This is the story of a people, ordinary, hard-working people who live or have lived in Epping or adjacent suburbs. Scarcely distinguished from their neighbours in most respects, they yet have a particular identity that constitutes this story. They are a people with a purpose.
A meeting was held at the Eastwood church on Wednesday 23rd April 1930 when 42 people gathered. Rev. GH Morling, Principal of the Baptist Theological College, was chairman and Rev FJ Dunkley the Superintendent of Home Missions was present. The meeting passed the following resolutions:
- That a branch of the Eastwood Baptist Church be established at Epping under the control of the Eastwood Church.
- That application be made to the Home Mission for services of a student pastor.
- That church is prepared to raise £5 monthly towards his settlement.
- That cottage meetings at Epping be inaugurated immediately.’
Services were commenced in a room of the Epping School of Arts in June 1930.
A Sunday school was commenced in September 1930. The first and only student that day was young June Davidson. On the second Sunday enrolment tripled when Audrey and Graham Gordon attended. Mr Harold Gow was the leader, his office being dignified with the title of Sunday School Superintendent by the Eastwood deacons on 7 January 1931. Most families attending the Epping branch had only small babies so it was some time before the Sunday school really began an effective ministry.
Mrs Elsie Edgecombe took initiatives in gathering other ladies to meet with her and in June 1931 the Ladies' Guild was commenced.
In December 1932, 17 people of the Epping branch work met at the home of Mr and Mrs RH Gordon in Wyralla Avenue and resolved to form a separate church. The decision was reported to the Eastwood deacons on 3 January 1933 when the proposal was warmly commended. The inaugural meeting was held in the lower hall of the Epping School of Arts in Oxford Street on Wednesday evening 29 March 1933. Rev Robert Goodman, President of the Baptist Union, constituted the church which had 26 foundation members. Of this number 22 had been transferred from the Eastwood Church.
The help of the Baptist Union, and of the Home Mission Committee in particular, continued through a period of struggle. Student Pastor SM Brook was appointed from March 1937. This was an astute appointment since Mr Brook had led the Liverpool church through a church building program and was a most energetic and persistent leader. He could persuade people who at first refused to help. During his two year ministry land was purchased, the first building was erected and the church membership grew rapidly from 32 in April 1937 to 63 in April 1939.
The ministry of Pastor Bramwell Gilbert Wright from March 1940 to April 1947 was significant for several reasons. His was the first sustained ministry, for no predecessor had served for more than two years. Mr Wright was the first married man to be pastor and this naturally brought an added dimension to ministry. Although the church was not in a position to purchase a manse, Mr & Mrs Wright bought a cottage in Edensor Street so that for the first time the church had a pastor living in the suburb.
During his ministry there was encouraging growth. Membership increased from 73 to 135. This allowed the church to become fully independent of the Home Mission Committee, and at the conclusion of Mr Wright's appointment as student pastor the church called him to be full-time pastor. Mr Wright was ordained on 9 November 1943.
Where is the Church on its 75th Anniversary?
Small home-based prayer and bible study groups number 26. Playtime groups occur five times weekly, serving 150 families, with a waiting list of 20. Boys Brigade and Friday night youth programs are popular. Craft groups fill the hall on alternate Wednesdays. Aerobics, Exercise and Keep Fit groups engage some people. Friendship Group for seniors happens monthly.
Ministries outside the suburb, supported by the church, include David and Jan Bayliss (FEBC Mongolia), Ian Finnan (Student Life, Macquarie University), Ian and Helen McIntosh (Navigators), RH (Asia), the Mak family (translation of Christian text books into Chinese), the Robertson family (Hong Kong), J family (Asia), Hope Street (Woolloomooloo), worship services in nursing homes (Carlingford and Marsfield) and Tim and Anna Harding (teaching in Cambodia).
The Sunday school is vibrant, with 140 children attending. A significant innovation has been the commencement of Wednesday night ‘Reflection’ services.
Eleven church members are engaged in Special Religious Education in local primary schools. A successor to Al Hewetson at Epping Boys’ High School is being sought. With the help of the federal government school chaplaincy grant program, Emily Mitchell will increase her commitment at Cheltenham Girls’ High School to five days weekly.
English conversation classes held weekly are attracting 40 students, mostly of Chinese and Korean background. The changing ethnic composition of the Epping population is reflected in an increasing proportion of Asian people in the congregation.
The church continues to face the challenge of reaching a widely diverse community for Christ. We are celebrating the 75th anniversary, with special events, speakers, and artists scheduled for 29 March-6 April 2008.
We have the valued and experienced leadership of Rev Dr Eldridge during 2008, a year of importance and transition for the church.