Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are respectfully advised that the following material may contain images of people who have recently died.
Australian Churches of Christ started emerging in the early-mid 19th century, pioneered by individuals that originally associated with denominations such as the Scotch Baptists (SA), Wesleyan Methodists (NSW) and the British Churches of Christ (Vic) (see Chapman, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, 1979)
These early congregations were focused on the celebration of the Eucharist or Lord's Supper in the morning, followed by open-air preaching and evangelistic services in the evenings. Sunday School classes were held during the day. While guarding their local autonomy, congregations sought to build relationships with other interstate churches, discussing ideas and ideals of restoration at 'tea meetings' and in correspondence (Chapman 1979, 15-18).
Research by Kerrie Handasyde
Harvest Thanksgiving photographs provide a glimpse into the spiritual lives of Nonconformists in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Generosity is evident, demonstrating both God’s Providence and the people’s charity. Redeeming words ensured that the displays were not mistaken for idolatry, for these were the products of people well-versed in scripture. Sheaves of wheat and sugarcane conveyed a sense that the people’s spiritual and working lives were intertwined. The photographs witnessed to a delight in nature and a connectedness to it that went beyond the providentially useful. Appreciation of nature’s beauty and embodied faith are evident everywhere. Ultimately the photographs represent an attempt to capture the elusive temporality of life in all its abundance and passing beauty. In such images we glimpse the fleeting transformation of sacred space and object, saved as snapshots. In this way they are photographs of grace.
Adapted from Kerrie Handasyde, ‘Harvest Thanksgiving and the Photography of Grace’, Australian Journal of Liturgy Vol. 14/4 (2015): 173-184.
Indigenous Australian Communities
The Beginnings of Churches of Christ Indigenous Ministry
Discussions regarding a formal, Australia wide ministry of Churches of Christ with Indigenous people began in the mid 1930s.
A central figure in this story was Sir Doug Nicholls (1906 -1988). Nicholls was a well known advocate for his people and a vocal Indigenous leader amongst the Churches of Christ in Victoria. Among other pursuits, Nicholls played Australian Rules for Fitzroy, finishing 3rd in the 1934 Brownlow medal. As a member of the Victorian Football team, Doug travelled across to WA by train to play in a carnival in 1935. Such was his concern for his own people across the Nullabor that immediately on his arrival in Perth, he went into the Churches of Christ office to demand that something be done to help his people. Nicholls’ most significant legacy was his contribution to Indigenous ministry and mission.
Alongside the advocacy of Clive Burdeu and others within Churches of Christ leadership, the Churches of Christ Federal Aborigines Mission Board Inc. was formed in 1942. Prior to this, Indigenous ministry and mission was active but lacked support from the broader Churches of Christ movement. Nicholls went on to futher his work among Indigenous Australian's in Melbourne through the Fizroy Church of Christ. From 1958 to 1961, Sonny Graham from Norseman Mission (WA), was the first Indigenous student at the College of the Bible. In the 1970s, Aboriginal Churches commenced at Adelaide, Albury, Hedland/Marble Bar, Tamworth, Looma, Port Lincoln, Onslow, Eidsvold, Normanton, Mareeba and Brisbane.
Further history and our ongoing story in Indigenous Ministries Australia can be found at www.imaaustralia.org.au
(text: Indigenous Ministries Australia, GMP)