Tumultuous Times

Dr John C. Sampson

 

Tumultuous Times

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A brief colonial history for Baptists in Victoria

When Sydney was established in 1788, it was viewed primarily as a penal colony, hemmed in by the Blue Mountains. It was not until Governor Macquarie encouraged the development of a free society that Baptists began to arrive and establish their chapels. The Rev John McKaeg was their first pastor and began preaching in Sydney in 1832. However, the first Baptist church was not founded until the Rev Henry Dowling established the Hobart Baptist Church in 1835.

Also in 1835 Port Phillip was colonised with the colony of Victoria being established 1850. However, the significance of this event was overshadowed by the discovery of gold and the resulting rush turned everything on its head.

A Baptist, Thomas Napier, was among the first colonists in Melbourne but the Baptists were few and of very diverse opinions so that it was not until 1843 that Collins Street Baptist Church was founded. This became the mother church in the colony and played a key role in these early tumultuous years, when most Baptist churches were extremely poor, good pastors were hard to find, and cooperation between the churches difficult to achieve.