On the eve of this programme Bob Allan of the Hindmarsh Church while cleaning out some cupboards came across two ledgers that recorded the offerings of the Church for the period 1880's to about 1913. These ledgers listed the name of each member, the number of their envelope and the amount of their giving for each week. When I used this information to support the Planned Giving programme there were people who suddenly remembered that in a number of our older established churches did this very thing. The most important lessons were that it was not the size of an offering that counted but rather that giving was taken serious and it was both regular and systematic. Colonel Light Gardens programme went very well and was followed a few weeks later by Brighton Gardens with their Ministry, Kevin Harvey conducting the programme. Kevin had been conducting these programmes as a Field Worker with the Victorian Home Missions Department prior to coming to Brighton. Other churches followed, Maylands and Christies Beach and Murray Bridge. Some of the lifts in giving were as high as sixty per cent and more. In about the third year with Home Missions the newly formed Church at Windsor Gardens (now Modbury) lost its Minister. We felt it most important that we get the right appointment to a new ministry to take this Church forward. So, for twelve months I undertook a part time ministry with the Church. For this period some of my special programming with other churches was reduced. After a day at the Centre I would go out several nights a week to visit new contacts and people moving into the area from other of our churches. Tea Tree Gully and Holden Hill, Redwood Park and Modbury were all in the early stages of development. I often found myself sitting in the car and with the aid of a Street Directory and torch trying to find a house in newly formed streets. Towards the end of the year we were able to announce that Reg Brand (then at Albert Park) had accepted the call to Windsor Gardens. We built a house with a large room, separated from the rest of the house by a carport. This house was in Tea Tree Gully and the large room was to be used for Church meetings. Ultimately we felt that a new Church would be established out in that area. This was not to be because some few years the Chapel at Windsor Gardens was sold to an Italian Club and the location of the new Church was Modbury. I was deeply involved in various Conference Departments and Committees. When the World Convention came to Adelaide I was their Chairman of the Programme Committee. This was a big event for Adelaide. Centennial Hall and the Motor Pavilion at Wayville were the only buildings large enough to accommodate the meetings. Part of my role meant I shepherded some of our key speakers who had interviews on the ABC to their appointments. Among these were Garfield Todd who had been Prime Minister of Rhodesia and Phillip Potter of the World Council of Churches. The programme was most demanding and it was impossible to get Garfield Todd from his ABC appointment to a Rally in the evening and have an evening meal so we settled for Kentucky Fried in the car park.
On the opening night of the Convention at the Apollo Stadium I found myself with Herbert Davies the ABC Director of Religious Broadcasting in the ABC van where all the cameras were monitored. The guest speaker that night was Dr Raymond McAllister (USA) and the programme had to run to time. The speaker was having some difficulty accepting this ruling. During the address he diverted from the script he had given the ABC. I remember the Director in frustration throwing the manuscript in the air with the words "Good God! Where is he?" The delayed broadcast that night on the ABC went over very well.
The sixties and early seventies found me taking part in a number of TV presentations. Maurice Coombs (one of our Ministers) had become the Director of the Christian Television Association (CTA) and apart from the Epilogue that closed the days broadcasting I appeared in a number of half-hour presentations. One of these was "This Matter is Urgent". The setting was a court room and the subject of each presentation was one of the major issues the Church of the day was struggling with. In these presentations the regular participants were Robyn Millhouse (now a SA Justice of the Court) and John Temple, a major presenter on ABC programmes. The Church in the first ten or so years of its existence received very generous free to air exposure, including half hour programmes and epilogues. The move to the commercial type 30-second spots did not come until late in the sixties. This was partly because of the difficulty of maintaining adequate standards and the loss of Howell Witt (Anglican) and Maurice Coombs to the State.
In 1970 and 1971 I was invited by the New Zealand Churches to conduct a number of programmes over two three week visits. I conducted Church Life Conferences in churches like Lower Hutt, Redwood, Levin and Christchurch and a number of single sessions with a number of other churches. I was also the guest lecturer at the NZ Ministers Annual Retreat spread over three days and held in Marton.
I attended the Conference at Wanganui and this followed a programme I had conducted in Auckland. To get from Auckland to Wanganui I accepted a ride with Wally Harford the Home Missions Director of NZ. He was taking delivery of an MG car for his son in Wellington. I can remember clearly that trip across the Waikato plains and then down the twisting road from Taupo to Wanganui. In that little car we seemed to be flying. At one point Wally shouted to me "Keith that's the ton!" We were doing 100 mph or about 133 kph. I arrived in Wanganui with the beginnings of flu and some carsickness. My host never let Wally forget what he had done to this Australian visitor. Wally and I remained good friends and in him NZ had a man able to give the churches strong leadership in a period when it was desperately needed.
I was also part of a national consultation with six representatives from each State who attended a Conference over three or four days at Woolwich College (Sydney). The Conference was to try and put together a statement of faith and practice for churches of Christ. It was eventually published under the title "Things Most Surely Believed". The sadness of that Conference was that we found the differences in theological interpretation between some of the States was so great that we found ourselves "bogged down" on some aspects of interpretation that meant that the final document never really accomplished what had been hoped. I felt that it was a lesson for us all and clearly showed that for churches of Christ the strength of our movement is to be found in a unity with diversity. The slogan of our early Church fathers that said "In things essential unity; in things nonessential liberty; in all things charity (love)" is something we need to heed in every generation and to try and move beyond this is to create the same kind of divisions that have dogged the whole Church over the years of its history. In the nearly fifteen years I had been with the two Department I had become deeply involved in the Council of Christian Education and built a very good working relationship with the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches prior to their union in the 1970's. I served for many years as Secretary and some time as President. Early in the 1970's my term as Home Missions Director was coming up for review and the Committee was expecting that I would accept another term. It was then that I received a phone call from Clive Ward the Chairman of the Doncaster Church Board. He asked if I would be prepared to talk with the Elders and Board Executive about a possible ministry with the Doncaster Church. Over the years I had received invitations from a number of churches, including Blackburn (V), North Essendon (V) and Ann Street City Church (Brisbane) But on each occasion I had declined the invitation . This time I felt I needed to seriously consider the invitation. Although I was very happy in the appointment with the Home Missions Department I was also aware of the fact that I would soon have served fifteen years in the Departments of Christian Education and Home Missions. I was aware that some ministers had stayed on too long in an appointment and although I did not feel that the time had arrived, I felt the next decision was going to determine the style of my future ministry. I was also feeling that Gerald Rose needed to have the freedom to develop his programme with the Christian Education Department and not be inhibited by me, or the previous style of programming.
This was no big deal because Gerald and I were very good friends. The major reason for me considering a change in ministry was that I was heading towards fifty years of age and even though my years with the Departments had been well received and had been both personally satisfying and most effective, my heart was really in pastoral ministry. The time was right for me to seriously consider the invitation to talk with the Doncaster Elders and Board Executive. I was impressed by these men as they outlined to me the things that for them were non negotiable i. e. the Church was ecumenical and committed to having a membership that included Christians in Fellowship; Planned Giving as its approach to stewardship; a minister who would be involved in the community add help the Church develop its community programme. They also wanted a minister for whom the pulpit ministry, worship life of the Church and pastoral care of members was a priority. They were open and frank and expected me to spell out my approach to ministry, and how I would lead the Church into the next decade when the Doncaster/Templestowe area was expected to explode in population and development. I was more than happy with the meeting and returned to Adelaide to share my feelings with Gwen. Finally, the negotiations led to an invitation being extended to me to minister with the Doncaster Church. I had indicated that I would not be available for twelve months after their current minister (Joe Shaw) concluded his ministry. They were prepared to accept this condition and for that twelve months period Alf White and Claude Candy, a retired minister, carried the Church through the interim ministry. Joe Shaw had been nine years with the Church and it had been a popular ministry. The twelve months with Alf White and Claude Candy was well received and the Church had a very happy year. During that twelve months I returned to Doncaster on two occasions. One with Gwen to meet the Board and Elders and other key people. The other to attend a weekend Conference with the Board and Elders at the "Bikini Motel" in Healesville. The Conference was to make it possible for me to present a philosophy of ministry, Church growth and development. It went very well and there is no doubt that it helped my ministry get away to a smooth start because the Board and Elders were already aware of the direction my ministry would take them.
The other problem for us was that the move to Melbourne would mean that both Graham and Ian had to be considered. Graham was one year off completing his Course at the Adelaide Teachers College and University. Ian would be completing Year 12 and his matriculation and be ready to move in to further study or the work force. Both the boys were more than helpful. Graham was happy about sharing a house with a group of other students in North Adelaide and after that he knew he would have an appointment somewhere in a country centre. For Ian it was not so easy. He had built a network of special friends and it would mean breaking the bond with them. But he went along with the decision and went to Melbourne with us. He was also holding a motorbike license in South Australia where you only had to be sixteen years of age have a license. In Victoria it was eighteen years of age. That is a most important issue for a teenager. He went to Melbourne for an interview with the ANZ Bank and was offered a position with the Bank when he came to Melbourne. The Department were very gracious about my decision to conclude my ministry, although very disappointed. The fact that I had eighteen months with them before I left for Melbourne made it somewhat easier. The negotiations for my successor led to the appointment of Ted Heard, then in a ministry at Mitcham (V).
My last year with the Department was hectic because I was determined to leave everything in good order. There were all sorts of "loose ends" to be tied off because of my association with so many Conference and inter-Church activities. But it all came together and our farewell from South Australia was held in Grote Street Church late in 1971. We were leaving some wonderful friends in South Australia. Our boys although born in Queensland saw themselves as South Australians and had grown up in South Australia. For us all it was the end of fifteen very happy years in South Australia.
Looking back over the fifteen years of ministry in South Australia there is no doubt they were the "golden years". They were the days of rapid growth and economic stability; the baby boom had spawned the tremendous growth in youth ministry; and the housing boom had contributed in no small way to the building of new churches in these new areas. It was also the period preceding the cultural revolution of the seventies and the upheaval that flowed through into the life of the community and the Church. While these factors are important, the other factor was leadership. Not just in the Departments but also in the local church. Ministers in general had a sense of "calling" that led to something of "here I stand I can do no other" stance. Colleges seemed to emphasize the point that if you could be happier in another occupation, do not enter the ministry. That stands in stark contrast to the not infrequent word you hear from students when asked "Why are you in College?" and they reply "Well I am hoping I will find God's will and way for me." Colleges attracted a high percentage of men to train for ministry who would have carved for themselves outstanding careers in the secular world. In the last twenty years I suspect this figure has diminished as more and more of our talented laity choose to stay in secular employment and support the Church as laymen rather than choose ministry. South Australia was also blessed with a group of Department leaders who became a team. Jack Chivell, Eric Hollard, Albert Jones and myself were all very different personalities, yet in four very different departments, but we were also became good friends. While we worked hard to raise support for our departments, we travelled together and we stood together in the Country Conferences and other significant Church gatherings.
When I left South Australia at the beginning of 1972, Eric Hollard had accepted a ministry in the USA at Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jack Chivell and Albert Jones were only a few years off retirement. The changes that were sweeping through the Church and the Community were also being reflected in the leadership of the Conference Departments. Ted Heard, Gerald Rose, Ed Roffey and later Colin Dredge were the new leaders.
The Manse at Doncaster was right next door to the Church. It was the first house we had ever lived in that had been planned as a Manse. We had lived in three houses in South Australia and while we loved the pretty colonial style home we left it had never been built to house a Minister. My study was in fact the Office at the Conference Centre. This house was large and had three bedrooms and a study.
It had a delightful view over the suburbs of Box Hill and Canterbury. It was to be our home for the next thirteen years.
Doncaster Church had been established in 1863. With the Anglican and Lutheran Churches it was one of the original three churches. From the very first years it had never been without a full-time ministry. Doncaster and Templestowe with its apple and pear orchards had been from the very beginning the "fruit bowl" of Melbourne. In the 1960's the orchards were giving away to suburban development and in the period from the late 1960's to the early 1980's at various times Doncaster/Templestowe was the fastest growing development in Australia. Westfield also established a regional shopping centre on a prime location known as White's Corner. The Church already had a large number of people in fellowship who had been active members of other churches. More and more over the years we found people who were "shopping around" for a new Church home settling for the Doncaster Church of Christ. The auxiliaries of the Church were varied and active. With my background in Christian Education I found this most exciting. I took on an intensive visitation programme soon after my arrival and sought to get to know the local community. There were several factors that opened doors for me to broaden the Church's ministry in the community. One was the fact that the "old Doncaster" had always had a commitment to community programmes and our Church paper often carried the announcement of a Morning Tea or a Street Stall being conducted on behalf of Red Cross or Children's Hospital or the Box Hill Hospital. Many of the key members of the Church all through their lives had been actively involved in these groups; Second, the churches of the area as a community service in co-operation with the City Council had commenced a Community counselling Centre. While it operated independently of the churches, it had the full support of the churches. I was expected to attend its Board Meeting and in third year became the Chairman of "Doncare". In my second year the Catholic priest Father Brian McCormack with whom I had built a friendship asked me to consider membership with the Doncaster Rotary Club and this was to be the beginning of an involvement in a diversity of community activities.
In my second year of Ministry the Board and Elders held a Board Planning Conference at a small centre in Warburton. This was to be the "spring board" for what was to follow. I led the Conference and built the programme around the Church Life Programmes I had conducted many years. I had been involved in many Conferences and two of them stand out from all others because the outcome was vital to future ministry. One was at Wellington (New Zealand) where the Chapel was burned to the ground two weeks before my arrival. The Church was meeting in the Methodist building and both churches were situated in a part of South Wellington that had undergone tremendous social change and the traditional approach of the years would never meet the need of the community. They had literally to face the choice of building again on the insurance payout, or negotiating with the Methodist Church for a more realistic and effective ministry style.
The second, was this Conference at Doncaster. My style and approach had captured the imagination of the Doncaster Church. Several older members on the Board like John Berry and Murray McNicol and Clive Ward, as well as younger men like, John Bailley and Ralph Lee and Don Mansell and Bob Evans were all people who had come to the area in the previous ten years. Men like Rus Tully, Bob Rogerson, Bob Nelson and Bunt Tully had been in the district all their lives. There was unity in the group and they were forward looking and courageous.
The outcome was most exciting.
Over the next three years we would add a second minister to the team, organize some office support for the minister to free me for more important ministry tasks, build an office and administration centre in the Church complex, and send me overseas to the USA to research development in team ministries, programming for large churches, community service and effective Church programming. This was a most exciting outcome and the beginning of significant change for the Church.
It moved from being a large church in a rural area to an urban Church with a commitment to mission and growth. That year Audrey Hale who worked at LaTrobe University gave me part time typing support in a voluntary role.
Twelve months later Dale Trompf who had been a secretary in the Main Roads Commission took a half time appointment in the next twelve months; three offices, a small store room and enlarged foyer with an off the street entrance were built; Owen Clark joined the ministry team and Claude Candy a retired minister continued to give one or two days a week in pastoral work; in 1976 Gwen and I went overseas. In the USA I visited more than thirty churches and centres.
These included Ray Stedman's Church at Palo Alto, Robert Schuller's Church in Garden Grove, Church of the Saviour Washington and some time with Gordon Cosby and Elizabeth O'Connor, Maurice Coombs (ex Australian) and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Philadelphia, First Baptist Church Tulsa, Norman Vincent Peal's Church in New York, plus a wide range of our own churches in Honolulu, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky and Washington There were a number of centres like the Inman Centre, Dallas Community Care Centre and others I was able to visit. Included was a morning with Dr Marvin Judi at Southern Methodist University. Dr Judi was acknowledged as the "authority" on team ministries. Most of these had been planned before I left Australia. Many others grew out of contacts I had made and were a result of the support and encouragement I received from ministers right across the USA. Because it was cheaper to fly on around the world instead of backtracking the way we had come, we took a short holiday in Scotland and England, Rome and Singapore. Singapore was "cream on the cake", The visit over five days had been arranged by Chinese members of the Doncaster Church. The Christian Church in Singapore was alive and well and the time I spent in the Youth For Christ Office was most rewarding.
Doncaster had a minister really "fired up" when he came back home and the generosity of the church was more than rewarded in the Years that followed.
Over the years I had three ministers working with me, Owen Clark, Keith Farmer and later Greg Shaw. The office staff was expanded to two workers with Dot Wood-Burgess coming on staff as the Church Administrator and Dale Trompf as Secretary. Later when Dale left Joy Bangsund-Warren joined the staff. We also had at least one, sometimes two and three students from the College doing Field Training at Doncaster. When I arrived back from the USA I found the Church Board had said "yes" to me being President of the Victorian Conference. During the year I had as President they employed Gordon Stirling to give some supporting ministry, particularly in the pulpit. I made a condition of my becoming President a limit to one Sunday away each month and the Executive of Conference to choose the place they felt would be the most effective use of my time.
It never really stuck to this, because there was also specials that come up in a president's role that we should accept. When I had been President in South Australia it was much less demanding because I was already filling a Department appointment and being President of Conference was simply putting on another hat when I went to a church.
A most important development in Doncaster was the time an Asian couple attended a service. I visited Woo Sin and Quan Mee Ang and these lovely people, both Dentists, from Singapore were the beginning of the growth of the Asian group in the Doncaster Church. Later Robert and Ann Teh arrived, Robert another Dentist. Then others like Robert and Robyn Lau (a Solicitor) Leong Sen Yap and Bonnie (another Dentist) When I some years later there were over forty Asians in the Church, all of them professionals who had made their home in Australia. They enriched the life of the Church tremendously and later filled many offices in the Church with distinction. Some of these people will be among the deepest of friendships I have ever experienced.
The Community side of my ministry had also developed and as a result of an approach from the Doncaster City Council and Rotary I agreed to head up a committee to establish a youth programme that the community would readily accept. This led to the establishment of the YMCA in Doncaster and for ten years I was the Chairman of the Committee. Doncaster YMCA was under the umbrella of the Melbourne YMCA and one Sunday night I had a phone call to warn me that the press next morning would carry a story about the YMCA being bankrupted. This overnight also bankrupted the Doncaster YMCA. We had a full time worker employed and had just received an annual grant from Council to cover her salary.
I went to the Town Clerk that morning and as testimony of the image the YMCA had and the confidence the Council had in myself received that afternoon another cheque to cover the salary of our worker. I worked with a businessman and friend of Rotary (John Carmen) to bring about a name change and establish a new identity. This meant that we could continue our extensive programming. I also found myself submitting tenders to buy back the equipment we had lost. It all worked out and was a very different experience for me. Later the YMCA was to make me a life member.
The Council also invited me to be a member of a Board to establish an Aged Care Hospital, and I found myself with the portfolio of developing an admission policy.
I believe in one of the discussions at Council when seeking somebody to head up a programme they were looking for a "Mr. Doncaster" and it was felt that the Church of Christ Minister would fill that role. I felt this was something that reflected on the image the Doncaster Church had come to fill in its community.
Doncaster's property was extensive and although well used it still had vacant rooms on some nights of the week. Over the years we became home base to Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon, Natural Child Birth Association, Meister Singers (boys choir) and several other community groups. This also enhanced the image of the Church.
Another significant development was associated with Christmas and a programme we called "Christmas in the Gardens". Doncaster had just developed a municipal garden with the purchase of what had previously been orchards. The programme was outdoor and involved considerable transport of lighting, sound and other equipment. While we controlled and arranged the programme we presented it on behalf of the Christian Churches in Doncaster. From my experience I have found that whenever you attempt to do something on an ecumenical basis and established an ecumenical committee the logistical problems multiply. We featured quality artists and had a compere with a high TV profile and made it a family programme. It was a great success and gained the support of the other churches. Attendances were around the 2000 people.
My counselling ministry was increasing all the time and people came to the Church office or I met them in other settings. Many of these people were not only non-Church members, there was a significant number of high profile citizens.
I made confidentiality a condition of this ministry and the people and their problems were never reported. But it was a ministry that once again enhanced the image of the Church in the city.
All through my years at Doncaster I maintained my personal commitment to the pastoral care of my people. Because of the growth of the Church and the demands of pastoral visitation I recruited a team of people to work with me. After some basic training sessions we conducted a monthly training programme in which a wide variety of subjects were covered. Aged Dementia, hospital visitation, alcoholism, depression and many others. The input was usually given by a professional caregiver in these fields. Not only did it prove to be an effective training experience, it also had significant educational benefit. The secret of the programme's success in no small part was in the choice of Marj Rogerson to be the co-ordinator of the volunteers, Marj was not only an Elder but also one of the truly loved and respected members of the Church. Marj met with me each Monday and through her I was able to channel those people who needed support but not necessarily Minister support. The programme has continued and developed over the years and Marj has only retired from the leadership role this year (1997).
I also undertook various courses to develop my own skills. One of the most significant was a twelve months course for ministers sponsored by Ormond College with Dr Graeme Griffin as the leader.
The College of the Bible decided to develop a more effective Field Training Programme for third year students. Doncaster was invited to become what the Uniting Church called a Teaching Parish. I was asked to undertake a course with Ormond College for Supervising Ministers and I found myself enrolled in a Course involving 24 ministers (UCA and Anglican) and one Church of Christ Minister--me! Dr Doug Fullarton led the group over two terms and at the end I was accredited by the MCD as a Supervising Minister. John Gilmore was our student and with me the "guinea pig" that year. John was a first class student And continued with us at Doncaster for two years.
On the ecumenical scene I was invited by the Anglican Church to take a morning session at the Annual Retreat for Ministers. The subject was "Pastoral Care and the Preaching Ministry". About 130 priests attended and as a result Bishop Standing asked me to repeat the session with the Ordination Students from both the Anglican Colleges. I found out that the original invitation to present the session came from an Anglican Minister in the Templestowe area. In introducing me he said "Keith Horne is the Minister of the Doncaster Church of Christ, the church I wish our churches were like."
Ed Koch the Pastor of the Lutheran Church at Doncaster invited me to take a session on "Church Growth in the Local Congregation". This was for the Lutheran Churches in the Melbourne area and held in Lutheran Centre just off St Kilda Road in the City.
We were developing and image for pastoral ministry and community service at Doncaster and I presented several sessions at the College. Another presentation on this subject was in the Conference on Church Leadership sponsored by Gordon Moyes at Cheltenham.
Earlier in my ministry I had came up with a new logo for the Doncaster Church letter head, and coined a slogan for the Church--"A Church in the heart of the City, with the City on its heart".
Possibly we were never more effective as Church during my thirteen years at Doncaster than the three years when I had Keith Farmer with me in the ministry team. Keith was part time with the Church and part time with the College. We were good friends and completely at ease with each other. He was not only a fine preacher, he was also an excellent pastor and counsellor and an accredited clinical psychologist. Keith gained his Doctorate with Fuller College (USA) during that time and built his thesis around the Doncaster model of ministry. When the death of Rex Ellis (NSW College) took Keith from us to Woolwich College it was a great loss to me, but as history has shown, a good thing for the New South Wales College and the Australian churches.
I had become involved in the Guidance Group, a weekly meeting with the graduate year students at the College. We met off Campus in the Hartwell Church each Thursday morning. I was involved in this session for four years. One year Keith Bowes and I worked together, and for two years it was Ron Elbourne, and then another year with Ian Corlett. The purpose was to expose the final year students to some of the issues they were likely to face in the pastoral ministry and encourage discussion and feed back in a setting that was less inhibiting at the College.
When Bill Tabbernee became the Principal of the College I was invited to become a member of the College Board. I found myself on a sub-group that each year evaluated second year students before they were accepted into the ministry stream and third year students before they were accepted for the ordination year. I thoroughly enjoyed this involvement with the College.
I was extremely happy in my ministry at Doncaster, but it was not a ministry without the usual problems and conflict that occur in all churches. When a Church is as large as Doncaster was and with large auxiliaries and a diversity of membership that reflected the old Doncaster and the new comers, plus some strong personalities, it is only natural there will be some conflict potential to create division and hurt. By nature I am a born rescuer and more often than not I move into situations before they reach crisis proportions. This sort of ministry style can be emotionally and physically demanding. Yet, I truly believe that this is the "shepherd role" in pastoral care and leadership.
Over the years of its history Doncaster had moved through some remarkable changes in style an outlook. For the first fifty years it never used an organ in the morning service and the congregation and the choir took its note from a little flute-like instrument that could sound the note required; it had also been a "one cup" Church at communion. I was cleaning out a cupboard at the Church early in my ministry and came across a black velvet bag that contained the original silver chalice used by the Church at communion. I took it home and polished it and it took pride of place on the communion table for the years of my ministry at Doncaster. There were other things, but over the years the Church moved through changes without division because those for change were patient enough and caring enough to move slowly.
In my second year of ministry a group of younger Board members moved for the inclusion of women in the leadership of the morning service. This was strongly resisted and had the potential for serious division on the Board. After some discussion I managed to have the matter deferred for a few months and then a more structured proposition presented. This "few months" went on for more than a year and in that period a lady by the name of Jean Milne came into membership.
Jean was the head of the Radio Therapy Department of the Peter McCallum Cancer Clinic and had a high profile in the Victorian churches. At a Board meeting planning a special service around Mother's Day I suggested that for the occasion we ask Jean to Preside. A kind of "one off" appointment. Jean had won the hearts of many people in the Church and the Board accepted the proposal. Jean did a magnificent job and the response of the congregation was overwhelming support for the decision of the Board. After that, women were added to the plan to read, serve and preside at communion. It is interesting that in years later by accident and not design some changes of the roster found that I was the only male on the platform one morning. We had four serving and two readers and a President, all women. This underlined for me the folly of pushing changes through regardless of the cost, as against working for and waiting for the time when nothing can stop an idea whose time has come!
Gwen and I loved Melbourne. I never had what was called a rostered day off.
We usually went into the city on Friday afternoons. I would do any hospital visits needed and then meet Gwen to window shop and have a meal in town. Saturdays were days when I mowed the lawn and tidied the garden.
More often than not Saturday nights usually had some group meeting that I attended. Singles, Prime Time, Inter Church Dinner a wedding reception or working bee. I used Saturday for the final working over of the sermons for Sunday. It has always been my contention that ministers often expect their key lay leaders, many holding demanding jobs, to give hours to the Church by way of leadership and support of programmes all over and above the demands of their work and family life, and yet demand "their day off". I took a day out when it suited me or we felt the need every now and then. Public holidays usually saw us going away for the day to Maldon or Mornington Peninsular or to Williamstown or St Kilda. We enjoyed these immensely and we rarely programmed anything at the Church on these days.
Ian had settled into Melbourne. He did not take the job in the Bank because he did not feel any excitement about it. Instead he went looking at other possibilities and finally settled for an apprenticeship in the motor trade. This was with a small garage at Heidelberg near the Repatriation Hospital. It had more than its share of work on a wide variety of cars owned by doctors at the hospital. He later took over the workshop on the conclusion of his apprenticeship and when the head mechanic left to go to work with the RAAV. He purchased a new Honda 450 motor bike and later upgraded that. Ian was popular with all his age group at the Church and often they would meet in our garage under the house. He would tell us he had been counselling somebody down stairs. A group of the boys formed their own motor bike club and our quiet son was obviously the leader. But Ian's heart was not in Melbourne and one day with Bob Standing they took off to go around Australia.
But they never went further than Adelaide. He went further in the motor trade and became service manager at City Mazda. He met a Lyndsay Sutcliffe a ballet teacher from England out here for twelve months teaching. Romance blossomed and some years later they married. He also undertook a project with the Government and Automotive Chamber of Commerce to structure a new apprenticeship programme. It was a pilot scheme and highly successful. He was then asked to the same thing with hospitality industry and the training of chefs and again this was successful.
He went back to doing some study through TAFE and finally has moved far off in another direction and holds an administrative position in the Hotels and Hospitality Industry. Both our boys were now in Adelaide and Gwen and I were in Melbourne. Christmas was a great time when they were home and especially when they brought Lyndsay and Meredith with them. We have always given our sons freedom to choose their directions in life and although we missed them, the bonds were still close and we knew we had their love and support and they had ours. We have been tremendously proud of both our sons, not only because of their achievements, but more especially the degree of integrity and commitment and respect for other people they have exhibited in their chosen careers. Graham had started out as a High School Teacher and his career change came at age twenty-eight when he took twelve months leave of absence and did some work with the advertising industry. He never went back into teaching but resigned to pursue a career in advertising. He has worked for multi nationals and is currently a Director in his own business.
When I first arrived at Doncaster the Church had provided some short time ministry support in the appointment of Claude Candy a retired minister and Geoff Wilcott a graduate from the COB. Geoff met with me over breakfast each week and worked with the teenage group of the Church. Claude met with me for morning tea each week and worked with the aged members of the Church. Both appointments were one to two day appointments. Geoff had gone back into his occupation as in a curtain business on his graduation and had not sought a Church appointment. Owen Clark was the first full time appointment and he included the youth group in his workload. With Marion he was with us for about four years. Keith Farmer came to the Church in a shared ministry with the College. The Church purchased another house near the Church for Keith and Margaret and their family. After three years Keith went to NSW to become the Principal of the NSW College. The next appointment was Greg Shaw and he and Jenny moved into a house nearer the Church that had been the home of Rus and Eun Tully. Rus was an Elder of the Church. The other house was sold to make this purchase possible. Geoff Whiting and Gordon Stirling worked with me in a part time basis, Gordon was primarily a pulpit ministry to cover my Presidential year, and Geoff's appointment was half time and involved pastoral support. We always had a student from the College and one year we had three. Two of these students, John Gilmore and Bev Maxwell were outstanding and gave a valuable ministry beyond what was expected of students in training. What we were doing was to me an indication that multiple staff ministry can be served by both full-time and part time appointments. To have two or more people filling a specialist role is often more effective than expecting that just because a person has been trained for ministry they are skilled in all areas of ministry.
I also became committed to the policy of churches providing adequate job descriptions for all staff, including the senior minister or "team leader" and the part time appointments.
We had a number of situations arise at Doncaster where I found myself performing tasks that do not usually involve the Minister. One of these was when Westfield Shopping Centre went into a major, multi-million dollar development that included a plan to widen by extra lanes the road in front of the Chapel. This would have caused tremendous problems in terms of noise levels and a diminishing of the existing space between the Church and the road. It was a totally preposterous situation and had the support of the City Council. I undertook the task of fighting this on behalf of the Church and found myself involved for three days in a tribunal chaired my Mr. Opus QC. Westfields had a QC and other legal support people. The Council also was legally represented. The Church and the school also affected were represented by laymen. I was not sure of the outcome over the first two days and was arguing strongly the point that the Church had served its community in that location since 1863 and it was committed to providing a service to the City for all people without discrimination. One morning on arrival at the Tribunal I was met by a delegation who offered to purchase land nearby for extra parking if we agreed to the widening of the road. This was not the point at issue and I declined the offer. On the third day I felt we had a solid case when Mr. Opus said, in effect, that the issue was one of music.
Do you prefer the ring of cash registers to the sound of Church bells and that he had not heard any argument to make him want to abandon the Church bells. He had a sense of humour. Later that day he decided in favour of the Church and school. Westfields made other plans and have a magnificent centre there today. But it was a case of David Vs Goliath and David this time was the Church. John Bailley, the Board Chairman attended for a few hours and was full of praise at the next meeting for the way Minister had represented the Church. On another occasion as the Chairman of the Doncare Board I became the spokesman for Doncare where the funding to the organization was going to be cut by the Government. This brought about conflict with the Minister and involved the local press. I found myself referred to without title or prefix in a heading that used words to effect "Horne Challenges Funding Cut". This also worked out for the good of both Doncare and the community and still maintained good relations with the Government.
In writing the story of my ministry at Doncaster I would be remiss if I did not make special reference to the Board of Officers. From the very beginning I was aware that on the Board there was a number of very gifted people who were leaders in their professions and brought this giftedness through to their work on the Board. This is not always the case and very often people do not easily transfer their professional giftedness through to their work in the Church. It is almost as if the giftedness and skills of the secular world are not for use in the mission of the local church. This was not the case at Doncaster, they were supportive of initiatives that would take the Church forward and while they freely raised issues and discussed propositions at depth, they certainly were did not see themselves as "keepers of the status quo."
I learned very early in my ministry that they would respond positively to good programming and if what you did had been thought through and was done well they were open to change. While they would not support extravagance they gave total support to a variety of programmes that enhanced the work and image of the Church. This spirit found expression in such things as generous financial support of the initiative to bring Dr David Read of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church to Australia for the first "Bader Memorial Lectures" and groups such as a Maori Mission Group, "The Cousins" and similar groups, and while the reason these groups came was associated with a Conference Programme, Doncaster Church was able to use these groups in its Sunday Services. Another expression of this openness was the generous way they allowed various groups to use parts of the property for their programmes. If the group contributed to the good of the community and was a non profit group they were welcome. Sometimes this meant that on certain nights of the week there were as many six or seven groups operating within the property at the one time. i. e. Church groups included.
I am sure that it was the support of the Board that drew the best out of me and contributed significantly to the wider programming of the Church. I will always be grateful for a core of men and women who helped me help the Church to see beyond itself to the community at large.
The Elders were four in number and were an older group than the Board. They had a sense of churchmanship and maturity that reflected years of both church and life experience. Three of them had held key positions in other churches before coming to Doncaster. They were Murray McNicol, John Berry and Joe Cutler. The fourth was Russ Tully who had been in the Doncaster Church all his life. John Berry was also Secretary of the Church. The Elders were responsible for the spiritual, pastoral and worship life of the Church. The meetings were usually at the Manse and I was responsible for the agenda. The meetings were relaxed and open and each of these men brought genuine warmth and openness and care for people to the meetings. I never went home to a sleepless night after and Elders Meeting.
Early in my ministry the Board established a Functional Church Programme. This meant several Board members carried a portfolio for some aspect of the church's life and recruited other members of the church to serve on the committee. It was a most effective program.
When I was in my tenth year of ministry (1981) I was invited to accept a seven-year re-engagement. This would bring me through to sixty-five years of age. I accepted the invitation because I felt I was still in good health and able to give the leadership the Church still needed. Gwen and I were both enjoying good health. Gwen had to be careful with some respiratory problems that had dogged her all her life. I had a back problem that meant I needed to work on it and care about it. I was involved in a solid early morning swimming programme at the local swimming pool, indoor and heated at 6.30am. Then a three-day a week programme with the local gymnasium.
I had some early indications of a cardiac problem but this was being successfully controlled. Then over a period of three years I had a Gall Bladder operation, and spent almost three weeks in an orthopedic hospital. This involved ten days of traction and an epidural injection. I came home by ambulance with the specialist believing I would be back in a few days for surgery. I was not allowed to sit down for six weeks. I could stand or lie down but not sit down. I was finding it difficult to move and I was confined to home and people and their problems were forbidden. The Elders were splendid, John Berry was appointed to liaise with Gwen about any support we needed. To set the mind of the Church and the Board at ease, because some thought the illness had more sinister overtones, Gwen went to the Board meeting a few days after I came home. She went with a prepared statement. It spelled out the situation and put the mind of people at ease. I have attached in the appendices a copy of this statement. One week before my return to the pulpit I made a brief appearance at the morning service. When I came onto the platform from the vestry I was greeted with overwhelming applause. If ever I needed any affirmation of their love and support the congregation gave it loud and clear that day. Doncaster relaxed under my ministry and while it still maintained the capacity to do things well, it was a free and happy congregation. One Sunday morning in the address I had used a cartoon that depicted a minister being chaired shoulder high from the church surrounded by sparkling parishioners in a state of celebration and the caption underneath that said
"Wow he must have said something this morning that made them happy".
I had forgotten all about it until the next Sunday morning when I had pronounced the benediction, four or five men came to the platform and grabbed me and carried me shoulder high from the Church to face a battery of cameras. It said something about the freedom and the openness and warmth that had become the Church at Doncaster.
I made two trips to Adelaide to conduct the weddings of Graham and Meredith and later Ian and Lyndsay. Both were in lovely outdoor settings. Graham's in the gardens of Meredith's parents and Ian and Lyndsay's in the courtyard of Graham's terraced home. Two days before Ian and Lyndsay's wedding I had a massive kidney stone attack. Years before I had been troubled with this problem, but I had been free of any attack for six or seven years. I was in hospital for five days. Our good friend Charles Dow stepped in to take the wedding and I went to the wedding in pyjamas and dressing gown and the support of pethedine for about an hour or so.
It was becoming obvious to me that I would have to significantly change the style of ministry. In hospital with the back problem Graham had come over from Adelaide to make a quick visit. Before he left for home he came into see me by himself. He stood at the end of the bed and said in effect, "Dad, Ian and I love you and one day we would like to think that you and mum will have sometime together in that little retirement house. Take care of yourself dad." With that he gave me a hug and was gone. It is really something to get that message from your son, plus the hug. Later the orthopedic surgeon on my last visit to him said, "Mr. Horne you were on the verge of burn out. You must not let your resources get that low again." All of this had preceded a second visit to Adelaide to conduct Ian and Lyndsay's wedding. After I came out of hospital and before returning to Melbourne I went to see the doctor. The result was that I went home with a prescription to help me turn off at night and not take the church to bed with me. The message was getting through as people out of love and concern were telling Gwen, "Keith should slow down." But that is not as easy to do as it sounds.
The potential for growth was still with the Doncaster Church and that very year Barry McMurtrie on a visit to the Church that it could be the Church that achieved a membership of five hundred members.
I knew that and did not need any convincing about the potential for growth and ministry at Doncaster. But to do that it would need more ministry not less.
There was no way I could cut back to what would virtually be a caretaker ministry. So it was that Gwen and I talked it through and I made the decision to ask the Board and Elders to release me four years ahead of the term I had accepted.
This was not an easy decision because we not only enjoyed being in Melbourne, we truly loved being at Doncaster and we had built some very deep and special friendships in the congregation and the community. Over the years I had given my best to the Doncaster and in many ways these years had, in terms of experience and capacity for ministry, been my best years. While I did not intrude into many of the auxiliaries life, I gave the leaders and the groups total support and encouragement.
I went camping with the Young Adults, climbed and slept out in the Cathedral Ranges with a group of problem boys in the Senior Explorer Group, attended family camps, shepherded the non-Church groups like AA through the hidden hassles that you get from some Church members when a Church opens its facilities to the community, and much more. I had been a house-visiting pastor, stood with people through some terrible crisis situations and shared the happy times of weddings, birthdays and other celebrations. I had stood with people through the serious illness of loved ones and the funerals that often followed. Supported "high class" alcoholics through their times of lapse and regression and counselled people in all sorts of marriage and domestic crises. In fact I was totally available to the people of my Church and those many people who we touched in the mission style of the Church. In it all Gwen had supported me, although at times she was concerned about the demands I was making on myself.
Doncaster needed more minister not less minister, and the potential for growth and effective ministry was still there. But it would not be remotely met with less ministry and leadership. The chief concern I was that the Church should have the best leadership and ministry it could. But the issue was more than that and they were very much to do with my obligations to my family and myself. I knew it would not be possible for me to cut back on the load and then stand by and see what could be done but was not being done. To put it crudely I had a number of options. Burn out. Pass out. Rust out. Fade out or last out. Two of these "fading" and "rusting" I dismissed and settled for "lasting out" and this would mean "moving out". So it was that I talked to the Elders and the Board and gave the Church twelve months notice of my intention to conclude my ministry
The Board and the Elders were saddened but very gracious and understanding. Some of my best supporters and friends were among those who said, they were sorry to see us go but felt it was for us the right decision for Gwen and myself.
Not long after that I read the repeat advertisements in the "Australian Christian" of Marion Church seeking an Associate Minister.
I phoned Graham Agnew to sound it out; he would not leave it as just an inquiry.
He was enthusiastic about the idea and amazed that I would consider such a move. I had been in a key leadership position for more than thirty years and I suppose there was a feeling it was useless to try Keith Horne for a ministry, you will never get him. Graham was the kind of person I knew I could work with. We were individuals and yet on the same drum beat and he was also an enthusiast and a hard worker. While the contact had only been made to see if Graham could see any advantages in a person like me coming into a team ministry, he would not leave it there and in the weeks that followed the contact led to me going to Adelaide to meet with the Board. Many of these Board members were in the forty plus age group and had been my campers of years before. They were excited about the possibility of me joining the team. When Marlene Messent asked me, "How will you go after so many years as number one being in the number two role?" I made the off the cuff remark, "Marlene, there comes a time in your life that you have so many notches in your gun butt you do not have to prove who is the fastest gun in the west!"
This produced a lot of laughter but I was serious. I had come to that stage in ministry where I did not have to prove anything anymore. Further to this I saw it as an opportunity to do something I felt was desperately needed and that was to establish some sort of example of how "team ministries" could and should work.
A number of churches in South Australia had experienced real problems with "team ministries". The main issue was the concept of a "Senior Minister" or "Team Leader". I felt that having been in a leader role for so many years and with my observation of team ministries in the USA I could not see this as a problem and saw this as an opportunity to model the Associate Minister role. In fact I insisted that I be called the Associate Minister because there were some in Marion Church who were going to make an issue of the fact and I suspect that there was a hidden agenda in it all. I determined that this would not be an issue and I had no problem at all about the term and insisted that I be called the "Associate Minister". There was a significant part of the year left before I made the move from Doncaster and so my immediate commitment was to make the most of the remaining months at Doncaster. The immediate task for the Doncaster Church was to find another Minister. They had a clear idea of what they wanted but this does not mean that the kind of Minister they were seeking is necessarily available. After some months Ian Allsop, one of the members of the Church, and a high profile figure in the Conference suggested that perhaps they should look beyond the denomination for a replacement. They had three names and the first was not available. The second was Dr Lew Born of the Uniting Church in Queensland. Lew had not long before been the Moderator of the UCA in Queensland and he had also been more than twenty years in the role of the Director of Christian Education. Lew was a high profile minister and one of the most respected men within his denomination. He was interested enough to talk with the Church and finally allowed his name to be put to the Doncaster Church. Doncaster Church as ever was determined to do things the right way and contacted the Synod Office of the UCA and asked them to release Lew Born for a five-year special ministry.
This was not as easy as it sounds and the matter had to be submitted to a meeting of the Assembly (i. e. Conference). They agreed and the Church after a special meeting of members carried the motion to appoint Dr Lew Born as their Minister for a period of five years. Some people were not happy about this and a few left the congregation, but the overwhelming majority were happy with the appointment.
It indicated something of the ecumenical spirit of the Doncaster Church.
During the year the Theological College had relocated and rebuilt at Mulgrave. There was a major fund raising programme to which Doncaster gave in excess of $30,000 and the College used it to cover the cost of a Lecture Room. They named it the "K. D. HORNE ROOM". It was an expression of the love the Congregation had for us both. I was overcome by the gesture. In the last months at Doncaster I accepted an invitation from Walter Dillon the Rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Church to preach at a morning service before left Doncaster. The Sunday chosen was three weeks before the end of my Ministry and I took it as a nice gesture from one of the original churches of the Doncaster/Templestowe area to another. Both had started in the early 1860's. When I arrived at the Service I found it was far more than that. The front page of their Church Paper carried a photo of Gwen and myself. After the Service there was a special morning tea and a presentation of two water paintings. One of the Church of Christ and the other of Holy Trinity Church. It was a gesture by that Church to express their appreciation on behalf of the churches and the community of Doncaster/Templestowe for my thirteen years of ministry. The farewell from Doncaster was on the last Sunday before Christmas.
It was something very special and the Church was overwhelming in its expressions of appreciation of us both. The YMCA had a spot and made me a Life Member. Earlier Rotary had conferred on me the Distinguished Service Award of International Rotary for my work in the community. We were overwhelmed by it all and went home that night not needing, if we ever did need any convincing of the love the Church had for us both. Doncaster had received the best of my years of ministry. I was 47 years of age when I arrived and turning 60 years of age when I left. One of the problems we had to cover before we left was the fact that my wife Gwen was the only one in the Church who knew everybody by name, children included. To cover this we introduced attendance pads that were placed in the pews and marked at each service to assist in the pastoral care of the people. Gwen had a genuine care of people and I relied her memory on many occasions.
Two of the aged men in the community who I visited every now and then, although they very rarely came to Church, in talking to one of the Elders asked, "What in the world was the Church doing to let me go. He really does conduct a good funeral!"
I had a smile over this one.
My final act of ministry at Doncaster was to conduct the wedding of Jenny Drakeford. Jenny had been a CYF member when I arrived and I had promised earlier that year to marry her. A schoolteacher now, she married Kim on my last Saturday in Melbourne. Our furniture had already left for Adelaide and we were staying the last night with Bob and Marj Rogerson our neighbors and very good friends. Next morning we were off to Melbourne and while we were looking forward to Adelaide and family and friends back there we were leaving many dear friends behind us in Doncaster and a great chunk of our hearts stayed behind us.
Our furniture had been delivered and Graham and Ian had placed it in the right rooms. That night we slept in our own home, a lovely new unit in Clovelly Park.
We were back with our family and our first grandchild, Samuel John (Sam).
Marion Church was a new congregation that had grown out of the amalgamation of Ascot Park and Clovelly Park and the good work of Bob Clymer and George Mathieson their ministers who over three years worked to bring them together. Ascot Park and Clovelly Park had been established in the 1950's and were now part of a cluster of churches too close to each other to be really viable. They had sold their buildings and re-located on some land in Mitchell Park, mid way between the two. It was not the sort of suburb new churches are not usually built. It was a regional church, but it was located in Mitchell Park a low income Housing Trust development. It had more than its share of social problems.
The Church had negotiated a clear job description. The areas of my specialization were to be Pastoral Care, Community Service and Small Group Ministries. I would have share the pulpit with Graham Agnew in morning services and 25% of the pulpit on Sunday evenings. It was a delight to work with Graham Agnew he had a degree of giftedness, enthusiasm and people skills that was outstanding. He had only been with the Church about two years having followed a splendid founding ministry of two years by Eric Hollard. From the very start Graham gave me a "very large paddock" in which to work. We worked closely together and I was free to develop the areas of ministry I had been called to as I saw best.
I knew ever so many people in the Church from my earlier ministry and many of the members were ex-campers of those years. I was determined right from the very start that Graham would have my total support and loyalty. I was determined that together we would model a "team ministry" that showed ministry as it was meant to be. Among my first tasks apart from visiting and getting to know the members was to assess the needs of the community. I called on all the welfare and care centres and discussed the needs of the Community with their Directors. One of the most remarkable openings came when I went to the meeting of the Marion Community Forum, a gathering of caregivers in the municipality. It was my first meeting and it was the Annual Meeting.
The chairman that day was Don Sarre the Director of the Community Welfare Department. I knew Don from years before when he was a key youth worker in the Congregational Church Department of Christian Education. I came away from that meeting having been elected as the new Chairman of the Marion Community Forum. It was Don Sarre and a Social worker from the Department of Social Security who suggested to me that the greatest need of the area was to have a Community Centre that could operate without the restrictions that bureaucracy often placed on Government Departments. So it was that the Marion Communion Centre had its beginnings as an idea and then a project. I had gone to the Housing Trust to meet the Manager (Southern Districts) to see if we could "rent, lease, buy or borrow" one of the two SAHT Masonets adjacent to the Church. I did not expect to get the reception I did. Peter Wilson was not only most encouraging he was a man with a heart for the battlers of Mitchell Park. But the time was not right for the move I suggested, but it would come he told me. This coincided with the Church about to sign a contract to extend the office accommodation in its complex. I still did not have an office, not that that mattered at that stage of my ministry. It was then a private house adjacent to the Church came on the market. I put the proposition to the Board with the support of Graham Agnew and we cancelled the plans for an office and bought the house. It was one of the early display homes of a prominent building company.
We moved into the House. The Church caught the vision and with some help from Edwardstown Rotary and a small Council Grant I was able to obtain and a lot of gifts in cask and kind we had our Centre. Just as I had hoped it would be, near to the Church but independent of the Church. This was to minimize the threat the ordinary people feel about coming onto Church properties. Several tradesmen in the Church did some excellent work to install security systems and phones and we were in business. When we opened the building one Sunday Morning we had many of the key care giving organizations and the Council represented at the Service. Barbara Turner from the Clovelly Park Health Centre was most impressed and her advice was "Be sure Keith that you never lose this homely feel about the place. Don't let it become clinical". Not long after that we "inherited" a lovely tabby cat. She became a symbol of the place and was the first expression of warmth and acceptance many people who came to that building had experienced for a very long time. She was with the Centre for about eleven years and when she died the Church paper carried a notice to say that, "Puss had quietly passed away". She became the symbol of the homeliness and total acceptance and warmth that was to become the mark of the Centre. We recruited volunteers for the Centre and with the help of Reg Brand (Social worker) and Roger Dufty (Psychologist) we presented our first Care Givers Course to the twenty-eight volunteers who undertook the course of thirty-six sessions of two and a half hours. This group provided the pool of volunteers we needed to staff the Centre. Reg and Roger and myself conducted that course for another ten years providing training for volunteers of our Church and other denominations
I saw the Centre as a service to the community given on behalf of all the churches. Whenever we received a donation in goods or kind we acknowledged the source of our support. At Christmas time the Christmas Hampers carried a Christmas card and the name of Church or group who had made the gift possible. For this reason we gained the respect and support of churches and Service clubs and the Centre became the major deliverer of emergency relief in the Marion municipality. In 1996 the Centre assisted 3500 clients in its emergency relief programme.
The Centre also presented a counselling programme using the volunteer staff. This was built on the Doncare model of using trained volunteers. I have always believed that caring people with a warm personality, capacity to listen, basic intelligence and some professional back and do a splendid job. Life Line and Marriage Guidance are but two obvious examples of this.
I was now deeply involved in the Marion Rotary Club and found myself speaking to Service Clubs and other organizations around the suburbs. My involvement with The Community Forum continued and I remained chairman for about four years and this further strengthened my contact with other care key givers in the community. A move was made to establish a Marion Legal Advisory Service and I was invited to be part of the founding committee. This programme was established and I stayed with it for about two years as a committee member. My relationship with the DCW led to me being asked to be a member of a team who met about four times a year with social workers to review some of the long term difficult client cases. The Community Centre had a dual role in the Church's programme. It also coordinated the pastoral care programme of the Church and one of the volunteers Beth Brokensha, who was also an elder, performed a task similar to that of Marj Rogerson in the Doncaster Church. We had a different team to the team at the Centre and these workers met monthly for some in-service training and a time of sharing. According to their giftedness and availability they worked in areas of visitation, shopping and transport for those who required it. Beth met with me after each weekly meeting of the Ministry Team and became the liaison with the workers. I have found that for a day programme to be effective it is imperative that the Minister is supportive and appreciative of their efforts and apart from encouraging them he makes himself available to meet with them as needed. They also need to be treated as part of the "ministry" of the Church, and people whose work we do not take for granted.
Graham and I developed not only a close working relationship we became firm friends. I was busy, very busy in fact, but I was no longer the "desk where the buck stops". Statistics and church politics and organization on every other level but those for which I was responsible were Graham's. We talked things over and gave each other total support. When he was about to go to a Senior Minister's Conference he said, "They will want to know how we are getting on." I said, "Tell them we don't care who kicks the goal at Marion as long as the goal is kicked!" Graham and I complimented each other's ministry.
I was busy, as busy as I had been at Doncaster, but I was free of the responsibilities that the "senior minister" carries in a team. Graham of course was just as busy, in fact Graham would be one of the hardest working ministers I have known. The success was the respect we had for each other's giftedness, our openness with each other, and the fact that neither of us was threatened or diminished in any way by the ministry of the other. Privately and in public we affirmed and supported each other's ministry.
We both had a public profile beyond the Marion Church, but we expressed it in different ways. Graham has become a popular speaker and motivator in the secular field and his services have been sought by the commercial and business world as well as service clubs. He also became deeply involved in the Dale Carnegie Institute as a course leader as well as the Robert Schuller Ministries. My wider involvement in the community and the Conference followed similar lines to that of Doncaster. Over the years I was involved in the following groups.
I also formed a close working relationship with the Sisters of St Joseph and worked for two years on their Committee to restructure the Family Care Programme. I was invited by this Catholic Order to become a member of the Board of Management. I declined this simply because I felt they needed somebody much younger than me, now almost seventy, to fill this role. But I did develop for them a publicity pamphlet (with the aid of my eldest son) and I did speak at a number of Service Clubs on their behalf. It was interesting to see the re-action of Club members when I went to address a meeting on behalf of St Joseph's. Here was this "Protestant" who was well known among them for promoting our own Community Centre, now coming to speak on behalf of a Catholic Family Care Programme.
To me this is basic ecumenicity. I also served for three years on a Committee set up by the Salvation Army to review and improve the delivery of Emergency Relief. This was a three-year involvement.
During this time I was invited to address a gathering of Officers and Staff of the Salvation Army's Social service workers and care deliverers. It was a bit like "carrying coal to Newcastle", but this is what they wanted and a reflection of the image Marion Church of Christ's Community Care Centre had in the wider community. For four years I had given a full-time ministry to Marion and simply wanted and accepted my car expenses as the only repayment. This enabled the Marion Church to add another member to the team in the person of Brian Ricketts. Brian slipped into the team very easily and for the next seven years added yet another dimension to the ministry that complemented both the ministry of Graham and myself. During this period Dean Hamilton moved from the role of State Minister to a ministry with the Nunawading Church in Melbourne. For the next twelve months and until the appointment of Ron Roberts, I undertook a part time appointment with the Conference as State Minister. It was during this period the Conference sold the Grote Street property and moved to the new location in Melbourne Street, North Adelaide.
I was approaching seventy years of age and signalled to Graham that in the next year I would significantly reduce my involvement in the team. The year before (1991) the Church had hosted a programme, "This is Your Life". It was a very special occasion that brought together many of the people with whom I had been associated over the years, including a delegation from Doncaster Church.
It was a great night with our own family and many friends and representatives from the past participating in the programme. Included was the local Officer in charge of the Salvation Army, Henk Fernee. He made a quip that the General of the Salvation Army had decided to make me an honorary Captain. Sister Theresa from St Joseph's was also there and I never realized until that night just how much I had meant to them in the established of their Family Care Centre. It was a most moving experience for both Gwen and myself. On the Sunday that followed I was the speaker at the morning service. When I came from the vestry to the platform I discovered there would be no organ that day, because Ros Green had organized a brass ensemble from Congress Hall to lead the congregation in worship. How they ever managed this on a Sunday morning I will never know, but they did.
Just after my "official" retirement from Full time Ministry in January I went into Flinders Hospital for five days with what turned out to be atrium fibrillation of the heart. Six weeks later I was to have had a hernia operation only to find that instead of the operation, and because of the diligence of the anesthetist, I was to see a cardiologist. Two days later after an angiogram I had a serious turn and only the fact that I was in hospital averted what could have been the end of my story. The next day I had a quadruple bi-pass operation. I took about four to five months to get back to "normal" but when I did I felt better than I had felt over the previous two years.
I had no intention of trying to carry any full-time ministry or even an interim ministry. But I did make myself available for weekend preaching, some of it when a minister went on holidays. I also became involved in two other fields of ministry.
One was with some Uniting Churches where with Roger Dufty and myself we conducted training courses for pastoral workers. We had a programme at Woodville Uniting and Beaumont Uniting and another at Broadview Baptist Church. Each of these was over a number of weeks and part of a wider programme by those churches to establish a pastoral care programme. We also conducted several of these in country areas for Uniting Church Parishes. These were over a weekend and included places like Mallala and Kimba. The other was with Tabor College who had significantly upgraded their Ministry Course. Students were now able to work at degree level in a number of areas, e. g. Ministry, Counselling and Missions. Over the years I had with other external lecturers taken odd subjects in our specialist fields as an expression of goodwill. In retirement I took this further and helped them strengthen their introduction to pastoral care course.
I also helped them develop their support programme for External Students (i. e. in country areas and interstate). It drove me back to some study and research and that I enjoyed. It was also an expression of ecumenicity and I was happy to be involved. The three years after my "retirement" from the Marion Church gave me an opportunity to pick up on some other activities and for Gwen and myself to be able to do some things that were just for us. I took up playing lawn bowls with the Ascot Park Club and my only regret about his is that I wish I had taken it up earlier in my "senior years". I really enjoyed both the game and the company of the fellows I played with. I have never had any problem mixing with non-Church groups and found that Rotary and the Bowls Club kept me in touch with the world beyond the Church. I enjoyed the last three years immensely because while I was busy and involved in some exciting ministry tasks, it was as a volunteer. There was a tremendous sense of freedom in this and that was a nice feeling because I felt that I was being able to give back to the Church, the wider Church, something that for me was an act of gratitude for fifty years of ministry.
In the early part of 1996 I had to have a heart pace maker implanted because of the fibrillation and some adverse reactions I was having to certain medication. This was extremely successful and I had no problems at all until October of the same year when I was back in hospital for Angioplasty. I unfortunately picked up a staph infection and for the next six months had an intensive antibiotic programme.
Early in the year just before I had the pacemaker implanted I had a contact from the graduate group of my time in the Salvation Army College. They were planning to celebrate fifty years of service. When they heard that I was able to attend I was asked to take one of the two speaking appointments they had built into the programme. I was looking forward to going back to Sydney and meeting with the group in a "live in" over three days. On the eve of the re-union I was back in hospital for the pacemaker and had to cancel out. Various expressions of love and concern came through to me after the re-union. One in particular meant a lot to me. It was from Arthur Dixon one of my fellow students of fifty years ago. He said, "The Holy Spirit certainly knew what He was doing when He took you from us so many years ago . . . and we are glad". In many ways I am glad I was not born into churches of Christ because I think that it gave me a different and wider appreciation of the wider Church than is not always the case when all our lives have been lived within a particular denomination. This is something I feel that goes beyond the usual meaning of the "being ecumenical". It is something that lets you feel at ease in any church and see others as brothers and sisters in Christ. Over the years I have been invited to preach in churches ranging from Anglican to Pentecostal, and often it was the result of the trust and respect with which I was viewed. We do not lose by being generous and open in our relationships with others, in fact we gain more than much more than we ever thought possible.
But most of all I will be forever grateful that as a young Salvation Army Officer arriving in a south west Queensland town at 5.30pm in the morning I was met by a brotherly man who was the Minister of the Roma Church of Christ by the name of Lyall Wylie. Ultimately I was to move into ministry with churches of Christ.
In 1996 an address I gave entitled "Churches of Christ a Future and a Hope" was published by the Pamphlet Club. In that article I suggested that at our best, and we have not always been our best, we have a freedom and an uncluttered style that provided an opportunity to serve the world at large and the wider Church in a way few if any other church can give. My style and personality found all the room I needed to grow and develop my call to ministry and any giftedness I had. None of this would have been possible of course if it were not for those many people who shared in my ministry as part of what we call "the priesthood of all believers". For these people I will be forever grateful. My pace of living has changed dramatically and more than ever Gwen and I have supported each other, cared for each other in the tough times and enjoyed the pleasures of family and life more than ever. I took a few years to get around to putting my story on paper but God willing it will not take as long for me to get around to gathering together a "Book of Prayers" that many people have been urging me to do for years.
Retirement for both Gwen and myself has not been in anyway a drag. While the Church has been the centre of my life for more than fifty years, our social life has never been confined just to Church activities. So I have found time for bowls, gardening, some "fringe" pastoral involvement, mainly with ministers and Probus. We both have found great pleasure in our families and grandchildren have become a very special part of our lives. We have enjoyed some theater and bus tripping and I am finding real pleasure in doing things together around the home. In many ways I have become domesticated. While I miss some good friends like Bob and Shirley Clymer and Jim and Marj Rogerson who live in Melbourne, I have enjoyed immensely the friendship we have built with Col and Lois Smith and I find in a Col, and I suspect he finds in me, somebody with whom we can think aloud.
Health problems that started four years ago in some ways were a blessing in disguise. While I never intended to totally retire from some form of active ministry, I knew I could not and should not continue to work with the same intensity.
We wanted to stay in membership with Marion Church, but we also knew that unless we "disappeared" there was no way would people who had pastoral needs and problems not see me still as a minister of the Marion Church. When the heart surgery took me out many people could not understand how it should happen to me. It was almost as if they saw me as indestructible. But when the recovery process and the post surgery problems took me out of the scene they knew I would no longer be available. Graham Agnew was a great support at that time and in a nice way got it through to the membership that Keith had to be protected, even if it was only from himself. Since then we have had no problem in being simply members of the Marion Church.
I also made a decision not to get involved in the politics of Conference and while we have gone to Conference meetings I have not allowed myself to get involved in debate at the Conference business sessions. This was not easy for me because after more than forty years of involvement in Conference Committees and programmes one just does not walk away from it all as if it no longer matters. The other reason is that over the years I realize that some retired ministers have been a problem to both themselves and the Church simply because they could not let go. Others have enhanced their image because they have been encouragers and supporters. I would like to be numbered among the encouragers rather than the knockers. But that does not stop me from thinking!
RAMBLING THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
I have never been seventy-three years of age before. It is a new experience for me and one in which I have discovered that just because you are retired and "aged" you still have a mind, and you still have the same concerns for the Church that you always had. The old ways of involvement are no longer appropriate or possible, but the love of the Church and the cause to which you gave your life is so strong you cannot dismiss it as if it no longer matters. What follows is some of my thinking aloud and I hope it will be interpreted by love.
Many of our older members, and by that I mean over fifty-five years of age, are finding it hard to adjust to changes within the Church. It is not as though they are opposed to change, although some people are opposed to change, it is that all that once worked well and was an integral part of their life in the Church seems have become discarded and thrown overboard. There is no doubt that many churches have little vitality and relevance in their services and even more tragic is that they resist change of any kind. On the other hand there are churches that have introduced total change, so much so, that there is very little left that is familiar ground for older members of these congregations. I wish that a lot more of our preparation for worship was planned with the needs of the congregation and the people we serve in mission in mind. Change must come, but it must be in such a way that it picks up the best of the past as well as the best of the new. Many of our congregations are predominantly older people, and these people are feeling disinherited and lost. We cannot afford to lose the support of this group in the local congregation or at Conference level. By "support" I mean something more extensive than merely attendance at church services. From my experience I have no doubt that older people will not only adjust to change but also be supportive of change when they feel their needs have not been discarded.
This age group has a totally different expectation of the pastoral ministry than the younger generation. They grew up in an age when Ministers made house calls not because of a crisis but simply to show an interest in them. Dr Kennon Callahan laid great importance on the worship and pastoral life of the congregation, and there is no doubting that to neglect these will be to the further deterioration of any congregation.
When I came to South Australia I will never forget the sense of vitality and life we found in churches. There were about forty congregations in the Adelaide metropolitan area and almost all of these had a full-time Minister. Ministers came together in Grote Street each month on a Monday morning and for me it was like a breath of fresh air. I have quipped that it was almost like a meeting of Insurance Salesman or Amway agents, as they reported on attendances and baptisms and achievements, and if ever there was a sense of "if one rejoices we all rejoice" this was it. There was also great love and support for those who were having a hard time and "if one suffers we all suffer" was very much a part of the spirit of that gathering. I could not get over the image we had in the wider community and with the other denominations, or the strength of the congregations scattered across the city. While I know and have alluded to the sociological changes that have taken place in the forty years since those years, it is sad to see so many struggling congregations and so few growing and effective congregations. It is even sadder to sense that we who once knew who we were as a people and where we were going seem to have lost our way. The methods of yesterday may not work as they our way. Once again, while the methods of yesterday may not work as once they did and programmes that once had solid support may have to give way to other programmes that have to do with addressing the needs of today. But having said that, there are some things that are vital not only to our survival, but to our effectiveness and relevance as churches of Christ. These things have to do with identity, relationship, vitality and mission.
The thing that disturbs me most of all is certainly not the move from the traditional to the contemporary. This in my mind is to be expected. In fact, the Church through all its history is a story of change, and sometimes those changes came at great cost. But when they led to an increase in vitality and mission, and when relationships between the people of God were strengthened and the sense of identity and purpose strengthened the Church became more effective and relevant.
I become concerned when so often we spend our resources on programmes that stimulate the churches and increase hope within people and then within a few years find us asking the question, "What ever became of the good ideas that came out of such and such a programme?" One of the most recent illustrations of this is the seminars and conferences with Dr Kennon Callahan. Dr Callahan was no "church growth guru", he was onto something much more important and that was offering us some "keys" to greater effectiveness. This effectiveness was not related to being a big church or a small church, it was about effectiveness in any local church.
One of the major recommendations coming through was the need to concentrate resources and support on the "middle third" of our churches to help them build greater effectiveness and growth. This is the group of churches with 75 to 100 communicants, and this is also the group that more and more is finding it difficult to maintain a local ministry, and as a result are no longer giving significant support to wider ministries. One of the most important are those grouped under the "umbrella" we call Conference. Unless this support is forthcoming Conference Departments will find it harder and harder to meet budget. But, we let the ball slip away from us. Our survival depends on directing more resources to this middle third of churches and planting new churches in growth areas.
Another concern is in the changing style of Conference Business Sessions. They have virtually become a place for presenting reports and some PR by various committees. They no longer are a forum that provides a place for debate and discussion, and if necessary raising the questions we need to ask. We call our major annual meeting together a Convention and no longer a Conference of churches. Unless there is a place where a greater representative voice can be heard the Conference Committees will become a "faceless group" known only to the "grey heads" who loyally support Conference. Perhaps the place to create a forum where discussion can take place and questions be asked is with Minister's meetings or in regional gatherings across the suburbs and the country where key people are brought together to discuss the issues that are vital to our survival. If we do not do this the relationship between the Conference Office and the local church will widen and the relationship will cease to exist.
We need each other more than ever before today, and I would hope the day will come when we can meet together to share our programmes and resources, pray for each other and encourage each other in the mission task of the whole Church.
Reading over these last pages I think it could be classed as "thinking aloud".
I wish there were places and opportunities to do this as churches. If we can do this in the spirit of openness and acceptance and love, accepting our diversity as a people and encouraging each other in mission, we could move into the next century with banners flying and not as a people who might have been.
One of the things that has saved me from depression when I think about these things is a strong belief that "no good work is ever lost" and whatever we do for God is never wasted effort. The other is a strong conviction and understanding of the Church that reminds that the Church is bigger than the church where I happen to be the minister, or the denomination to which I belong. The "kingdom of God" will triumph even as some parts of the Church, we included, pass from the scene to become a precious part of the story of God's people. With Martin Luther we can live in the promise:
|"His truth abideth still
His Kingdom is forever."
ADDENDUM: This material was written for the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration of Camping
A TIME OF BEGINNINGS (1948-56)
After some few years of Camping at Pialba a decision by the Youth Committee of Conference to purchase a large piece of land on the hill above Dickey Beach, Caloundra not only set the direction of Camping in Queensland, it was also a tribute to the visionaries who made the Camp Cal of today possible.
What is now prime real estate was a barren stony waste furrowed with erosion on the hill and some trees and small scrub on the flat. An Army Camp, the property had some wear and tear that would break the heart of today's conservationists.
The first Camp I attended was Christmas 1948 and a small building had already been erected to serve as a kitchen for the Camps and a store room for table, stools, copper and stove. It had a simple "lean to" used as an area from which to serve meals and do the washing up. A small marquee served as both the "dining room" and the assembly area for programmes. Tents were used for sleeping accommodation and toilets were situated a little further up the hill (non-septic).
There were about 53 campers at the 1948 Camp, Mrs. "Cookie" Cardew was the Camp Cook, Mrs. Ferguson was Camp Mother, Frank Hunting (Leader) Fred Stowe (Youth Director) Ron Wilson (Gympie) and myself (Chinchilla Circuit) were study leaders.
Campers came by train to Landsborough and were transported on a trailer bus to the Camp. There were no lifesavers at Dickey Beach, but we religiously carried a line and reel down to the beach just in case. I still do not know who would have been the team if we had ever had to use it. In the nine years I went camping there were only two "misses" and on both occasions Fred Winter from Toowoomba was the rescuer. A few years later an old community hall from a place near Landsborough was purchased, demolished and rebuilt on the hill. Half of the building was dormitory and half eating and assembly A kitchen, not very large, was erected across the back of the hall. Tents were used for sleeping and some space under the building on the lower side of the hill.
Lots of hard work, all voluntary labour, went into that building. A few years later an out of season cyclone flattened the place. When we could, Vic Parker (Annerley) and I drove up to the Camp and the impact of seeing the building flattened, sheets of iron all over the place and the floor, looking more like a stage, with the double decker beds all in place, was really something, even if all the mattresses were sodden. Our insurance not only covered the building replacement, but also gave us a better building. The Department bought a large hut from what had been an Army Camp, then migrant hostel, at Moorooka.
This was carefully cut into sections and transported to the Camp site. A toilet and ablutions block was also purchased and the material used to build our first septic toilet. This meant that the boys now slept in the dormitory in the main hall and the girls moved into the new building. The kitchen was extended and camping for those days became more comfortable. Although many still longed for the old days when camping really was really camping!
Almost all the work in those days was done by voluntary labour. What Horace Christianson and Harold Scholle of Toowoomba and Eddie Neuman of Ipswich we not only had tradesman, they with the other volunteers gave us a camp on the hill at Caloundra. Christmas Camps were huge affairs. Easter Camps started a little later and when I introduced the first Easter Camp to the Department's programme it caused a minor shock wave in Conference because Easter was also the time for State Conference, and some people felt we would be taking our young people from State Conference. But we survived this and the Camp flourished. Minister's Retreats, usually held in country churches moved to the Camp and churches across the State started to use the property for a wide variety of camping programmes. I have no doubt that one of the most significant factors in the development of the growth and health of the churches in Queensland was because key young people across the State had come to know each other and sense their togetherness. We had our own Camp!
What we have today at Caloundra makes it a site and a property that is the envy of many other States and in particular it is a tribute of the later work of Alan Male.
Camping was fun. It still is but in those days there was a kind of simplicity and innocence and lack of inhibition that made programmes sparkle. Who of us will ever forget some of the Camp Concerts when Ministers (leaders) showed a side of themselves that sadly churches back home never saw or experienced.
Singing was a highlight and when Ron Graham (Uncle Wilba) introduced the Camp Song Book, singing took us through the deeply emotional, truly inspiring experiences of great songs of the faith and the sheer earthiness of fun songs.
We hiked a lot. Every camp had its walk to the Carrumundi Lakes and the passage at Golden Beach. Water melons on the headlands behind Moffat Beach. The hilarity of trying to get a Camp photo with the local photographer. Long walks every night on the beach not only settled some people down before lights out, it also started quite a few lasting romances. Studies and worship gave not only the campers, but the leaders a new dimension of faith and meaning. I will always be grateful for the support I had from ministers, in particular, Ron Graham, Bob Clymer and Stan Vanham who came to so many of my camps.
There were a number of strong churches in Queensland and this was reflected in their presence in large numbers at each Camp. Ann Street (The Angels), Annerley, Kedron, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Albion and in the mid-fifties Chinchilla. But it was not just these, but also those who came from smaller churches and more isolated churches whom we came to look forward to meeting camp after camp. The forties and the fifties were the days of the volunteers, without them the Department Office, camp development, without them the Department, would never have got off the ground. Many of those campers are now the honoured "fathers of the faith" and the "Nannas" and the "Poppas" whose kids wonder why they get all sentimental and starry eyed when they talk about camping at Caloundra. How I would like to share some stories. But those of you who get together in June are going to do just that. The rest of us will look at our photos and have a smile when we think of the stories behind the faces. I will be forever grateful I could be a part of it.
Three statements written by other people at various stages of my life have meant something to me because each in its own way was an expression of how other people saw me.
(1) Was a poem written by Roy Clark and Elder of the Chinchilla Circuit of churches. It was presented at our farewell service.
(2) The second was written by Dot Wood-Burgess the Office Administrator in the Doncaster Church. It was an assignment she presented in a Course for Writers and Journalists. It was under the title "My Friend" and grew out of her observations of her minister at work
(3) The third is special to me because it was written by my wife Gwen the day after I came home from Hospital, and to six weeks of restricted living. The Church at Doncaster was anxious about their Minister and Gwen felt that I needed some protection and so she went to the Board Meeting and made this presentation.
She won the support of the Board and their respect and she also gained for her husband the respite he needed.
If you see a Plymouth car,
a roadster at the back,
driven by a Parson man
Go tearing down the track
You'll know that it's our minister,
A Christian through and through,
Who's never slow to lend a hand
or try God's work to do.
The car, it is just wonderful
We all think that it's grand,
It never stops for bogs or mud
in black soil, or in sand.
It takes the bumps at forty-five
and doesn't seem to worry,
On the wheels it slides into the bend
Our parson's in a hurry.
For there are many souls to save
all sinking down in sin,
And he must do his very best
and try their souls to win.
He came to us a single man
So happy, glad, and free
and now he has a wife and son
to bounce upon his knee.
His wife stands steadfastly by his side
and helps him through it all,
With her kind words and sympathy
she's won the hearts of all.
The son, he's just full of life
as young boys ought to be,
In church his mother is flat out
to keep him on her knee.
They had to have a place to live
so we build a mansion small.
No wide and spacious verandah
No chimney straight and tall.
We knew that it was not superb
But thought that it would do,
a cozy little cottage trim
with only room for two.
He never was one to complain
although his wage was small,
He always tried to do the work
and have a smile for all.
The church, he made it to expand
like mushrooms after rain
With meetings here and meetings there
And converts in their chain.
Drillham, Dulacca, Wombo, Kogan,
Chinchilla town as well,
Sixteen Mile, Pelican and more
It would take all night to tell.
The young folk think that he is great
They call him "Uncle Keith",
They feel so happy and secure
His loving arm beneath.
But, he's going to the city lights
The young folk there to train,
but, let's not shed too many tears,
Our loss is others gain.
We only wish that he could stay
to carry on our job
But we must smile and bid him go
and trust our work to God.
So dry your eyes and wring kerchiefs
and wish them both God speed
For to the city he must go
to meet their urgent need.
by Dot Wood-Burgess.
He had been asked to open the meeting, so he was sitting with other distinguished guests on the dais You could see from his movements as the session took its necessarily long course that he was anxious for it to be over, so he could be "doing" once again. Having worked closely with him, I knew his mannerisms well, and that impatience with time less than optimally used was expressed by shifting from one buttock to the other, the rubbing of the chin, the crossing of the legs every few minutes. His blue grey suit, toning striped tie, and his now silver grey hair gave him that air of distinction, and one wanted to hear from him rather than the tall qualified educationist who was emphasising facts and figures on the podium.
I could not help but reflect how my friend's facial and physical features had changed in the decade I had known him. He had aged considerably, his hair was almost white now, his body much thinner through illness and curative exercise. Where now he appeared lean and perhaps slightly bent once with his fuller features and dark rimmed glasses he had been caricatured as a cuddly koala. Although to outward appearances he had changed so much, if a koala impresses you as being warm and friendly, his lifestyle, his nature, his relationships with others, epitomised these characteristics. His attentiveness to the other speakers on that day was not for show of good manners--he genuinely listened to people, being aware that he could always improve his knowledge, both general and of the speaker, but if you knew him intimately, you could almost sense that he had arrived at the climax before the speaker was halfway through. He does not live his life for himself, and though married (thank goodness for an understanding and supportive wife) he is willing to listen to any who approach him, whether just for a chat, to celebrate, to mourn, or to "unload", sometimes from early morning to late at night. He takes time to spend time with doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, mechanics, housewives, students parents, the man at the fitness centre, and his colleagues.
Probably his biggest workload is with those that are troubled, he is a counsellor, a minister, who sees his life only in service and love to others. When implored to slow down by his wife and working associates, his reply would always be, "I have dedicated my life to God and through him to helping others". His warmth, his patience, his compassion, his arm around the grieving person's shoulder, or the holding of the hand to calm a distraught person, these are the things, the actions, the attributes that make him very special to all those he meets, and what you remember when trauma is past.
Some trained counsellors can give textbook aid and advice to their clients and remain emotionally detached from the people concerned, but with him, because of the love for the people concerned, he can be drained after one trying encounter, yet at times, would have to face up to six or eight consecutive counselling appointments.
I am proud to call him my friend.
GWENDA HORNE TO THE BOARD
OF OFFICERS AT DONCASTER
I have come tonight to let you all know exactly the situation of Keith's condition, future possibilities, and some of the reasons for his condition.
Firstly he is home and will make a slow recovery. I want you all to trust me in the handling of the progress of the recovery, because I believe with God's help I'm the one to handle it, as I know all the reasons behind why he is in this position today.
Keith came home today by Ambulance, Mr. Burn the Doctor allowed him out of hospital with some reservation. I feel he has done the right thing. Mr. Burn summing up is as follows: His back condition is the result of a lot of heavy physical work over the years which relates to the many building programmes, pouring cement etc. to establish Youth Camps in Qld and South Australia. He has suffered a total prolapse of the disc in the lumbar part of his back, this of course has been with him for a long time and his exercise and swimming programme was intended to build up stomach and back muscles to compensate for the spinal problems.
His present condition has been aggravated by the increasingly heavy load he has carried involving people within our congregation. Keith is first of all and most of all a Pastor. Soaking up these problems (some you know and many you don't) from a psychosomatic point of view literally broke his back in the last few weeks.
He underwent 14 days of traction with the associated drug support, this of course was very emotionally draining. Mr. Burn's decision was, rather than rush into surgery that does not have a guarantee of success, other methods should be tried. Following the traction another specialist was called in and he was given a spinal injection of cortisone. He has been fitted with a surgical corset that supports the lumbosacral area of his back, he will have to wear this, possibly permanently.
He is walking slowly for short distances within the house a few times a day. The Doctor felt it was in his best interests that he return home today, and follow the same programme he has had at the hospital in the last 3 weeks.
He is not allowed to sit down either in a chair or motor car for 6 weeks, but to stand, walk and lie down flat on his back. The Doctor insisted he follow these rules and therefore hopes the compressed nerve will subside. If Keith disobeys these instructions or the treatment has not been successful he will have to return to hospital for another assessment. We feel confident that with complete relaxation and following these rules he will get his act together during the next 6 weeks.
As strength returns he will be able to do some things from the home front and you will need to leave me make the decisions about that. I know you all love Keith and the kindness of the congregation has been overwhelming by the incredible numbers of letters and cards he has received. Although people have come to love and appreciate his ministry I am not sure that many people know how much love is in his heart and also the level of commitment he has made in giving himself in the sharing of peoples problems and lifting the load many have to carry. His whole life and heart is in the ministry and while we must protect him it would be wrong in my opinion to overreact to this illness in any way that would inhibit him being the kind of person God has called him to be. One of the things I personally feel is that too many people think that Keith's workload in terms of counselling and care is mainly with fringe people, this of course is not so. Most of the pastoral load he carries is wrapped with people who fill the pews of our very large congregation. In my opinion I know my husband suffers more when he has to carry the small mindedness, nit picking and selfishness of people who more often than not lose sight of what it means to be a Christian, and a part of the loving caring body of Christ.
Keith and I believe that God works in all things for good, sometimes it is hard to see where that good is, but we stand on that promise. He was telling me that in his devotional reading this morning at the hospital, "Lord, let my life reflect a quality of commitment to you that will last for ever." That is my Keith.
He would love to see you all but you will know at this stage visitors should not stay long. While he needs to be on the receiving end just now he was born to be a giver.
And he will always be that kind of person. For Easter our son Ian and his wife will be with us and that will be nice.
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