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Heritage & Identity Commission

From     Honolulu  2010        to          Durban  2015

’The grace of goodness’

John Saunders:

Baptist pastor and activist, Sydney


by Ken Manley and Barbara Coe

397 pages

Rev John Saunders (1806–59) was the pioneer Baptist pastor in Sydney from 1834 to 1848. As well as establishing the first Baptist Church at Bathurst Street in 1836 he became a leading figure in the religious and moral life of the colony. A prominent activist in the temperance movement at a time when alcohol was still a major scourge, he was also a courageous and outspoken critic of the treatment of Aborigines by many British settlers at the fevered time of the trial of white men for the Myall Creek murders.

The special feature of this book is that it not only tells the full story of Saunders’ numerous activities on behalf of missions, philanthropic, scientific and moral issues, but for the first time publishes a comprehensive and carefully edited collection of his fascinating letters, written whilst he was travelling as chaplain to female convicts aboard the George Hibbert and after his arrival in Sydney. Other lectures and sermons, including his famous denunciation of the treatment of Aborigines, are included. Saunders also contributed to contemporary debates about crucial topics such as general education for children and the transportation of convicts. Whenever possible, the authors have allowed Saunders to speak for himself on the key issues that helped shape the colony during the crucial years of his ministry. The detailed notes about all who feature in his letters and papers are of special value.

During Saunders’ 13 years in Sydney, he came to love his new home. Following his death in London in 1859, his headstone revealed that he had become ‘one whose energies were devoted to the best interests of that bright land’.

Ken Manley and Barbara Coe have brought together original documents, commentary and research to produce not only a Baptist history, but a history of Sydney during these significant years.

This is a wonderful piece of writing incorporating biography, marvellous descriptions of colonial Sydney and exhaustive historical research into how Rev John Saunders tackled the burning issues of the early settlement in Australia’ (Rev Tim Costello, AM).

Published by Baptist Historical Society of NSW.

Price: (approx) AUS $35 +pp

Order on line: www.baptisthistory.org.au/shop


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International Conference on Baptist Studies VII

Luther King House, Manchester, England

15-18 July 2015

Following six successful International Conferences on Baptist Studies around the world beginning at Oxford in 1997, there is to be a seventh at Luther King House, Manchester, England, the home of the Northern Baptist Learning Community, from Wednesday 15 to Saturday 18 July 2015.  All of these conferences have taken the history of the Baptists throughout the world as their subject matter, and participation has been open to all, both as speakers and attenders.  The theme this time is ‘Baptists and Revival’, a topic which includes traditional revivals, modern crusades and the more general reinvigoration of Baptist life.  The theme will be explored by means of case studies, some of which will be very specific in time and place while others will cover long periods and more than one country. All will be based on original research.

A number of main papers will address key aspects of the subject, but offers of short papers to last no more than 25 minutes in delivery are very much welcome as well.  They should relate in some way to the theme of ‘Baptists and Revival’.  The proposed title should be submitted to Professor D. W. Bebbington, School of History and Politics, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, United Kingdom (e-mail: d.w.bebbington@stir.ac.uk).  Papers from the first conference have appeared as The Gospel in the World: International Baptist Studies, edited by David Bebbington, and volumes representing nearly all the subsequent conferences have also been published in the series of Studies in Baptist History and Thought published by Paternoster Press.  We intend that a volume containing some of the papers will again appear after the seventh conference.

Luther King House is generously providing meals, accommodation and facilities for the three days for the remarkably low figure of £200.   The capacity of the House is limited to 59 and so early booking is advisable. Nevertheless additional attenders will be welcome if they are willing to make their own bed and breakfast arrangements and pay £80 for lunch, dinner, refreshments and facilities at Luther King House. Registration forms are available here and from Beverley Bartram, Conference Office, Luther King House, Brighton Grove, Manchester M14 5JP, United Kingdom (e-mail: LKHConferenceOffice@lkh.co.uk; tel: +44 (0)161 249 2539).  Further information is available from Nathan Finn, Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina (e-mail: nfinn@sebts.edu).

Click here to download Registration Form

Rev Trevor Farmilo 1924-2015

A Tribute

Rev Trevor Farmilο died on 28 January 2015 in Melbourne Australia. He and his wife Gwen were a missionary couple who lived through the period of great change in East Pakistan. The Farmilos arrived in the country in 1952 after the partition of India. They left East Pakistan in 1965, five years before the conclusion of the painful war of independence which excised East Pakistan from Pakistan and saw the birth of Bangladesh. In their time each bears witness to the fact that missionary work in Muslim lands is one of patient, faithful and dedicated endeavour which results in only a comparative handful of converts to the Christian faith.

Trevor was born in Sydney on 3 September 1924 but it was from the Elphin Baptist Church in northern Tasmania that he entered Melbourne Bible Institute in preparation for full-time Christian service. The two major influences in his life were his godly parents Jack and Essie Farmilo, and Ern Greeney, his Sunday school teacher over many years. Another strong influence was the Launceston Ambassadors for Christ. On completion of studies at Melbourne Bible Institute (M.B.I.), he joined the Hobart Baptist Church and under the ministry of the Rev. Ted Roberts-Thomson was led to apply to the Australian Baptist Missionary Society (A.B.M.S. - Now Global Interaction) for service in East Pakistan. Following training at the Baptist College of Victoria, he was ordained in Hobart and sailed for East Pakistan on 6 December 1952 spending his first year in language study at Birisiri.

Gwen Bakes was born at Deloraine in North Western Tasmania and early years were spent at country Cressy where her family first attended the Anglican Church and then the Methodist Church. The family moved to Launceston at her secondary school stage and attended the Memorial Βaptist Church.  Later they transferred to the Elphin Baptist Church where Gwen taught Sunday School in her early teens.

Gwen moved to Hobart while still a teenager and attended the Sandy Βay Baptist Church. She was challenged in respect of missionary service by Rev. E. E. Watson at an Ambassadors for Christ camp. 1947 and 1948 were spent studying at Μ.Β.I. She later moved to Sydney. She became engaged to Trevor and followed him to East Pakistan in October 1953. They were married at Birisiri in 1954 and moved to Mymensingh which became their home for the next fourteen years.

In his first term of six years Trevor was responsible for the tertiary students’ hostel where mainly Garos, northern tribal people, from outlying villages came to study. His other main responsibility was the nurturing of a group of Garo churches situated in a forest about fifty kiΙometres from Mymensingh. He also attended to the Mission's finances.

0n their return after their first furlough, Trevor was appointed Field Secretary -Treasurer, and continued in this role until the completion of their service with the Mission. Although this involved a fair deal of administrative work and constant travelling, he continued with the work among the Garos which he found most rewarding. In their last couple of years male staff was very short and so there was the opportunity for him to be more personally involved in the outreach ministry of both the Gospel Hall and Reading Room in Mymensingh.

Gwen's duties involved running a guest house for visiting missionaries and visitors. Their three children were born during this time. When they reached school age she taught them by correspondence lessons. These fifteen years of much learning and growing in the Christian life.

Gwen later said that it was an experience greatly valued. She said, “The Lord Jesus Christ was my constant companion and gave me the necessary strength and 'nerve' to live in a country like East Pakistan. I look back now and say, 'Νοw, how did Ι cope with this and why?' All I know is that 'His grace was sufficient, and still is!"

Trevor commented, "Our experience in East Pakistan was marked by many frustrations and disappointments, but there were compensating joys and encouragements. There was not, much growth in the church during this time, but we rejoice that in more recent years the church has experienced quite spectacular growth." During their time the membership of the Protestant church in East Pakistan totalled less than 20,000 in a population of 55,000,000. This represented less than 0.04 of Ι% of the total population. Stated another way for every 10,000 Pakistanis there were only four Protestant churches.

0n their return Trevor was appointed Secretary of the Baptist Union of Victoria. It was a very demanding, but rewarding period of service spread over ten and one half years. He was elected President of the Union in 1980. In 1978 he became administrator and chaplain to the 280 residents of the Judge Βοοk Retirement Village at Eltham, Victoria. Gwen too became a staff member.

A Thanksgiving Service took place at New Hope Baptist Church, 3 Springfield Road, Blackburn North on Monday February 2, 2015, following a private burial.

Australian Baptists extend their sympathy to Gwen and their family.

Contributed by Mr L Rowston, MA, Hobart, Tasmania

On 31/1/2015 5:07 μμ, David Parker wrote: