Anglican Church’s First Days in Australia
When the First Fleet was sent to New South Wales in 1787, the Reverend Richard Johnson of the Church of England was licensed as chaplain to the Fleet and the settlement. He was the first chaplain to the new colony of New South Wales.
The Colony of New South Wales was part of the Diocese of Calcutta India until 1836 and all Church of England chaplains were responsible to either the Bishop of Calcutta or the Missionary Society that sponsored them. Many were also responsible to the colonial government that paid part of their stipend. However, this caused friction as the Governor could neither dismiss nor admonish chaplains. Some also worked as magistrates in the early colony.
On 5 June 1836, the Diocese of Australia was formed and Revd William Grant Broughton was appointed as the first (and only) Bishop of Australia. The Diocese of Tasmania separated from the Diocese of Australia in 1842. We know that as early as this, clergy visited our parish area. In 1849, the Diocese of Australia was divided into the four separate Dioceses of Sydney, Newcastle and Melbourne. We were part of the Diocese of Sydney until 1863 when the Diocese of Goulburn was created but not without controversy involving the Queen. Our Catholic brothers and sisters had established the Catholic Diocese of Goulburn on 17 November 1862. Maybe this hastened the Church of England to establish the Diocese of Goulburn.
In order to become a Diocese, there needed to be a cathedral. But the traditions of the Church of England required that a cathedral could only be in a city. So first, the Diocese needed a city; Goulburn was the obvious (and only) choice at that time. To create the city, Goulburn was proclaimed a city on 14 March 1863 by virtue of Royal Letters Patent issued by Queen Victoria. The Royal Letters Patent also established St Saviour’s Church as the Cathedral Church of the Diocese.
However, several legal cases over the previous decade had established that the monarch had no ecclesiastical jurisdiction in colonies possessing responsible government. The colony of NSW was considered to have had a responsible government since 1856, seven years earlier. So while the Letters Patent held authority within the Church for those who chose to submit to it, it had no civil authority. Consequently, the debate over whether Goulburn was a city remained until 20 March 1885 when Goulburn was officially proclaimed a City under the authority of the Crown Lands Act 1884. Establishing our Diocese led to Goulburn having two birthdays some 20 years apart and the legal controversy resulted in this being the last time Letters Patent were used in this manner in the British Empire. So establishing the Goulburn Diocese has a place in history for many reasons!
It isn’t easy to imagine what our Diocese was like when it was established; Goulburn was a real frontier town with a fast growing population and bushrangers common (ten were hanged and 13 shot in and around Goulburn in 1866). The Cooma area was considered ‘beyond the limits of location’ so our Parish would have been even more remote. While Cobargo was settled in the 1820’s, it wasn’t until around this time (the 1860s) that work opportunities arose as a result of collecting bark from black wattle trees for use in the tanning of hides for leather. So many new settlers started to arrive, Cobargo grew and the community demand for a minister also started.
Part of the Moruya Parish
Last month (14 March) we celebrated the 150th anniversary of our Diocese’s establishment. Bishop Thomas was our first Bishop. His appointment changed the face of the Anglican Church on the coast. In his first year, Bishop Thomas doubled the number of staff on the south coast and created two Parishes. He established a northern parish (the Moruya Parish) including what are now three separate parishes: Cobargo, Bodalla and Moruya and a southern parish comprising Bega, Pambula and Eden. Thus, the first time Cobargo became part of an Anglican Parish was in 1864.
Things were different then: The sacrament of baptism was administered on six Sundays in the year. Some centres had three celebrations of Holy Communion in the year. Five had none at all. Today, we celebrate Holy Communion at all our services.
It isn’t clear how often services were held in what is now the Cobargo Parish while we were part of the Moruya Parish. By 1872, services were held in 12 centres across the current Parish. In addition, the Goulburn Church Society supported ministers to travel across the Diocese. Through this support, the Rev Canon Soares preached at Cobargo and Brogo in November 1879. Was he the same Rev Soares who served as our rector from 1893 – 1904, or was it his brother?
In July 1880, the Minister and the catechist conducted a total of 34 services across the Parish. These are summarised below.
|1st week||2nd week||3rd week||4th week||Last week|
|Sunday||6 services in 6 centres||6 services in 6 centres||6 services in 6 centres||5 services in 5 centres|
|Week days||7 services in 6 centres||4 services in 4 centres|
It appears that during this time, Cobargo and Wandella each had two services a month, while one service a month was held in each of Brogo, Bermagui, Dignams Creek, Central Tilba, Tilba Tilba and Mt Dromedary; a total of 10 services a month across the parish – more than we have today! To achieve this, the Minister and catechist each – travelled from Batemans Bay to Brogo at least a month. Bishop Thomas was a strong believer in home visits. So, in addition to the travel for services, they would also have had a ministry of home visitation. On horseback, this means an average of 2.5 – 3 hours in the saddle every day, just to cover all the services (ignoring home visits, funerals). And we complain about half an hour by car to a church service or bible study!
The first Parish Council for the Moruya Parish was held in 1884, some 20 years after the Parish was established. It met at the Mechanics Institute in Moruya. While representatives from Tilba attended, those from Dignams Creek and Cobargo did not. Remembering that there were no bridges across most creeks and none at Cobargo until 1882, travel to Moruya for a Parish Council meeting was not as easy an exercise as it is today.
And in Cobargo at this time –
We were growing. By the 1870’s there was a post office, store, school, hotel, church, blacksmith shop and several bushman’s huts. Our dairy industry started with butter being shipped to Sydney from Bermagui in kegs. In 1870, the residents of Cobargo had applied for a public school and promised to send 37 children. The school was commenced in February 1871.
In the 1880’s things started to move in Cobargo and so did demand for our own Parish, 125 years ago, the Cobargo Parish is formed.
Establishing our Parish
Setting a pattern that has continued until today, we saw ourselves as separate and in the mid 1880’s the Bishop reported that the community’s strong desire for a separate parish was mentioned to the him each time he passed through Cobargo (generally enroute for Bega). Obviously repletion works as a plan was made to establish the Parish. However the drought of the 1880’s postponed implementation of this plan for almost 10 years. In 1887, the Bishop identified that he hoped a ‘competent missionary clergyman’ would be soon appointed, but this still had another 2 years to eventuate. The desire to form our own Parish was supported by many in Moruya who felt that ministry demands of the southern part of the Moruya parish depleted the time the Minister could support the northern part.
25 years on from Cobargo’s first inclusion in a parish, in early 1889, the Parish of Cobargo was established. No doubt, both parishes were well pleased. On 2 February 1889 (125 years ago next February) Rev. A Turnbull (a Deacon) was placed in charge. Rev. Turnbull was probably not the man we would expect to have been our Parish’s first Minister. He and his wife were well ahead of their time; they both had a strong commitment to the poor and suffering and were active in several states to make change. They have both left a lasting impact on Australia.
|This was a time of civic and community activity ……The 1800s were probably best summarized as a time of civic and community activity. Much of this led by WD Tarlinton, a member of the local Catholic Church. The Agricultural Society was established in 1885 and the first show held in 1883. George Martin constructed the School of Arts in 1887, which held a good library of books, periodicals, magazines and newspapers.
Our first Minister – a rebel who put his faith into practice
Our first Minister was the Deacon, Rev Archibald Turnbull. He isn’t what you might have expected in a fairly remote parish – or maybe he is, perhaps it was a good place to send someone who didn’t toe the line. But he and his wife Ada certainly put their faith into practice, regardless of what the hierarchy said.
Rev Turnbull came from a radical background. His father had moved his family from Sydney to Melbourne due to his repulsion of convict transportation. In Melbourne, Archibald was exposed to radicals and protectionists through his fathers shop which was their meeting place.
Archibald married his cousin, Harriet in 1862. Unfortunately, Harriet eloped with a local bank clerk in 1878. Later that year his divorce was granted and 9 months later he married Ada Louisa Taylor, a marriage that appears to have been ‘made in heaven’.
Before Turnbull came to Cobargo, his radical approach and unwillingness to conform had been well demonstrated during his time working in Victorian rural parishes, Melbourne slums and leaving the Salvation Army in Adelaide after quarrelling with its leaders. In 1889, he was ordained a priest and immediately sent to Cobargo. One wonders if the move to Cobargo ‘almost at the ends of the realm’ was designed to move him as far away as possible!
Rev Turnbull and his wife Ada (who he described as his ‘indispensable’ colleague and ‘greatest chum’) must have been well liked by a large part of our community. When it was heard that they may move to the Cooma parish, the Cobargo Watch reported that:
“We feel we are expressing the feeling of nine tenths of the community when we say that we contemplate with unfeigned regret the slightest probability of Mr. Turnbull’s departure from our district, for his large heartedness and liberality of thought and action, have gained for him a popularity of no transient nature. We cannot expect that a man of Mr. Turnbull’s ability and attainments will always remain in so circumscribed a sphere as the Cobargo parish offers, but we hope that he will remain amongst us for some time longer. And equally would we deplore the loss of Mrs Turnbull, who is deservedly esteemed by all.”
However, this sentiment may not have been so widely held in Tilba Tilba. Soon after Rev Turnball’s departure and the Rev Duncan’s arrival in late 1890, it was reported that:
“Church matters, which have been at a very low ebb for the past twelve months, are beginning to look up, and with the advent of the Rev. A. Duncan we may confidently hope for a better state of things”. It is likely that part of the concern was over lack of regular services.
Rev Turnbull’s time in Cobargo seems to have been a ‘lull’ in his more outspoken approach, or if not, it isn’t reflected in the papers! In Hobart, his militant Christian Socialism led Bishop Montgomery to move him to remote northern Tasmania. Turnbull soon returned to Hobart to establish (with permission but without funding) a Church of England People’s Mission, very popular with its shortened service, political sermon and light musical items. So, even then, new approaches to Ministry were being tried, and like now, some people approved and others disapproved.
Remaining concerned at the plight of Hobart’s unemployed, Turnbull led a forceful employment campaign, established a labour bureau and lobbied politicians. In 1894, 750 unemployed people escorted him to the House of Assembly where they unsuccessfully petitioned for him to be allowed to speak on their grievances. With the help of the Trades and Labour Council, Turnbull formed a Labour and Liberal Political League through which he pursued his political objectives: freer education, better housing, prohibition of ‘sweating’, adult suffrage, adequate payment of members and reform or abolition of the Upper House.
Ada was equally as radical for the times. In July 1898, she founded the Women’s Social and Political Crusade, an organization of labour women which became a focus for feminist opposition to the suffrage provisions of the 1898 Federal bill. Ada died before she turned 40 and, less than two years later in March 1901, Rev Turnbull died of septicaemia following a long illness.
Rev Turnbull was our first minister, and we were his first parish. This association is one from which we can always learn. He and Ada Turnbull put their faith into action, regardless of what those in authority thought. Through this, they both helped improve the life of the unemployed and women.
This was a time of civic and community activity. Much of our current infrastructure originated in this time. The bridge over Narira Creek was completed in 1882. Together with other improvements to the coast road, this lead to faster and more reliable transport and communication; Cobargo was opening up. The 1880s were probably best summarised as a time of civic and community activity. Much of this led by WD Tarlinton, a member of the local Catholic Church..
The Agricultural Society was established in 1885 and the first show held in 1889. George Martin constructed the School of Arts in 1887, which held a good library of books, periodicals, magazines and newspapers. (Source: thebegavalley.org.au/1847.html) The Moruya parish extended from Batemans Bay to the Brogo river, some 100 km as the crow flies. In 1867, there were 10 centres that had services, and they conducted 21 services a month!
In these early days for our Parish, the Church formed a core part of the community. For example, when the late Governor died in 1895, services were held in Cobargo and Tilba churches Church activities were routinely reported weekly in the Cobargo newspaper and often in other papers across the state. The level of detail reported locally is surprising, and probably painful at times for the Ministers involved when their pain was shared in the media.
We celebrated our first anniversary in February 1890 (and our 125th will be celebrated next year). Reflecting the sense of community, people from across the community participated in the celebration: a tea meeting in Tilba Tilba and Wagonga, a morning and evening service in Cobargo and an afternoon service at Dry River.
Corporate worship was very active. The mix of service types was different to that of today and this has been in a constant state of flux. In the 1890s. The sacrament of baptism was administered on six Sundays in the year. Some centres had three celebrations of Holy Communion in the year. Five had none at all. Just shows, we are in a constant state of change.
Their were 61 children on the Sunday School roll and 65 children being confirmed in 1895. Can you imagine our congregation with even half these numbers?
The early 1900s
White ants played havoc with church buildings in the Parish. Their gnawing, and the realisation that the building was too small, led to the decision in February 1895 that the church in Tilba needed to be replaced. From then, it was only a little over a year until the building was completed.
People in Quaama also wanted a building in which to worship together and started raising funds for this in 1905. The building was complete by 1907. In Cobargo, the damage the white ants had caused also led to the decision that the Church needed to be replaced. But Cobargo was slower than Quaama (or Tilba) and from the decision being made in 1907, it took some 15 years until it actually happened. The work started, it stopped, it started, it stopped.
In the mean time, in Bermagui, the community erected All Saints which was dedicated in 1911.
Finally in 1922, Mrs Harris took over as Secretary of the Cobargo Church Building Fund. The foundation stone was laid, the building progressed and within two years it was completed – was it a coincidence that there is a woman at the helm ‘Am I biased’. Perhaps not, at the ceremony for laying the foundation stone, Archdeacon Bryant referred to the fine work performed by the women of the parish (in getting to this stage), and said it was the turn of the men to help solidly.
The need to generate funds to cover expenses has always been a challenge. It seems that the even in the 1900’s the amount of work required to generate funds was an issue. It was recognised that conducting Church entertainments to raise funds -entail endless work to a few, and do not give the results which an annual appeal (without expense) should?. As a result, it was decided that rather than implement church entertainments a general appeal for donations would be conducted as this would involve less work. But things changed, and at other times dances, concerts, bazaars, sales, were used to raise funds.
Cobargo Anglican Church During The Great War
From the service times printed in the Cobargo Chronicle, it appears that on the whole, three services were held every Sunday during this period, with only one being Holy Communion. The services also seem to have started just before lunch and progressed through the day to an evening service, usually held in Cobargo at 8pm (later changed to 7.30pm). Mid week services are not something new, Rev Hyde commenced mid-week services to try to cover centres that were not previously served. As a result, regular services were held in Cobargo, Tilba, Bermagui, Quaama, Dignams Creek, Wandella, Tanto Vale, The Murrah and Wallaga Lake Aboriginal Station.
Sunday schools were established in all centres and children’s services were held at times – though how frequent is not clear. Confirmations continued throughout the war.
When war broke out, special services for peace were held across the parish. 90 people attended these services in Tilba, 68 in Bermagui, and in Cobargo, there were too many to count. A week later, services were held in Quaama, Wandella, and again in Cobargo with large numbers attending all. The sermon the second week was titled ‘Red and blue and white’, no doubt a reflection of the patriot zeal within the community.
There seems to have been the expectation (certainly the hope) that the war would be over by the end of the year. Yet the war continued for some four years, and our District contributed many soldiers to the war effort. The memorials in Quaama, Cobargo, Tilba and Bermagui are a salutary reminder of how many young lives were lost and how many families the war affected. A Memorial Avenue of trees was planted at what is now the junction of Dignams Creek Rd and the highway to honour those servicemen from Dignams Creek who left their families and homes in order to serve the cause. One tree was planted for every man.With so many young men away, the war was in the forefront of many people’s minds. Consequently, the practice of self denial during Lent had a special focus. Through Lent, children at the Cobargo attending Church of England saved £1 that was then donated to the patriotic fund. Intercessory services were held for the serving soldiers, the Trinity Church at Tilba was full and overflowing for the intercessory service held there on 2 January 1916. It was described as bringing a tear to many eyes.
And there were the deaths. Walter Seccombe died in action on 5 March 1915. The Alms Dish at Cobargo is in his memory. 1917 saw more deaths of young soldiers from our parish. A memorial service was held for Pte W Thelan at Dignams Creek on 9 Dec 1917 (he was with the 45th Battalion AIF and killed at Ypres) and for John Myles Gough at Cobargo on 29 Dec 1917 (he was with the 36th Battalion and died at Roven Hospital on 31 October 1917). The Hymn Book and High Altar at Cobargo are in their respective memories. In 1918, Anzac Day Memorial Services were held across the Diocese with special intercessions. When peace was declared, thanksgiving services were held across the parish, the prayer was that this had been the war to end all wars.
Work Life Balance in Days Gone By
In war years, the Parish of Cobargo was the largest parish in the Diocese, with the most preaching centres and the most travel. As a consequence, transportation would have been a continual concern. While the need for provision of transport for the Minister had been discussed in 1890, it wasn’t until 1914 that funds for a horse and buggy for the Minister were raised (one may have been purchased in 1904 this isn’t clear). The generation of funds started a week after the arrival of Rev Hyde. It proved useful as Rev Hyde had a focus on visitation. It is probably that he also used his own motor vehicle as well. One woman remembered that as a child living in Cuttagee, Rev Hyde arrived in his new motor car to take her to the Bermagui Sunday School when it was opened. The car so frightened them that she and her brother ran away into the bush (Preston, 1988, 12).
Shortly after Rev Hyde left Cobargo, the horse bolted causing damage to the buggy. Perhaps a new and unfamiliar hand at the reigns. However, as today, transport for our Minister across a scattered parish remained a challenge, and maintenance costs (be it a damaged buggy or car) are ongoing.
The size of the Parish meant that there was soon a demand for a motor vehicle. Both Rev Hyde and his successor, Rev Robinson believed that ‘the only way in which the Cobargo parish can be satisfactorily worked is by a motoring person, with a horse and buggy too many hours of a day are spent on the road’. By mid June 1918, the parishioners had decided to purchase a car for the Rector. Commitments of almost £100 were received almost immediately. A Motor Car Fund was established and a committee appointed to manage the motor business. A Ford car was purchased and was delivered in October 1918. The local paper reported that ‘Our Rector is busily engaged in learning the tricks of his new Ford car’.
‘Work life balance’ was also an issue in this period – it is not something new. At this time, people worked six days a week. Sunday was their only day off work, and consequently the day for family outings. To cater for this, the service in Cobargo was an evening service so that people could attend Church and spend time with their family. On his arrival in early 1914, Rev Hyde made it clear that he did expect people would return from their outing in time to come to the evening service at Cobargo.
Sometimes people have the image that Christians have no fun, in particular that there was a high degree of piety in by-gone days. However when we read the descriptions of the welcomes for new Ministers, this is clearly not true. Parishioners enjoyed the entertainments of the day, singing, dancing, playing cards and good refreshments – not much different to those of today. They seemed to make a habit of ‘partying-on’ until midnight, with one fund raising event in 1921 being a midweek all night dance.
Inter War Years
War was over, but death continued. In 1919, the Spanish Flu struck Cobargo; one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. Across the world, more people died during the pandemic than were killed in the First World War, and a quick trip to Cobargo cemetery indicates we were followed the global trend. Our cemetery has many graves from this period, families loosing one child after another. The Spanish Flu tended to affect an area for up to 12 weeks and would then suddenly disappear, almost as quickly as it had arrived, only to return several months later. As a result, many church services were cancelled during 1919.
In 1919, the ‘Parochial Council and Wardens’ identified that the parish was in ‘urgent necessity of a Governing Body to control the business affairs of the parish’ and went on to recommend that three wardens be appointed from each of Cobargo and Tilba (the main centers at that time) and two from each of Quaama and Bermagui. They also recommended two representatives from each of Dignams Creek and Wandella. This body was to be known as the Parish Council and control the parishes finance and business. This Parish Council was established and this was identified as ‘one of the most important features of the years work, affecting all the centres collectively and individually. – This Council though seriously handicapped by neglect in past years, is now well on its way to restore order out of chaos. Its most pleasing undertaking being the provision of a regular stipend to the Rector’.
There seems to have always been concern over the proportion of services held in each center – Cobargo having more than Tilba. As was the situation 30 years earlier, those at Tilba were not comfortable with having an equal obligation to support the Minister without an equal share of the services. Rev Morris recognised this and moved to correct this imbalance. Those in Tilba were appreciative.
Fundraising continued, perhaps there was a focus on clearing all debt associated with the extensive construction activity that had occurred over a 15 year period – construction of new church buildings had been completed in Bermagui, Cobargo and Quaama between 1907 and 1924. In Cobargo, an all night dance was held in April 1921 as a means of raising money. It was anticipated that the cooler evenings would ensure ‘all lovers of dancing can rely on having an enjoyable time’. The dance ‘was pronounced a great success socially, and quite up to the committee?s expectations financially’ raising £14. People travelled from surrounding districts to attend and a large number came from Bermagui.
Another dance (again midweek) was held in July 1922 a Wattle Dance. It was described as ‘one of the most successful social functions of the winter. Golden wattle blooms provided the major effect in the decorations. Across the hall in all directions were extended yellow streamers, and around the walls the graceful burrawang fronds were arranged at intervals heart shaped. The whole effect was beautifully Australian, and the hall never looked better’. Again, it proved successful as a fundraiser (£16) for the rectory repair fund, and at the same time, a wonderful social event. Other fundraising activities included catering at the Cobargo Show.
Unfortunately, advertising the service times in the Chronicle ceased during this period. As a result, we have little information about the services across the parish. We do know that the lay readers also preached at services. It is likely that in the early 1920’s attendance declined. This is suggested by the Archdeacon’s comment at the laying of the foundation stone: ‘He hoped that when the new church was built, it would be used, that the people would attend for worship. It might be that many of the parishioners were afraid that the old church would fall on them ‘ it was certain that they seldom took the risk of attending in the numbers they should’. Today, this concern cannot explain the empty seats!
Clarification of ownership of the Church at Dignam’s Creek lead to its return to the Church of England. It was refurbished and dedicated as the Church Transfiguration in September 1929 with services (re) commencing. By the early 1930?s there were usually five services held across the parish every Sunday with a few mid-week (such as Fox Hill).
We also know that by 1922, women were being recognised in their own right for the work that they did. When the male secretary resigned because he left Cobargo, ‘Mrs. Harris was unanimously elected to (his) position’. Women were also nominated as the collectors of pledged funds for construction of the Cobargo Church. No longer were women merely seen as the provider of refreshments and fundraisers. The words of Archdeacon Bryant at the laying of the foundation stone for the new Church at Cobargo also recognise the contribution of women in their own right ‘He referred to the fine work performed by the women of the parish (in getting to this stage), and said it was the turn of the men to help solidly’.
A number of people joined the parish in this period who were stalwarts for many years. Richard (Dick) Bate joined Parish Council in 1928 and, with a two or three year gap, remained on Parish Council (representing Tilba) for almost 60 years until his death in 1986. Joseph Summerell also represented Quaama for almost 50 years from 1934 until shortly before his death in 1981 .
The Parish of Cobargo during World War 2
At the start of WW2, 34 services were conducted at Bermagui, with the average attendance being 20.5 people. This is fewer services than today, but with slightly more people.
At the start of WW2, our rector was Rev Donoghue. He resigned at the beginning of 1941 to enlist as a Chaplain in the 2nd AIF. More widely, a number of rectors enlisted in the defence forces. As a result, there was a shortage of rectors across the Diocese. When the rector in the Parish of Bodalla retired at the end of 1943, there were not other ministers available to replace him. As a result, this shortage led the Bishop to ask our minister (Rev Dau) to take over the Narooma end of the Bodalla Parish.
In 1943 there were five services held each Sunday across the parish. The rector found that this number of services and the associated travelling was too much. Perhaps this was exacerbated by also now covering the southern end of the Bodalla Parish. Maybe it was further exacerbated by petrol rationing during the war that meant that Rev Dau was only able to get around the parish with a charcoal burner attached to his vehicle. Whatever the combination of factors, the result was that the number of services across the Parish of Cobargo was reduced to four.
Anglican Women’s meetings commenced in Bermagui on 29 August 1941 under guidance of the rector’s wife, Mrs Dau. At that time, it was called Church Women’s Union. Their focus was fund raising for the upkeep of the church and they held many successful Euchre Evenings, Deb Balls, Flower Shows and Pet Parades to raise funds. They also held a refreshment stall each year at the Boxing Day Sports on the recreation reserve.
But, like today, it wasn’t easy. For three consecutive months in 1943, there had been insufficient members to hold meetings. This led to the suggestion that Bermagui Church Women’s Union branch be disbanded; the branch was not disbanded and continued on.
As today, the congregation was concerned with how to involve more youth. Sacred Concerts on Sunday nights during the summer holiday’s was suggested for Bermagui. These don’t seem to have been a success. Dave Richard Preston suggests this may have been due to young men being focussed on enlisting. But youth were involved and in 1944, Rev Dau presented nine girls and one boy to Bishop Burgmann for confirmation. Despite the challenges, God was working in the youth, because some of the youth of that day remain faithful servants of God today. Olive Cole, who remembers riding on horse back to church at Wandella during this time, is still serving God in our parish today.
The 1960s – a time of change
The 1960’s were a period of extremes of abundance and scarcity in our Parish. In the early 1960’s rainfall was high ? 1920mm (over 75 inches) in 1961 and by the end of the period we were in one of our worst droughts on record with only 459mm (18 inches) in 1969. The grass and church life seemed to parallel this.
In the early 1960s, there was strong participation and growth in the local Anglican churches. In 1960, almost 60 people were confirmed across the parish, the Church Union was established at Tilba and in 1961 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the dedication of All Saints in Bermagui. Our finances grew and there was more certainty about financial stability.
But in 1961 our Minister was appointed to another parish and we had a long gap with no Minister. The new minister soon becoming ill and had to leave. Then followed almost a year in which more than a dozen ministers and laymen took services, Rev Reeve the rector at Narooma being one who helped fill this gap. Much of the work in ‘holding the parish together’ during this period was undertaken by Keith Teague and Ray Sawtell along with the women in Church Union. It was during this time that ?Parish Notes? were introduced; a one page sheet designed to help keep all informed of services, functions and progress in obtaining a new minister. While the number of services declined, attendance was generally well maintained.By 1963 Bermagui had the largest Anglican population in the parish, but the worst attendance record. The exception was the large and well attended Sunday school, lead by Mrs Newton. Perhaps this is what led our minister at that time (Rev Waters) to visit every parishioner over the next year. He did note that not all were home to receive him, and he would not repeat the visit unless invited.
As the drought deepened, our financial position declined. In 1966, a decision was made to use the land around the rectory (then in Cobargo) to raise cattle. Cattle were purchased, grazed and resold. While many had doubts, this proved a steady income generator to the parish funds for many years, but still not sufficient for our needs. By 1967 we couldn?t pay our Minister, Rev Ballard. In an effort of ensuring we still had a Minister, Rev Ballard discussed the situation with Bishop Clements and suggested he secure paid employment. The Bishop approved this and Rev Ballard started work with the telephone branch of the Post Master General?s Department. He took no stipend, and maintained the services while continuing to live in the rectory. The parish paid the electricity costs and increased his entertainment allowance to $200 p.a. The Bishop approved lay ministers conducting services including burial services.
Through the 1960’s there had been monthly services in Dignams Creek. But with the absence of a full-time minister, the number of services across the parish declined and they weren’t held in Dignams Creek. The Church in Dignams Creek was no longer operating and was sold in 1969. The organ was transferred to the aboriginal community at Wallaga Lake which had well attended regular services.
Throughout this period, there was an active children and youth Ministry. Rev Ballard provided religious instruction at Bega High School. We had Sunday School in Cobargo twice a month run by Mrs Sawtell. In 1968, there was Sunday School in Bermagui for five children, taught by the rector. A Young Anglican organisation had an ?active and fruitful, though rather short life?.
The number of communicants to declined to a low point in 1962 (962 people), and then grew to 1,359 in 1964. Growth continued with Rev Ballard to 2,867 in 1967. By 1970, numbers had dropped slightly (2,165) and then recovered in 1971 to 2,770 where they remained until the early 1980?s. By 1987 it had reached 3,039. The periods of low numbers appear to match the periods we were without a Minister ? hence there was probably fewer Communion services. My guess is that these numbers reflect the type of service, rather than changes in numbers of attendees. This could be confirmed by going through the records. Keith Teague advised that he would like to resign as Treasurer in 1967. But it was not until 1970 that a replacement volunteered.
In the 1960s, our parish often held street stalls to raise money. The street stall would include a raffle. Two of our ladies (names shall remain undisclosed) would slip a bottle of wine into the basket being raffled. But, forgetting Jesus obviously liked a ‘good drop’ they got into trouble. The wine was no more.
‘and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now’. (John 2: 9 – 10).
Words from 1949
In this month’s instalment of our history, I want to go back in time from where we were at back to the late 1940s. The reason; it seems to me (Fiona) that much of what Rev O’Brien said then, applies equally well today – almost 70 years later.
In 1949, Rev O’Brien concluded that across the Parish there was a general lack of interest in the life of the Church and of worship to God. He said that there were many excuses, but not reasons. He then went on to list these. Rev O’Brien also found that some in the parish had rejected the Church because they had grievances against the Rector or someone else, and they continued the feud, not against the person, but against God and the Church. What Rev O’Brien said in 1949 seems to apply equally today.
As we prepare for our planning day this May, other words of Rev O’Brien in 1949 also seem apt:
‘One of the greatest privileges of being an Anglican is the complete freedom of worship we hold. This freedom makes possible a truly reverent approach to God, in a manner suitable to our own temperament and completely free from any thought of superstition – Unfortunately many refuse to participate in a Service because, in some of its externals, it is slightly different to what they have been used to, or to their own particular views – remember that no one has the right to interfere with your worship, nor do you have the right to interfere with that of others’.
‘We are all Anglicans, and we are all working for the one Church. – We are all one parish and should be working together as one team for the greater glory of God. – If we remain a number of isolated centres, then we can never hope to keep our faith at the forefront as a free, non-idolatrous Worship of God, neither can we be as successful as we might in making the Kingdom of God come true upon earth. Anglicans of the Parish, will you help me to make us one family’
If you have photos or stories about our history, or would like to be involved in preparing for our parishes 125/150 anniversary, please contact Fiona Kotvojs (fiona.kotvojs(at)bigpond.com or phone: 6493 6080
As part of our 125th anniversary as Cobargo Parish and 150th anniversary as Moruya Parish coming up in 2014, we are building on the work Dave Richard-Preston did last year for All Saints centenary and Colin Preston did in 1988 for our Parish’s centenary. This is a summary of what we know about the 1860 – 1880’s, when we first became part of a parish.