Norlane Baptist Church 29 November 1987
In 1931, a party of Baptists from the Aberdeen Street Baptist Church Geelong came to Norlane (then known as North Shore) to conduct Sunday School. In these early years this pioneering work was carried out in the North Shore State School.
However, in 1937, the Aberdeen Street Church purchased a building from the Hope Particular Baptist Church, Chilwell. This church had been formed in 1874, and met in a wooden building in Saffron Street Chilwell until its closure in 1910.The weatherboard building was transported here to Spruhan Avenue.
A.F. Fullard, President of the Baptist Union of Victoria in 1935-36, and a son of one of the pastors who had ministered in the Hope Chapel, officially re-opened the old building as an Aberdeen Street branch Sunday School on 27th November 1937.
“The Baptist Witness” dated 5th December 1917, recorded the
following in its “Home Mission Notes"...
“All Baptists in the State will congratulate Aberdeen Street Church, Geelong, on its latest efforts in extension. Having purchased a Particular Baptist Church in Geelong, they proceeded to move it to North Shore on a site which had been purchased some time ago. On its new site the building will meet a long felt need by the people of the locality. The members of the famous church set a splendid example of church extension that could be well followed by others.”
A later, local church historian was to record , . . .
“For the opening of the church visitors came from Melbourne including Mr Fullard, and the Rev. E. C. Burleigh B.A. of the Aberdeen Street Baptist Church, who had really started this cause, was there to welcome them.
The members of the Aberdeen Street Baptist Church Choir, under the leadership of the late G. E. Guest sang “Open the gates of the Temple” and then the key was turned in the lock, and all moved into the church. Once again the choir led the service and appropriate addresses were given.”
Eleven years later, on 12th December 1948, the church was officially constituted and six members were received into fellowship. The service was led by Mr B. Montgomery, Pastor R. Skilbeck and the address “The Purpose of the Church” by Rev E.H. Watson. In his message, Rev E. H. Watson stated that the purpose of the church was to present Christ to the world. After the Lord’s supper, the following members were received into fellowship: Mrs B. Faulkner, Miss J. Faulkner, Mr W.H. Moore, Mrs E. Moore, Mrs B. Singleton and Mr H. Culliver. Mrs Gladys Culliver (Lawes) was welcomed into fellowship the following Sunday. These were the foundation members of the Norlane Baptist Church.
Very soon after the constitution of the church, the community changed and expanded rapidly. Geelong was looking ahead. Big industrial firms moved in. The State Government was erecting homes around the Melbourne Road area, and overnight almost, a new suburb sprang up – Norlane had become suburban. In about 1950 the Home Mission Society purchased the present manse with a view to settling a full-time pastor.
In August 1952, Pastor Donald Rose became the first resident pastor. His untiring ministry was limited to eighteen months when he was forced, on doctor’s advice, to resign because of health problems.
Pastor Jack Calder succeeded Pastor Rose in October 1954.
The Sunday School hall was commenced in December. Built primarily through volunteer labour, it was officially opened in 1955. Growth and consolidation continued in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s under the leadership of various pastors: Rev. Peter Broughton, Rev. Alex Oliver and Rev. Geoff Malins, and in the late ‘70s and ‘80s they have been followed by Rev. Peter Neil and Rev. Ian Chalmers. Neither is this to take away from those who have exercised quiet and faithful ministries through the Sunday School, youth work, pastoral care, BWF, children’s outreach and many other unheralded areas. We praise God for the faithful and tireless work of His people in this place over the past 50 years.
In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s the church grew in membership, peaking at 77 in 1968, and during these decades the Sunday School flourished. In those days of large Sunday School attendance, classes were held at the local scout hall, in every spare inch of building space, in the church bus, cars, and even in the back of a ute. In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s the Sunday School attendees numbered in excess of 200.
On 4 December 1965 the present brick building was officially opened. This was designed with vision, to provide for future growth and expansion.
In July 1972, eight members of the fellowship transferred to Bell Post Hill and constituted that church which is now the flourishing Cloverdale Baptist Church in Corio.
Missionary enterprise has always been a high priority for this fellowship. As well as being strong in support of missionaries, the Norlane Baptist Church has had various members move into full-time Christian work. These include:
Peter and Marilyn Haylock (Castlemaine Church of Christ)
David (Jock) Whittaker (Grovedale Baptist)
Philip Wilson (Albert Park Baptist)
Cliff and Irene Shelton (Wycliffe Bible Translators)
Greg and Sandra Luxford (Williamstown Baptist)
Like every church, Norlane has had, in its history, highs and lows: periods of growth, unity and prosperity and other times of decline, division and poverty. The past decade has been one of decline in membership, and has not been an easy period for the fellowship. Yet, our history is not yet complete, for we are in the process of history and there are more chapters to be lived. This morning let us praise the Lord for His grace. Let us give thanks to the Lord for the times past and praise Him for His work in us and through us in the future.