Sunday, August 26, 2012


Sunday School early 1960s, Belmont Baptist Church

When we moved to Belmont, our family joined the Baptist Church. Church in those days was quite different from how we experience it today. Children went to Sunday School at 9.30 AM, then our parents would join us for church at 11 AM.

Older children would be back at church for Christian Endeavour in the afternoon, would come home for dinner and go back again for the 7 PM evening service. Sometimes there was a fellowship dinner before church, and there was often also supper at either church or someone's home after the evening service.

Once a month, there was a Missionary League meeting, before Christian Endeavour, in which older children would cut stamps off envelopes to send away to the Australian Baptist Missionary Society for the support of missionaries like Miss Ruth Marks, who was serving as a nurse in Papua New Guinea with the Enga people. It's a wonder anyone went to work or school on Monday, but back then it seemed quite normal. And, mostly, I enjoyed it. I found the teaching about Christ meaningful, and I was given the opportunity to lead, pray, speak and play the piano for singing at Christian Endeavour, and then later at church.

In the picture above, I am sitting between Leonard Turnbull and Stephen Neill. I sat next to Leonard in Sunday School for years and years. He learnt guitar, while I was learning piano. He had a good ear for music and could play the introduction to almost any popular song. (Often, the arresting opening of the songs was more interesting than the music which followed.)

I enjoyed playing with him and his neighbour, Greg Bellamy. We did a mean version of The Shadows' Theme For Young Lovers.

When I went to theological college, Leonard used to send us some money from time to time, to help us with our expenses. We never asked people to do this, or told them about our financial needs. But on several occasions when we did not have the money in the bank to pay the rent, a cheque from Leonard (and sometimes somebody else) would arrive on the day the rent was due. Initially our weekly rent was a whole $40 per week. It later went up to $45 per week and then $50. One thing that has always intrigued me is that when the rent was increased, the gift increased to meet the new amount (without any prompting from us).

Leonard later went to college himself. I don't remember sending him any money, but I did loan him  my theological library.

The picture below shows a group of Sunday school teachers. I can't remember all their names, but you can see Cec Williams, Sunday School superintendent on the top left, standing next to Tom Mascord, Alf Presbury and Norm Hutchison. I don't remember the other man. I think that I know five out of six of the ladies: not sure who the first is, but the others are Miss Ryan, Miss Gates, Mrs Maskey, Mrs Knowles and, I think, Margaret Powell. (Years later, my mother once reintroduced me to Margaret, and told me that she had been my first Sunday School teacher. I think another of my kindergarten teachers was a young woman called Irene Selwood.)

Cec used to give us things to think about at the beginning of Sunday School, before we went off to our classes. They were practical topics that made you think about living as a Christian at school and home.

Tom Mascord and Norm Hutchison both taught me. Alf Presbury was the husband of the Kindergarten Sunday School superintendent and an accomplished ventriloquist and magician. We used to love his tricks and his stories which he used to present the Christian message.

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