The Mildura Church of Christ was founded in 1890 and has enjoyed almost 130 years of ministry to the people of Mildura. As with all churches, there are many highs and lows during the decades of the church, but God's goodness and mercy are evident as you read through the years of history.
Much of the information below was taken from the 1890-1990 Centenary book, that was prepared and printed for the 100 year celebrations in June 1990. Many thanks go to the members that complied the history for future generations to enjoy.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHURCH IN MILDURA
it was early in 1890 that Rueben Mansell advertised in the local press to call together those few people who were to form the Church of Christ in Mildura, and continue to teach and preach under pioneering conditions for the first few years of service. A small number of families, augmented from time to time by new arrivals and visiting missionaries, met in private houses, in the local State School, and a building, formerly the Congregational Chapel.
The initial twelve members of the church were: Mr Reuben Mansell, Mr James McKean, Mr Charles A.Faukner, Mr Richard Young, Mr Job Selwood, Sisters Louisa Mary Ann Mansell, Sarah Jane Mansell, and McKean, Mr William Miller, Mr and Mrs George Coxhead, Sister S Puller.
Founding Member - Rueben Mansell
Early Church Members
A YEAR OF FIRSTS
The First Official Business meeting was Held on the 6th January, 1894. Elders appointed were: Reuben Mansell, Job Selwood & James McKean. Church Clerk was: Job Selwood.
The First Marriage was performed Christmas Day, 1894 by Job Selwood for Robert W.Skelton and Jessie Gowan.
The First Baptism was conducted in the River Murray by Reuben Mansell on July 12th, 1894 of Andrew D Harris
Back Row M.Dodemaid (Lawson), Chas & Ruth Faulkner, C & Mrs Lawson, Mr & Mrs Henshilwood, Mr & Mrs Reuben Mansell.
Centre Row Mrs McDonald, Grace McDonald, Belle Lawson (Harrop), Mary Lawson (Harrop), Jean Lawson (Henderson), Misses McDonald.
Front Row Isla Mansell, Steve Mansell, Les Mansell.
CHURCH RECORDS START
Records of the first 13 years are scarce
A TRUST DEED SETUP
A Trust deed was prepared in May 1904 appointing Trustees to handle the building. Trustees were R. Mansell, C.A. Faulkner, J. Smith, W. Lawson, Chas and Silas Harrop, John and William Henshilwood and F. Cannon.
LAND PURCHASED & PLANS TO BUILD
Lots 21 and 22 were purchased for 55 pounds, with lot 23 being left in abeyance.
Estimates were made on a building 57 feet by 32 feet (17 metres by 10 meters)
CONSTRUCTION OF THE CHAPEL & APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER ROBERT GEORGE CAMERON
To keep pace with the development of the town, and to have a chapel worthy of the coming great Mildura, the members decided to build the structure on the corner of Deakin Avenue and Tenth Street. A mortgage of 400 pounds was obtained on the property to help cover costs. The Chapel was designed by Mr Faulkner and Mr Mansell. Mr Mansell was also appointed to oversee the construction, which lasted roughly 16 Months and cost 1081 Pounds 12/8, including voluntary labour valued at 235 pounds and if architect's fees and tradesmen's profit had been allowed for, total cost would have approximated 1300 pounds. Individual cash donations totalled 248 pounds. The Chapel was formally opened on the 25th October 1908.
Seven applications were received for evangelist, a position offering two pounds a week salary. Mr R.G Cameron was appointed and announced in the 8th July 1908 issue of The Mildura Cultivator. "Mr. R.G Cameron of Bendigo, has been appointed evangelist to the Church of Christ at Mildura. He will commence his local duties next Sunday, July 12th, in the Congregational Chapel. The new chuirch building will not be ready for another 4-5 weeks."
First Minister - Robert Cameron
The Church Building
Population of Mildura was about 5000
A mission was held in 1909 with H. P. Leng as the missioner during which seventeen were baptised.
In November 1909. membership stood at 103, 37 recent additions by Faith and Baptism, 25 of these through the Sunday School. Seventeen were added within the first fortnight of occupancy of the new building
A DECADE OF OUTREACH
This was a decade of outreach for the Mildura Church. Approval was given to start services at White Cliffs (the early name for Merbein) and Mr. Cameron figured prominently in establishing and eventually moving to this area of ministry. His ministry at Mildura concluded in June 1911 when a valedictory social was tendered him and his family.
Another small group of active Mildura members 'migrated' to the new irrigation settlements of Woorinen near Swanhill. These four or five families, together with some from Merbein and elsewhere, first set up the Lords's table in private homes, later erecting a chapel.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER HUGH GRAY AND ESTABLISHMENT OF THE MERBEIN CHURCH
Roll of Members at Mildura stood at 99
Minister - Hugh Gray
SPECIAL MEETING AND FIRST CHURCH PAPER
In 1912 , Mildura had a Membership of 117
The first production of a church paper - The Church Messenger
A special meeting was held on October 17, 1912 to consider the question of using the organ at meetings for worship indicated a large majority were in favour of using the organ, nevertheless, it was decided NOT to use the organ. An organ was loaned to the church by Mr, Leng for the Hagger-Clay mission. This later resulted in an organ being offered on loan to the church for ordinary services by Messrs. Mansell and Faulkner, Sister Edna Smith being appointed organist. Then it was decided to purchase an organ and one eventually arrived from Melbourne, after a long wait for the river to rise so that it could be shipped by steamer to Mildura.
The First Mission ran by Thomas Hagger and Will H. Clay
Almost directly related to the Hagger-Clay tent mission in Deakin Avenue, the membership jumped to 182, 58 Being added through faith and baptism during the year. This advance was all the more interesting when taking into account that during 1911 and 1912 a number of church families had moved to the new Merbein settlement, setting up a membership there in excess of 20, and also absorbing a number of new converts from the Mildura mission.
FIRST WORLD WAR
Progress of the Church was slowed as the First World War began. Young Men departed for duty, some not returning.
MR GRAY CONCLUDED HIS MINISTRY
Mr J. W. Webb conducted an interim ministry.
Numerous appeals were made to help pay off the church debt of 75 pounds
Average Attendance at worship was 47
Average income was 3 pounds with expenses running at 5 pounds per week
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER A. H. WILSON
Mr A.H. Wilson commenced ministry. His furniture was moved from Adelaide at a cost of 10 pounds.
At this time, consideration was given to purchase a third parcel of land and and to build a Sunday School. Several members indicated their willingness to give funds to the College of the Bible.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER GODFREY FRETWELL AND PLASTER CEILING INSTALLATION
Mr G. Fretwell was welcomed into the ministry in December and appreciation was expressed for Mr. R. G. Cameron's assistance between the two evangelists.
Due to the significant costs during construction of the chapel in 1908, the installation of the plaster ceiling had been delayed until a future date. The Church decided to Install the ceiling, but expended much more than anticipated and this was to prove a problem for years afterward when many fund raising ideas were proposed. Plans to build a manse and a Sunday School hall had to be deferred.
The chapels original plaster ceiling
The Major event for 1920 was the Hinrichsen-Brooker Mission. L. G. Cameron writes, "This team, outstanding in its success in Victoria and other states, took Mildura by storm. With audiences beyond 500 night after night, overflowing out nearly to the street, the mission in a period of four weeks made a tremendous impact, bringing more than 180 people to confession of their saviour. With more than 120 members added to Mildura by faith and baptism, the roll built up to over 200. This mission, as also that of Hagger-Clay a decade before, gave fresh impetus to the church and was responsible for the addition of some families and individuals who have served the church well even to this day. Mildura district Churches of Christ, tent missions." This was a fitting beginning to a new decade and prepared the church for later expansionary moves of the conference of local churches.
SWITCH TO INDIVIDUAL COMMUNION GLASSES
Use of individual communion glasses was commenced. A single shared goblet was used prior to this.
Membership roll was 227 but active membership stood at 150
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER DAN WAKELEY AND
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE REDCLIFFS CHURCH
When the Red Cliffs settlement opened in 1921 it soon became known that several members of the Church of Christ were among the successful applicants for land in the new area. These members were the subject of discussion at the next Mildura District Conference of Churches of Christ, and as a result, representation was made to the Home Missions Committee in the matter. A visit from the Home Missions secretary occurred on 3rd July 1923 with additional visits to follow. As a result of the enthusiasm shown, a meeting was held in the Ante-Room of the Diggerland Theatre, (Now Diggerland Church) to discuss the formation of a Church of Christ in Red Cliffs. As a result, it was decided to establish meeting in Red Cliffs, with a nucleus of 40 members. The first meeing for the "Breaking of Bread" was held on the afternoon of Sunday 12th Augst 1923 in "Jones; Chaff House".
OPENING OF THE NEW CHURCH BUILDING AT REDCLIFFS
The Red Cliffs Chapel was officially opened on February 10th 1924 in Guava Street. Interestingly, R.G Cameron (First Minister at Mildura) would later become the first full-time minister at Red Cliffs in 1926.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER J. H. BIRD AND
A December 1925 meeting agreed to the appointment of Mr. J. H. Bird at a salary of 5 pounds 10 Shillings - per week.
It was resolved that a special appeal be made for 100 pounds, to be taken up in quarterly instalments and all outside appeals be cancelled until the church debt was reduced sufficiently to warrant their resumption.
An offer for the re-engagement of Mr. Bird for a further five years was turned down and Mr. Bird was farewelled at a social evening on December 23rd.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER H. CAVE
Mr H Cave was the minister through 1927 and Mr. A. C. Mudford was offered the position at the end of Mr. Cave's short ministry in October.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER A. C. MUDFORD AND CONSTRUCTION OF THE FIRST MANSE
The manse at last became a reality - a four roomed house with bathroom, wash-house, outhouse, but no fences. The house was insured for 500 pounds
A NEW CHURCH WAS COMMENCED AT DARETON
The establishment of the Coomealla Irrigation Settlement was under way and a new Church was commenced at Dareton. A Number of foundation members came from Merbein church but the church at Mildura also contributed to its development.
Further contacts were made with Mr. E. Hinrichsen to invite him to hold another mission at Mildura.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE SUNDAY SCHOOL HALL
Though Records don't state exactly when the Sunday School was constructed, it was in 1928 that permission was granted for erection of a hall and in 1930 that Mr. Barnden was appointed to receive the Sunday School building on behalf of the church
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER K. A. MACNAUGHTON
DRAFTING A CONSTITUTION
It was proposed that a draft Constitution for the Church be drawn up
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER EDWIN WATERS
E.J.Waters commenced his ministry in May of 1936.
119 Active Members. Average weekly offering was 5 pounds 10 Shillings
The second Hinrichsen mission was held. A tent site of 66 foot frontage to Deakin Avenue, alongside Masonic Hall (where IGA supermarket is located) was obtained at 7/6 per week. A loan for mission expenses was obtained from M.U.I.O.O.F.
Bank overdraft stood at 425 pounds, manse 245 pounds, organ 47 pounds.
START OF WWII & CHIVELL MISSION
The call to war in 1939 was to prove a disrupting influence and the cause of considerable restriction to the Church in Mildura. Not only were many of the young men and women of the congregation involved, but sad to recall, a number of faithful workers in the Church activities were lost through death or non-return.
A Chivell Mission was held August 27 to September 10.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER JIM W. LEWIS
Mr. E. Waters concluded his ministry. Officers Leng and Mellberg stated to the church that the officers felt reluctant to appoint another minister in place of Mr Waters in view of poor financial situation and that members be asked to take out 10 pound shares or more to relieve the church of interest payments on over-draft.
TEMPLE DAY OFFERING
Temple Day offering raised 220 pounds plus 59 pounds in promises which left the over-draft for the church at around 30 pounds and the manse at 146 pounds. A meeting in October declared that the church debt was fully cleared and a celebration occasion was held to mark this event.
14 People were baptised over 2 Sundays and 19 received into fellowship the following Sunday.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER LES E. SNOW
Mr Lewis submitted his resignation owing to present and future work in Y.M.C.A. with the R.A.A.F . Board Chairman (L. Cameron) reviewed Mr. Lewis' ministry praising his organisation, his work in welfare and as a probation officer, and at the R.A.A.F. station, and his work in improving the financial position of the church.
Mr Les Snow was invited to ministry
The Manse required extending and a plan of alterations needed to be forwarded to the War Organisation of Industry or approval.
NEED FOR MANSE IMPROVEMENT & SIGHTS ON BURONGA
The need for manse improvement was raised - addition of two more rooms, bathroom and living room, ventilation of front room, partition back room, paint bathroom and kitchen. Discussion was held on whether these improvements should be made or to sell and purchase a bigger manse.
A committee was appointed to look into the possibilities of starting up a work in Buronga.
MANSE IMPROVEMENTS IN DIRE NEED & NEW BOYS CLUB
Problems continued for minister and family in size of manse. Mr Snow advised that he had offered his name to the Advisory Board for another position. Alternatives were considered to provide the minister with a more adequate manse. Mr Snows resignation was accepted with regret.
A new boys club for juniors commenced under the leadership of Arthur McWilliams and R. McAllister.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER JACK CHIVELL & EXTENSION OF THE MANSE
The Chivell family was welcomed at a social and the manse was extended and renovated. An aim of 250 pounds was set to raise from members and auxiliaries to cover the cost of the manse additions and renovations.
Assistance was sent for a Sunday School being established at Euston.
SUNDAY SCHOOL OF THE AIR
A Sunday School of the Air having been suggested, and with a promise of one pound 5 shilling per week and two donations of one pound, Mr. Chivell was authorised to go ahead and book time on the air with station 3MA. Next month 103 pounds was in hand for the first year of operation.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER DON A. V. THOMAS
Mr Chivell concluded his ministry mid-March. Appreciation was expressed especially for Sunday School of the Air, Christian Camps, and teaching and training young men of the church.
Mr D. Thomas was invited to accept a call to ministry. H. R. Coventry accepted a request to conduct an interim ministry until Mr Thomas commenced in December.
The idea of purchase of the house next door to the manse was raised. It was decided to recommend to District Conference to purchase land in Buronga for a Sunday School. Mr. I. Mansell to be nominated as trustee.
A tender for 525 pounds for erection of a kitchen as an addition to the hall was accepted and a loan was requested from the Properties Corporation to cover this and foundation repairs to the chapel, totalling 600 pounds.
PURCHASE OF LAND IN BURONGA
A block of land at Buronga was purchased for a Sunday School at 180 pounds. Building work on Buronga hall commenced later that year.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE BURONGA HALL & SUNDAY SCHOOL BUS SERVICES
The Building of the Buronga Sunday School hall was completed and it was officially opened on December 12th.
A bus service was provided for collecting children around Mildura for Sunday School.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER CLAUDE CUNNINGHAM
Mr Claude Cunningham accepted a call to ministry commencing January 15th.
Average attendance at morning services were 100 and 70 at evening services.
Discussions commenced on the erection of a new Sunday School hall. Sunday School representatives were approached to discuss the idea. A New Hall Committee of A. Leng, C.Cunningham, A. McWilliams, D. Clark and I. Nankivell was appointed.
REQUEST FOR A LOAN, NEED FOR A NEW HALL & NEW CHURCH IN ROBINVALE
Properties Corporation was approached for a loan to build a new hall. I. Nankivell spoke on the desperate need of a Sunday School Hall, the difficulties of trying to teach in cars, bus and the church yard. The board was asked to draw up plans and formulate a scheme to finance the hall.
The post-war emergence of Robinvale as a soldier settlement, with consequent transfers from other local Churches including Mildura , drew attention to the prospect of still further extension of the outreach. It was not until 1957 that, with the valuable co-operation of some Church families from Boundary Bend, Euston and Wemen that a Church was established . Starting with an active membership of about 25 adults , a fine new church building, a School Hall and a Manse for its resident Minister, Robinvale increased in stature and membership. This Church also is allied to Sunraysia District Conference and is the latest addition to the Churches of Christ in north-west Victoria.
PLANS FOR THE NEW HALL, RADIO SUNDAY SCHOOL ANNIVERSARY & APPROVAL FOR NEW HALL
Plans for a new Sunday School were drawn up by Adelaide architect, Lance Brune.
43 were in the 3MA studio for the 7th anniversary broadcast of Radio Sunday School.
A special meeting held on October 25th gave approval for the new hall building to proceed.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER R. HILLFORD
Mr R Hillford began his ministry Mid 1959.
Membership stood at 180
NEW CAMP SITE, 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF RADIO SUNDAY SCHOOL, NEW HALL PROJECT PROGRESS
The new camp site at Koorlong was officially opened on November 12th. Formally the R.A.A.F. Training base, the site was renovated and new installations were added for greater comfort and convenience. This centre, provided and maintained through district contributions and co-operation, is designed to provide a venue for many gatherings of both young and old and is regarded highly useful in the work of the church.
Radio Sunday School celebrated the 10th Anniversary.
The building of the new hall was in sight. About 1400 pounds was raised over the past two years from Citrus trees scheme and Ian Mansell's efforts in this were acknowledged. Approval had also been obtained for the relocation of the old school hall to its new position between the chapel and the manse.
NEW HALL CONSTRUCTION UNDERWAY & FIRST MILDURA SCHOOL CHAPLAIN
Active membership of the church stood at 153.
The new school hall building was underway, with Doug Clark heading up the project. The New Hall Trust Fund reached 7029 pounds and a loan from Properties Corporation of 3756 pounds was obtained towards the project.
A commissioning service for the Secondary schools first chaplain, Lloyd Rust, was held in the Hoyts Ozone theatre on February 15th. The Mens Society had started the ball rolling in 1959 to provide real support to Schools Chaplaincy in Mildura.
OPENING OF NEW SUNDAY SCHOOL HALL, PLAN FOR PROGRESS & CLOSING OF RADIO SUNDAY SCHOOL
The new Sunday School Hall was officially opened by Les Snow on June 9-10. Cost of the project to that date was 11,567 pounds.
A 3 Year Plan for Progress, incorporating membership and finance aims was adopted. A further 2500 pounds was borrowed from the Properties Corporation bringing total liability to the Corporation to 7134 pounds.
Radio Sunday School closed and tribute was paid to past contributors, especially Aunty Vera, alias Ethel Beasy.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER ALAN CANT
Mr and Mrs Hillford concluded their ministry and Dorothy and Alan Cant commenced ministry in early 1963 with an induction service led by Clarrie Lang on February 3rd.
The Minister suffered a severe electrical shock and was hospitalised after using a faulty electrical extension lead belonging to the church. An Urgent meeting was called in the church to offer prayers for his recovery.
GROWING CHURCH, TV PROGRAMMING, FUTURE BUILDING PLANS
Active ministry at the beginning of Alan Cant's ministry was 138, reaching 181 in 1965-66. 16 were added by faith and baptism during this year. It was stated that 40 years ago, in 1925, there was a membership about the same as now. Average attendance at Sunday School was 129, with staff at 31. Family services were a highlight of Sunday evening meetings.
TV commenced around this time and the church became involved in some TV programming.
Plans for construction of a new church building and primary room took a step forward with the inclusion of this project in the budget provision.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER DEAN HAMILTON, SUCCESSFUL YOUTH GROUPS & THE SWITCH FROM POUNDS TO DOLLARS
The conclusion of the Cant ministry in September and the beginning of the Hamilton ministry in October shortened the time available for manse renovations - mainly coniting the exterior and the installation of an air conditioner and other interior improvements.
One of the most successful youth groups in the church at this time was the Girls Brigade with Cadets, Junior, Senior and Pioneer sections. Shirley and Colin Allen were instrumental in starting these groups.
1966 saw the pound become the dollar and not only did the figures double, but during this time the inflationary spiral began in earnest and church needs in financial terms followed suit.
BILLY GRAHAM CRUSADE
The Church participated in the Billy Graham crusade at a local level. Morning word became a feature on 3MA in which the minister participated.
The Kinder and Primary hall was renovated following the repositioning of a wall to make two rooms of equal size.
The Church hall liability was reduced to $5,571. The new Church and Primary building fund stood at $1,821.
The Church Anniversary was was held on October 4th, celebrating 80 years of history. A historical survey was complied by l.G. Cameron at the request of the Offical Board, October 1970.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER TREVOR LAWRIE
Mr Trevor Lawrie accepted the call to ministry to commence in early 1972. Jack Chivell was invited to conduct T. Lawire's induction service.
THINKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE, LOSS OF A LONG TERM MEMBER & CAMPSITE ISSUES
A committee was formed to investigate designs and costs for a new church.
The church was saddened by the loss of Mrs. (Robert) Lawson , who was the sole remaining member from the time the Mildura Church of Christ Building was opened in 1908.
The Koorlong Camp Centre was proving a great worry for the few responsible for its ongoing maintenance and management, and the committee indicated its preparedness to carry on but remained pessimistic about its future. The Camp debt stood at $1500 and churches owed about $3000. Sale Proceeds of the Buronga hall, if applied to the camp, would relieve this situation.
CHANGE OF PLANS & SALE OF BURONGA HALL
An Architect suggested that instead of building a new church, the present church could be remodelled and extended.
The Buronga School merged with Mildura and their hall was sold. The $6,000 from the sale was used to pay off the Camp debt.
The ministers salary was $111.50 per week and average giving was $267.00
PLAN FOR CHURCH EXPANSION
Tentative plans and costs showed that the Building extensions would approximate $80,000. The overall plan for church rebuilding, as presented by the architect, was regarded as an acceptable basis for church needs at this stage.
WITHOUT A MINISTER & APPROVAL FOR CHURCH EXTENSIONS
The Lawrie family were farewelled at the end of 1976 and it would be more than 12 months until another minister was appointed. During this time, the manse was offered as a holiday home for ministers who could fill the pulpit during their stay. Chaplains Cyril Muller and Rex Sharrad ably assisted on many occasions as did ministers from other denominations.
The Board was given the "go ahead" to organise rebuilding the church and renovating the manse. The cost estimate of $50,000 was later revised to $66,000. Funds in hand were $30,000 and borrowings of $36,000 were arranged. The tender of Shurey and Sons was accepted.
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER BARRY BROWN, CHAPEL EXTENSIONS COMPLETE & CLOSURE OF MERBEIN CHURCH
Barry Brown, minister at Kaniva, was invited to Mildura for a ministry to commence early in 1978
The "new" church was officially opened, a plaque placed in the foyer and a time capsule positioned in the floor near the main door to be opened again in 2008. Costs for the Furniture were $2,779 and carpet was $3,980. The Hall was used for services during the renovations.
The Merbein church voted to wind-up.
SALE OF KOORLONG CAMP
An offer was received and accepted for purchase of the Camp Centre by the Lions Clubs of Mildura for use by under-priviledged children. Conference assumed responsibility for use of the proceeds. Sale price was $35,000, with $5,000 deposit and the balance to be paid over 10 years at 10% interest.
RAISING OF MINISTRY LEADERS WITHIN & TED KEATING MISSION
Leigh Mellberg and Jim Keatch entered the College of the Bible and some support was offered. They ministered through the holiday period.
Ted Keating visited to perform a week long mission in Mildura
The loan total with the Properties Corporation stood at $32,000
TRIBUTE FROM MERBEIN CHURCH CLOSURE
$2,000 was received from the Merbein church following their closure.
INTERIM MINISTRY OF LEIGH MELLBERG, MANSE RENOVATIONS & FURTHER FUNDS FROM MERBEIN CHURCH
Barry Brown concluded his ministry at the end of 1982 and Leigh Mellberg, on vacation from the C.O.B. conducted an interim ministry prior to Peter Nelson arriving.
Further renovations of the manse were completed prior to the Nelsons taking up residence.
An additional $8,000 was received from the Merbein Church
APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER PETER NELSON, ESTABLISHMENT OF CHAT 'N CHEW & A FOCUS ON EVANGELISTIC OUTREACH.