Home Mission Notes


[1903] The Rev. W. G. [Wilbur Glenn] Voliva, the Australian overseer of the Zionite movement, returned from Kangaroo Island, where his teaching excited great curiosity. During his stay he baptised ten persons off Queenscliff Beach, and says that during the Australian mission he has made 500 new converts. Of these 22 have left for Zion City, and 16 others depart thence from Melbourne to-morrow.

Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail (SA : 1898 - 1918), Wednesday 18 March 1903, page 3


A Missionary Visit to Kangaroo Island.

By the REV. J. PEARCE.

It looked like knocking off work to carry bricks; nevertheless, I resolved to spend my holiday on Kangaroo Island in preparing the way for the Home Missionary, who will take charge, I trust, almost at once. With the authority of the President of Conference and the General Secretary of Home Missions, I therefore boarded the Kooringa at Port Adelaide on April 8, in the hope of getting some physical benefit from the change, and at the same time doing some service for Methodism in particular, and Christianity in general. Had a delightful passage; none of my fears were confirmed; did not "suffer shipwreck," nor the sensation that some people maintain is a worse form of suffering. Enjoyed social intercourse with the passengers—the members for Alexandra, the Government Geologist, and the Mining Inspector were on board—and my performances at dinner and tea would bear favourable comparison with some of my best efforts of the kind. Conversed with the members for Alexandra about the condition and prospects of the island. They graphically described its mineral and agricultural wealth, and, with a good deal of assurance, predicted for it an era of great prosperity. I had better not give their exact words, lest they should be thought dreamers. Was fortunate in meeting Mr. Howard, who was homeward bound, and from whom I gathered information which assisted me greatly.

The steamer drew up alongside the jetty at Hog Bay—what a shame to put such a brand on the place—about 4.30 p.m. About 50 people were on the jetty; the arrival of the steamboats —one on Wednesday, and the other on Saturday—is the event of the week, and attracts quite a gathering of the clans. I was received with much cordiality by our friend Mr. Murray, who has nobly held the Methodistic forts for years, in the absence of a Home Missionary, and also by Mr. Usher and other friends. After a stay of about half an hour the Kooringa headed for Queenscliffe. As we drew away from the jetty, clouds appeared on the horizon, which induced the fear that my reputation as a sailor would be imperilled. But what a sight! I have never, seen any cloud effect so fine. The artist and the word-painter would have received an inspiration as we viewed the picture from the deck of the Kooringa. First, a frowning mass of black cloud appeared from the west; then fleecy-white clouds formed a huge frill around this frowning monster ; then it decorated itself with broad strips of blue and crimson. This gaily suffused cloud-giant was heralded by vivid flashes of lightning and loud peals of thunder. Adjectives were at a premium as we watched the developments of this phenomenon.

It was very dark and wet when I stepped on to the Queenscliffe jetty. Several people were there, and evidently a good deal of interest was being taken in the meeting which was to be held that evening by the politicians who were retiring from office and seeking re-election. A feeling of loneliness seized me as I trudged along with my luggage through pelting rain and pools of water, and made enquiries for lodgings. A sympathetic grip of the hand would have greatly heartened me just then. I was wet through to the skin when I got safely housed, which I thought sufficient justification for going early to bed. I ascertained, in the meantime, that arrangements had been made for me to preach in the local hall on Sunday afternoon and evening, and got the chairman of the political meeting (Mr. Jno. Turner) to make this announcement.

Next morning (Sunday) I looked up my "advance agent," and was disappointed to find that my request for a morning service, some distance from the township, had not been complied with. The afternoon service was discouraging. At the time for commencing five adults were present—three of them were fellow travellers who were visiting the Island; another was the young lady organist, with whom I lodged; the other, a young man, deeply interested in the musical young lady. Soon, however, twelve children joined them, and as I progressed with the service the adults were increased by seven, making twelve, adults and twelve children. I went to my room after the service and sought encouragement where the pioneers of Methodism in the old land and in this State received inspiration and stimulus. Help came, in opposition to the suggestion, "The residents are indifferent to your message." "The way is difficult," I said. "Nevertheless, it is the way the Master went"; the way John Wesley, Hugh Bourne, William Brian, James Thome, and the noble army of pioneers that made Methodism went; shall not the servant of Him who came to His own, and was not received, and the humble successor of such noble ancestry, that, through faith, subdued kingdoms, tread it still?

I went to the hall in the evening with a spirit of expectancy. Had a congregation of over 40, and, I think, a good service. The lay reader (Mr. Cook) of the Church of England kindly closed the church in our favour, and attended our service. Miss Florence, the organist of the Anglican Church, kindly assisted me in the same capacity. On Monday I drove with Mr. Jacobs (a Methodist farmer from Port Pirie Circuit, who is in search of land for his sons) to Mr. G. Turner's, situated about 13 miles from Queenscliffe, and about 2 miles from Smith's Bay.

In this locality Mr. [Henry] Partridge [26 Jan 1845 - 19 Dec 1915], the leader of the Dowie party, lived. Mr. Partridge did splendid work in connection with our Church years ago, and more recently as the Parkin Missionary for the Congregational Church. He was the backbone, in fact, of the evangelical party. Unfortunately he became a follower of Dowie, and induced several of the islanders to follow suit. The Zionites became very zealous. They, insisted that the acceptance of Dowie's teaching was essential to the Christian character, and treated those that re-fused to fall in line with themselves as "aliens to the Commonwealth of Israel." Much disunion and ill-feeling in family life resulted. Soon a contingent resolved to live in the "clean city," Zion, and sold their properties to fulfil their purpose and satisfy Dowie's requirements. Argument and entreaty from relatives and friends were or no avail. So infatuated were they with the expert at vituperation who made such a hurried exit from our shores some time since, that one woman said to me she believed they would have remained loyal to him if he declared himself to be the Christ. A mother of two married daughters in Zion told me that one son-in-law is working in a soap factory; the other is doing navvy work on a new railway line which is being constructed. The latter earns £3 and a few shillings per week when employed. During the severe months of winter work is greatly interrupted, and is, consequently, very uncertain. Imagine farmers sacrificing their holdings for such conditions. But Mr. Partridge has left in disgust, others are following his example, and others will do likewise when they can get sufficient money saved to pay for their passage to South Australia. It was truly sad to hear of careers being blighted by this strange infatuation. The evil reports from Zion have had a depressing effect on the remaining Dowieites, and the cause they advocate is in a decadent condition. I trust they will shortly favour a more rational form of Christianity. It must be acknowledged that some of the most earnest Christians on the island were among the deluded ones.

Tuesday evening I conducted a service in the home of Mr. Melville, at Cygnet River. The night, was wet; eleven adults and six children assembled, nevertheless, and the Holy Spirit was manifestly present. The friends seemed very grateful for and appreciative of the service. It was a real pleasure to speak to a people that exhibited such interest in the message delivered. Mrs. Melville is a saintly woman, who is intensely interested in spiritual things; but her home is rarely visited by a minister of the Gospel. It is, of course, impossible for the Anglican catechist to meet all the spiritual needs of the district. He visits Hog Bay and Queenscliffe on alternate Sundays. On the evening of the off Sunday at Queenscliffe the lay reader conducts the service; at Hog Bay, in his absence, no service is held. The back country can, of course, only be visited very occasionally. The catechist is a hard worker, and in good repute; but it is impossible for him to cover the ground.

But what of the future ? The population is steadily increasing. Large tracts of mallee country, which were considered worthless, are being levelled, cleared, and successfully cultivated, thanks to superphosphate. This has happened within the last three years, and there is a prospect of a substantial influx of people in consequence. The spiritual destitution of a large number of the present residents, apart from anticipations of future, affected me deeply, and I felt that at its earliest opportunity our Church must send a man, or it will come under the condemnation of refusing a Macedonian cry. But I've sufficient confidence in our people's generosity, enterprise, and loyalty to the Master's command to believe that, within a very short tune, a name will appear in the list of stations opposite Kangaroo Island. In my next I hope to say something about Hog Bay, where I am staying at present.

A Missionary Visit to Kangaroo Island. (1905, April 28). Australian Christian Commonwealth (SA : 1901 - 1940), p. 5. Retrieved August 4, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213579073

The American River has to be reckoned with by travellers to Hog Bay from Queenscliffe (Kingscote). It is responsible for the journey of 40 miles by land which has to be travelled in going from the one place to the other, this road is, however, largely discarded by travellers in favour of the more direct and pleasurable passage by steamboat. The minister can group around each place outposts that will need his attentions and services. Kingscote includes Cygnet River and Wisanger; Hog Bay is the base from which Salt Lagoon, Cuttlefish Bay, and Cape Willoughby can be worked.

At Hog Bay we have an iron church which will seat about 80 people. Services are conducted therein by Mr. Murray every Sunday. A few loyal Methodists follow his lead, and unite with him in Christian, fellowship. Mr. Murray deserves honourable mention for his heroic efforts in the interests of our Church. His sense of loneliness and desire for help will be sympathetically regarded by the Methodist brotherhood. Sunday morning I preached at Mr. Howard's home, Cuttlefish Bay, to a congregation—young and old—of 23. At Hog Bay, in the afternoon, had the same number. Our friends are not fettered by decorous conventionalism. One of the congregation asked me to repeat the number of the hymn, and one of the two ladies that came after the reading of the lesson enquired whether she was too late. The reply given was, "No; you are just in time for the collection." Such diversions, however, do not disturb the seasoned Home Missionary. A congregation of 35 gathered for the evening service, and sympathetic interest was manifestly taken in the message delivered. The request that the preacher should remain and sing some of the songs of Zion after the service was concluded was cheerfully complied with, and the hope cherished that the spiritual impressions made by the Word preached were intensified by the songs sung.

The bicycle trip of 18 miles to Cape Willoughby next day was rather wearisome. Only two houses are seen during the last 11 miles of the journey. The long stretches of country covered with yackas and stunted bushes passed through do not furnish a landscape where every prospect pleases. Some people of sanguine temperament that I met predict the prosperous cultivation of this poverty-stricken area by means of fertilisation. Well, it requires-a vivid imagination to conceive it. Visited Mr. Frazer, an old Methodist. who kept the door of our Church at Hog Bay open until he removed to the farm on which he now lives, adjoining the lighthouse property. Knew of the recent bereavement the family had suffered. Trust some healing balm was applied to the wounds caused by the terrible wrench experienced while the Word was read and expounded and prayer offered, The heartiness of the welcome given by the Frazer family was ample reward for the effort spent in covering the long and tedious journey.

At the house of the head keeper of the lighthouse—Mr. Angus—I received equal cordiality. Met the two families in charge of the lighthouse, together with the Frazer family, for a service the same evening. It was refreshing to preach to such responsive hearers. Spent the night in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Angus.

The stay was both educational and pleasurable. The inspection of the lighthouse was made highly interesting by the lucid explanations and reminiscences that Mr. Angus furnished. The large "ships that pass in the night," with their brilliant electric illuminations, did not come into view during my "watch." In this I was disappointed, as the sight is said to be impressively fine. Called at the two houses referred to above on my return journey, and was kindly received. Hoped to visit a mining camp three miles distant from the road; but time did not permit. This mine is producing china clay, and is expected soon to provide employment for several men.

Shared one of the very fine apples— they can grow beautiful apples in favoured spots on the island—I received at a farmhouse with a solitary roadmaker. This indication of sociability "drew him out." Told me that he had been a Salvation Army soldier, but had recently appropriated a modification of Seventh Day Adventism, with the result that he is not working much at Christianity now. Urged him to get back to earnest efforts to save men, instead of perplexing himself about a number of non-essentials. A commercial traveller on a motor bike overtook me, and, linked to him, I continued my journey with the minimum of effort. The missionary has done much for the trader, so I had no hesitation in accepting his help. Commercialism will have to do something very considerable yet before it will fulfil all its obligations to the Church.

One of my most enjoyable visits was paid to Mr. and Mrs. Buick, sen., who live alongside the American River. This interesting old couple have lived in the same place for 50 years. For many years they had no neighbours within 10 miles; now they have two of their sons and families living on the same estate. Mrs. Buick is lame, owing to an accident to her foot several years ago, from which she still suffers great pain, and so deaf that I had to communicate to her with pencil and slate. Nevertheless, she reproved herself for having tolerated a spirit of complaining. "When I count up my mercies," she said, "I discover the extreme unreasonableness and ingratitude of such conduct." In the light of such a testimony, I said hard things about my own murmuring. The visit was a means of grace to me, at any rate.

Mr. Buick has a good orchard; his apples are especially fine, as the sampling revealed. While visiting on the Wednesday was encouraged to hear a woman speak of her desire for a spiritual experience. Hope the discussion that followed, the Scripture read, and the prayer offered helped her to the realisation of her desire.

I have endeavoured in these notes to give a fair representation of the kind of work to be done on the island, the conditions of settlement, and the average character of the people. That a need for Christian work exists that cannot be supplied, even temporarily, by, say, fortnightly visits from the city, is evident. For the centres of settlement the prime heed is a strong, devout personality, and the outlying districts must remain quite untouched until a resident missionary is appointed. In the past, for Methodism to see such a need was an ample assurance that it would be supplied. In this instance I trust we shall prove worthy of our traditions.

Home Mission Notes (1905, May 5). Australian Christian Commonwealth (SA : 1901 - 1940), p. 4. Retrieved August 4, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article213579138

Henry Partridge (1845-1915). In 1895 Partridge became interested in faith healing and in 1899 he resigned from the Congregational Mission but continued to hold services on KI in the interests of Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church. Rev. J.A. DOWIE (1847-1907) had trained for the Congregational Ministry and served briefly at Alma near Hamley Bridge in S.A. Dowie later became a faith healer. In 1896 he established the Christian Catholic Church in Chicago and in 1900 he established Zion City north of Chicago on the banks of Lake Michigan. In about 1904 Partridge and his family together with several other KI families moved to Zion City. By June 1905 the Partridges apparently had become disillusioned and left Zion City and spent several years fruit growing in California. Most of the families subsequently returned to South Australia about 1909

Source for most of the above is Parkin’s Passion by Jones published by MediaCom Education Inc, Unley 2007. - Chris Ward.