The Church in Hobart, Tasmania
By Ian McPherson
Tasmania is a large island southeast of the mainland of Australia. Hobart, Tasmania's capital city, is the home of the Eastern Shore Church of Christ. This congregation began on Oct. 23, 1973 when the Ed Glover and Dale Mowery families began meeting in a rented hall. They were joined in early 1975 by the Rod Rutherford and John Whitson families. A block of land was secured and the first floor of a meeting house was constructed. The Glover family returned to the U.S. in 1977, but the Rutherfords and Whitsons continued with the congregation until mid 1982. Len Bestman, an Australian preacher, and two American brothers in the Project Good News program from Lipscomb University also worked with the church for a time.
In the early days of the congregation, a strong Bible school was built. Two 16 passenger vans were used to pick up children, the elderly, and others who had no means of transportation. A strong foundation of soundness in doctrine and stability in practice was in place when my family and I joined the Bestman family in the work in 1983.
Surprisingly, much of our early growth was generated through working with the elderly. Our "Golden Years Group" began in mid 1983 as an outreach to the many senior citizens of our community. We challenged the myth that older people are set in their ways and rarely change their religion. Our group grew to a consistent level of about 20 and remained this size until we closed it down nine years later. By that time, nearly all the members were Christians. We learned that if older folk would come regularly and have the gospel lovingly, clearly, constantly, and patiently taught them, they would eventually obey. It took an average of two years of such teaching for each one who became a Christian.
For a period of about five years, the church experienced a steady, consistent growth. For example, between January 1983 and October 1985, 26 were baptized and one restored. Two of the baptisms were husbands of Christian wives, and six were husbands and wives baptized together. For about five years, we had a one hundred percent retention rate of converts. Many of the elderly converts died in the Lord during this period of time. The church was united and loving. However, this did not continue.
Unfortunately, we experienced some division when a few members were disciplined.
The Dale Mowery family - the backbone of the church from its inception - returned to the U.S. in 1985. That year, the Roy Courtney family from Queensland in Australia came to work with us and remained about five years. During this time, our auditorium was completed by the labors and financial support of our membership.
My wife, Mabel, and I continue to work full-time with the Eastern Shore congregation. A few years ago, one of our members, Jim Backhouse, took early retirement to give full-time to the work of the church. Gary Young, a young man converted here, attended the Memphis School of Preaching, and gives generously of his time to the church while attending the University of Tasmania.
The church continues to be very evangelistic as it has been throughout its history. Each year we make a display for the Royal Hobart Show (similar to a state fair in the USA). Here we pass out tracts, answer Bible questions, and set up Bible studies. About 80,000 people attend the four-day Show each year. The results of our efforts have been five baptized into Christ and many Bible studies conducted. We also have periodic gospel meetings and door-knocking campaigns. Some of the faithful gospel preachers who have spoken in our meetings through the years have been Perry B. Cotham, Demar Elam, Charles Brackett, Jim Waldron, Coy Roper, Rod Rutherford, Hugo McCord, Richard Harp, and Jim Dearman. We have had two campaigns since I have been here, both led by Rod Rutherford. Demar Elam of Southern Christian University is presently planning a campaign in Hobart this year.
Another means of our outreach is the "Truth for the World" radio program with Jim Dearman as speaker. We have the oneminute program on daily at 7:45 a.m. and the 15minute broadcast on each Sunday morning. In addition, I have a halfhour radio interview once every two weeks. I am permitted by the station to discuss any topic.
In May, we began the first of what will be an annual lectureship. Our theme this year was "Living the Transformed Life." Speakers came from both Australia and New Zealand. We have also begun a monthly paper called Love the Brotherhood. I serve as editor. We have plans in the future for some kind of a training school to prepare men to establish congregations in other cities and towns in Tasmania.
We have every opportunity for growth in the future. We have a very nice church building and a sound and united membership. We have visitors at nearly every service, and the church has become very well known throughout our community. We are very optimistic about the future.